"I wanted to have the energy to run around at the park with my daughter without feeling like I had to drag myself to do it."
In November of 2011, Kristen Hearne was the fittest she had ever been. She was eating right, exercising 5 days a week and enjoying going to the gym.
But on December 5, 2011, her entire world turned upside down when Kristen was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. A few weeks later, she had surgery to remove her thyroid, followed by a course of radiation.
“You’re never prepared to hear the word ‘cancer.’ That moment changed the course of our lives,” Kristen said. “For the next 7 years, nothing was what we had planned it would be.”
After more than a year of treatments and tests, Kristen was declared healthy by her doctors. But the toll the battle took on her body changed her life. Despite being on synthetic thyroid hormones, she just didn’t have the energyto return to the gym.
Kristen and her husband found out they would be welcoming a daughter in early 2014, with all of the joy, fatigue and exhaustion that comes along with being first-time parents. While this was a huge blessing, returning to the gym got pushed farther down the road.
“After my cancer journey, I didn’t know what being a mom would look like in my life. It was difficult to have energy to do some day to day tasks during pregnancy because of the constant struggle to control my thyroid hormone at a safe level for myself and baby,” Kristen said.
Then, almost four years to the day after her first diagnosis, Kristen learned that her cancer had returned. Another surgery showed that 10 of 19 lymph nodes that were removed were positive for thyroid cancer, and Kristen struggled through having a toddler in the midst of another year of radiation and tests.
Nearly 7 years after her first cancer diagnosis, Kristen decided it was time to reclaim her health and fitness.
She began exercising at the Powdersville YMCA and quickly learned about The Journey program from Wellness Director Paulo Passini.
The Journey gives members free sessions with a Wellness Coach who walks them through an InBody Body Composition Analysis, helps set up an individualized plan and guides the member through their individual wellness journey. In The Journey, members get a new workout every day through the ActivTrax app, mixing up the exercises to keep each session fresh.
Kristen committed to her plan: making better food choices and working out three times a week, including cardio and weight training. Since starting at the Y, she has lost 14 pounds, gained muscle and lowered her body-fat by more than five percentage points.
But even more importantly, she feels better each day, physically and mentally, and has more energy to spend time with her husband and daughter.
“I wanted to have the energy to run around at the park with my daughter without feeling like I had to drag myself to do it, and I wanted her to see a mom who is strong and energetic,” Kristen said. “A few weeks ago my daughter and I were playing, and she looked at me and said, ‘Wow, Mommy! You’re as strong as the Hulk!’”
Kristen’s initial nervousness about getting back into the gym has proved to be unfounded. She has worked out at all three branches of the YMCA of Easley, Pickens & Powdersville, and she has never felt anything but encouraged by the staff and her fellow members.
“The absolute hardest part of starting was just walking through the door. I was worried about judgement and not knowing what I was doing, but all of those fears are gone,” Kristen said. “I never feel like I am there alone. I have found a family of people that are encouraging, friendly and ready to support me every step of the way.”