Board Member Spotlight: Chris Guay

Professional portrait of Chris Guay.

Survivor Fitness thrives because of the incredible people who believe in our mission. We’re fortunate to have a board of directors that is comprised of passionate leaders and talented individuals who dedicate their skills and experience to positively impacting the lives of cancer survivors. Chris Guay is a shining example of this dedication.

A native of Brentwood, Tennessee, Chris founded Vitality Living, a leading provider of active independent and assisted living communities. Since its launch in 2016, Vitality Living has flourished under Chris’s leadership, becoming a top senior living company nationwide. His passion for people and commitment to quality service have allowed the organization to serve over 2,000 residents across the country.

Chris’s energy, strategic thinking, and innovative approach are evident in his work at Vitality Living. But it’s his inherent desire to help others that truly inspires him. This desire is what led him to join the Survivor Fitness Board.

Finding a Connection with Survivor Fitness

Chris connected with Survivor Fitness founder Aaron Grunke during the COVID-19 pandemic. When Chris collaborated with Aaron to secure COVID tests for Vitality Living employees and residents, he learned about Aaron’s story and the inspiration behind Survivor Fitness. Chris felt an immediate call to action, compelled to support the organization and its mission.

As Chris became more involved, he discovered a close friend had been one of the program’s first participants following her breast cancer battle. This personal connection further solidified his decision. Cancer touches us all, and Survivor Fitness was making a tangible difference.

“I am new to the organization,” Chris says, “but was drawn to it by Aaron and other survivors’ stories of how going through the Survivor Fitness Program helped them gain not only physical strength but confidence after battling cancer.”

A Personal Connection and a Shared Mission

Personal health and fitness are cornerstones of Chris’s life. Like many, he has witnessed the impact of cancer firsthand.

“I have watched too many loved ones fight this disease,” Chris reflects, “and have seen the negative impacts it has during and after treatments. Gaining the confidence that they are strong and their bodies can be healthy again is one of the most valuable aspects of cancer survivorship.”

Chris firmly believes that supporting an organization aligned with his passion for wellness and fighting cancer is a calling. “I am extremely honored and excited to help more survivors find and experience our program,” he adds.

Since joining the board, Chris has been consistently inspired by the stories of program participants.  Hearing firsthand how Survivor Fitness empowers survivors and transforms their outlook on life fuels his dedication.

For those considering starting the Survivor Fitness program, Chris offers these encouraging words: “Don’t let cancer define you and make you feel weak. Battling the disease takes a mental and physical toll, but our program can help you get your strength back and more.”  These powerful words encapsulate Chris’s unwavering support for our mission.

Survivor Fitness is incredibly grateful to have Chris as a board member. His extensive experience and expertise will be invaluable as we strive to grow and reach more cancer survivors.  But most importantly, Chris’s passion for our mission and his calling to be part of our organization is a powerful asset that will make a difference in the lives of our participants.

To learn more about how we help cancer survivors reclaim their mental health, read more about our program or submit an application today! 

Finding the Motivation to Exercise After Cancer Treatment

girl stretching on a yoga mat

The journey after cancer treatment is filled with both immense relief and new challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is finding the motivation to exercise again. The fatigue that lingers after treatment can make the idea of a workout seem daunting. And weight gain or loss, another common side effect of treatment, can add another layer of self-consciousness. Let’s face it: even the mental and emotional toll of cancer treatment can make mustering the energy to exercise feel nearly impossible.

But here’s the good news: you’re not alone. Countless cancer survivors have encountered this same challenge, and many have found their way back to a healthier, happier, and more active life through exercise. At Survivor Fitness, we see the transformative power of movement firsthand, and we want to share some encouragement and practical tips from our program participants to help you find your own motivation.

Here are some insights from fellow survivors to help you reignite your spark and get moving again:

 

1. Start Small and Celebrate Every Win

Don’t try to jump back into your pre-cancer routine overnight. Begin with short, manageable, gentle exercise routines that you can feel good about accomplishing. A 10-minute walk, gentle yoga stretches, or a light swim session are all excellent starting points. Remember that progress—not perfection—is the goal. Celebrate each small victory, and watch your confidence and motivation grow.

