“Sometimes, hearing the words ‘YES YOU CAN’ is all we need,” said Sarah Duncan. Lifestyle changes are challenging, but motivation can sometimes come from something unexpected.
In June, 2010, Sarah was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. As a 40-something mom of two, with no history of cancer, this diagnosis changed Sarah’s life in an unexpected way. Her cancer journey provided Sarah with a new outlook and approach to life.
Sarah and her husband, Joe, have now taken their health into their own hands and couldn’t be happier with their results. “When your best friend is diagnosed with cancer, your world takes a terrible jolt,” said Joe. After eight rounds of chemotherapy, two surgeries and 33 radiation treatments, Sarah beat breast cancer and vowed to make the most of her second chance at life.
Feeling blessed that Sarah was healthy, the couple knew they needed a lifestyle change– the main reason was to simply feel better. Sarah found herself “tired and always achy.” Joe, an ex-smoker, had been to the emergency department twice due to heart attack scares. Turns out, the chest pains were only symptoms of acid reflux due to obesity. Joe also noticed that their annual hike in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was getting tougher. At last year’s hike, Joe and Sarah saw a bear for the first time. “The first lesson in bear defense is that you don’t need to outrun the bear, just someone else. This fat old man was destined to be the main course no matter who he was with,” said Joe.
Motivation is the key to getting in shape. “Many people ask what motivates me. I have a simple reply, ‘I am a cancer survivor!’ I feel very blessed to be here on this earth living and breathing. I do not want to take this precious life for granted again,” said Sarah. When asked what motivates him, Joe said, “To quote Ozzy Osbourne when he went into rehab, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Sarah started her lifestyle transformation by joining the Hendricks Regional Health Great Shape program. The group meets regularly for six months, focusing on fitness and nutrition, while changing small habits for the bigger end goal of a healthier lifestyle. Sarah came away with a great workout regimen, as well as a new support network of fellow Great Shapers. She also started walking more and signed up for the Hendricks Regional Health mini marathon training program in 2012, with intentions of participating in the 13.1-mile race. It turns out that she was bitten by the running bug. As of today, Sarah has ran a total of 23 half marathons. “I always admired runners because I knew how hard it was to do what they were doing. Now running is what makes me feel better and fitter. It is my therapy!”
Joe has always loved exercise but lately his favorites have been yoga and running. “Yoga has been a lot of fun for me for the last year or two, if only because I was so awful at it when I started. The big new thing on my plate is running. I can’t get enough of it.”
Exercising is important, but both Sarah and Joe agree that your diet is key. “Fitness is fun, but you cannot exercise away all of those pounds. What you take in is more important than output,” said Joe. “There is no amount of exercise that will ever compensate for a poor diet that contains too many calories,” Sarah adds. To help monitor calories and exercise, Joe uses a fitness app called MyFitnessPal. This helpful app is available for most phone types and can keep users on track with their diet and fitness goals.
Taking that first step towards a better lifestyle is sometimes the hardest part. According to Sarah, “My best advice to others would be don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Another tip is to actually schedule some exercise time into your calendar. When Sarah does that, it is “more apt to happen.” Once you get started on the path, however, continuing can also be tough. Joe advises to “take it slow. Don’t make yourself miserable or you will stop.”
Through it all the best advice is to find what works for you and have a supportive network of friends and family. “Every fitness plan is not for everyone,” said Sarah. “I am so happy that Joe has joined me on the efforts to live a fitter life. It is much easier when both spouses are on the same page as far as fitness.” While we are not all runners or avid yoga participants, there is something out there for everyone. The trick is to find your passion and stick with it. Discovering that passion is half the fun…