Real Functional Fitness: CrossFit and the Battle Against Cancer
When we think of the “functional” aspect of CrossFit, we most often think of it in terms of the translation that CrossFit provides into the real world - the ability to recruit motor patterns in order to move large loads quickly over a distance.
Another way to look at it is this is that CrossFit makes you better at life. Few people will argue this. That is a very real, functional application of strength and conditioning training.
But for Kristin Guerra, functional fitness means that CrossFit has allowed her to become an embodiment of the strength needed to fight cancer, both on her own behalf and that of others for whom she advocates.
CrossFit has given Kristin Guerra the strength to fight cancer.
At 26 years old, Kristin was living a storybook life. She was six months away from her dream wedding, engaged to a wonderful man, had a great job, and was looking forward to starting the life she’d always envisioned.
Then she received a jarring diagnosis – stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A routine checkup to treat some neck pain led to additional tests, which lead to PET scans, and then the diagnosis.
"With her wedding just months away, Kristin began a fairly aggressive course of chemotherapy that would end only weeks before her wedding day, leaving her weak and without hair. But nothing, she had decided, was going to keep her from celebrating her wedding."
“The doctor found a lump in the front right side of my neck,” she said. “He started asking a bunch of questions. Was I sick, did I have a fever, was I tired? The answer was no, no, no.” With her wedding just months away, Kristin began a fairly aggressive course of chemotherapy that would end only weeks before her wedding day, leaving her weak and without hair. But nothing, she had decided, was going to keep her from celebrating her wedding. “If you look at any of my wedding pictures, the hair is fake - it’s a wig.”
Kristin's aggressive cancer treatment ended only weeks before her wedding day.
The treatment outcome, thankfully, was excellent. The chemo and radiation were successful and Kristin received an “all clear” that the cancer was gone. With that, she emerged with a new resolve to be an advocate, for herself, her family, and for others.
Enter CrossFit. It wasn’t long after Kristin returned to full health that she found CrossFit and took yet another step in building the wall between herself and cancer. She had always exercised, but in the common, pre-CrossFit, globo-gym style. “I was always going back and forth to the gym and working out, getting bored, stopping, the whole cycle,” she said.
"'I knew that once I got into it and started to learn more about nutrition and the right foods to eat that CrossFit offered me so much more than just a workout.”'
With CrossFit, she found a lifestyle that lead her to strength, nutritional education, and most of all, community. She approaches the nutritional aspect as another means of warding off any recurrence of cancer and of protecting her family. “I’ve learned so much about Roundup and GMOs. And I knew that once I got into it and started to learn more about nutrition and the right foods to eat that CrossFit offered me so much more than just a workout.”
Kristin is campaigning for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year.
But most importantly, Kristin has found the community that has built up around her at NewCov CrossFit in Newport, Kentucky offers her a perfect platform from which to fight cancer, as an advocate and as a survivor. For example, she has accepted the challenge to campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year, a monumental task that requires the nominee to raise a minimum of $15,000 for blood cancer research. In true CrossFitter fashion, Kristin instead set her goal at $50,000.
Among her rather innovative fundraising ideas - an online CrossFit competition called Battle of the Boxes where one of the scores comes from that box’s fundraising efforts. The genius of marrying CrossFit’s naturally competitive nature with fundraising for cancer research is one of the reasons Kristin will, without a doubt, hit her goal.
A Brick in the Wall
CrossFit not only keeps Kristin strong, but, she believes, it serves as another brick in the wall between her and any concerns of recurrence. “I’ve had to come to realize that CrossFit’s role in my life is to make me awesome at all the other things. Being awesome at my job, being an awesome wife, being an awesome mom. It keeps me healthy, so it keeps the cancer away.”
The nexus between CrossFit and the fighting spirit is a strong one. The worldwide community has lost a number of way-too-young athletes - from Amanda Miller, after whom the workout “Amanda” is named, to Brittany Gill, to Jason Fine. Two common themes have prevailed: one, the support of the respective communities was enormous, and two, each of those named fought fiercely.
“'I’ve had to come to realize that CrossFit’s role in my life is to make me awesome at all the other things. Being awesome at my job, being an awesome wife, being an awesome mom. It keeps me healthy, so it keeps the cancer away.'"
There is a lot that is learned about pushing through, fighting, and the mental toughness required in the throes of battle during training with our community. A look at Amanda’s blog, Jason’s blog, and the comments on Brittany’s image will bear that out. These are the stories that push Kristin, as a survivor, to fight even harder for research and a cure.
More Like This:
- The Strength to Survive: Cancer's Nothin' - I Do CrossFit
- 8 Stories of Finding Strength Through Sport
- "Thank You CrossFit. You Saved My Life!"
- What's New on Breaking Muscle Today
Photo 1 courtesy of Brian Miller.
Photos 2 and 4 courtesy of Kristin Guerra.
Photo 3 courtesy of Erin Ashley Photography.