As participant Amy McConkey shared, “I had to remind myself of the steps I’ve already taken that helped me get through the anxiety on my first day of workouts. I knew I had to get outside of my comfort zone to reach a new and better health and fitness level.”

2. Find Your Mantra

Sometimes, a simple encouraging phrase can be a powerful motivator. Choose a mantra that resonates with you, like “One step at a time” or “Stronger every day.” Repeat it to yourself during your workouts or even throughout the day as a reminder of your commitment to your health.

After sharing about her journey after cancer, Survivor Fitness participant Malicia Wilson described this principle perfectly when she said, “Hope was the biggest blessing. It made such a difference to know I could still work hard and have a body that would respond.”

3. Make it a Commitment (and Find an Accountability Partner)

Treat exercise like any other important appointment in your day. Schedule it in your calendar, set reminders, and show up for yourself.  Finding an accountability partner, like a friend or family member who can join you for walks or workouts, can make a big difference. Share your goals and support each other on your journeys.

Survivor Fitness participant Lynette Valentine started the program after a severe battle with breast cancer. The accountability and support she received from her tribe made a tremendous difference in her finding the motivation to exercise again. “Lean in on those who love you, and vent when needed. Get it all out and then move forward… There’s a community of survivors that will support you, even if it’s just a high five at the gym. It’s encouraging and healthy.”

4. Focus on How You Feel, Not How You Look 

Shift your focus from aesthetics to the positive physical and mental benefits of exercise. Notice how you feel after a workout—the increased energy, improved mood, and a greater sense of accomplishment. 

As Survivor Fitness participant Suzanne Gaulden shared, “The hardest part of recovery has been learning to love this new version of me, to value my strength, and not judge myself for not being the same size I was a year ago. It’s a huge hurdle that I am still working to overcome.” Through Survivor Fitness, Suzanne found strength and motivation by showing up—just as she was, with whatever she had to offer that day. 

5. Find an Activity You Enjoy

 Exercise shouldn’t feel like punishment! Explore different activities until you find something you genuinely enjoy. Maybe it’s dancing, swimming, hiking, or a fitness class. When you find fun exercise activities you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with them in the long run.

Survivor Fitness participant Nancy Lopez highlighted the value of having a little fun during exercise when sharing her experience: “My trainer was so supportive and encouraging. He made the workouts fun, and we laughed a lot. I believe laughter is good for the soul.”

Remember That You Are Not Alone

Finding motivation after cancer treatment is a journey, not a destination. There will be good days and bad days. But with some encouragement and the right support system, you can rediscover the joy of movement and reclaim your strength.

At Survivor Fitness, we offer a comprehensive program with 1-on-1 personal training, nutritional coaching, and mental health support. We’re dedicated to helping cancer survivors rebuild their strength and confidence. Here are some ways to get involved:

Remember, you are a survivor. You have the strength and determination to overcome any obstacle. Let’s move forward together!

Participant Spotlight: Chuck Klein

Chuck Klein standing in the woods

The fight against cancer can be all-encompassing, demanding every ounce of a patient’s strength. But the journey doesn’t end with the completion of treatment. Many cancer survivors face a new challenge: rebuilding their lives and bodies amidst the ongoing responsibilities of family and work. Isolation is a common thread amongst survivors who encounter a void where the support system during treatment once existed.

For Chuck Klein, a husband, father of four, and Principal/Founder of Impact Stewardship, this reality became all too familiar. In January 2023, Chuck received a life-altering diagnosis: stage 4 primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma.

The subsequent six months brought a grueling battle with the disease. Chuck underwent six rounds of powerful chemotherapy, leaving him incredibly weak and fatigued. Prior to his diagnosis, Chuck had always been active, and the drastic decline in his physical state was a major hurdle. His legs and joints were weakened further by the steroids prescribed during treatment. 

“By the end of round six, it was hard to walk up one or two steps,” Chuck recalled.

