Healthy hurdles

Health & Fitness / May 15, 2017

Fitness becomes survivors’ priority

Making it through treatment and surviving cancer are two major accomplishments for any cancer patient, and many survivors’ top priority becomes their health and doing everything possible to keep the cancer from returning.

Cancer survivors Martha Rice and Sharon Gloria both took up exercising after receiving their clean bills of health and say exercise is a form of treatment itself. They both attend fitness classes at FBC Fitness, the fitness and recreation program at First Baptist Church.

Rice was diagnosed with breast cancer 22 years ago at the age of 54. She said she couldn’t believe it because no one in her family had ever had breast cancer.

“Everything had always gone right. I was healthy and had kept my weight down and reasonable and taught school for 25 years. Senior sponsor, junior sponsor, prom, you know, I did everything, worked the ballgames, and the cancer threw me for a loop,” she said.

Though no form of cancer is pleasant, Rice said that if you could pick which kind of cancer to get, she got the “best one” because it was noninvasive. She had surgery in Little Rock to remove it, followed by six weeks of radiation for preventive measures.

As soon as her doctor released her from radiation she began

Martha Rice during her Senior Stretch class at First Baptist Church.

Martha Rice during her Senior Stretch class at First Baptist Church.

training for Race for the Cure. She said she had never been physically active before her cancer diagnosis.

“There was a gym at the school I taught at but I never thought I had time to go,” she said. “But when you have a chronic illness or something bad happens to you, you find time because you know that your health and the Lord is the only one that is going to get you through it. So that’s when I started.”

Rice started attending First Baptist Church and joined FBC Fitness when it was completed. She was taking classes five days a week before she started developing complications in her feet from years of wearing high heels.

“Before my surgery I told them I was going to have to have surgery on my feet and they encouraged it because I was really having problems. I had to be taught how to go up and down the stairs on my bottom because I could not be walking up the stairs or down the stairs,” she said. “They took care of me there. And they constantly, in every one of the classes, they taught balance. As you get older your balance is really important and you just have to learn balance or you don’t survive.

“Another reason why the classes are so enjoyable, you meet so many people and it’s a different kind of environment. You get used to seeing all the same people at all the same classes. They’re just there, and they’re nice people to be around. I did not ever feel that I was not safe there. Because I was a widow, I had to walk in safe places and the fitness center and the track was the place for me to feel that comfort and safety.”

Gloria was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer over 15 years ago. She underwent a mastectomy, 36 radiation treatments and eight chemotherapy treatments.

“The thought never really occurred to me that it was a death sentence. I’m a totally optimistic person so I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is another hurdle and I’m going to beat it,’” she said. “I just faced it head on and we did exactly what the doctor said.”

During her last two chemo treatments, the strongest doses, Gloria said her doctor told her the chemo was going to affect her joints and “probably settle in her bones.”

“My knees were my downfall. I could climb like three steps and my knees would just kill me and I’d have to stop and I couldn’t go on. I went along with that for years, and in 2012 I could hardly navigate

Sharon Gloria during her Senior on Strength class at First Baptist Church.

Sharon Gloria during her Senior on Strength class at First Baptist Church.

any stairs, so my husband went to First Baptist gym and he came home and he said, ‘You know, this is really a good place, we need to try this.’

“I started going, reluctantly, because I’ve never been a physical, active person. I began to, after a while, I began to see that it was helping my knee joints and instead of just breaking down and having to stop every five steps, I was walking and doing moderate exercises.”

At the same time, Gloria’s 8-year-old granddaughter, Haley, was diagnosed with brain cancer. She said the gym at First Baptist was her “sanctuary” during this time. She said it not only helped her physical side effects, it also helped her spiritually and mentally.

“We would go in the afternoon and walk. I’ve walked miles and miles and miles around that track, praying for my granddaughter. In that process I began to see a healing of my own self, physically and mentally,” she said. “Our granddaughter was 13 last week, she’s been in remission five years, which is a big milestone. She also has side effects, of course, so she goes to the gym with us occasionally when she can to help with her therapy.

“I will be 71 this year and when we reach a certain age you realize if you don’t take care of yourself, by the time you reach 75, you’re going to be down. Sitting is the new cancer,” she said. “Cancer side effects are so lingering. They go on for years and it never ever is really done. You can still pinpoint anything that’s going on with you back to when they had to put that poison in your body, so anything that you can do to make yourself physically, mentally better, that’s what you need to do.”

Visit for a list of classes and amenities at FBC Fitness.

Lindsey Wells

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