Are You there God? It’s Me Hope,WTF?

11 11 2018

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It‘s beginning to feel like a big prank. I am looking around for someone, or maybe something like a hidden camera because I love a good joke. But it could be karma or some kind of payback, or maybe it‘s just you God, testing me again? For what, I‘d sure like to know. Seriously, who is this puppet master behind this life debacle and what exactly is it that I did to be thrown all these crappy things over the last few years? I‘ll admit I was a mean girl in high school when I kissed Suzi‘s boyfriend Bill. But I only kissed the guy once, I didn’t screw him. They even got married!!! Meanwhile look at who got cheated on and divorced. And how about that surprise open heart surgery tossed my way in 2016? That was no walk in the park. Seriously, I just finished paying my medical bills and along comes another one of life‘s surprises. Enough with testing my strength. It’s weakening my savings account by paying lawyers and medical bills. Money that needs to instead be going towards two weddings and a facelift. Who or what decided it was time to pull an Alan Funt with a “Surprise You have breast Cancer.”  (for those of you under the age of 50 insert Ashton Kutcher for Alan Funt)  Regardless of the 5 Ws, I am shocked because I know I am not being punk’d but once again being tested. Someone is really trying to break me. However, I am a competitor and I love a challenge. Let me remind you, I hate to lose and my track record reflects that fact. So cancer, you probably should have checked with Karma, God, Suzi and even my ex-husband because they all would have told you, you picked the wrong bitch. I fight hard and I fight dirty. I am a Philly girl. #fucancer #bringit

                                 A LUMP OF FAT ( and it goes a little something like that)

While on vacation in Iceland, I felt a slight pain on my left side of my chest. I see several heart doctors who routinely ask “Are you experiencing any chest pain?” My answer is always no, and I always find this a rather strange question. The doctors have all told me that my heart is strong and healthy and that I just had a bad valve. So I‘ve never looked for nor worried about chest pain. However, being out of the US, I began to worry. This slight pang came and went so I remained calm knowing in less than 24 hours I would be hearing the pilot say “Welcome to Philadelphia.”  Once back in the City of Brotherly Love, my plan was to call my cardiologist first thing in the morning. However, that quickly changed to my gynecologist when I discovered that evening that this dull pain was not coming from my heart but rather an oddly shaped lump in my left breast.  Oh boy was I relieved. 

To say I know my body is huge understatement. My unknown congenital heart defect began to show signs when I was in my mid-forties and the complaints I voiced to my doctors were dismissed constantly for 6 years with them all telling me I’m fine, it’s stress and of course the reason all women are crazy…MENOPAUSE. Turned out it was a bicuspid aortic valve that formed an aortic aneurysm. This thankfully a new doctor caught it in time before it had ruptured. From May of 2017 up to my diagnosis of breast cancer on February 2018 I had this eerie deja vu feeling. Instead of hearing the words “You‘re fine“, I heard “There’s nothing there.” First, after having a breast exam by my Gynecologist I was sent for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultra sound of my left breast. All of these tests came back normal showing no mass. So, I was told to wait 4 months until my next visit because it was “probably a lump of fat or a lymph node” and “would likely go away on its own.” When I was still feeling the lump 4 months later in September I was sent to see a breast surgeon. I was excited that this appointment would give me peace of mind and a definitive answer as to what this lump could be. I was, after all, seeing “Philly’s Top Doc” of breast surgeons so she should know, right? Ushered quickly into an examining room I am informed that the doctor has a meeting so she needs to see me right now. My vitals will be taken “after” the doctor examines me. “Everything off from the waist down. Ties open in front.” I am handed the gown in a plastic bag in which I change into and I sit hopeful, my legs dangling off the end of the table and my boobs dangling in my gown. Without even looking at my face, the doctor entered the room, introduced herself as she went to the sink and washed her hands. She asked me a couple of questions.  “Does breast cancer run in your family?” “No,” I said. I was instructed to lay back. Normal for a breast exam. When did you first feel the lump“The end of March, but I need to stand up to find the lump for you.” She told me to sit up, and I watched as she quickly made some notes on the computer and then stood up and walked to the door. The “Top Doc,” said she really doesn’t feel anything and that it’s probably a lump of fat or a lymph-node and that I should come back in a few months if I’m still feeling anything. Before I could get a question out she was gone. She did have a meeting“But Doctor… can I get an MRI?” I have questions, “umm is she coming back in? What about my vitals?” These questions weren’t really asked. No one came back for me to ask them too.  I tossed my lovely gown in the bin, got dressed and left. Vitals? Not taken. My blood pressure was HIGH! I did however go get that second opinion you should always get. Surgeon number two and her tech could not find a mass on the ultrasound, so once again I was told it’s probably a fatty deposit or a lymph-node. This time I asked the doctor for an MRI but am told to come back in 6 months if I still feel something. As I leave, I am frustrated but know regardless I will not be back to this hospital, they don’t even have a Starbucks.

 

PAGING DR. GOOGLE & MS. KNOW-IT-ALL

To speak beyond ones sphere of knowledge is called a ultracrepidarian. Dates back to the story of Apelles, a famous greek painter who heard a cobbler criticizing how he had rendered a foot in a painting. The painter remarked back to the cobbler that he should stay in his own station and not go “beyond the sole“, hence the latin phrase ultra crepidam.  Often, when I am running my mouth about something I just made up, half read, googled, might have overheard, my really good friends will laugh in my face knowing I am talking “out my ass“, hence the verb “bullshitter”.

My daily research on breast lumps, bumps and lymph nodes was giving me a feeling deep in my gut that I needed to be persistent, so I kept an appointment I made way over 3 months ago and went and saw surgeon number three. Facetune_04-11-2018-15-56-24I was prepared to be an ultracrepidarian. Sitting in the exam room, I knew I wanted an MRI, and therefore wasn’t leaving without being sent for one. Petite Dr. Julia Tpchou entered the room and I don’t just jump on her, I attack. Full on crazy patient with tears. Here‘s where the movie director will add the violins: For 6 years I saw zillions of doctors complaining about not feeling well, only to find out I had a BAV and an aneurysm. I know my body! There’s a lump in my breast that should not be there. It’s not fat! I know my body! I know that mammograms are 87% correct in identifying breast cancer (I just threw that stat in my blog) and all of my ultrasounds shown nothing but I can feel the lump. I know my body! Dr. Tpchou told me that when she was in medical school a professor taught her that when a patient says they know their body, they usually do. Thanks Mr. Professor. She examined me thoroughly and she felt the lump, and she sent me for an MRI. That Friday afternoon following my MRI, I received a phone call from an office assistant with the results of my test. Great news. My MRI report was normal.

 

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“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
Edgar Degas

THE RENDERING WAS WRONG. THE COBBLER WAS RIGHT!

