I have cancer, and I choose to fight – part 2

In part one of this blog, I discussed in detail everything leading up to being diagnosed with Leukemia.  There was a lot of amazing feedback from part one, and I want to thank everyone who reached out, as it meant so much to me and my family.  If you haven’t read part 1 yet, start here.

The main reason I wanted to share my story is because I feel like it can help someone that may be in my shoes, or have a family or friend that is dealing with something similar to what I have dealt with.  Part 2 will go into detail on what happened after I was initially diagnosed with cancer, along with my journey with cancer over the past two years.

Friday November 13th, 2015

The next call I needed to make was to my parents.

I called my Dad first.  Since I hadn’t been to my first Oncology appointment yet, I didn’t want to spend too much time playing the guessing game with him.  I knew he would have a lot of questions for me which I wouldn’t have answers to.  That was ok.

I can remember my Dad telling me something to the effect of, “You know you can’t die before I do, that would be just wrong!  This might be a big uphill battle for you, but I didn’t raise a quitter, and you have never quit or given up at anything.”

He was right, I don’t remember the last time I ever quit or gave up.  At anything.

Back in high school almost 20 years ago I was benched my entire junior year during basketball.  This was one of the toughest times in my athletic life, and this had a big impact in my future endeavors.  Basketball was an early love of mine, and I truly thought I would play in college, thought I would have a late growth spurt, something to at least have the excuse to keep going.  But none of that would happen.  I could have quit basketball, and all sports for that matter but I didn’t.  I made a decision after that year of “riding the pine” to compete in an individual sport that I had more control in – Track and Field.

My dad was the one that reminded me that the first person to cross the finish line and the furthest throw marks the winner.  Nothing subjective about that.  He had experience throwing the discus and competed in college, so I thought why not?  So, between my Junior and Senior year in high school I went “all in.”  I ended up strength training 6 days a week and gaining 30 pounds of muscle and I completely changed my body for my new sport.

This was the best move I could have made because it turned into a Division I College Track scholarship, a great education, and a chance to compete at the highest level internationally in the sport of Bobsled for 6 seasons.  It all started at age 17.  If I hadn’t made that one move my junior year of high school, this path would have never come.  Did I quit basketball?  No, I don’t feel like I quit.  I feel like I transformed as an athlete and as a person.

Fast forward to almost 4 years ago to my life as a father and a business owner.  I was coaching and training full time, and now turning other people into their best selves was my top priority.  As the business grew, so did some of the problems.  I was realizing that renting space out of another facility, while trying to run my own business model, had its own set of challenges.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the owner of this large gym forced me to leave – this was two days before Christmas.  Professionally, this was one of the hardest moments in my career.  But instead of quitting I opened up my own space in the matter of three days.  What I learned is that we are always going to run into situations that are beyond our control, but how we choose to react to those situations is what matters most.

My Dad was right, I never quit at anything.

Ok, back to my next phone call to my Mom.  My mom, about 2 years prior to my diagnosis, had her own very traumatic event.  She had a serious stroke and almost died.  It caused her to be legally blind, but besides that her brain has fully recovered.  As I told her what was going on, I assured her that what she had gone through was way worse than what I was about to enter in to.  My mom is a very emotional person, so I knew she would take this very hard.  And she did.  She is also someone that will worry herself to death.  I mainly wanted to reassure her that Leukemia wouldn’t be the thing to take me off this earth.  I promised to give her weekly updates on my condition after each appointment, and I did.

I remember the first appointment with my Oncologist very clearly.  It honestly felt like I was in the wrong doctor’s office.  Everyone in the waiting room was either in a wheelchair or over the age of 75.  My wife, Amy was with me and we saw very quickly that I was an outlier.

Getting called back to my first visit, and now being on about my 50th visit to a hospital in almost 2 years, I realized that not a lot changes with each visit.  It always starts with the nurses taking my vitals, then a blood draw to check my liver enzyme levels and white blood cell count, among many other blood markers.

I have never been a fan of needles, so I asked the nurse if I could lie down, since I would more than likely pass out if I was sitting up in a chair.  Even after 50+ blood draws, this is still what happens to this day!  I guess you could say I have gotten used to the routine now and so have all the nurses.