Taking the First Steps Toward Progress

Despite the challenges, Chuck refused to surrender to his limitations. Like many survivors, the responsibilities of life simply wouldn’t wait. He needed to get back on track, not only for himself but for his family and his work. 

“I travel for work and am constantly on the go,” Chuck explained. “My desire was to get my strength back as soon as possible to get back to work.” 

During this time, his wife learned about the Survivor Fitness program, a beacon of hope in a period of uncertainty. Chuck started in July, shortly after completing his last round of treatment.

Starting a new exercise program after such a grueling ordeal wasn’t easy. The initial steps were the most difficult. However, Chuck quickly discovered the program’s personalized approach. He appreciated the trainers’ ability to guide and support him at a pace his body could tolerate. 

“I knew I had a long way to come back, but it was a process,” says Chuck. “Every two weeks, I could tell I was reaching a new benchmark as I got stronger and further away from my last round of chemo.” 

After the 12-week program, Chuck was equipped with the information and inspiration needed to get back on his feet and gradually regain strength, leading to a much speedier recovery than anticipated.

Finding a Lifeline and a Friend

Like many participants, Chuck discovered the program provided more than just physical training; it offered camaraderie and emotional support. 

“On my own, I couldn’t have done this,” Chuck admitted frankly. 

A significant part of Chuck’s success goes to his trainer, Joe. Their connection was evident from the first session. Joe’s ability to intuitively understand Chuck’s needs, knowing when to push him and when to offer support, proved instrumental in getting him back on his feet. 

“Joe was a lifeline,” Chuck shared. “Being sick can be isolating, but the personal and social contact was an added bonus because he was knowledgeable but personal.”

He emphasizes how Joe understood his limitations and pushed him just the right amount to help Chuck build muscle strength and stamina. 

Hope and Community: A Message for Other Survivors

Chuck’s journey with Survivor Fitness transformed his life. He not only regained his physical strength but also rediscovered the power of hope and community.  Chuck offers a heartfelt message for other survivors facing a similar path: 

“Don’t let being sick isolate you and feel complacent. There are people out there who want to help.” 

If you’re a cancer survivor looking to reclaim your strength and well-being, Survivor Fitness might be the perfect first step. Learn more about our program or submit an application today! 

Partner Spotlight: Randianne Sears

professional portait of randianne sears on red background

Just like every cancer diagnosis requires a specific treatment plan, recovery also needs a personalized approach. At Survivor Fitness, we understand that each survivor needs a unique path back to health and well-being. That’s why we’re proud to partner with incredible trainers like Randianne Sears, who bring their expertise and a genuine passion for empowering cancer survivors to their work with us.

Randianne, the owner of Evolve Movement Therapy in Spring Hill, Tennessee, has dedicated her career to helping individuals achieve optimal health through fitness and wellness. With over 15 years of experience in group and personal training, she possesses a diverse knowledge of training methods and styles. This depth of experience allows her to create individualized programs that cater specifically to the needs of each Survivor Fitness participant.

Randianne’s connection to Survivor Fitness is a testament to her genuine desire to help others. As she explained, “I’ve always felt like I’ve been called to share what I know.  Cancer is a debilitating disease and leaves a lot of feelings of hopelessness. I feel like I can provide hope to people.” 

Personalization is Key

One of the core principles of Randianne’s approach is personalization. Taking the time to understand each participant’s medical history, current limitations, and long-term goals allows Randianne to craft personalized plans that promote optimal recovery.

“Each cancer survivor has a different story, and that means different recoveries,” she said.  “You can’t duplicate the same training for someone.”

Randianne also champions the importance of patience during the recovery process. She encourages cancer survivors to remember that transformation doesn’t happen overnight and that listening to their bodies is essential to undertaking an effective training regimen. 

Inspiring Recovery: From Exhaustion to Empowerment

Randianne isn’t just focused on physical recovery; she understands the emotional toll cancer can take. Her goal is to equip survivors with the strength and stamina they need to return to their everyday lives.  

“I want them to be able to get back to functional life. Going back to work, being a mom, partner, or whatever you were before, and being able to have the capacity to do that.”