That Monday morning following my Friday afternoon call, I received a call that Dr. Tchou wanted to see me at the hospital immediately, so I knew something was up. I finished training a client and drove straight to The University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Over the weekend, Dr. Tchou explained that when she saw that my MRI report had come back normal, without even a “suspicious mass noted, she decided to look herself at the MRI images. She pulls up my MRI on the computer. With my eyes focused on the screen she fired away at the enlarge key, and I watched as this tiny white dot appeared and grew bigger.  “There’s your lump.”  Finally a doctor who listened. I was scheduled for an ultra sound guided needle biopsy. University of Pennsylvania being a teaching hospital, usually has a fellow who checks on you before the attending physician. “The lump gets lost when I lie down.” This fell on deaf ears. The fellow, although determined to locate the lump on the ultrasound, did not succeed. Moments later the Radiologist entered. Petite woman, with a rather large presence, and she says to me “find the lump.” I need to stand to find it, so she firmly says, “Stand up. Find itPut your thumb on it.” She took the cold, gelled probe, placed it firmly right where my thumb was and instantly started measuring the white looking image, aka: lump that appeared on the sonogram screen. In what was her last year of residency, the young doctor commented to me how she learned something new today. Was it that you can do a breast ultra sound to a standing patient,  or that you should listen to what a patient has to say? Days later I found out that all six samples from my ultra sound guided needle biopsy had all come back inconclusive. I would next be scheduled for a lumpectomy. You know to remove a lump of fat.

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BIG GIRLS DO CRY

I am told that I wear a tough exterior, but these past few years I know I have become softer inside. I cry a lot easier, which according to the real Dr. Google is hormonal. But the kind of crying that takes your breath away, leaves you unable to speak, feels like a panic attack… well, that has only happened twice to me. The first being when I put my dog Rocki down, and the second was when Dr. Tpchou phoned and told me that I had breast cancer. When I finally caught my breath, I replied “I really did not expect “it” to come back positive. I know what you’re thinking. Really Hope? Yes really! No one in my family has ever had cancer. Sitting on a Bosu ball in the private place where I went to take this call, an empty aerobic room, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought this can’t be happening.  I call my very quiet, kindhearted boyfriend who not only listened to my crazy lump stuff for the last 6 months, but also spent his birthday sitting in a hospital while I had my lumpectomy. In-between sobs I very angrily tell him that I’m not a hypochondriac and “it” wasn’t a fucking “lump of fat.” I HAVE FUCKING BREAST CANCER and yes, I was right. I‘m always right! It wasn’t nothing and go ahead dump me. He should dump me. I would dump my sick ass. We’re not married so heres your chance to get out now. RUN! I  won’t be mad at you. When I was done with my well justified rant, he assured me he wasn’t going anywhere because he said “That would be really bad juju.” “Ok then, sniff sniff You know I am so fucking mad.” He knew. With my adrenaline up I stuck my headphones back in walked out of the aerobic room and finished lifting. #chestday I did not tell my family, friends or announce it on Facebook. I knew nothing so there was nothing to tell. But what I did confirm is I have a few special people in my life whom I cannot thank enough for their help from my appointments to answering my questions to just being there. 
In February, 9 months after I first discovered that darn lump I had a lumpectomy, followed a few weeks later with a lymphadenectomy. The latter is done to see if the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes. Thankfully it had not. While I personally experienced more pain and difficulty in healing from my lymphadenectomy, I did not have a mastectomy, and would not dare to compare my procedures to the surgery of a mastectomy.

THERE IS NO “I” IN TEAM

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Lumpectomy, Lymphadectomy & Proton Radiation (skin reaction 2 weeks after Proton partially due to  sweaty jog bras)

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Now

A slice of my tumor was mailed off to a lab for an Oncotype DX breast cancer test. The information gathered from this test would determine my cancer treatmentI needed this test to come back with a number that would allow me to skip chemo and jump right to radiation. While most patients discuss the side effects of their treatment with their doctors, I just needed to know if I would complete my treatment in time to go on a safari in Africa. For this amazing trip, tops on my bucket list, I was lucky to be asked to be part of prior to my diagnosis. The results of this tests held that answer. I sat weeks waiting for my oncotype score (because of a mix up) but finally got the results. I would not need chemo and that meant a shorter treatment plan. This was a giving me hope for Africa. It was now time to  meet my “C” team. To my list of doctors I now add an Oncologist, Radiation Oncologist, and a Cardiology Oncologist. The last doctor, who will approve my treatments, Dr. Joseph Carver, wears giant red Beat-like cordless stethoscope headphones. His specialty is cardiac problems and cancer. He is my bonus doc because of my heart valve replacement and other leaky valves. 

                                                               LET THE GAMES BEGIN

As if I was just here yesterday, I ran around the busy Perlman Center alone at Pennsylvania Hospital. Dressed in my work clothes (gym clothes), there I am squeezing in and out of crowded elevators, grasping my files, holding my Starbucks, running up and down the escalator, dropping papers, meeting doctors, googling words, spilling my coffee on myself, scheduling test appointments, checking my Facebook, and ducking familiar faces all while thinking, “is this for real?” The only things that have changed were the locations of the waiting rooms and the doctors. First, I see the quarterback of my team, my Oncologist. She sketched everything out for me. Explained and confirmed that there was nothing I did that gave me cancerNot even drinking from the hose while playing outside as a kid. Having lost my period at 43 years old this caused me to enter menopause at a rather early age, and therefore produce higher levels of estrogen, which most likely fed the tumor causing it to growI found this tumor that wanted to hide and a lot had to do with having low body fat, and the pain I felt causing me to explore that area. But it was also found with persistence. Had I been older, heavier, would I have found it? Would I have listened to the doctors and have been satisfied with what they were saying along with the normal test results? My doctor assures me that my cancer cell being fed earlier gave it a chance to be found earlier and that was actually a good thing. I caught it at at stage one. 

When cancer came calling I was ready. Since I live with the belief that exercise is a gift and something you should not take for granted, I am always in training for life. Knowing I have an upcoming open heart surgery within the next 8 to 10 years, possibly sooner, I will be prepared.  As with most health issues, it’s always quite fascinating how several people can have almost the same exact diagnosis, and yet have totally different methods of treatment and recovery. Your overall health plays a major role in this.  For my game plan, I sat with Dr. Gary Freedman and he sketched out for me several radiation options. All of the standard treatment plans would span 8 to 10 weeks. However, in a circle on the right side of the paper was the word “PROTONS.” Explaining the difference between photons and protons, Dr. Freedman informed me that I was an excellent candidate for Proton therapy. This treatment would in fact be a better option for keeping the radiation away from my heart.  He offered me twice a day treatments, early morning and again later in the day that I could bang out in one week. I could hear the elephants from the savannah at that moment. Timing was perfect. I’d finish with enough time to grab my safari hat and my anti-malaria meds. But before I began any treatment I needed to tell my home team, my “A” team, my daughters. Tell them why an awful lot of their calls have gone to voicemail this past year, and why I’ve seemed so short lately.  I have one living in NYC and one away at PSU, and I am their only parent. So I must do what I do best at times like this…..lie. I just found this little lump in my breast and the doctor took it out. (Insert joke and laugh) it was a little cancer, blah blah blah, it’s gone, went bye bye. Mom’s all good now.  Just going to get a couple quick zaps of radiation before I go away….. And like deja vu from a few years ago when I gave my “I’m having a little heart procedure” speech,  it worked perfectly for one of my two favorite daughters.  Cue: violins, beating drums and  cello …..Tears, anger, and fear.