Once you get your blood drawn, it’s a long 20-30 minute wait in the doctor’s office to see your results and for the doctor to go over it all with you.  After my first lab tests, it was clear that they needed to do additional tests – a bone marrow biopsy – to see how progressed the Leukemia was and to see if it was in the bone marrow.  If it was, that would give the doctor a good idea how progressed my cancer was.

My next visit was to have the bone marrow biopsy, nothing I recommend ever having done if you don’t need to!  Remember, I said I wasn’t a fan of needles.  Not to go into too much detail, for those of you that are like me, but this felt more like a drill than a needle, since they need to extract a “core” sample from my bone – the posterior superior iliac spine, or that bony part of the back of your hip.  They numb you up real good, then get after it.  Needless to say I was pretty sore for about 3-5 days after the procedure.

The results came back and the LGL Leukemia cells were not only in my liver, but also in the bone marrow.  The doctor tried to explain to me how rare this was to have it in the liver – so rare he said I was only one of 40 cases known in the United States in the last 10 years.

It made me feel like I won the lottery, the cancer lottery!  He said the most important thing was to lower my liver enzymes, since I was living at 10-12 times the normal levels, and this could cause damage and scarring of the liver, to even liver failure.

I started treatment right away.  Performing any type of infusion based chemotherapy was risky, and because the cancer cells had manifested in my liver, they went with giving me an oral chemotherapy drug.  The drug was a catch 22 though…it was used to treat blood cancers but it could also cause liver problems.  But the doctor assured me that we would run blood work every week for the first 6 weeks to make sure that didn’t happen, since the goal was to kill the LGL cells in the liver and not the liver itself.

After the first 6 weeks my enzymes started to drop ever so slightly, then there was a bit of a leveling off.  I still had higher levels than normal, so I continued to take the medication.  After about month 4, my enzymes spiked again very high.  So high the doctor was really concerned and took me off the oral chemo.

At my next appointment, in August of 2016, the primary oncologist I had been seeing for almost a year now told me he wasn’t confident he could help me.  This was a big surprise to me in a lot of ways.  First, I have never been to a doctor that has been so honest to let me know and actually say, “Hey, I am really stumped here, I am going to refer you to another doctor.”  Usually, you as the patient need to go out to get second opinions for a condition.  This is not initiated by the doctor but by your own inclination to just have another opinion.  I didn’t need to do that, he did that for me, which was very refreshing.  Secondly, this really got me thinking:

“Well, this cancer specialist has no idea what to do next with me.  What will the next doctor do?  Will they even be able to help me?”

Fast forward to September 2016 when I had my first appointment with my new oncologist at The Huntsman Cancer Institute.  When I walked in the doors, there was a completely different feel.  The level of compassion and care seemed to be very high.  I learned at my first appointment that I would have three nurses I could call 24/7 – three!  That was in addition to my doctor.

I also learned that based on my symptoms and my most recent bloodwork, I may not even have Leukemia at all.  They were fearful that I may have a serious stage of Lymphoma, or T-cell Lymphoma.  They scheduled me the very next day for a PET scan (positron emission tomography). This is an imaging test that allows the doctor to check for Lymphoma, or any other disease in the body. The scan uses a special glucose dye that has radioactive tracers. These tracers are injected into a vein in your arm. Your organs and tissues then absorb the tracer.  The cancer cells often use more glucose than normal cells, which can help determine how fast the cells are growing.

After my Huntsman appointment, I had to Google this new turn of events, even though my doctor said not to jump to conclusions.  An important part of figuring out a condition is also figuring out what it isn’t.  As I searched, I learned very quickly that “T-Cell Lymphoma” is far more serious than “T-Cell LGL Leukemia” or what I was initially diagnosed with.  If I had in-fact had Lymphoma and not Leukemia, that meant I would be at a Stage IV cancer and admitted to Huntsman for chemotherapy and potentially a stem cell transplant.

I should not have looked it up.

My wife and I arrived at 6am the next morning for my PET scan which wasn’t until 8am.  They took me back around 6:30am and prepped me.  I sat in a “quiet room” for up to an hour and a half to allow the die to get into my body.  I had to fast that morning and when I stood up to go to the bathroom I remember almost passing out.  As my wife knows, I need my breakfast!

