Brooke Chaffee, 39, won’t let her diagnosis or genetics get the better of her.
She was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in August 2013. Throughout her entire adult life, she exercised regularly and has always had healthy eating habits.
The disease runs in her family and she lost her mother to it a year and a half ago.
“When the doctor told me the news that I had cancer, my brain felt like it had been hijacked,” she said. “I couldn’t think. I was anxious and stressed.”
Determined to not be defined by cancer or to become yet another statistic, Chaffee chose to tackle it head on.
“You never know how strong you are until you have no other choice,” she said.
Even on days where her body is exhausted, she laces up her sneakers and drags her tired body into the gym three times a week.
“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.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S. In in 2010, 131,607 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 52,045 people died from it.
“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.”
Chaffee's strategy has been one of achieving a state of balance between mind, body and spirit. Since health and fitness has always been an essential part of her life, staying in the gym was important.
“If your mind and body are right, it greatly affects your attitude,” she said.
After surgery to remove a 10-inch tumor from her large intestine, Chaffee started a six-month chemotherapy program.
Staying strong physically helps her emotionally and spiritually.
"Chemotherapy can affect your balance, stability and flexibility, so my aim was to strengthen my body to proactively fight the effects,” she said. “Working out with my personal trainer helps motivate me to get into the gym; especially on the days I am tired from chemo. I take yoga classes to help relax my mind and body. It’s a great stress reliever.”
Though she made healthy choices before, Chaffee has adjusted her eating habits. She improved her diet to have an organic tone, and ultimately removed many dairy products and sugars. By eating the right foods, she maintains her energy level at a point that allows her to work out and fuel her muscles.
“Eating the right foods is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It will not only help rid the side effects of chemo, but rid my body of inflammation which cancer thrives on” she said. “I now eat lots of organic fruits and veggies, and limit my intake of meat.”
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