A Message of Hope

My name is Linda Johnson. I am the lucky and grateful recipient of a free membership to your beautiful club. I am writing to thank you for this amazing opportunity.

I had the extreme pride of recently completing the Living Well After Cancer Program. It was not easy, because for me, I am trying to live well WITH cancer. My breast cancer from 11 years ago became metastatic over 3 years ago. I now have metastasis to the pleura surrounding both lungs and in multiple locations throughout my spine and both hips. I will be in treatment for the remainder of my life. Average life expectancy is 2 to 4 years. It is incurable.

I have never been a person who enjoyed exercising, and certainly the last 3 years (more than 2 of which were on chemotherapy, the remainder on hormonal therapy), and an additional new diagnosis of asthma, I have been a professional couch potato. Well, I garden, but that's about it.

When the opportunity to participate in this program came up I have to admit I was scared. I have never actually been in a real gym. I went to Curves for a few weeks but that's the extent of my athletic experience. I was sure I would be able to keep up, or worse, my bones would not be able to take the stress and I would fracture. Here's this idea of doing something that would be me a tiny bit of CONTROL over something that has so devastated my life, well that ILLUSION of control was enough to keep my dragging myself there and trying to do better.

The treadmill has been a challenge for me both physically and mentally. The whole time I am walking the word CANCER CANCER CANCER keeps playing in my head. I think of the 2 friends I have just lost to breast cancer, and my dear cousin, who died last month of lung cancer at 48. I feel l like I am trying to run away from it on the treadmill. But I know I can't outrun it.

I have been using the weight room and the cardio room specifically to improve my shape and to give me a fighting chance at the next treatment. There will always be another treatment to start until I give up and enter hospice. I want to be strong for this fight. I am strong mentally. I want my body to catch up. You are giving me this chance to help myself.

I am convinced that exercise can improve the survival of first time breast cancer patients. I wish I had figured that out before I became a statistic. I am so thrilled that your club is giving so many women the opportunity to help themselves survive! I hope they understand the importance and the necessity of a lifestyle change.

Over the years I have volunteered at City of Hope for the American Cancer Society, have been active in the City of Hope Pink Links Breast Cancer group, and am currently involved with BCMETS.ORG, a message board for metastatic breast cancer patients. I am educated and informed about the poor prognostic biology of my disease. My own impending death has been a sure thing. There is approximately a 2% five-year survival rate. I have learned to live with that everyday. The worst part of it is the idea of leaving my family; a 17 year old daughter who still needs me, my husband, and my mom, who has recently developed Alzheimer's disease, my precious pets and my friends.

But on that damned treadmill in your cardio room I recently had a strange new thought....

"What if I live?"

It had never occurred to me before. You gave me that sliver of hope with this membership. I know it's not likely, but it does now seem possible. At least for a while longer than I was supposed to. What if I live? You asked me if the program had changed my life.

What if I live?

Thank you so very much... I am going to try.

Linda B. Johnson