The PET scan came back negative for any Lymphoma.  What a relief!!!  So now we’re back to T-Cell LGL Leukemia but I still had symptoms that were unusual even for that.  So more tests.  A second liver biopsy and a second bone marrow biopsy confirmed the cancer did manifest in my liver (very rare for LGLL- or Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia) and the cells found in the bone marrow showed involvement like what was in my liver.  Which still pointed to LGLL but the doctor said the presentation was weird since my blood counts were otherwise pretty darn normal.  So getting my liver enzymes down still remained their biggest concern.

The line of treatment the doctor wanted to put me on was a “long term oral chemotherapy.”  The drug, Cyclophosphamide, had many side effects.  Besides mild and severe nausea and fatigue, there were potential birth defects that would occur – that wasn’t an issue for Amy and me, since we weren’t planning on any more kids.  The other part was I couldn’t be on this oral chemo treatment for more than one year.  The goal – decrease liver enzymes and keep white blood cells and other cancer markers high enough to stay on the medication and in one year’s time be in some sort of “remission.”

All that remission means is that the cancer isn’t kicking your ass anymore, not that you are “cancer free.”  With Leukemia or blood cancers in general, you’re never “cancer free.”  They can always come back and sometimes be worse than before.

In any case, I started this new line of treatment in October 2016 and go in monthly for my check-ups.  At first, there were not very big changes in the lowering of my liver enzymes.  But by March of 2017 my levels started to drop pretty drastically and the doctor was very happy with my bloodwork every time we met.

My symptoms of fatigue (mainly as a side-effect from the medication) started to get much better as I hired and coached more of my staff to take over a lot of my duties at the gym.  This allowed me to take better care of myself – sleep, nutrition, and time with my family – all of which helped me in my treatment.

 

 

 

 

 

(Roman, 3 and Dean, 4 are my top priority in my life!)

In the middle of May 2017, at one of my check-ups, I asked the doctor if I could train pretty hard again for what was going to be a summer Bobsled Combine – I figured this could be my last opportunity to show my sons what I did as a competitive athlete – and for me to get excited about training for something again.  She said yes, as long as I listened to my body and didn’t overdo anything stress wise.

The day after that appointment, I planned out a 3 month training plan to prepare for an August Bobsled Combine – which included sprinting up to 45 meters, a broad jump and a shotput toss.  These were all things I had done in the past, and things I was confident I could train for and do well.

The training has been going great, I feel stronger and faster than ever – even 10 years ago – and now at the end of July, I am in a position to be ready for the combine.

My liver enzymes are almost at normal levels, just barely 1.5 to 2 times the normal levels.  The doctors and nurses suspect I will be able to get off this medication at the one year mark, or by October.  Then they will start to track where I am at every month, then hopefully every 3 months as things look better and better.  Per my doctor, this would look like a form of remission for me.

Moral of this story:

I haven’t allowed my condition to stop me from pursuing the things in life that I love.  I love competing.  I love helping people.  I love helping my staff to realize their goals in life and in their career.  I love my wife.  I love my kids.  I will never stop fighting.  I will never quit.  I know that one day my condition could get worse but I choose not to focus or worry about that right now.  I decided almost 2 years ago when I was diagnosed, the best day of my life was this one.  Now, when people ask me, “How’s your day going?” I say, “Best day of my life!”

This quote sums it up for me and I am striving to do this daily.

 “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

 ~Emerson

I have cancer, and I choose to fight

My name is Ben Fogel and I am a blood cancer survivor – and still fighting!

I don’t feel much different than many other people I’ve talked with that have survived cancer, and didn’t ever feel I had a story to share.

Then a good friend told me very recently, “You are being selfish by not sharing your story.  What if one person heard your story and it changed their life, would it be a story worth sharing?”

Now that really motivated me to write this piece, and he showed me in those two sentences how selfish I was being.  I want to show people that cancer is NOT always a death sentence, and with the right attitude and approach you can overcome anything life throws at you, including but not limited to cancer.

Now, has it been a tough road?

Yes, of course it has.

Did I want to quit on several occasions, whether it was the nasty medication or treatments I was on?

Yes, but my attitude changed drastically when I realized my “Why.”   Why was I alive and what in fact was my true purpose?

I very quickly came to understand that my “Why” for me was to fight to stay alive and strong for my wife and kids.  I realized that if I just gave up, my two sons wouldn’t have a father to throw a baseball to.  I realized that if I just gave up, they wouldn’t have their Dad watching their first baseball game.  I realized if I just gave up, they wouldn’t have me to look up to anymore, to ask questions to anymore.  I realized that if I just gave up, that would be the most selfish thing to do to my family, my wife, my kids and my parents.  This was now my “Why” in life.  To make sure I live to see all these moments.