 

THE WORLD AIN’T ALL SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS

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Wanted: women of Russian/European decent for extras in Creed II, being filmed in Philadelphia. According to my mom mom, and backed up by my Ancestry.com results this describes me. I love the movie Rocky, named my female boxer Rocki, and have seen all of the Rocky movies. This is my chance to use that college theatre degree and hopefully see Sylvester Stallone and Dolph.   So what are my odds of receiving an email saying I was selected to be an extra for Creed II and it’s in the middle of my proton therapy? Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 3.13.27 PMI‘ll tell you, according to real data much smaller than this Askenazi Jew of Russian decent getting breast cancer. FU cancer! #iwillbreaku

 

I thought I was strong and could do this myself, but apparently I was wrong. The 6am driving into the city was easy. I would come home and train one or two clients, workout, shower and then drive back for round two. While I was told, fatigue would kick in by mid week; it never did. Nor did it really kick in the following week. The metallic taste came quickly by day two. But seeing all of the children with cancer, nothing could prepare me for that, and the sadness that still resonates inside of me.

IMG_3026There are five treatment rooms that contain four gantries or cyclone machines and two waiting areas.
IMG_2993That week I sat in the same waiting area with the pediatric cancer patients from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia dressed in my hospital gown and them in their own little gowns. Children of all different ages. A college kid popped in every day in-between his classes. I listened one day as he sat talking to a parent giving her hopes that her daughter would get the same positive outcome he was having. I’ll never forget my second treatment on my first day. When I came out of the dressing room in my gown, an entire family filled the patient waiting area. This little boy, about six, was giving a tour of his super cool looking proton cyclone to his huge family. They had all come to celebrate his last treatment. “They look like spinning space tunnels”, I said to his parents. I learned that he and most kids didn’t know the cyclone spins because they wear a molded mask to keep them immobilized and often use headphones to listen to music.

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Making My Mold

These masks, some painted by the patient to look like a fake super hero, hung along side my body mold and too many other real super hero’s masks all week. When the little hero rang the bell, which is a distance away in the main lobby area, I was laying in my proton bed awaiting the beam, but I heard the bell, the applause and the cheering. It was a beautiful ring. I knew I was a lucky mom and a lucky woman. That week, twice a day I sat in the waiting room like the kids in a routine matter and when one of the Proton techs said  “Hey Hope… Let’s do this.” I too would pop up and go into the space tunnel. Cause I too thought it was really cool

 

 

Hey Nike, this is what a fitness addict looks like. My athletic apparel took me from the gym floor to the cyclone, and back to the gym.  I even taught a spin class.

 

 

On my last day I thanked the wonderful technicians who pulled, pushed and aligned my body up so precisely for the proton beam. With my left arm stabilized over my head and my bare boobs marked up, tattooed up and stickered up, I would wait for the beam to be directed to my cyclone.  IMG_3118Every treatment seemed surreal. On my final day I bent down to say  goodbye to a little boy about age 7, who was playing a video game on the floor. He had a brain tumor that had grown back for the third time and now he was trying Proton therapy at Penn.  “Hey buddy I never ever want to see you here again. Ok?”  Ok, strange lady, is what I’m sure he was thinking as he looked at me oddly and then went back to his video game. His mom told me that everyone says that to him, but he doesn’t get it. I think to myself, that’s a good thing.

Friday night around 6 pm at the time when most people are rushing home from work or to happy hour to hang with friends I concluded my proton therapy. Check out from this weeks stay included one last visit with Dr. Gary Freedman, who is the brilliant doctor that prescribed my beam’s precise pathway, it’s dose calculations, and everything needed to stop the protons in the bad area and keep the healthy organs and tissues healthy. While knowing that I do still have follow up appointments with my other doctors regarding future treatment, I ask Dr. Freedman the magic question, “Do I still have cancer?”  He tells me I am a survivor. So like a little kid, on my last day I showed off my super cool cyclone spaceship to my daughter and my boyfriend who came to celebrate my final treatment with me. We then headed straight to the usually very crowded lobby so I could go ring that big silver bell. I pushed open the door and proclaim a big WTF? It’s 6:30pm on a Friday night the lobby is bare. The pranks just keep on coming. I rang the fuck out of that bell. ( Actually God it would have been even more funnier and pathetic if Madison and Kevin had not been there and I had to go ask someone to take my picture)

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THE BIG “C”

Cancer, yet another eye opener in my life. I got even more clarity on where I stand in peoples lives. Your actions, not your intent, not what you post on social media, or who you claim to be, speaks louder to me now. Busy people make time for people that are important in their lives. Selfish people are always too busy, and only make time for themselves. Having a stressful day or a bad week is not an excuse for rude behavior. It’s called being a selfish asshole. Have a blessed day, you’re not sitting having cancer treatment. 

I discovered I had this lack of knowledge about cancer and the medical “scientific facts”, and was woken up to people’s ignorance they are willing to spew from non-scientific sources. I do not have cancer from foodmedicine, surgery, traveling, or too much exercise.  Using organic soap and essential oils would not have prevented me from getting cancer. #womenlovewastingmoney Yes, people asked me some of these questions. Yes, I am a trainer. Yes, I am well aware I‘m not as strong or cut as I use to be I don’t need you to point this out. I‘ve been kinda busy. Yes, I eat a healthy diet. No, I am not giving up meat. There is no scientific evidence that changing your diet to just eating “alkaline”  rich foods such as fruit, green vegetables, and other plant-based products discourages the growth of cancer cells by raising blood pH levels. This is not going to change the pH levels of your blood, because they are tightly regulated by the kidneys and lungs regardless of foods consumed. While a good diet is always important, it can’t cure cancer. (Please stop saying that a certain food “cures” cancer) There are cancerous cells in the body of every person that at any given moment and through lifestyle choices can become a full-blown disease. Some these cells will divide and become abnormal and cause cancer for no reason other than bad luck. Breast cancer does not run in my family. I am the first one to have been dealt this unlucky card. That does not mean my daughters will get breast cancer. So before you ask, I did get genetic tested. In fact I got the entire breast cancer panel test done which included the following genes: ATM, BRCA1, BRCA2, CDH1, CHEK2, PALB2, PTEN, STK11, TP53 (a total of 9 genes). All were negative. Regardless, this does not mean I will not get any of these cancers; it just means I am not carrying the gene. Just as if any had come back positive, it does not positively mean I will get that cancer. It just means I carry a gene and depending on other factors my odds would increase. Having a genetic counselor through Penn’s Cancer Risk Program conduct these tests, and a full evaluation of me and my families medical history pertaining to cancer and discuss how this all works was very comforting and informative. Probably fewer mastectomies would occur if all women had access to these tests and also had genetic counseling.   #healthcareforall

