A Swift Kick to the O’s


It was a beautiful scarf … silky, multi-colored.  And she wore it well.

Barb entered my training studio on that blustery day in early September when the weather in Colorado begins its schizophrenic frenzy.  The tails of her head scarf swirled in the breeze as she walked in the door – a questioning look on her face.

“I thought this one looked nice,” she said — referring to her scarf.  “It’s just so happy with all the colors!”


We had met a few years ago when Barb decided to “bite the bullet” and hire a trainer to see just how far she could push herself at 60 years young!  You see — biting the bullet was something of a strong character trait in Barb.  She had been an avid smoker (back in the day) and one day she bit the bullet, deciding then and there to kick the habit after more than 20 years of puffing away.  At age 50 Barb bit the bullet again and began an official exercise regimen, without any prior exercise experience.  From there, biting the bullet came in the form of stretching herself and her limits to become a very strong hiker, a weight lifter and a long-term client with fitness trainers.  She had had to do a bit more biting along the way while undergoing some physical setbacks — synovial cyst removal in her back and also lumbar fusion surgery.  Because of her exercise regimen, and to the doctor’s surprise, she returned to her healthy, active, exercise-driven lifestyle only 8 weeks after both surgeries.

She and I had a strong client/trainer relationship and also a friendship.  We expressed concerns with each other, bounced ideas around, talked about our upbringings, skirted around political issues and the variances in our belief systems.  We sharpened each other intellectually as I helped her maintain her exercising edge, despite some very intense setbacks along the way.

Six weeks ago

give or take, Barb arrived to one of her weekly training sessions with me with a concern.  She lifted her shirt to reveal a red, swollen area near her belly button.

“Take a look at this.  What in the world could this be?” 

Now, I’m no doctor, and I know better than to begin to remotely diagnose ANYTHING.  But, as an opinion, it looked like something may have been herniated.  I suggested she go get it checked, to rule out anything of concern.  A “no harm, no foul” kind of approach.

A Swift Kick in the O’s

It was a sucker punch.  A gut check.  A powerful kick out of nowhere — without forewarning.  A Kick in the Ovaries.  Barb was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer, without as much as an indication outside of that slightly swollen, slightly red area around her belly button.  She would have never known otherwise.  It was another setback and this one was BIG!

Some facts about Ovarian Cancer

  1.  Often goes undetected until it spreads (only 20% of cases are detected early)
  2. Symptoms are often non-specific and are few
  3. Symptoms can be mistaken for other benign conditions
  4. Causes of Ovarian Cancer are unknown
  5. Undetected, it is more difficult to treat and can be fatal
  6. There is no standard/reliable screening test for this type of cancer
  7. Known as the “Silent Killer”
  8. Can metastasize
  9. Undetected by a pap smear or pelvic exam
  10. More than 30 known types of Ovarian Cancer exist

(*www.health.com    www.colo-ovariancancer.org    www.mayoclinic.org)

Barb’s world swiftly and drastically changed.  Radiation.  Chemotherapy.  Sickness.  Exhaustion.  Baldness.  Surgery.  Discouragement.

Remember Barb’s art of biting bullets?  Well, that’s exactly what she did.  She bit down hard!  She continued with her training sessions, when she felt she was able.  She put on her Superhero Fighter’s cape each day, determining to NOT let this particular setback get the better of her.  She allowed herself moments of upset every now and then and picked herself up afterwards, filled with resolve to beat this!  Barb reminded me of Gloria, my mentor and hero (Read more about Gloria here:  https://www.michelesodon.com/about/) and I gained so much respect from her in those moments when she entered my studio.  She continued to move her body.  She took herself outside.  She surrounded herself with positive vibes, despite all the negative externals.  In short, she SOLDIERED ON!

   She took it off

Her scarf.  On that blustery day, she entered my studio and took off her scarf to reveal her nearly bald head to me, the first person to see it in public.  I felt honored.  She asked if it would be ok and I couldn’t say YES quickly enough.  I put my hands on her head, swirling around what little hair she had left.  She was absolutely gorgeous!

We had a moment … And then –

She bit that bullet once more and focused on her training — the empowerment of her weak body, YES, but also the bolstering of her mind and her spirit which allowed her to face one more day, fight one more battle, capture one more victory.

I am happy to announce that Barb has been cancer free for almost 4 years!  Barb learned that she is stronger than she knows … that positivity is key.  That falling down isn’t forever.  Getting back up is possible.  That laughter IS the best medicine.  That choosing to move even when you don’t feel like it always is the best option.  That eating well to encourage healing is imperative.  That if and when possible, sticking to your schedule rather than canceling your life is rejuvenating.  That showing up for yourself each day is critical.  That being thankful for SOMETHING every day rather than wallowing in self pity is crucial.  And that NOW, her empathy due to her own experience can deliver hope.  She remains connected to various cancer societies and lives to encourage others who are facing their own surprising diagnoses.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month designated by the color teal.  Reach out to your local Ovarian Cancer Society to learn more about this condition and to help support them in raising awareness.


With great respect to you, BARB!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.