My father was such an influential figure in my life, I looked up to him like he was indestructible.  That’s what I want my boys to see in me.  That’s why I didn’t quit, I have fought and I am still fighting.

Now, if my story can help one person turn their life around, I did a good service.  What I realized facing a pretty traumatic event in my life is that it all starts with one thing, and that is the attitude you bring to that situation.  You have the internal power to change your circumstances, wherever you may be struggling in life.  This is how I was able to overcome my struggle.

This is my story.

It was mid-summer, 2015, and everything in my life was going amazingly well.  I was in my second year of opening a new business and in the “grind” phase working pretty long hours, and my wife Amy and I were also busy raising our 2 boys – Dean at almost 3 years old, and Roman at 18 months old.   To say we were in the thick of it would have been an understatement.

The gym was growing steadily and because I had many systems in place, it allowed me a little free time away from the gym.  More time to spend with my family and do more with my own training.

I decided I wanted something to train for again, so I came up with the idea to take 8-12 weeks to train for a Bobsled combine that was coming up that July.  This test included sprinting, jumping and throwing – all things I was used to performing from previously competing in the sport about 10 years prior, from 2003-2009 on the US National and World Cup Team.

I started my first four-week training block with lots of time on the track sprinting, as well as a lot of heavy lifting to prepare myself for the Bobsled combine.  About 3-4 weeks into my training plan, I wasn’t feeling very well – always fatigued and very low energy.  I just blamed it on the new workouts along with some longer than normal hours working at the gym.

Then it got worse.

I decided to get a sports physical, since I would need one anyway to compete in the combine.  The results came back with some abnormal blood tests – extremely elevated liver enzymes and a low white blood cell count.  Now two years prior to this, I had a physical flagged for high enzymes, but never this high.  My doctor was concerned that I may have an infection of some kind, or maybe even Hepatitis.  So he tested for Hepatitis and ruled that out.  At this point, we decided that I needed to return to the care of the GI specialist from years prior to find out what was going on.

From early Fall through late October the specialist and his team saw me regularly with really no answers on what my condition may have been.  By this time, I had stopped my training and taken additional time off work since my symptoms were not getting any better.

They were actually getting worse.

Friday, November 6th 2015

After multiple visits with my GI doctor for blood samples, two ultrasounds to check the size of the liver and spleen (both enlarged) I am here.  I am getting my second liver biopsy in the past 3 years.  The one from a few years back was more precautionary since I had barely elevated liver enzymes and the doctor at the time was pretty aggressive in the tests back then.  It showed “Mild, non-specific inflammation.”

What the hell does that mean?

It may have just meant that they didn’t get a good enough core sample to test back then.   But it was clear that my liver enzymes have been running high for some time now, and nobody could figure out why.

In any case, here I am again to rule out any liver disease or issues with the liver.  The procedure of a liver biopsy takes a lot longer then you expect.  You are literally in the hospital for half the day, when the actual procedure takes 5-10 minutes to perform.  They have to ensure that there is no internal bleeding from the site post biopsy, and make sure vitals are good for up to 4 hours after the procedure.  All went well, and after we got there around 7am, we were able to leave the hospital by 1pm.

The doctors tell you not to lift anything over 20 pounds for about a week, and for me that was going to be hard.  I mean, I own a damn gym and my youngest son weighs 30 pounds.  I did my best, was pretty sore around the site for a few days, but was ok.

Friday November 13th, 2015

I was doing the wife a favor and took her car in for an oil change, waiting in the waiting room when I got “The Call.”  It was my GI specialist who performed my procedure from the week before and who has been performing every test known to man to figure out what is going on with my liver.

Now, it was rare that I ever got a call from the doctor directly – it was usually his assistant/nurse practitioner that I would hear from.  So, the conversation went something like this, “Ben, we got the liver biopsy results back.  I want to make sure you are sitting down before I tell you this…but the biopsy results came back with suspicious T-cell Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia (LGLL).  This is a form of cancer that affects the blood, and I can’t help you with this, but I can get you in touch with an Oncologist and someone who can hopefully give you some answers.”

