Athlete of the Month: Tracy Kelly

IMG_7995Hi, my name is Tracy Kelley, and I am overwhelmed to have been chosen as the Athlete of the month. I use the term overwhelmed because I don’t feel like an athlete right now. I’m not even in a regular CF class, but sometimes you just have to step outside your comfort zone and share your journey.

My first experience with CF was in July of 2013, as I watched Amy Lackner, help my daughter transform her self confidence and physical endurance in the teen class. I found myself cheering and marveling at the life lessons that were being taught with each WOD. I knew I was witnessing something extraordinary, and scheduled my On Ramp the next month.

I started Progressions class in September 2013. Cross Fit was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was scared out of my mind every day that I came, but I left with the most amazing sense of accomplishment. The people in the Progression class and the ladies in the 9am WOD became like family. It never failed that when I was dragging or thinking that I couldn’t do one more rep the person next to me or a coach would say, “You can do it…Push thru…You got this!” Who could quit with that type of support? Over the course of the next few months I made tremendous strides, but still had issues with my cardiovascular endurance. I could not figure out why I was improving in all other areas except for this one?

In February 2014, I started having symptoms much like bronchitis. One large swollen lymph node in my neck led to an ultra sound, then a CAT scan, then a trip to the Vanderbilt ER, then a needle biopsy of the lymph node, and finally a week of waiting on the results of the biopsy. The result was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A couple of days later, I underwent a bone marrow biopsy, a PET scan, and a lung function test. Staging was confirmed as 2A, and my first round of ABVD chemotherapy was set for March 3, 2014.

FullSizeRenderThe whole month of February felt like the 10 second countdown before a WOD. There was no time to really think about what was about to happen, it was just time to go…fight…endure! Every other week for 6 months, I had a day that started with labs to check my immune functions, then a trip to my oncologist, and finally an afternoon at the Infusion clinic. Looking back now, I realize that God used Cross Fit to prepare me for both the physical and mental challenges of chemotherapy. He used the countless WOD’s to teach me that I was always stronger than I thought, and that no matter how tempting it was to quit…I had to push thru! The same voices I heard at the Box telling me “You can do it…Push thru…You got this!” were there in the Infusion clinic with me…possibly even louder than in person! (God bless you Silvia!)

By July 2014, I was pretty much sedentary with 30 extra pounds. I found myself wondering if I would ever be able to return to CF, and from my seat at the Infusion clinic….it seemed literally impossible. Humanly speaking, I suppose it might have been, but God had a different plan.

I finished chemo in August 2014, and my final PET scan in September was completely clear! I felt like I had been holding my breath underwater for the last 6 months, and as I finally broke the surface of the water and took in a big breath of fresh air…I looked around to find there was no land in sight! It was going to be a long grueling swim to shore! One of the many things that you don’t think to ask your oncologist when you are diagnosed with cancer is,”What does recovery look like after I beat cancer?” “How will I heal my body from all the aggressive chemotherapy?” You are so focused on finding out what you have to do to eradicate the cancer that has invaded your body that you never think to ask how you will survive the aftermath of treatment.

Unfortunately, there is not a designated recovery plan once treatment ends. There is not a recovery clinic that takes the place of the Infusion clinic, or a recovery-ologist that takes over for the oncologist. So, I spent the next months researching other people’s recovery plans. Then came double pneumonia, cracked ribs, and by January 2015 I began to wonder if I would ever work out again in any capacity?

IMG_0953Juicing, green smoothies, yoga, and walking all started to make slow but steady progress during Spring of 2015. While on vacation with my family in June, I allowed my mind to start contemplating returning to CF. I emailed Nicole Geraths about private coaching sessions, and my first work out happened later that month. A couple of weeks later, I maxed out front and back squats, and as I opened my WOD app to enter the information, I could not believe my tear filled eyes. I had exceeded my last back squat on December 10, 2013 by 20 lbs and my last front squat by 10 lbs.! There are no words for how that felt, but there was God…showing up and showing me that even as strong as I thought I was before chemo…He brought me thru chemo healed and even stronger!

As I said at the beginning, this idea of being Athlete of the Month is very overwhelming to me considering the company that works out all around me. But this story is not about me, it’s about my journey and the courage that it took to walk back into the box in June. I’m still scared out of my mind every time I come to the box, but I also still leave with the same amazing sense of accomplishment afterwards. My journey involves cancer, but you can swap out cancer for debt, depression, divorce, obesity, loss, deployment, retirement, etc., and CF will still serve you in the same way. It will make you aware that you are always stronger than you think, that you can always push thru what’s uncomfortable in the moment to make it to the end, and that everything is easier with the support of those around you!

Returning to CF was one of the most pivotal moments of my recovery to date, as it provided me with proof that I am going to overcome cancer and the after effects of chemotherapy…that I am stronger in ways that I have yet to discover. I am so thankful for the CF coaches, CF community, and CF SolaFide box! What happens in the box definitely does not stay in the box…it carries you thru some of the hardest days of your life!

In closing, please help me raise awareness of the early warning signs of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This lymphoma, if caught early, has a 90% cure rate; early detection is the key to survival!

• most common in ages 15-35 and 50-70
• fatigue
• fever and chills that come and go
• itching all over the body that cannot be explained
• loss of appetite and/or weight loss that cannot be explained • soaking night sweats

• painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin • persistent hacking cough or breathing problems

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