For Randianne, witnessing a participant’s empowerment is her greatest reward. 

My favorite moment is getting to know the clients and seeing the moment when the tide turns for them,” she shared. “They’ve spent the past year completely exhausted from their treatments, and seeing them come full circle is the best.”

A Passionate Advocate

After just a few months of working with Survivor Fitness participants, Randianne has become a vocal champion for the program. Her passion also extends beyond her personal involvement, as she encourages other trainers to consider joining the program.

“It’s a very well-developed program, and I am very humbled to be a part of taking care of someone who has been a part of a long journey like cancer. There are a lot of trainers who should reach out to see if they can help and be a part of the program and there are a lot of candidates who need to apply and be part of Survivor Fitness.” 

Join the Survivor Fitness Community 

Randianne Sears embodies the essence of a Survivor Fitness partner. Her personalized approach, coupled with her unwavering support and dedication, empowers survivors on their path to recovery. Through her work, she inspires participants and fellow trainers, leaving a lasting impact on the Survivor Fitness community.

If you’re a personal trainer or fitness center interested in supporting cancer survivors after treatment, connect with our team to learn how you can join the Survivor Fitness network.

If you’re a cancer survivor looking to get back on your feet after treatment, we’d love for you to check out our program or submit an application today! 

Participant Spotlight: Mitzi Mannon

Mitzi Mannon and her family smiling

The fear and loneliness that grip you after a cancer diagnosis are realities only those who’ve walked the path can genuinely understand. The constant worry is a heavy weight to carry. The isolation of treatment, especially when miles separate you from loved ones, adds another layer of pain. Even after treatment, the journey can feel daunting. That’s why we believe that “battling cancer is lonely and hard, but recovery shouldn’t be.” 

Mitzi Mannon, a vibrant participant in our program, embodies this message. Mitzi’s journey began in July 2021 with a diagnosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. She immediately started an aggressive treatment plan, which included chemotherapy and CAR T-cell therapy. While the physical challenges were formidable, the mental and emotional stress took the heaviest toll. She endured months of treatment in Houston, far away from her family. 

“During treatment, you’re fighting to survive. It’s a mental game of staying positive and praying. My focus was my family and children,” Mitzi said. 

Even after treatment, the emotional rollercoaster continued. “It’s a daily choice to stay positive. You worry constantly. It’s been a journey.”

From Isolation to Inspiration

Through her son’s tennis team, Mitzi discovered Survivor Fitness. The prospect of regaining her physical health and finding others who understood her struggle fueled her decision to apply.

Over 12 weeks, Mitzi began to experience transformation inside and out. She shed the weight gained during treatment, rediscovered her energy, and, most importantly, found a community of support

“Survivor Fitness changed my life. It gave me the drive to get back in the gym, the friendships and support that fueled my will to keep surviving.”

These friendships, she emphasizes, are more than just gym buddies. “It’s a family. Everyone is so positive and helpful, and the trainers truly understand what we’ve been through.”

Finding Strength in the Survivor Fitness Family

In March 2023, Mitzi faced a recurrence of her cancer. Yet the Survivor Fitness community rallied around her, offering unwavering support and encouragement throughout the past year. 

Mitzi’s story is a testament to the transformative power of support and shared experience. It’s a beacon of hope, reminding us that we are not alone, even in the darkest times. To those battling similar struggles, Mitzi extends a hand of encouragement.

 “Reach out to Survivor Fitness. It’s a family of others that will support you, understand what you’ve been through, and help you reach new goals.” 

At Survivor Fitness, we are forever grateful for Mitzi’s resilience and unwavering spirit. She is an inspiration to all who navigate the challenging but empowering journey of healing.

Interested in Becoming a Survivor Fitness Participant?

If you or someone you know is a cancer survivor looking to regain health and wellness after cancer, we’re here for you! Connect with us today to learn more about our program and our in-person or virtual training options.

