6 Lessons From A Battle With Cancer

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Over the last 10 years of travel and presenting, I have met thousands of people “on the road.” Although I have done my best to remember names and faces (I have surprised a bunch with a greeting by name), there are surely people that have slipped my memory. When you first meet someone special, however, you rarely forget that moment. Today I am going to introduce you to a person you surely won’t forget.

In September of 2015, I had just flown into California and after a couple of delayed flights I got in later than I had hoped. Since I would be presenting for three full days straight, I wanted to get to the hotel and sleep. That is when I got “the text.”

Justin Lesh, my friend and owner of TFW Huntington Beach, CA and TFW Estrella, AZ wrote to ask if my wife and I could come out to meet their latest group of graduating TFW interns. I really wanted to say, “no” but remembered a mantra that has never let me down: If you can spend 5 or 10 minutes to help someone out, do it. And besides, it was at the legendary Huntington Beach Oktoberfest, so the German in me couldn’t pass it up.

When I got there, one woman saw me, ran over and broke down in tears. She was so unable to speak, by instinct I just gave her a big hug. Her name is Alicia Saldivar and after she composed herself, she told me her story which she will share with you now. That 5-10 minutes turned into a full evening of stories and since that fateful meeting, Alicia has not only positively impacted me and my family, but also my entire TFW Network. She shares her story not to bring you down, but to coach you up with the reminder that time is the most important gift you possess.

I grew up in a household where weight was a problem.

My parents and whole family were unhealthy due to horrible habits. Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Obesity were all around me, and unfortunately because it was “common” in my house, I saw it as “normal.” This was not because of some genetic reason, but because my family chose the wrong foods and did not exercise. It was just our way of life.

Surprisingly, I had no problems with my weight…until I got pregnant with my first daughter.  Like many pregnant women and mothers of multiple children, staying slim wasn’t my priority and I used the kids as the excuse to say, “life is hectic and there is no time to even think about exercise and eating well.” I held onto that mindset and 3 more kids later I had a full set of four beautiful girls.

That’s when I couldn’t ignore more health any more.

Obviously being pregnant 4 times put a beating on my body.  Stretch marks, cellulite, and yes, the dreaded saggy skin.  I was tired of always being tired, and after baby number 4 I decided to take control and get serious. Then BOOM! Life hit me again. I had a major medical issue and needed a total hysterectomy.  The doctor warned me that my body would drastically change and my metabolism could slow down from the surgery.  I thought, “what do doctors know anyway?” and since I had four kids going in different directions and a household to run, I kept ignoring my health.


Unfortunately, the prediction came true.

After the surgery, I ballooned up fast.  Not only did I find myself in January 2014 in my doctor’s office at the same weight when I was 9 months pregnant, but also now my blood pressure was high and I was borderline diabetic! Once again I decided I was going to break the cycle and would take charge of my life. The problem I had was, “where was the time?” Being a full-time mom, I felt selfish to take hours for my own fitness during the week.  It’s sad moms think that way, but I know I wasn’t alone.  I began to realize being out of shape to sacrifice for my kids was not noble. I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself I was worth it. Saying it was the first step, and eventually I began to believe it.

To get back into fitness, I set a new goal.

My goal was to be able to run a half marathon. That’s when the runner in me was born.  I changed my eating habits and started exercising.  I wasn’t good at it right away (in fact I felt pretty sad the first time I tried to run), but I stuck with it.  I started losing weight, feeling better about myself, and my clothes started fitting better.  Soon, the guilt of taking some time for myself went away and my kids noticed I was more energetic.  I was happier, more patient, and my kids would grab me and say, ”Lets go for a run mom.”  I wasn’t at my goal yet but was getting on track.  I was no longer borderline diabetic, my blood pressure was normal and I lost 40 pounds. But something didn’t feel right. Since I was due for checkup, I went to the doctor.

At that routine check up they found a “lump.”

I still remember the doctor saying the words, ”You have Breast Cancer.” There were so many things that rushed through my head.  I was devastated.  All I could think about were my little girls and husband.  What would happen to them if I did not make it?  I had worked so hard to get healthy and this new twist of fate trumped it all. I believe the hard work I had been doing actually prepared me for battle.  Since I was eating healthier and active, my body was stronger than ever and ready to fight. This was a battle that I was determined to win and I started chemotherapy.