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ON WEDNESDAY’S I WEAR BLACK (Actually everyday I wear black)

Around the same time I received my diagnosis of Stage 1 breast cancer a friend was diagnosed with a much more invasive cancer. It sucks that my friend’s battle is tougher,  and all I can do is drop off food, a FUCK CANCER tee and drag her out to dinner and a cabaret. #thecountessandfriends  There’s no ribbon for her rare cancer. Plenty of pink ones for mine. I find nothing pretty in pink about cancer and am not one to be a member of this pink ladies gang.  It is, however, the color associated with the most successful marketing for a cause in history, raising a lot of money in the name of breast cancer awareness, but not for prevention and finding a cure. Despite all the pink products being sold, each year 40,000 women die from breast cancer.

While breast cancer is one of the top 4 cancers, it is lung cancer that kills more men and women than breast cancer and the other three top cancers combined. Just saying the word “cancer”, one feels they must whisper. She has cancer.But no one whispers she has heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of all women, more than all cancers combined. I‘m all for saving the tata‘s, but if the heart ain’t beating do I really care about my breast? Being that there are over 100 types of cancer can we just agree they all suck, wear a black ribbon for all of them, and have 100% of the money raised go to finding a cure for this awful disease? Please? Oh, that’s already taken by skin cancer. 

Another storm survivedMore contacts to the list, more tests pre-scheduled and now these awful meds I am being told I should take to prevent breast cancer from coming back. But who knows what storms lie ahead or in my body, and if there is anything to stop that storm from coming.    

September 2018 MRI

9/18 Post MRI Coast Looks Clear

If I learned anything this past year,  it would be that no matter how physically prepared I am, I might not be mentally prepared to have the words when fate is questioned. I don’t need to always have the right words or the right answer but I will always speak from my soul and of course beyond my sole. #ultracrepidarian

 

 

 

I don’t know
Only god knows where the story is
For me, but I know where the story begins
It’s up to us to choose
Whatever we win or loose
  And I choose to win               

So God, Please NO MORE DRAMA in my life!          

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CANCER, KARMA AND YES YOU TOO GOD ……I WIN!

My intent for writing this blog was not just to share my experience, but that hopefully someone who is ignoring a lump reads this and goes and gets it checked. I also found it frustrating that as a fitness professional over the age of 50, and someone who entered into menopause at and early age, 43 there were no blogs or info that I found giving me insight into treatment, recovery and especially the medicines and their effects on post-menopausal women who still lift weights..heavy. There are plenty of blogs and articles from ladies in their forties and below in the fitness profession who are pre-menopausal.  Maybe eventually I’ll get to writing something for the fitness gals in their 50’s and 60’s who are still hitting the heavy weights, doing pushups galore etc. and discuss more of my personal issues. In the meantime feel free to message me if you have a question. As for the treatment plan I chose moving forward after my Proton therapy and the medications that were offered to me to avoid breast cancer I’ll leave it at this.

Everyone has their own journey and sometimes you have to go with your gut. 

 

 

AFRICA – KENYA 2018 Checked it off the bucket list! (Thank you, Jill Schuler) 

 

Please help CRUNCH out Pediatric Cancer. This past September these amazing folks rode with me at Crunch Fitness for this great cause. Please donate to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Cancer Center.

 

I also was so fortunate that during this past year, the weekend following my Lumpectomy to be part of an event that was so close to my heart nothing could have stopped me called the PHILLY SPIN-IN. A giant cycling event raising funds for pediatric heart disease. This event was truly amazing. A giant event for little hearts.  This year the Philly Spin-In will take place March 9 & 10. If you would like to make a donation or be part of my team HopeHeartStrong please message me for information.  Corporate donors for this event are always wanted! hope@motivatehopestrength.com

PHILLY SPIN-IN

 

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Email Hope@motivatehopestrength.com

 

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Not So YOUNG, a Little WILD and Valversary THREE.

12 04 2018

 

Each year as April 8th approaches I look forward to going to the hospital and taking tests.  My goal is to pass tests and  by pass the surgeon. And by that I do not mean not bypass surgery, I mean do not have a reason to see the surgeon.  By heart I have the day’s routine down. Quick Cat Scan and off to Ultra Sound. Let me give a shout out to Ben at Penn Medicine for the “extra touch” of music videos.  Seriously watching Coldplay and then turning my head to see the ultrasound monitor showing my valve open and closing to the beat of Adventure of a Lifetime was  paradise. Really was cool.

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Once my tests are complete, I sit in a room in my surgeons office.  And although I know I feel great and that I exercised and trained hard this year to make my heart my strongest muscle, I sit and stare at the door in hopes Dr. Bavaria does not walk in.  Seeing him in his blue blazer over his scrubs would mean something isn’t pumping right, or he’s about to tell me the words I fear to hear one day that  it’s getting close to valve replacement time.  Knowing that this day will come and my aortic valve will need to replaced again is what drives me to take care of myself.  I am determined to walk in and walk out upright.  (Tissue /bioprosthetic valves have an average lifespan of  10 to 20 years) 

But lucky for me, GOD the name I like to call my surgeon, did not enter the room. I passed my tests, hit the elevator button, hit Schuylkill Expressway  and of course hit the gym for a long sweaty heart-pumping workout.  Another year down and time to train again for the life I so appreciate.  Diet and Exercise… if a doctor could write it on a prescription pad it would be the most prescribed medicine. Because people love to medicate then prevent. Gym floor or hospital floor?  Why would anybody choose the later.  While I have learned that my genes and cells  have come preprogramed for me at birth and that although I might do my best to live a healthy life style, I can’t out run, out lift or out program what unfortunate I was dealt with. What I can do is to be  physically and mentally strong to deal with anything that should be thrown my way.   A healthy heart BEATS a sick one.   So I workout like my life depends on it, cause it does.

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THREE YEARS  AGO , 5 DAYS POST OPP PEDDLING FOR MY OWN HEART.