My first reaction was “Wait?  LGLL?  What the hell is that?” and when I started to Google it, I learned that it is very rare (about 1 in 10,000,000 diagnosed with a blood cancer get this form of Leukemia) and it has just barely been researched since the first diagnosis in 1994.

I wasn’t sure what to do, say, or even who to call.  The first person I called was obviously my wife.  Her reaction was one of disbelief, sadness, and wanting more answers.  After the longest hug ever when I finally got home,  we looked forward to my first doctor appointment with a cancer specialist.

Look out for part 2 of this blog. We will resume with all of the fun that ensued when I started my journey with cancer and all the treatments and care and where all the fighting truly began.

Epic Fitness Member Spotlight – Audrey Workman

Audrey Workman has an amazing story to tell!  With the help of her teammates in our most recent New Year New You Transformation challenge, she has had some amazing improvements in her health and fitness!  She has lost over 20 pounds of fat and almost 12 total inches off her waist and hips.

If you are looking for a sustainable change, check out our latest 28 day kickstart program here!

Check out her story below, along with her teammate Kate Harvey:

 

Member Spotlight Video – Stacey Carroll

We are so excited to be sharing Stacey’s story.  Stacey had an amazing transformation in our most recent New Year New You Challenge and in a short 42 days lost 4.5% body fat, 7.5 inches total off her waist and hips, and 8.5 pounds of fat!

Her story is a true inspiration of what hard work, dedication and habit building can do over the log haul!

April’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Donation Classes

For the entire month of April, Epic Fitness is teaming up with Awaken Studios and Woman Of The Year Candidate Tiffanie Booker to raise as much awareness and funds as possible to support the LLS mission to end blood cancers.

We are honored to be a part of this fundraising effort.  Here is how it works:

  • All members and non-members are welcome to join us every Saturday in April and attend our Metabolic Strength class at 9:30am (non-members arrive at 9:15am to fill out a quick participation questionnaire.) 
  • The minimum donation for the class is $5 (you can donate as much as you want!) and Epic Fitness will match EVERY donation dollar for dollar!
  • Every penny goes directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and their mission to end all blood cancers.  

Here is all the information below, along with a video where you can meet this years Girl of the year and learn more about the Man And Woman Of The Year competition:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Girl of the Year

Epic Fitness Guest Member Spotlight – Dan Bailey

Epic Fitness Member Dan Bailey, who just joined us as a member in January and who just completed our 6 week New Year New You Transformation Program shares his story below.  In just a short 6 weeks, Dan made an amazing transformation losing over 26 pounds of fat and more than 5 total inches lost in his waist and hips combined.  This helped his team of three win the cash grand prize of $3,000!  These changes have spilled into other areas of his life, which he talks about below.

Where were you before you joined and became a client of our gym? How were you feeling?

I had lost about 50 pounds of weight, starting in August of 2016.  I was just doing Weight Watchers.  It had worked but only to a point.  I could never get to the next level.  I wanted to be the best me possible, and I could not do it myself.  I needed help to get there.  I was feeling frustrated with the results I was getting. I needed to do something different.

What was your turning point that you decided to take action and become a member?

I think for me, I just got tired of trying the same thing over and over.  I was getting older, and was growing very tired of carrying all the extra weight around.  I was very afraid of the potential health problems that would come find me if I did not do something about it.  I also want to keep living life at a high level as I grow old, and I would not be able to do that if I kept going the way I was.  Knowing I could not be healthy without some help I started to look for it.  It just happens I know a world class strength coach, Dan John, who told me to go to Epic Fitness and work with their team.  Looking back, I wish I had done it 5 years ago.

What happened when you joined?  What are some of the biggest changes since you have joined?

When I joined, I was super nervous at first.  But right away, everybody there accepted me, and I fell in love with the Epic family.  Everybody there is so positive, and I feel so alive every time I leave after working out. Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed, but when you look in the mirror, it is so worth it.  The biggest changes for me is my physical appearance.  My clothes either don’t fit me anymore, because they are too big, or things I have not worn in years now fit.  Everywhere I go, people comment on how good I look.  I don’t take complements well, so that is a big change for me, in a great way.  I have more muscle and strength than I ever thought I would. I don’t get winded as easily anymore, skiing is way more fun, and I have made a whole new group of friends!

 

 

 

 

 

What would you tell other people about Epic Fitness?

