“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
Words can be very powerful; some might even say life changing. For me, the words above have become a sort of mantra that I first embodied during a time in my life that was filled with uncertainty and fear. It is through hindsight that I am really able to see how clearly I lived these words.
That was the day that my life, and outlook on life, changed forever was September 14, 2012. That was the day the doctor called and told me that that I had cancer. I had an aggressive form of breast cancer and in turn my medical team had developed an aggressive treatment plan to help me kick cancer’s butt: chemo, double mastectomy, radiation, and finally reconstruction. I had cancer and it would be a long road to recovery. That’s just the way it was.
I’ll spare you all the details of what it’s like to go through treatments or have cancer. In a nutshell, it sucks and there are lots of yucky parts to it. Lots. While I don’t want to downplay all the negative aspects of cancer, I choose to focus on the positive and share a few things I learned along the way.
As I reflect on having cancer, I do it the only way I know how. Two things that have always been part of who I am are being an athlete and being goal driven. It makes sense (or at least it does to me) that when I reflect on having cancer, I use the analogy of a triathlon. Those of us who have completed a triathlon (especially those of us who despise running or swimming as a sport) know that there are three distinct legs of the race: swim, bike, and run. When I did triathlons, I celebrated each completed leg of the race and when I was done, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride.
That is how I thought about my race to kick cancer’s butt. Leg 1: Chemo. Leg 2: Surgery. Leg 3: Radiation. Just as I had always done with triathlons and marathons, I celebrated each completed “leg” of the race to fight for my life. The day I started chemo I started to beat cancer. I was empowered to be doing something about it. I had a very positive response to each treatment and here I am over five years later.
Here I am. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Cancer changed me. My body is forever changed and some days I look at my scars and see the damage cancer has done to my body. Other days, I wear the scars as badges of honor and courage. I’ve come realize that life is short and tomorrow isn’t certain. What I choose to do with the time I’ve been given is try to be the best version of myself.
Helping me in my quest to do this is AddeoFit. I became part of the AddeoFit community in November 2017. When I walked into the studio initially, the first thing I saw was the words Happy. Healthy. Human. scrolled across the front wall. The words spoke to me and immediately made me feel like this was my place and these were my people. There were so many classes that looked interesting to me and I began with what I knew: spinning. As I walked into the spinning studio I noticed more words Live. Love. Ride. These words were calling to me. It was as if the people at AddeoFit knew that I had Live. Laugh. Love. engraved on my IPod. It was like a match made in heaven and I have been in love with my gym ever since.
AddeoFit feels like my gym and I think that it feels the same for every single member. Sarah has created a studio filled with amazing people, classes, and positive energy. I feel inspired when I go there. I feel challenged when I go there. I feel energized when I go there. And most of all, I feel grateful when I go there.
Thank you to Sarah and all of the incredible trainers who have taken time to know me and my story. Thank you inspiring me to take classes that are new to me and for creating a safe space for people to participate regardless of ability level. Those of you who don’t know me by name may know me as the one in the back of the Choreo class who is going left when everyone is going right. You may know me as the person who does a few reps or seems to take forever to complete push-ups and sit-ups. You may know me as the person in Zumba that is all smiles because sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself when you fully embrace that you are not blessed with coordination or grace on the dance floor.
Regardless of who I am in each class, it doesn’t matter because I am striving to be the best version of myself. I can’t rewind time and go back to the person I once I was or have my old body back. Having cancer is part of my story. It has made me stronger and I am changed in ways that I never anticipated at the start of this journey. I am better. I am stronger. More importantly, we are stronger together.
I am blessed to have amazing family and friends by my side who have “paddled” with me through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I continue to wear the paddle necklace that was given to me when I was diagnosed and I now “paddle” with others to support them on their journey. Life is short…all we can do is live in the moment and be there for each other no matter what the day brings.
WRITTEN BY Kristen Linzmeier
Kristen Linzmeier is an Assistant Professor in the Early Childhood Program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She volunteers as a leader for Conversations with Komen, a program that is aimed to increase dialogue and educate women on the importance of breast health. Kristen enjoys working out at AddeoFit and some of her favorite classes include boxing, cycling, and full body blast. She is looking forward to summer and biking on the Oak Leaf trail and on the downhill trails in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Kristen lives in Whitefish Bay with her husband Kevin.
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