THIS YEAR I PEDDLED FOR LITTLE HEARTS AT THE PHILLY SPIN-IN

I couldn’t of thought of a better way to celebrate my 3 year Valversary than to be one of the instructors at the Philly Spin-In for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.   Words cannot begin to tell you how appreciative I was to be a part of this event to raise money, awareness and a cure for congenital heart defects. To hear the stories, see the signs, see all the teams spinning and feel the love for all the heart warriors is a day I’ll remember and one that makes me feel blessed. The fund will run till the end of April so please donate cause little hearts need to grow up to be big hearts. You can donate at: Philly Spin In

It’s been another heart full year.

Hope

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Fit, Fifty & Feeling WTF ( Wonderful, Thankful & Freakin’ Relieved)

17 04 2015

FullSizeRender  Post Op Day 5 

Alive, thankful and on the road to recovery. Surgery took about 6 hours last Wednesday April 8th, 2015.  Exactly one week ago I laid in the ICU, opened my eyes, thought “thank god I’m alive” and then felt a two by four in my throat. The ventilator.  I’ve seen it on TV medical shows, heard other peoples stories of it, was told to be prepared for it and yet I still lost it.  Yes, if my arms weren’t strapped down I would have pulled it out of my mouth. “I can’t breathe” and the words are not coming out. The nurse standing on the other side of the large glass wall can’t hear me. “I can’t breathe”, banging my restricted arms and hands against the sides of the bed in a quick knocking like manner trying to get attention. “I can’t breathe, get this out of my throat.” All I hear is “Honey calm down, relax, it will be out in a few HOURS.”  And like I have also seen in scary movies, I am now playing the part of the person being lowered into the ground , dirt being shoveled on top of my grave…… I’m being buried alive.  But at this moment in my life it felt real and not like a movie. THIS is what I will remember most from my surgery, not the chest pain, headaches and nausea, but the ventilator freaking me out. Not that I didn’t expect to be awake, but I am sure many share with me this fear when having any kind of surgery where anesthesia is used.  Especially one where they tell you they are going to unplug your heart. Which is a great reason to get your ducks in a row, isn’t it?  My ducks were in a row, but unlike prior surgeries in my adult life this time I didn’t leave “the envelope” with letters addressed to my kids. I just couldn’t write them. Just the thought made me cry.  Instead, right before getting wheeled away to surgery I told my tatooed boyfriend “make sure they finish college and No Tattoos!”

I ended up not having a bicuspid valve but a badly deformed tricuspid valve. Option one: repair was out!  Option two: tissue valve was in. “Oink Oink”, I have a new pig valve.  The decision on which tissue valve the surgeon used, cow or pig, was based on what fit me best. Dr. Bavaria explained to my family that he prefered pig valves for athletes. I still think they are lying to me when they said he called me an athlete, lol.  Did he say gym rat, weekend warrior, daughter of parents who worked full time as a child and was told she can not play sports or she would have to find her own rides? Oh and no one tell my new friends on the Facebook group page  Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease (BAVD) that I am now a poser.   The valve was a tri-leaflet. The leak in my valve was caused by a prolapsed leaflet and tears in the valve leaflets themselves, which are called fenestrations.   That was the result of the heart being enlarged and the blood trying to get out. Dr. Bavaria explained to my family that it was spraying like a hose in different directions.

I was was moved out of I.C.U. less than 24 hours after surgery to a room on Silver 10, one of the many cardiac floors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.   I was told that I would wake up with things like that horrible ventilator, wires connected to the inside of my heart, drainage lines as long as knitting needles under my incision,  I.V. lines in both arms, and a line in my neck.  So like a puppy waiting for a treat, when a white coat appeared every day in my room  I knew something was coming out.  And one by one and day by day they did.  Ready to roll, I took to the hallways to walk and that is when I was immediatelt humbled. Heading towards me, moving faster than I was,  dressed in the same team uniform, white and blue gown, front pocket to hold a heart rate monitor, with wires dangling from everywhere,  I am passed by a 90 year old man. Really? WTF?  I give the typical head nod I use when a fellow mountain biker passes me and that’s when I notice….he’s cheating, he has a walker, that’s not legal!  Get his bib number!!!  Being the competitve person that I am, and hearing that he is on day 14 post op and I day 1 post op , I took a deep breath….and relaxed a little. I left the hospital on Monday, 5 days after my surgery with my new medal: a 10 inch scar down my chest with a bump at the top that looks like a nose of one of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. This I am being assured, will go down over time.   The absolute best feeling was coming home to my own house, taking a long hot shower, and crawling into my own bed. No more sounds of beeps and bells, and no one waking me up to check my vitals the second I doze off.  Other than dealing with some insane pressure headaches I am good. My daily walks around my neighborhood are getting a little longer each day. Breathing better each day. And getting my ball up higher and holding it longer each day on my spirometer. That same spirometer that I would wave in my dads face when I visited him after his heart surgeries. “Did you suck today Dad?” is now  “Hope did you suck today” Crazy how things change when we least expect it.  Crazy how hard that spiromoter is. FullSizeRender copy                                                                Being initiated into the Zipper club by my dad. 

Each morning we wake up and we have a choice to pick our attitude for the day.  It’s a daily decision we make. Am I going to be miserable or am I going to be motivated?  This surgery leaves me not in pain but with the joy of knowing how lucky I am to have the life that I do.  The gift of fitness is what allowed me to get to 51 without dying, and it is now giving me a much easier recovery.   And if anyone thought I didn’t shut up before about being heathy, then look out.  I am on fire.  Just the fact that the nurses told me the average person stays 14 days in the hospital for my surgery freaked me out. You make life altering choices each day and yet people take better care of their yards than their bodies. Yes I saw the eyes as I walked the halls of the hosital.  Looks of sympathy from visitors and from other patients. But what they didn’t know is one, don’t feel sorry for me, and two, I’m  looking at you thinking that you probably need my business card!  I’m in pain from not working out. I am dying that I can’t go lift and just sweat my ass off. The luxury of being able to workout I treasure daily as do so many other people. Just ask someone whose lost that opportunity.  It’s my life. It’s your life. It’s your choice.

I am up for air, breathing and look out, this gal is on fire……..but let me sit down for a second, I just got a little dizzy.

*The pre-op blog posted the day before my surgery FIT,FIFTY & WTF can be found at hopenagy.wordpress.com and scroll to prior post or at: https://hopenagy.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/fit-fifty-w-t-f/

 

Shout out to the N.A.’s, N.P’s, and the lovely gals on Silverstein 10 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who took care of me, listened to me complain “my head hurts” and my nurse Jenny from Utah who let me interagate her about her life and explain that people from Philly are not ALL angry we just look that way and by gosh gave me the biggest compliment of my life when she said “the other nurses think you’re in your thirties”.  “STFU Really?” Really!!!

IMG_8176Post op Day 6 – writting my lattest blog, having my Starbucks and staring at the piles of medical bills only these are pre surgery. 