I would tell people how great Epic Fitness is!  The entire team of coaches and staff are all amazing to work with!  The programs that are developed individually for you work great, and the support you get from everyone is amazing. It really feels like a community, a group that everyone is welcome to be a part of. Epic is by far the best gym I have ever been to, and was the best decision I have ever made for my health and mental well-being.  It is making me the best me I can be, and upgrading my life daily!  Do yourself and everyone who loves you a favor, and join Epic fitness, it will make you the person you always knew was inside you!  I only wished I had started sooner!

Epic Fitness Guest Spotlight – Barbara Spring

We are delighted to share Barbara (Barb!) Spring’s Epic story.  Barb is just barely coming up on her first year with us, and she came in with a big fitness background and exercised almost daily, but continued to get nagging injuries that would hold her back.  Barb is a great example of the positive things that can occur when you have a specific program that is customized to your own unique ability level.  Here is Barbs story!

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Where were you before you joined and became a client of our gym? How were you feeling?

I had back pain, leg aches, shoulder pain and I felt like I was going down hill faster than I wanted to be for my age.  I learned from the Epic team that I was doing a lot of things wrong that I shouldn’t have been doing.

 What was your turning point that you decided to take action?

Actually it was when I retired because I felt like I had more time to devote to my health. I knew of Epic Fitness through a friend and I thought  “Why not support a local business with a trainer I knew!”

Why had you not joined in the past? 

I thought I was doing everything myself that was good for me.  I was running, doing free weights, riding a bike but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted because I was wasn’t getting any stronger. I learned later that some the exercise things I was doing were wrong for me and my needs.

 What happened when you joined?  What surprised you?

That I had more endurance than I thought I would and that I was more coordinated than I thought I would be.  And that I caught on as fast as I did even though I didn’t speak the gym language.  Because all of the coaches are there all of the time so if you have a question there is always someone there watching you and you can ask.  That made the biggest difference for me is that there is always someone watching, if you are doing something wrong they catch it right away.  They correct it instead me of doing it wrong for weeks at a time.

 What were some of the biggest changes you noticed during the first several months of your membership?

I noticed after the first month I was gaining more muscle.  I see it in my arms.  I feel like I have more strength when I am doing yard work, lifting grandchildren, and daily living I just feel stronger that I was before.

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 How do you feel now?

I feel like I want to continue because it is such a good program.  It’s a very friendly gym, everyone is nice, no one is judgmental, everyone is just trying to improve their lives.  The staff is wonderful!  It is also great because “everyone knows your name” just like in the show “Cheers”.  A very friendly, home like environment that I come to just about every day!

Epic Fitness Guest Spotlight – Jackie Brewer

Jackie was brave enough to share her very emotional and touching story with all of us.  She is living proof to what a supportive environment and community can do to your life, even when you are on the brink of letting everything go.  We are so proud to see Jackie’s progress in such a short period of time.  Since joining 7 months ago she has undergone not only a physical transformation, but emotional as well.

We are convinced it is not just the diet and exercise that has changed Jackie’s mindset and life, it is also the social support and community support she gets each time she steps foot in the gym.  Her story is raw and emotional, and if one person reading this can make some of the changes that she has in her life and model what she is doing, then we feel so grateful for her being so open to share to possibly change another persons life.  Here is Jackie’s story, in her own words.

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Where were you before you joined and became a member of our gym?  How were you feeling?

I was eating and drinking myself to death.  I would stay up late and sleep all day, usually at least 12 hours.  Although I would drink several energy drinks a day, I always felt exhausted.  I was a slug.

What was your turning point when you decided to take action?

My depression had become so severe I no longer wanted to live.  I had thoughts almost daily of how I would end my life without devastating my family.  I no longer enjoyed activities that were once my favorite, like softball. When I played softball I would get someone to run for me every time I got a base hit, because I believed everyone was making fun of me and my size.

Why had you not joined our gym in the past? 

I felt that I was too far gone.  I felt that becoming the person I always wanted to be was impossible.  I felt like being in a gym would be too uncomfortable.

What happened when you first joined?  What surprised you?

The environment in the gym was unreal.  I NEVER feel uncomfortable or judged by other members.  At the start I was very nervous and felt very insecure.  All of that disappeared quickly because of the “family” environment. I was surprised at how quickly I became stronger!  Within weeks I could do things I never could have imagined doing in the beginning.

jackie-b-side-beforeafter

 How do you feel now?