Even at my weakest moments, training helped me feel strong.

During chemo, I tried to run as much as I could.  I kept all the races I scheduled and never gave up.  It was hard, yes, but I know it helped me.  I battled for a solid year and some days were better than others.  Every time I started to tell myself I was too tired, to weak, too sick, I would see my little girls and realize I was training for them too.


Then the news came: I won the battle! 

In June of 2015 I was officially “Cancer-Free.”  But like many battles, there was a price to pay.  I was strong mentally from the fight, but the treatment had changed me physically. I need to train again. I wanted to be strong again. That is when I found Training For Warriors. I came into TFW weak and frail.  I had no strength in my upper body and I had lost a lot of weight due to the chemo. I thought about quitting a few times, not because the TFW coaches weren’t great or the people weren’t nice, but that little voice in my head saying, ”You just got done with chemo, you should rest, you should take it easy. This is too hard for you.”  But every time I heard that voice I remembered my “why.”  I needed to get strong to be able to pick up and play with my girls, take care of my husband, and eventually get on the floor with grand babies. I had won a hard battle and if I could do that, then training at TFW was easy!


At TFW I learned more about myself than I ever imagined. 

At TFW, I got out of my comfort zone and started to incorporate heavy lifting.  Like many women, I thought things like, ”I’ll just jog and do cardio to lose weight” and ”I don’t want to get big”.  But I needed to be strong. If I needed to be able to hold a 40-pound child, then lifting a 45 barbell would be part of my routine.  The surprising thing? I LOVED IT.  It was so empowering to focus on how much weight I could pick up vs. how much was on my scale. To see myself, every week, doing more than before gave me the confidence I needed.  The awesome thing is TFW not only changed my mindset, but it also changed my body; things I never thought would tighten up again got firmer, and started to be seen by my friends as a FIT MOM!

At TFW, I realized I could help more people.

With my kids in school, I had time on my hands. I had achieved what some considered impossible and I wanted to help someone do the same. That’s when I started interning at TFW in Huntington Beach, California. Coming from a culinary background (I am a pastry chef by trade) I had no background in training. At TFW I was learning something new every day and the materials really helped me. I came in each day to grow and was excited to coach other people. After 12 weeks of interning, I got offered the opportunity to coach in October 2015. I was so excited to find a new career I was passionate about.


Then in December of 2015 the cancer came back.

Unlike the first time I found out, I was not angry. I finally found my passion and purpose for life.   I told everyone that I did not want to stop coaching. I needed to be able to come in and do what I love to do. I wanted to show my girls that you don’t stop living and anything you want you have to fight for it. I enjoyed the TFW coaching so much that instead of quitting, I took on more hours each week! Being at TFW kept me going and that was where I needed to be. I got through the proton therapy and didn’t miss any classes. I needed to coach. It kept me busy and helping everyone else get stronger made me stronger.

2016 was a year of continued battling and continued coaching.

After the treatment ended in May, we found out it had moved to my rib. During that time, I had run a marathon, traveled, became an ambassador for pediatric cancer (which wouldn’t have happened without a TFW Charity event) and really had a great year. A highlight was speaking to the whole TFW network at the TFW Summit. I would do chemo or another form of cancer treatment only to find out that it wasn’t gone. But it didn’t stop me. TFW was giving me so much strength, I took on responsibility and started to oversee the TFW facility in August!


The TFW Program has helped save lives, and now it is helping me fight for mine.

Now I am still battling Cancer. The cancer is in my spine, backbone and ribs. The doctors told me I was the healthiest sick person they had met. I continue to get strength from coaching students to get stronger and faster. I refuse to let this stop me. Even on my bad days, I do everything I can to SHOW UP. I want you to see that no matter what happens in your life you don’t stop living. I want my students to see that if they want it bad enough, nothing will stop them and I want my girls to see their mommy will never stop fighting.


Why I shared Alicia’s story.

Alicia and her family have become our friends. From watching her interact with her kids, my kids and the members of the TFW network, I can say she was one of my biggest teachers last year. I have seen her sing and dance at the top of her lungs, show the deepest emotion and demonstrate a courage and resilience I only hope to someday have. But from her story today I hope you learn (and live by) her 6 Lessons:


Yours in Strength,



This article was created by and can be viewed at: https://www.trainingforwarriors.com/6-lessons-battle-cancer/

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