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Fit, Fifty & W.T.F.

8 04 2015

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There’s that saying that goes when one door closes another one opens. Usually that door opens to bigger and brighter things. After 18 years of an ugly marriage followed by 6 years of an ugly divorce, complete with astronomical divorce lawyer bills I am finally able to come up for air. I am in my early fifties, fit and finally free of some very heavy baggage. But why am I still out of breath?

To me there is nothing more important in life than family, and certainly nothing more valuable than good health. As a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and workout devotee, I preach about health and fitness on a daily basis. I am passionate about it and, because I am that annoying fitness friend who works out all the time, posts fitness quotes on Facebook, likes to tell you what to and what not to eat and as you can see, also blogs about it. I don’t have a problem telling people they’re overweight, their diet sucks and that they are a heart attack waiting to happen. I take care of myself so you should too. Listen to me……I’m Ms. Know It All. My motto is: “take care of your heart and your heart will take care of you.” And my personal mission is to not end up with a bad heart like my dad and his dad.

Recently I said to a friend that I would love to see how healthy my heart is for a 51 year- old woman. I bet it’s like that of a 30 year old. I do a ton of cardio and eat well, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, I take fish oil supplements and I eat only dark chocolate. In fact, I think I am looking pretty pretty good for 51. I think 50 is the new 40. Did I mention that I have been feeling a little fatigued for the last few years. I’ve been told it’s from stress, my divorce and most recently menopause. I just had another physical. I know my body something isn’t right. I am told I should schedule a routine colonoscopy because I’m 51. Huh? I don’t think the problem is up my ass. Why isn’t anyone listening to me? I know my body and know something isn’t right. I think I need a new doctor. Yippee I found a new doctor and bonus she’s close to my house. Double bonus she had a cancellation. I have an appointment with my new doctor. Ah, I think my new doctor needs her hearing checked………
What? A heart murmur.  I now have a new doctor and a cardiologist, both whom do not have hearing problems. Although the lips are moving and I am being told that I was born with a genetic heart valve defect, I hear nothing but the words “Open Heart Surgery.” I am pretty pretty sure they both must have made a mistake because I have worked way too hard to avoid any problems with my heart, and look at me damn-it I look pretty pretty good for 51. Plus I just opened a new door in my life, I just came up for air. Let me catch my breath please.

The fall of 1980 I saw my father at the age of 43 lay in a hospital bed post-op from a triple bypass surgery after suffering his first of many future heart attacks, followed by subsequent heart surgeries and heart procedures. Wearing his scar like a badge of honor, he would parade shirtless around our house in Northeast Philly to the sheer horror of my teenage friends and I. To this day a phone call in the middle of the night always means hearing my mom say “Daddy’s in the hospital.” Now at the age of 82 my father Morty has had way too many heart procedures to list. But it’s this medical technology that keeps him alive and on the golf course in sunny Florida. That and someone, upstairs must like him a lot and knew that I would need him around so we can compare our badges of honor, our open heart surgery scars.

I’ll admit I have never even heard of a Bicuspid Valve, BAVD or let alone a Thoracic Aneurysm but when I’m asked if I know who John Ritter was I say yes and that I never thought he was funny. I couldn’t begin to comprehend what the cardiologist was saying. I have two daughters who need me. I can’t have open heart surgery…that would be insane. I’m too young. That’s for old people, people who are out of shape, people who eat bad, drink, and smoke. It’s not for me—the high and mighty personal trainer, amazing Spin instructor and fitness nut. Come on—I have to do the Broad Street Run. I need to teach my Spin class. I have people to train and preaching to do about the importance of doing cardiovascular exercise to strengthen the heart. And I have a list of personal “to do’s” like hiking the Grand Canyon, doing the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, and running the Disney Princess half marathon with my daughter, in of course Micky Mouse ears. In other words I have LIFE to do and don’t have time for this crap. More importantly I need to work, make money. I am a single mom. I don’t have workman’s comp or a job with benefits. How will this happen? And why did this happen? And another thought…OMG I’m going to have a gross scar down my chest like my father! Breath Hope. Just breath.

As I sat waiting for Penn Medicine’s top Aorta Specialist Dr. Joseph Bavaria to see me I was convinced that he would say we’ll monitor you and check you again in 12 months. But when he entered the room with this god like presence I knew immediately that “see you in a year” wasn’t coming out of his mouth. Instead he said “ John Ritter died from what you have.” “Yes I’ve heard” I said. And as I sat there wearing a shirt with a giant pink heart that I wore on purpose, listening to Dr. Bavaria and his Assistant Kristen tell me that my heart was way too big for my body size and all about artificial valves, cow valves, pig valves, two days in intensive care, and a week in the hospital I suddenly felt more like a confused child and not the strong confident mom of steel I am. Sadly, as I put my coat on over the cute pink heart shirt the heart surgeon never even noticed nor chuckled at, I gather my things and drove back into the suburbs in silence. Rush hour traffic on the Schuykill Expressway for once in my life didn’t seem to bother me. I thought about my kids and that I now had to call my dad and tell him the secret I have kept from him for two months. “Daddy, I have a heart condition and I am having open heart surgery in April.” And in true form my father said “BULLSHIT, that doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You were not born with a valve problem. It’s from too much god damn exercising”

Bicuspid aortic valve disease, or BAVD, is a congenital heart defect. Most people are born with a normal functioning tricuspid aortic valve. Some, like myself, are born with a bicuspid valve. A bicuspid aortic valve can be a serious heart valve disorder in which the valve only has two leaflets, or flaps, that control blood flow through the heart causing blood to regurgitate back into the heart rather than exit. It is a genetic mutation that occurs during pregnancy that causes the leaflets to fuse together. All of that causes the aorta to stretch and bulge and possibly cause an aneurysm. Oh yeah, I have one of those too that has to be repaired during my surgery. Some people are diagnosed at birth and therefore monitored as they age. Some like myself find out later in life that they were born with this valve disorder. To say I wasn’t prepared for the news that I had a life threatening heart condition would be an understatement. So I am beyond grateful and very fortunate that my new doctor, Dr. Hannah Chung heard the murmur and even more grateful that I didn’t cancel my appointment with Dr. Andrea Becker the cardiologist. Believe me I thought about cancelling.