7 Ways to Reclaim Your Self-Esteem After Cancer

four people standing with their arms around each other looking at the sunset

We all know the physical toll that cancer and its treatment can take. Hair loss, weight fluctuations, and scarring are visible reminders of the battle you’ve fought. But the invisible impact of the emotional and mental challenges can often feel just as overwhelming. Whether you’re a young woman facing the loss of your breasts, a man grappling with fatigue and changed energy levels, or an older adult navigating new limitations, the journey to regain self-esteem and embrace your post-cancer body can be daunting.

At Survivor Fitness, we understand these challenges firsthand. That’s why our program was designed to help you regain physical strength after treatment and to address the holistic needs of cancer survivors, including the emotional journey. Countless participants have shared how our personalized program, combining fitness training, nutritional coaching, and now, mental health counseling, has empowered them to find renewed strength and self-love. While physical fitness undoubtedly plays a crucial role in boosting self-esteem, we firmly believe that a comprehensive approach is vital to true healing. If you’re feeling lost and unsure where to start, know this: you’re not alone.

Here are a few steps you can take to regain self-esteem after cancer: 

 

1. Recognize Your Strength

Your body has been through a lot, and it may have changed. Instead of fixating on what’s lost, focus on what your body can still do. Celebrate its strength, resilience, and the amazing things it continues to accomplish.

2. Reconnect with Your Body

If you want to start a fitness routine after cancer, it’s essential to start small with gentle exercise routines. Practice mindful movement, listen to your body, explore activities you enjoy, and engage in self-care rituals. Reconnect with your body on a sensory level, appreciate its sensations, and rediscover the joy of movement.

3. Practice Self-Compassion

More than anything, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Acknowledge the emotional rollercoaster you’re on and validate your feelings. Be patient with your body as it heals and remember that progress takes time. Treat yourself with the same gentle understanding you would offer a loved one facing a similar struggle.

4. Redefine Beauty

Our culture often associates beauty with specific physical attributes, but cancer challenges these narrow definitions. Remember, beauty is multifaceted and also encompasses your strength, resilience, and the unique story of your scars. Embrace the changes in your body as a testament to your incredible fight.

5. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Most of the time, our inner critic can be our biggest enemy. When negative thoughts about your body surface, challenge them with facts and positive self-affirmations. Remember, your appearance does not define your worth.

6. Find Your Tribe

Surround yourself with supportive individuals who celebrate you for who you are and understand what you’ve been through. Connecting with other survivors can offer invaluable support and shared experiences, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance.

7. Celebrate Small Victories

Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Celebrate every milestone, big or small, on your journey to feeling good in your own skin. Completing a workout, trying a new outfit, or simply allowing yourself to laugh are all victories worth celebrating.

Regain Your Self-Esteem with Survivor Fitness

Regaining your self-esteem after cancer is a journey, not a destination. But with the right tools and support, you can reclaim your confidence and embrace your beauty, inside and out. The Survivor Fitness program offers a personalized approach to healing that combines fitness training, nutritional coaching, and mental health counseling to empower you on your journey.

Ready to take the first step towards reclaiming your self-esteem?

Learn more about our program or submit an application to discover how we can support you on your path to healing and wholeness.

Board Member Spotlight: Dr. Rachel Mitchell

Rachel Mitchell smiling outside at the park

Community is like a super glue that holds everything together in a cancer survivor’s journey. It’s how people with different passions and perspectives come together to build each other up. That’s why it’s one of our core values at Survivor Fitness Foundation. We’ve seen countless survivors find their power and purpose within our community, and it’s truly inspiring.

The essence of this community spirit is mirrored in our Board of Directors. We’re privileged to work alongside a mosaic of community leaders, nonprofit professionals, fitness specialists, business visionaries, and medical experts. Their collective voices and insights are instrumental in sculpting the Survivor Fitness Foundation into a beacon of hope and healing for cancer survivors across Tennessee.

Today, we’re honored to introduce Dr. Rachel Mitchell, one of the inspiring board members guiding us on this mission.