I feel like a different person.  I feel stronger physically and emotionally!  I now am excited about what life has in store for me.

Epic Fitness Guest Spotlight – Charlene Dansie

In just the last eight months, Charlene has been able to not only transform her body but also transform her mind.  She has been such a good example of what fitness can do to your mindset, even when you think there is no way out from the pain or stress of your life.  Her story is inspirational, and we are so honored to be able to share it here!

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Where were you before you joined and became a client of our gym? How were you feeling?

I was in a pretty rough spot. I had been taking care of my husband who had been sick, lost him and had my own health scare.  I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even walk around the block without stopping 4 or 5 times, to catch my breath.  I had no energy, I had no breath. Basically, I went to work then went home and crashed on the couch.

 What was your turning point that you decided to take action?

 I just decided I didn’t want to live like that. There was no quality of life, there was nothing to keep me going.  I talked to Kambie, my niece, one of the coaches at Epic Fitness and asked if she would work with me.

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What are some of your biggest changes?

I was able to walk around the block again,  and not walk around the lake in my neighborhood. It is about 3.5 miles around.  I haven’t made it all the way yet but I have made it about halfway.  I have a better attitude, I have more energy, and I feel happy!

 

What happened when you joined?  What surprised you?

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoy it, how great the trainers are to work with, and  how the trainers are always there to help you and correct anything you need help with.   All the other clients are fun to be around and always very encouraging and up lifting.  I am also down three dress sizes!!

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5 steps to becoming successful in 2017

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Time to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017!  No more looking back on the past, what could have been or how things should have gone.  Stop focusing on the past and things you can no longer change and start focusing in on the wonderful future that lies ahead of you!

The great thing about it being a new year is that you can start from a pretty clean slate – turn the calendar and start fresh.  This is a time when New Years’ Resolutions become oh so popular again, yet only about 8% of the people are successful in reaching their “resolution.”  That means ultimately 92% of us end up not reaching the goals we set out to accomplish.  There must be a better way, right?  There is!

Here are the 5 steps to become successful in 2017:

  1. Focus on being happy!

There, I said it.   H-a-p-p-y.  I know, there is so much stuff going on around us that it becomes so tough to control our own emotions.  But this is literally the #1 thing that will transform your life, and the great news is, only YOU have the power to control this one thing, no one else.  Your attitude is a direct reflection of who you are.  It is essentially your attitude towards life that will determine life’s attitude towards you.  Basic cause and effect.  Everything we say or do will cause a reciprocal cause and effect.

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If we are happy and cheerful, glad for the opportunity to wake up and flip our eyelids open every morning and experience this miracle of life, others will reflect that positive attitude back to us.  Quite simply, we get back what we put out.

So as a test, try this next time you greet a co-worker, friend or even a stranger – SMILE!  Be accepting and positive to the people you decide to surround yourself with.  Be positive and giving, what is amazing is the reciprocity that occurs with this type of mindset, the mindset of being happy!  Remember, you have a choice every morning when you wake up.  Make the choice to be happy and you will find your life and the people in your life start to change with you.

In all honesty, you may be reading this and thinking to yourself “Be positive, be happy – is it really that easy?”  Why not try it out for yourself and see what happens.  I bet more people start greeting you differently, and with a smile, and soon your goals and aspirations become easier to achieve.

  1. Use the 1% Rule

This one is a game changer, and directly correlates with your attitude as well.  At Epic Fitness, one of our core values is to treat each person we come in contact with as an appreciating asset.  What does that mean?  We believe that every person has their own unique starting point when it comes to fitness and health, and we respect that by meeting each person exactly where they currently are on their journey.

We also believe that every person that we come in contact with should be getting 1% better each and every time we see them, and we hold ourselves accountable to that by asking the question “Did you get 1% better today?”  Now, this is a tough one to quantify, but in terms of health and wellness we are looking for those small improvements that move the body and mind forward towards a bigger goal.  We believe that every person can get 1% stronger, fitter or healthier by just focusing intently on bringing a little more each time they come in.

This can really work in any area of your life.  You can get 1% better spiritually by taking an extra 5 minutes a day to meditate or pray.  You can get 1% better with your nutrition by eating one extra serving of vegetables or having that extra glass of water at night.  Honestly, this works in every area of your life!