On April 8th I will be sawed open through my sternum and have my bicuspid valve and aneurysm repaired or replaced. My surgeon, Dr. Joseph Bavaria will attempt to repair my valve rather. However if it cannot be repaired a replacement valve will be inserted.  At the old age of 51 I have no clogged arteries and one big strong heart so I am really hoping for a repair that hopefully would last for the rest of my life.  Tissue valves (cow or pig) only last roughly ten years when a person is active and therefore I could be facing open heart surgery again in ten years. I am praying for repair. I am not a candidate for a mechanical valve for other reasons. So, besides constantly thinking about my upcoming surgery and touching my left side of my chest all the time like Fred Sanford, I am cleaning my house like a nut, organizing my things and stocking up on diet ginger ale and soup. Plunging neckline shirts I once wore out whoring with my single girlfriends after my divorce have been dropped off at the good will box because something tells me that a 6” scar down my chest will not be so sexy. While I await my surgery I am restricted from doing anything that causes me to make a grunting sound like lifting heavy weights especially above my head. I am still training my clients, teaching spin and working out. I am training for the biggest race of my life – MY LIFE. I plan on walking into the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on the morning of April 8th being one Fit Fifty-One year old Female and walking out a week later ready for my road to recovery and the opportunity to begin each day with a grateful heart.

Occasionally we hear a sad story about a kid playing football and dropping dead on the field, a basketball player collapsing on the court, a child who has a heart attack at recess. We find out they had an unknown heart condition and that had it been detected their lives could have been spared. Today there are national campaigns designed to stress the importance of early detection of heart conditions in youth which can lead to Sudden Cardiac Death.

Simon’s Fund is just one of the many organizations dedicated to raising awareness about the conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes and children. Sudden cardiac arrest is the #1 killer of student athletes and cardiac arrest is the #1 killer of adults in the U.S.  As such, we should be checking the hearts of our children. Simon’s Funds latest success is the passage of The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act (HB1610) in Harrisburg, PA. Hundreds of childrens lives have been saved thanks to the screenings that have taken place in schools all around the country. Go to Simonsfund.org for more information.

I am fortunate that as active as I am I did not drop dead from my unknown heart condition. My bicuspid valve wouldn’t have been detected therefore not allowing my children to be tested for this genetic disorder. While most adults discover their unknown BAVD in their thirties when they begin to get out of breath more easily, my body learned to compensate for my hearts inadequacy. I always thought my racing heart during the first mile of a run was due to the stress of hating to run. I will be curious to see how I feel when I recover. Will I breathe better? Will my heart rate be the same when I workout? Will I not sweat as much? I know I have a tough road ahead of me but I am going into this mentally tough. Because guess what? I know my body and I am sure I will do pretty pretty well. T minus zero it’s race time.  Deep breath Hope.

 

Please follow along my journey as I recover the days, weeks and months to come.

Check out my post op blog Fit, Fifty & WTF – Feeling Wonderful, Thankful & freakin’Relieved

at: https://hopenagy.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/fit-fifty-feeling-wtf-wonderful-thankful-freakin-relieved/

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Hope Nagy Certified Personal Trainer

Pre-op testing day Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Feeling thankful in Philly.

Pre-op testing day Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Feeling thankful in Philly.

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YOU DON’T WORKOUT BECAUSE OF WHAT? by Hope Nagy

10 02 2014

“Success is not to be measured by the position someone has reached in life, but the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed.”  Booker T. Washngton

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Johnny Quinn IFBB

“I can’t exercise.” I hear it every day from people I know personally, not strangers.  Bad knee, bad back, bad hip, headaches, etc. And while I don’t discredit their discomfort, as I too have a bad knee, a bad back and my newest pain my hip, I do question their reasoning for not exercising.  I personally know people on disability for ailments that I question, “you really can’t work with that?” This is a subject that makes my blood boil and is something that I have a hard time with. I mean, if you could exercise and feel better, lessen the pain, and improve the quality of your life, why wouldn’t you?

While at the gym recently I noticed a guy with an amazing physique that was training with a fellow trainer Joe Quinn of ProQ Fitness  What I noticed first and then later say’s it all, and is the reason why I personally can’t accept some of the reasons why able bodied people tell me they can’t exercise.

Joe yelled over to me to see if I could I help him with a spot for this client. It wasn’t until I was walking over to them that I noticed that the guy with the huge biceps was in a wheel chair and was about to do a shoulder press with some heavy weight that needed a little assist. When the set was done Joe introduced me to his younger brother Johnny.  I walked away but throughout my workout I couldn’t help but watch Johnny because there seemed to be no obstacles in his way.  Although Johnny has some huge muscles I found 12 that were by far being used the most: Zygomaticus major and minor (4), Orbicularis oculi (2), Levator labii superioris (2), Levator anguli oris (2) and Risorius (2)… the 12 muscles that make up a smile.  A smile that said: I am one lucky guy to be able to exercise.

Meet Johnny Quinn, IFBB International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness.

In 1998, Johnny was involved in a near fatal motorcycle accident that left him with a 10% chance to live. Two broken femurs, a broken arm, a broken jaw, massive head trauma and a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  He was 21 when this happened.

At age 19 if I asked Johnny Quinn what is the meaning of success in one word, what would teen Johnny have answered me? 

Wealthy

Your body screamed “COMPETITION” when I first saw you at the gym.  Some people notice eyes, some breasts, I notice biceps. Are you use to people staring at your physique?

Thanks! At first I felt like everyone would look at me because I was in a wheelchair. Now, I’m up on stage showing off my body and the last thing people see is the chair.

After the accident how many months did you spend at Magee Rehabilitation in Philadelphia?

One month in ICU, three months at Magee Rehab. Three long months, but it gave me the foundation to rebuild my life.

Prior to your accident you worked out, but nothing like now.  After the accident and being confined to a wheel chair you told me you watched your stomach get bigger and bigger.  Some people would have never even dreamed of heading back into the gym but you decided to take back control of your body, and head back to the gym. 

Mentally I was determined to beat this thing from day one. I never lost control of that.  The first year out was the toughest, but I had a lot of support from my family and friends. I discovered that with God all things are possible, and took it one day at a time. Oh, I had some battles with fear, anxiety & depression but I never let it take control. However, physically, I had to heal before I could really do any weight training. I had to focus on just being able to perform the daily activities of life. About two years after I got home I felt strong enough and independent enough to join back at the gym and to start weight training. The rest is history.

First days back at the gym, what was it like?

Without the use of my legs or my core muscles that help stabilize myself, training was very challenging at first and frustrating. We just had to think outside the box and always think safety too. I have titanium rods in my spine and have to be careful not to break them. Once we did start learning what works and developing a routine, it felt like a victory in itself. It was basically trial and error to see what works best. I am still discovering different ways to train the muscle in a different way to shock it and stimulate more growth.

You were shown a Flex magazine article which featured Men’s Wheelchair Body Building. That picture spoke something to you?

As soon as I saw that article and pics of those wheelchair bodybuilders I knew that’s what I wanted to do. If I had to be in a wheelchair, I wanted to look like that!

How long after your injury did you enter your first body building competition? 

