In this line of work, I meet and talk to a lot of people. In my day-to-day interactions, I usually talk to the same cast of characters: mayors, city managers, city officials and business owners.
However, every so often when I’m on assignment, I meet someone who leaves me quite differently than how they found me. While working on a team reporting assignment about fitness and wellness last week, I met Heights resident Brooke Chaffee, 39.
While she was working out with her trainer at Heritage Park Fitness in Heights, ponytail bobbing up and down and sweat on her brow, I would never have thought she was the face of stage 3 colon cancer.
When I think of someone battling cancer, the first image that comes to my mind is a face plagued with exhaustion and pain. A person who is weakened by the disease and stripped of their hair from the various treatments and a body left weakened and exhausted from the fight.
Chaffee had a glow that radiated off of her. She was beaming as she charged through her leg presses and interval training session. “When I feel strong, I know I can handle this,” she said, adding she just completed her seventh round of chemotherapy and has five more to go. “You have to have hope. You have to believe.”
Even on days where her body is exhausted, she laces up her sneakers and heads to the gym.
“Like an Olympian, who trains their bodies to compete, that’s what I am doing here,” she said. “I’m not training to medal; I’m getting my body in the best possible shape so I can conquer cancer and prevent it from coming back in the future.”
The disease runs in her family and she lost her mother a year and a half ago.
Determined to not be defined by cancer or to become a statistic, Chaffee chose to tackle it head on — something I don’t know if I could do if dealt the same hand.
“You never know how strong you are until you have no other choice,” she said.
Talking with Chaffee and watching her beat cancer with every lunge and every kettle bell swing, she inspired me to get moving and to count my many blessings, including my health.
Read more about Chaffee and other area residents who have taken steps to lead healthier lives in 2014 in Sunday’s Killeen Daily Herald.