As a doctor at Tennessee Oncology, Dr. Mitchell serves patients in the Nashville and Shelbyville clinics. From her earliest memories, her heart was captivated by the concept of healthcare. That led her to pursue a medical degree from Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science, where she specialized in oncology—a discipline where she could harness innovation and empathy to profoundly impact her patients’ lives.

After practicing in Tennessee for a couple of years, Dr. Mitchell was introduced to Survivor Fitness by a discerning friend who noticed an alignment between Dr. Mitchell’s expertise and the Survivor Fitness mission. She instantly recognized the synergy and felt a magnetic pull towards our cause.

“Physical activity has always played a large role in my life, both for physical and mental benefits. As a medical oncologist, you see the impact that both diagnosis and treatment can have on patients. Being able to approach a patient’s recovery process through a whole-person approach is so important,” she shared.

Dr. Mitchell walks alongside hundreds of patients during diagnosis and treatment, but she doesn’t always get to follow their recovery journey as closely. Getting the opportunity to see the changes that Survivor Fitness participants experience has been one of the most meaningful experiences for her since joining the board. Witnessing participants reclaiming their lives after treatment fuels her commitment to the cause.

“Hearing patients’ stories after they participate in the program has been very rewarding,” she said. “The program is truly life-changing. It EMPOWERS the patient to be able to gain control of their lives again after overcoming a cancer diagnosis.”

As an oncologist, she recognizes the impact a cancer diagnosis and treatment have on a patient physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Dr. Mitchell is a testament to the power of community and compassion in cancer recovery. Her journey alongside patients, both in the clinic and as a board member, shines a bright light on the path to hope and healing. We are incredibly grateful for her passion, her expertise, and her relentless commitment to helping cancer survivors reclaim their lives and redefine what it means to thrive.

Partner Spotlight: Sarah Denger

Sarah Denger on a Yoga Mat stretching in second position

Survivor Fitness partners with remarkable individuals who share our commitment to empowering cancer survivors on their post-treatment journey. Many of our partners have watched a family member or close friend navigate treatment and recovery. One such inspiring individual is Sarah Denger, whose personal journey with cancer has informed her role as a passionate fitness instructor and a valued partner at Survivor Fitness.

From Patient to Fitness Instructor: Sarah’s Personal Journey with Cancer

Before her cancer diagnosis, fitness was merely a leisure pursuit for Sarah. In her mid-twenties, seemingly at the peak of her physical prime, cancer upended her life. Three years of grueling chemotherapy, including a stem cell transplant, stripped her of her strength and vitality. It was during this arduous battle that Sarah grappled with her body’s limitations.

“I felt so helpless when I couldn’t keep up with my parents on a neighborhood walk,” she said. “I was 25, they were in their late 50s, and yet I was the one lagging behind.”

Through this experience, Sarah discovered her passion for fitness and found her calling as a fitness instructor. Reconnecting with her body after the disassociation caused by cancer treatment, she now dedicates herself to helping others achieve the same transformative results.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that if I really wanted my energy, stamina, strength, body, and even life back…I had to work and earn it,” she shared. ”Fitness gave me that channel, and I wanted to work with those who had walked a similar path.”

Driven by this newfound purpose, Sarah actively sought avenues to support young cancer survivors. At Vanderbilt, she joined the board for their Young Adult Cancer Clinic. There, her paths crossed with Aaron and Meg Grunke, the co-founders of Survivor Fitness. Captivated by Sarah’s story and unwavering spirit, they knew she belonged on their dedicated team.

Since December 2023, Sarah has been integral to Survivor Fitness, guiding individual training sessions and leading virtual group exercises for participants and alums. Witnessing their progress brings her immense joy and a renewed sense of purpose.

“I am already inspired by my clients,” Sarah said. “One participant is doing more impact work than when we first started. Another is getting way more range of motion in her right arm, which had been her more limited side.  There is so much to say, and I could go on and on about their accomplishments.”

Her favorite aspect of the program is the profound connection she feels with participants as they share the challenges of their fitness journey. It reminds her of her own journey as she helps instill confidence that they can reach their fitness goals.

