Written by request for www.crossfitwilmington.com

I was elated when I made it through Marine Corps boot camp.  I’d worked out hard to get ready because I’m not particularly athletic, though I’ve always been active – jogging, martial arts, yoga, walking, swimming.  At my best I ran an 8.5 minute mile.  But I made it through and did well.  A year into the Marines I started to notice how much harder I had to train to maintain the standards, and not just compared to the men.  I worked out more than anyone in my platoon and ate better by far.  Earlier in life I’d been a vegan for 5 years, so I was used to eating very healthfully.

But no matter how much I trained, how healthy my lifestyle, I seemed to be slowing down.  No matter how much I ran, the runs got harder.  No matter how much I exercised, I couldn’t get stronger.  At 28, I managed the first class standards only because I qualified as old for a Marine!  It was after returning from deployment that I really started to wonder why I was having to work so hard with no results, and why I was so tired all the time.  I didn’t know it then that my Thyroid was off.

Your thyroid is your body’s compass and regulator.  The hormones it releases affect nearly every part of your body – brain, muscles, hair, skin and metabolism.  If it’s underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones, your body slows down and you have symptoms like fatigue, depression, weight gain, and more.  Without medication you’ll just slow down to nothing.  If it’s overactive and produces too much, you tend to lose weight, become hyperactive, can’t sleep, get the shakes, sweats and anxiety and the like.  Needless to say, if this organ isn’t working correctly your whole body is off no matter how healthy your lifestyle.

It turned out that not only was my thyroid underactive (called Hashimoto’s thyroid disease), but I had two forms of cancer, one in each gland.  The good thing about thyroid cancer is that it’s “the most survivable cancer.”  Yay!  Another good thing is that chemo isn’t required, just surgery and ‘radio iodine ablation’ which is a type of radiation therapy.  Unfortunately it was not possible to remove the cancers without removing both thyroid glands, so there went my body’s compass, damaged as it was.

Bugger that a healthy lifestyle did nothing to curtail my odds, but I was very optimistic.  I’d survived the Marines, deployment, and more, I could surely come back from the most survivable cancer.  I was glad to have the support of my husband and family helping me through it.

Fast forward 4 years, last month I finished my inactive reserve status and have remained cancer free.  YAY!  Getting the cancer out was just one leg up the hill as it turned out.  Finding the balance of the right medication levels has been a real challenge and has taken years.  Creating a new balance after the Marines has had its own challenges, not the least of which is going from training most of the time to – ahhh!  A desk job.  Don’t get me wrong, my job is good and I’m grateful I have it, but sitting at the desk you can keep!

These days my focus is on regaining strength and power, and a friend introduced me to Crossfit.  I’m a light-weight these days, but I figure I win if I complete what they tell me to do, just like boot camp only friendly!  Here’s to what makes you stronger!