Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Profile In Courage

Yesterday my friend Sarah Jones, HKC and breast cancer survivor, underwent a double mastectomy. I'm happy to report that the surgery went well, and best of all her lymph nodes appear to be cancer-free, meaning that the surgery didn't need to be as extensive as it might otherwise have been and she may not need to follow up with chemotherapy. This is important because it means she will have a shorter recovery time and be able to get back to her training that much sooner, with less risk of lymphedema.

Sarah, in case you don't know her from Twitter and her blogs and, is a pretty amazing person. After narrowly surviving an automobile accident in which she sustained irreparable nerve damage, she undertook a grueling course of physical therapy rather than accept her doctors' prognosis that she would never regain full use of both hands. This led to a newfound interest in physical fitness, and a desire to share with other women the benefits of resistance training. She became ACSM-certified, then opened her own women's bootcamp business in summer 2009.

Somewhere along the way she also became enamored of kettlebells and the Hardstyle method of training popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline and Dragon Door. The fact that Sarah stuck with kettlebells in spite of the nerve damage and hand pain to which she is subject says a lot about her. As you know if you work with kettlebells, grip is key -- and if you're subject to pain in your hands it's hard to get that part right. But she persevered, and in September 2009 she was rewarded for all her hard work with the HKC designation, meaning that she is certified to teach the fundamentals of Hardstyle kettlebell training to her lucky clients. She is North Carolina's first-ever HKC, and possibly still its only one.

Always seeking to add to her knowledge base, she began preparing in earnest for the grueling RKC weekend and was on track to be ready by late spring 2010 when she was diagnosed with multiple malignancies in her right breast. Although the left breast proved to be cancer free her doctors recommended a double mastectomy as a preventative measure. While awaiting her surgery she continued to train, only taking time off when necessitated by the series of biopsies she was required to undergo.

I am in awe of her strength and courage. To have overcome so much, and to be so close to her goal of becoming an RKC, only to have the possibility snatched away at least temporarily, and in so terrifying a way ... I don't know how I would have handled it. Not with as much grace as Sarah, that's for sure. From the beginining of her ordeal she never once allowed herself to dwell on the possibility that her cancer diagnosis was anything more than a detour on her path.

And, thank God, yesterday she was proved to be right. Very likely she is cancer-free now, and with God's grace will remain so for the rest of her life.

She is also 's Comrade of the Week. Check out the brief profile, then visit her blogs and to learn more about this amazing woman in her own words.