Offering Empathy Through Experience: Navigating Life After Cancer

Sarah’s personal insights and empathy, rooted in her own experience with cancer and recovery, create a mutually beneficial relationship with the participants. Knowing firsthand the mental and emotional hurdles, she empowers participants to focus on progress, not limitations.

“Attitude is everything,” she said. “Cancer takes a toll on the body, and discouragement can be crippling. But cancer survivors are warriors, and I remind them to celebrate what they can do instead of dwelling on what they can’t.”

Working closely with each participant, Sarah encourages them to take the next step on their recovery journey. By reminding them to be patient and adapt their routines to their current needs, she strives to make the workout experience enjoyable.

“I want to make it fun and encouraging because I know how strong these individuals already are. I see myself in clients that feel shy about the experience because that’s how I was when I first started going to the gym.”

Living the Dream: Empowering Others Through Survivor Fitness

As a cancer survivor and fitness trainer, Sarah’s passion, encouragement, and expertise enrich every session at Survivor Fitness. In her own words, Survivor Fitness is a “dream come true organization” that seamlessly blends her two life passions: cancer patient advocacy and fitness.

We’re incredibly grateful for Sarah and the life-changing experience she offers Survivor Fitness participants. If you’re a personal trainer or fitness center interested in supporting individuals after treatment, connect with our team to learn how you can join the Survivor Fitness network. If you’re looking for physical support after cancer treatment, we’d love for you to check out our program or submit an application

Participant Spotlight: Brenda Snow

Professional photo of Brenda Snow

One of the challenges of cancer is the wake of uncertainty it creates, even after treatment. The desire to reclaim normalcy or simply “live again” can often clash with fears such as, “Will I ever feel the same again?” or  “Will the cancer return?” Navigating this uncertain terrain requires immense courage, strength, and resilience—qualities embodied by Survivor Fitness participant Brenda Snow.

Facing the Unknown with Courage

Brenda’s active life came to a halt after her diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma and DCIS breast cancer. The HER2-positive status of her cancer demanded a comprehensive treatment plan that encompassed surgery, chemo, radiation, and a year of Herceptin. While she handled the medical aspects with determination, the lingering unknowns became one of the most difficult challenges she faced.

“I tolerated my treatment very well, but the worry of what comes next weighs on me still,” Brenda shared. 

Despite the fear, Brenda stepped boldly into her post-treatment journey, determined to reclaim her active life. She yearned to return to the tennis court and embrace the outdoors once again.

“I have always exercised and been very active,” she shared. “After treatment, I was looking for a way to return to my former self.”

Taking Steps Toward Recovery

That’s when Brenda discovered Survivor Fitness online and took yet another brave step. She applied and quickly connected with Ashley Walls, who introduced her to a personal trainer and nutrition specialist in her area. Like many participants, she deeply appreciated the scholarship assistance that made her next step possible.

“I am very grateful to them for the opportunity to work with a personal trainer,” Brenda said. “I would not have been able to do that without their financial help.”

After being paired with Nathaniel Barnett at D1 in Hardin Valley, Brenda embarked on a 12-week fitness training program tailored to overcome the unique challenges of breast cancer treatment and regain physical strength. Reflecting on her experience with Nathaniel, Brenda expressed gratitude, noting how he played a pivotal role in her recovery.

“He was very encouraging and helped me regain a lot of muscle back.”

Today, Brenda celebrates the ongoing steps in her journey, both literal and metaphorical. Engaging in regular walks, she has successfully regained her physical fitness. Her experience has instilled in her a deep appreciation for everyday joys and simple moments, small pleasures that can be all too easily taken for granted. 

For those facing similar battles, Brenda offers a message of hope and empowerment: “Go for this program if you get the opportunity. It’s been an amazing journey.”

Brenda’s journey embodies the spirit of Survivor Fitness: strength forged from adversity and hope blossoming amid uncertainty. Her story reminds us that even in the face of the unknown, taking small steps can lead to remarkable leaps—physically, emotionally, and beyond.

See How You Can Get Involved

If you are a cancer survivor looking to regain your strength after treatment, we invite you to learn more about our program or submit an application today.

