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Colchester - Member Of The Year

Colchester - Member Of The Year

It is with great pleasure that we can announce that Fitness4Less Colchester's Member Of The Year is Anwen Walkerdine. A truly inspirational member, this is her story in her own words.

'I have been through quite a journey over recent years and Fitness4Less has been a key part of my recovery. On November 2015 I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which had spread to my lymphatic system, plus another odd random cancer that appeared to be totally separate. The primary source was originally unknown, so the prognosis didn't initially look that good, which is scary for anyone, but it's even harder when you are responsible for a young family and have every reason in the world to want to live!

To cut a long story short, the wonderful oncologists did lots of great work to give me the "best guess treatment" which thankfully worked well. I had months of fairly gruelling treatment, including 5 months of chemo, 4 operations to remove the various bits of cancer, 25 rounds of very aggressive radiotherapy, plus 12 months of a wonderful drug called Herceptin, which will hopefully increase the chances of keeping the cancer away.

Because they never found the original primary it is not possible for the doctors to say that I am "all clear". All they can do is watch and wait to see if they find any other signs of it returning. Even at my last check up, the oncologist was talking about "when" it comes back, not "if". It is a bit scary, I am still only 42 and I want to live for plenty more years!

That is where exercise comes in! Ultimately I am not in control of whether the cancer comes back or not, but there is no point in living in fear. I want to make myself as healthy as possible, so that I have every best chance of survival and of enjoying many happy and healthy years with my family.

The most positive things I can do are: a) Eat as healthily as possible b) Try to manage my stress levels and c) Try to keep as fit and active as possible. C is quite a challenge when you come out of cancer treatment, as your body and mind are absolutely exhausted. I have lots of scar tissue that initially affected my mobility in my right arm, I have neuropathy (nerve damage) in my feet ,which makes me feel like I have pins and needles, I get "chemo brain" where I get confused and tired, the fatigue I experienced was totally overwhelming and the surgery and radiotherapy have left me with lymphedema in my arm, which gets worse if I overdo it! A bit of a challenge when you want to get fit again!

Initially, I was referred to a special gym group/ exercise class at the hospital, specifically designed for cancer recovery, but I soon felt that I wanted more. The ladies and gents there seemed to be content to go for a nice wee walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes, then a wee bike ride for another 10 mins or so at a time and to have a nice chat, and to start with it was an essential support, but I wanted to push myself more. If I want to stay alive then I need to be fit and strong!

I joined Fitness4Less in March 2017 and initially I found it really hard to pitch it at the level right. Before getting ill, I really enjoyed things like Zumba, but when I initially tried Jo's Saturday class, my brain fog was overwhelming and I struggled to follow the steps, and I physically over exerted myself so much that I put myself into bed for 3 full days, unable even to go to work!

Another week I tried to go running on the treadmill, used some light weights and then took an Aqua Aerobics class, but that triggered my lymphedema so badly that I couldn't use my arm properly for 4 weeks, It took me about 6 months to realise that I need to pace myself and be a bit more sensible and to be honest, I still get it wrong sometimes. I push myself to the limit, but I often find out where my limit is by pushing too much! However, I am getting much better at gauging the right level and am getting a huge amount out of my gym membership.

Nowadays, I regularly go for a run on the treadmill (but I have more work to do here), I attend Pilates twice a week, Spin on a Monday, Dance Mix on a Tuesday (when work permits) and I have just recently managed to get back to regularly attending Zumba every Saturday! You cannot begin to realise how much of an achievement this has been and how grateful I am for my membership. I particularly love the classes that Jo teaches; her approach of "do what you can and what is right for your body" was exactly what I needed to help me increase my fitness and my strength levels without being made to feel that I was rubbish or not good enough.

I still have a way to go. My next challenges are:
a) I would like to run 10k in the Boxted 2019 race. I seem to have a real mental block about running and still can't quite manage to run a full 5k, which is crazy... If I can manage one of Jerry's Spin Classes then surely I can run for 40 mins without stopping!
b) I need to keep up the fitness levels but I would also like to increase my upper body strength a little more. The lymphedema still gets triggered occasionally, so I need to do this carefully.
c) I would like to lose a stone over the next year.

So, as you can see, Fitness4Less is an absolutely essential part of my "Stayin' Alive" programme and I am very grateful to have you in my life.'

The team at Colchester were blown away by Anwen's determination and enormous efforts in the face of adversity. Huge congratulations Anwen - you are an real inspiration!

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