My first competition was in 2001, three years after my injury. I was the only guy in a wheelchair, but once I got out on stage and heard the response from the audience after I rocked the house with my posing routine, I was hooked.  The support from all the other bodybuilders was awesome too! As nervous as I was they made me feel relaxed and confident in myself. It was a life changing event. It’s now 12 years later and I have since become an IFBB Pro Wheelchair Bodybuilder.

Are you always training? 

Bodybuilding is a way of life, a lifestyle. You are always training to make improvements for the next show, consistency is the key. It takes persistence, dedication, and devotion. Not everyone can do it. I’ll take a week or two off after a competition, but I get back on a schedule depending on my next show. However, taking some time off is always needed if you want to survive in this business.

Finish this sentence….. When this show is done I am eating ……..

Pizza, cheesburger and fries!

Yummy but I think I hear the Mcgurgles!  What’s playing in your ear buds when training?

Heavy Metal

What playing on the stage when you’re posing?

At first heavy metal, but then I wanted to do a song that meant something and allowed me to share my faith, so I toned it down and tried some christian praise songs. That was definitely moving, but I needed more power. I found this christian metal band “Disciple” who have the power and message together, so that is my music these days.

Here you are more than  decade later I’d say you proved the doctors wrong and then some, and some more!

I guarantee I would never have done many of the things in my life that I’ve done sif not for my accident. Most of all being a professional bodybuilder.

In the past 12 years tell me what shows you have competed in?

 In 2002 I competed in my first NPC National Wheelchair Bodybuilding show in Florida, where I placed 4th in my weight division. I continued to compete each year getting bigger and better each year. Along with the NPC Wheelchair Nationals in Palm Beach, Florida every year I also competed at the NPC Junior Nationals in New Orleans, now called the NPC USA Wheelchair Championships. Two shows a year is enough, and they are really the only wheelchair shows out there. In 2010 I achieved my goal I set from day 1, and that was to win the Overall title at the NPC Wheelchair Nationals. Winning the overall title earned me my official IFBB Pro Card. That was a great feeling of accomplishment. My greatest actually.

Tell me about your training program.

I train 4 days a week. One body part at a time, except for arms. That way I can focus 100% to one muscle and just kill it. Get in and get out. So many people spend way to much time in the gym. I’ll add cardio in getting ready for a show.

Diet? Share please! We want to know. 

Diet is the key to successful bodybuilding. You have to eat to grow. My diet consists of 6 meals a day. My protein sources consist of grilled chicken, turkey, lean red meat, eggs, fish, and whey protein powder by Tak-N Sports Supplements. Carbs are mostly oatmeal, sweet or white potatoes, rice (white or brown) and cream of rice. Green veggies also like broccoli, asparagus, and green beans. I never used to calculate my calories. I just judged by how I look, but since I turned pro I want to take it to the next level, which is why I started working with Vic Tringali at teamvic.com With his knowledge and experience I look to make some major improvements in size & conditioning. After only 10 weeks of contest prep with him last year I made tremendous improvements from the previous year to take 3rd place at the 2013 IFBB Houston Pro Show. My calorie intake for the show was around 1800-1900 per day. This off season it’s probably around 4000. With a good off season program & contest prep with Vic this year I look forward to making some serious gains. Just wait and see what the finished product looks like come October. Stay tuned!

4000 calories off season do you know what us gals would do to be able to eat 4000 calories? Any Supplements?

Lots of whey protein powder by Tak-N Sports Supplements.  Amino acids, creatine, glutamine. Whole food is the most important thing though.

One moment can change your life but what  do you think makes the difference between the person who can accept the change and the challenges it brings and the person who throws in the towel?

It comes from within. It comes from the heart and when you invite Jesus into your heart, then there’s nothing too hard for you to overcome.  Because with God all things are possible. Sometimes it takes something tragic to happen for you to realize that, but it doesn’t have to.

You have a smile that lights up a room. You’re big and strong looking but you don’t look angry and mean.  Or am I wrong? Do you have good days and bad days? 

I always have good & bad days. I’m human. I get angry at myself than anything, but I try to always keep a positive mind. Yeah I try to play the tough guy part, but I am a big softy. I’m Italian. However, I will release the wrath of God if necessary. Lol!

Do you sometimes listen to people bitch about their problems and think, OMG you have have no idea what a real problem is! Or how about people who take beter care of their cars then their health?  Choose not to exercise.  I often say to people, do you know how many others would trade places with you to have your heart, your lungs, your legs?

I agree, but like I said, that’s why I like to get out and share my story and mostly just let people see the way I live my life. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk. No pun intended.. Bodybuilding puts me in the spotlight and I like to use that as an avenue to encourage & inspire people.

Your brother Joe owner of  ProQfitness.com Personal Training is one of your biggest fans.  Joe had this to say about you. 

          Joe Quinn“I am his biggest fan! I am a proud big brother of all his life accomplishments, which to me seem unprecedented. His ability to thrive in moments of extreme misfortune and tremendous adversity is attractive, heroic and nothing short of amazing. He utilizes his ambitions when a specific opportunity presents itself.  Johnny is a celebrity in my eyes.”

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Joe has been a tremendous help. Believe it or not Joe and I just started training together over the past two years. He has been   there as my training partner and pretty much my right hand man. He comes to my shows and helps me get ready.  Its nice to be able to spend time with my brother like this. Its a team effort! I can always count on him.

 Joe spoke about  training someone in a wheelchair.

          Joe Quinn “Learning how to train someone in a wheelchair was a whole new ball game. Most of my learning and expertise came from Johnny himself and I was able to obtain some valuable techniques from other fitness experts in the field. Once becoming familiar with the training process,  the biggest obstacle as a trainer in this setting is Patience. There is a lot of transferring of Johnny in and out of the wheelchair from one machine/exercise to the next in a very specific and safe fashion. I have to stay alert and  very attentive.” 

I know God and your faith is a huge part of your life.  Who else are thankful for?

I am thankful for so many people in my life who have made an impact one way or another.  But the one I can single out is my mom, who has put my life before hers since I was born, and has been like a rock through everything, I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. I owe my life to her. She is a blessing from God.

Is there anything you can live without?

It’s amazing what you can adapt to in the face of adversity and after all I’ve been through there’s nothing I can’t live without.

Today at age 37 I am asking you what is your definition of “success”?

Fulfilling Gods will for my life, meeting Him in heaven to hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servent.”

Do we stop when we are done or are we never finished?  Do we ever reach all of our goals?

I think that if we don’t continue to set goals our lives will become stagnant.

I love the quote form Epictetus: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”  

Thats what makes the man!

BAM! (just had to say that. lol) Thanks Johnny 

Johnny will be competing next in October in Houston Texas.  Besides bodybuilding Johnny works full time for an Insurance Company and also does motivaional speaking engagements. You can learn more about Johnny at Johnnyquinn.com or contact him at quinnyjt21@aol.com

Personal Training by Joe Quinn  ProQfitness.com

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