Eating for Recovery: Nourishing Your Body After Cancer

a plate of colorful food on a wooden table

The journey after a cancer diagnosis can feel like charting a new map, with twists and turns you never anticipated. One crucial aspect of finding your footing again is reclaiming your energy and strength through food. Nourishing your body with the proper fuel can be life-changing, but the path forward isn’t always clear. You might face fatigue, side effects that impact your appetite, or just plain uncertainty about what’s best for your body.

At Survivor Fitness, we understand these challenges. Through our partnerships with incredible registered dietitians and nutrition specialists, we’ve seen the tremendous power of personalized nutrition as part of a holistic approach to recovery after cancer treatment. In this post, we’ll share some tips and hacks that have helped our participants thrive.

Nutritional Tips for Your Post-Cancer Journey: Find What Works for YOU

In the realm of post-cancer recovery and wellness, it’s essential to remember that nutrition is not a rigid set of rules but rather a new perspective. While general guidelines provide a foundation, there’s no singular “perfect” way to nourish your body. 

As one of our partners, Jill Merkel, shared, “There’s so much misinformation and confusion about what to eat or not eat with a cancer diagnosis that people are afraid to eat. Helping participants to realize that there’s no perfect way of eating and helping them find what is right for them is my main goal.” 

Make Small, Sustainable Changes

Drastic dietary overhauls might feel overwhelming, and often, tiny adjustments can lead to significant results. Allison Tallman, another one of our nutrition partners, describes it this way: “It’s better to make small changes one at a time rather than a lot of big changes all at once. This helps the changes you make actually stick.”

She encourages cancer survivors to make simple switches to their diet and celebrate each positive shift, no matter how small. 

Make Sure To Fuel Your Body

When you’re battling fatigue or nausea from treatment, skipping meals might seem tempting, but fueling your body is crucial for healing. Aim for three regular meals and two or three healthy snacks a day. Choose foods that are easy to digest and pack an energy punch, like whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables. Listen to your body’s hunger cues and prioritize nourishing yourself.

Prioritize Protein

Protein is the building block of your cells, tissues, and muscles. Adding the right amount of protein can help counteract the muscle loss from cancer treatment.  That’s why one of the first areas of focus for our partners is to make sure participants eat enough food and get enough protein in their diet. This can include protein sources like lean chicken or fish. You can also find a variety of non-meat sources of protein

Embrace Mindful Eating

In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to rush through meals. Cultivate a habit of mindful eating, savoring each bite, and paying attention to hunger and fullness cues. This practice enhances digestion and fosters a deeper connection with your food.

Snack Smart

Stock your pantry with nutritious foods that are easy to grab and delicious. Some of the best options include trail mixes with dried fruit and nuts, Greek yogurt with berries, or mini bell peppers with hummus. Keep pre-cut vegetable sticks and slices and easy dips in the fridge for a quick and refreshing snack anytime.

Fuel your Body Before and After Exercise 

As you embark on your fitness journey post-cancer, the importance of fueling your body cannot be overstated. Prioritizing nutrition before and after workouts can enhance performance, aid recovery, and support overall well-being.

Spice Up Your Water 

Staying hydrated is an essential part of cancer recovery, but plain water can get a bit boring. Infuse your H2O with fruits, herbs, or vegetables to make it a tasty and hydrating treat. There are dozens of combinations you can choose from. Try cucumber and mint, watermelon and basil, or citrus slices for a refreshing twist. Bonus points for adding berries or ginger for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

From Surviving to Thriving: Embracing Nutrition’s Role in Recovery

Remember, your post-cancer journey is just as unique as your diagnosis and treatment. Your nutritional needs will evolve over time. Listen to your body, stay patient with yourself, and celebrate every small victory. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance from a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

At Survivor Fitness, we believe in empowering you to take control of your recovery. We combine personalized training with expert nutritional support to help you build strength, regain energy, and rediscover the joy of movement. 

We’d encourage you to explore our website for additional resources and recipe ideas. You can also learn more about our program or contact our team to discover how to become a Survivor Fitness participant today.