I feel like this can be very powerful in many ways, start with having the mindset every morning when you wake up that you will be 1% better in just one area in your life, then go after it!

  1. Focus on gratitude

Every day, there are so many things we can be grateful for but we never seem to make that connection on WHY we are so grateful for each thing in our life.  To keep it easy, start writing down one thing you are grateful for, then one or two reasons why you have gratitude for that thing.  This way, you can focus intently on just one thing a day to start, and your reasons of why are the powerful uppercut punches on what keeps driving you forward to achieving whatever it is in life you want to achieve.

I will share a personal one with you:

“I am grateful to have a family that supports me in what I do and love every day.  I am grateful for this because it allows me to serve more people in my mission to help as many people become the best version of themselves.  I am also grateful for this because it allows me to be a great mentor to my two sons.”

Start with your “what” and end with your “why.”  This will make your gratitude powerful and allow you to look back at what you wrote and keep you motivated moving forward and to be grateful for what you have in life, no matter what it is.

  1. Seek out those who have done it before – find a mentor or coach that can lead you down the right path

This is one step that most people skip, because they often think they can go at their goals alone, but end up making little to no progress because they just didn’t ask for help.

In whatever you want to accomplish, look to people from the past that have accomplished a similar goal before and use their formula since you know it already works.  Or, even better, seek out their mentors or coaches and get the expert coaching or training that they received.  This will knock off so much time in you reaching whatever goal you want to accomplish.

For example, if you are looking for a good financial advisor you could research what some of the top minds in finance are doing and then seek out the experts they used and use them for your goals.  If you are looking to make a transformation in your health and wellness, research the coaches and gyms that are getting the best results with their clients.  Hiring an expert will catapult you so you can take the straight path towards success, without all the bumps and roadblocks along the way.

  1. Become a goal “Doer”

We highlighted these 7 steps in an article last year that received a lot of great attention, and feel if you use these simple steps you can accomplish really anything you want to.

1. Be specific

Write down what you want to accomplish and EXCACTLY when you will accomplish it. Using our example, you might say, “I will lose 10 pounds by March 29th, 2017 at 3:30pm.” That is how specific you need to be, have an end date (and time) you will complete the goal by.  Place this specific goal somewhere you can see it and read it daily, like on your bathroom mirror.

2. Develop a purpose for each goal

Find out what your red hot “Why” is for achieving your goal. Why are you so passionate about achieving this goal?   Answer that question, and this will really ignite your passion to achieve your goal.  Using our example above your “why” might be, “I want to feel like I did on my wedding day and honeymoon and have the energy to be able to do the things in life that are fun and exciting again.”  Having a purpose for each goal will really get you jazzed and excited to accomplish your goal!

3. List others who can help you reach your goal

This is an area that is more often forgotten. It’s okay to ask for help accomplishing your goals. Think of these important questions – Who can help you achieve this goal?  Or, who can serve as mentors to help you achieve this goal? (See #4 above!

4. Create your plan

What are the exact action steps that you need to take to achieve your goal?  Figure that out, then work your plan backwards.  As the great author Dan Kennedy was quoted saying, “Start with the end in mind.” It is hard enough to have this enormous goal and looking up at the mountain thinking to yourself, “How am I going to make it all the way up there?”  When you could just start at the top and work your plan back all the way to where you are today!

5. Find solutions for potential obstacles

Again here is another overlooked step that many people never do.  Think of any obstacle that may come up and find solutions to those obstacles.  So when you do run into one, or two, there is a clear, drawn out solution to solve the problem.  As the author Sun Tzu famously stated in his book The Art of War, “Every battle is won before it is fought.

6. Take massive action now!

No, I do not mean write down your goals and just look at them every day, meditate and magically one day your dreams will come true!  That will never happen.  I mean really take action right this minute!  Ask yourself, which steps (see Step #4) will I immediately take action on, now?

7. Evaluate your progress and make any necessary adjustments

Always be asking yourself, “Am I on target with my goals?  Am I taking the necessary steps needed to achieve my goals?”  Make sure you are doing at least a weekly assessment of your progress, and if any adjustments do need to be made, make them! It’s okay to update your plan as things in life change.

Take action on each and every one of these 5 steps, make them part of your daily routine and I promise YOU CAN AND WILL BE SUCCESSFUL!!  Good luck and here’s to an amazing new year!