NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For some, getting healthy and working out in the gym is a chore. But for many cancer survivors, it’s so much more.
Now thanks to a fitness program based here in Tennessee, cancer survivors can work to get their strength back and keep it.
Denise Jones is a three-time breast cancer survivor.
“I had a double mastectomy in 2017 and then a second mastectomy on the right side again,” said Jones.
“Your mind is just crushed. You have to plan for the worst, you have to plan, ‘hey, I’m not going to make it,” remembered Jones of her diagnosis. “You have to think of your family and friends and then you get to the other side and you think, ‘OK, I have to live for my family and friends and live for myself. I’m here for a reason.'”
After beating the disease for a third time, Jones was ready to get stronger. She found a place to do just that, appropriately named, Survivor Fitness.
Along with her trainer, Anita Slaughter, they focused on physical fitness and nutrition.
“We don’t get them until they’re done with treatment,” said Slaughter, owner and trainer at A-Train. “They don’t want to go back to treatment. The only way they can stay healthy is with exercise and good nutrition. The impacts of the strength training, cardiovascular training and mobility training makes the world of difference.”
The program was started by another survivor, Aaron Grunke, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of testicular cancer in college. He went through treatment and although he beat the disease, he was far from where he wanted to be.
“All my doctors were like, ‘hey, we’re all clear, you’re young, go live your life,'” he remembered.
“That’s exactly what you want to hear, but that young man that started treatment was not the same person that ended treatment. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have next steps to get back in shape,” Aaron added.
Aaron worked with a trainer to get healthy and strong and that’s when Survivor Fitness was born.
“I feel like we’ve always taken the hand I was dealt, and we’ve turned it into a positive. Because emotionally when we speak to our survivors, the same emotional shift happens time and time again,” he said.
With his wife, Meg Grunke, by his side, they’ve helped about 500 people in programs all across the state because Survivor Fitness has affiliate locations in Nashville, Brentwood, Murfreesboro, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.
“We’ve had an 18-year-old come through the program and we’ve had an 83-year-old come through the program,” said Meg. “So, obviously fitness and their nutrition needs look very different.”
One thing is the same for all survivors: the desire to get healthy and stay that way with others who understand.
“It’s very comforting, because cancer can be lonely. You can have your family around, you can have your friends around, but unless they’ve been through it it’s hard,” said Aaron.
Survivors go through a 10-12 week program, and it is entirely free. The program is open to all cancer survivors. To apply for the program or to find more information, click on this link.