TLC Fit. Week One.

March 10, 2013

Today is going to be tough.

It’s day one of the 2013 Teens Living With cancer Fitness program, and only our second time ever putting this on. We’ve spent time going through the data, what worked,  what could improve…. and we have even expanded the program to Buffalo’s chapter of Teens Living With Cancer. We have a fresh group of Teens who are post treatment and are looking to build their fitness again. The University of Rochester is on board again, under the leadership of Researcher Katie, we will see how much more effective this session is.

We have changed the day to Sunday. Changed some of the cardio. We have been able …. thanks to the donations all of you have made through the Duel in the Pool… upgraded our equipment. Stability balls, jump ropes, etc.

But today is the tough day. Day one. Assessment day. Last year it was emotional.

assessment night

They will come to us today and learn everything they are not and everything they can not do. Their flexibility and strength will be measured. Their timed mile either walking or running will be assessed. A mile will feel like forever in the gym…. 27 laps. They will begin laughing and some will cry before they finish. It will have nothing to do with their time. It will have everything to do with how they feel.

Welcome to life post chemotherapy. While you may have been sick you felt better going into that war than you do feel coming out of it. Perfectly functioning bodies have literally been ravaged. Joints inflamed, balance now a challenge, cardiovascular fitness…. forget it. It’s gone. The war of chemotherapy and all that comes with it: steroids, experimental drugs, name it. It isn’t always the cancer that rips you apart it’s the treatment, the side effects and the meds you have to take to counter all that. Long term effects are different for everyone… so is the treatment itself.

charlie 9

Some people sail through chemotherapy others struggle at best. There is no solid protocol, there is no solid plan. You learn what your body is truly capable of, you learn what your mind is as well. These kids will feel like they are failures today…. and they are not. They are survivors. But for a bit they will forget that part because before this whole thing started… they were just normal kids.

There will be tears. They will look at the floor. I will walk the fine line of stepping in and stepping back. I will field glares and I will feel hateful thoughts towards me. I will know it’s not me they are angry with…. it’s cancer and the sh*t that comes with it.

Kids 1

The good news is that two from the last session have returned to join us again. One of them came to us last year very unwillingly, and he’s coming back because he wants to. These two will be my saving grace. Proof that it does get better, proof that the stairs are steep but they lead out of this hole.

Of everything I get to do in my life this is by far the best. It’s an incredible gift to be able to work with Teens Living With Cancer. I get more from them then they will ever understand or realize. They become my driving force for so many things. They bring me back to earth on a daily basis. When I think I am getting overwhelmed it’s they who cause me to remember how easy I have it.

Today is going to be tough. There will be tears and disappointment. They will face another reminder of what happened to them and what cancer has done to them. They may get real angry and they may get really sad.

I will remind them that next week will come. Next week will be here. Next week begins the climb up. And we will do this together.



  1. Mary, as a parent of one of the teens you will be working with today I am eternally grateful for your compassion, help, time, and knowledge. My daughter will be going away to college in the fall and with that comes a whole new set of worries for me, but knowing that she will start with a healthy, strong body and be able to use the tools you give her at her college gym gives me a HUGE sense of comfort!!
    Keep strong, because you can, and remember the successes you had last year. I witnessed firsthand not only the improvements in health but the tremendous connections the teens made and the smiles on their faces that came with the self-esteem that they could accomplish what we take for granted….from walking up a flight of stairs with out of being out of breath to completing a 5K.
    As difficult as today may prove to be, keep in the forefront that while the ill effects of cancer kicked their a@$$ in a negative way, you will be kicking right back strengthening their mind, body, and spirits like only you can! You Rock Mary!!!
    Thank you with all my heart for all that you do for our Teens Living with Cancer and specifically my daughter.

  2. What a difficult kind of day…to know they have to face another long list of “can’t dos” – the first and possibly hardest step, before you all work together to turn them around to “can dos”. In that sense, it’s something like a training plan – tears you down, then builds you back up again…

    But analogies won’t make the task easy, and frankly, I have no wisdom…but I understand the good that this work does – so I send strength, grace, and peace to you all today…

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