CrossFit During Chemo: Why We All Need To Be #Stronglikelisa

Oct 8, 2019 by

Ask any CrossFitter, suffering is part and parcel with the Sport of Fitness. 

But there are very few who will experience pain like Lisa Fosnough, who’s powering through workouts whilst undergoing chemotherapy. 

“I can still do pull-ups, just not as many. I can still clean and snatch, just not as heavy. I can still row, just not as fast,” Lisa said. 

“My doctors have already told me that they have never seen anyone in such good condition given the high doses of chemo they are giving me, I think this is because of my attitude and my want (or need!) to continue working out,” she added. 

Lisa has always been a fighter. 

The mother of three found CrossFit in 2013, whilst training for her sixth marathon. The 43 year old from Parkville, Missouri joined her local affiliate and was immediately hooked: “It was hard for me to “ease” into it because it felt like the type of workouts I had been looking for all my life,” she told the Morning Chalk Up. 

“My doctors have already told me that they have never seen anyone in such good condition given the high doses of chemo they are giving me.”

Lisa Fosnough

Lisa described how the community at KCI CrossFit in Kansas City immediately became like family. They also provided her a refugee and “safe place” when she was diagnosed with a rare form of osteosarcoma – a type of bone cancer – in her right thigh earlier this year. 

“I love when I walk into KCI, I don’t have to worry about people giving me the ‘Aww, are you ok? … All the members just treat me like me,” Lisa said. 

Source: Nick Prohaska

Her coaches have tailored workouts to Lisa’s ongoing treatment. Initially, she would attend regular classes and just modify movements – like burpees – that made her feel nauseous. As her treatment progresses, so does the scaling but that never deters Lisa from showing up, according to her coach Nick Prohaska. 

“Many days, just walking around her neighborhood is a big win. Other days, she’s able to come to KCI and row or bike, stretch, and socialize,” Nick told the Morning Chalk Up. 

“The psychological benefits of coming to the gym are more important than anything right now as she’s entering her most challenging treatments,” he added. 

Lisa is going through six rounds of chemotherapy, before major surgery in November. She gets a new round of treatment every three weeks and described how each visit is getting tougher: “They give me the same dose but the side effects get worse as it goes on which takes me longer to recover.”

Her coach Nick likens her treatment to a CrossFit workout: “6 rounds for time.”

“The first few rounds you start off strong. Round four makes you realize how bad it’s going to get. Round five is usually the worst and the final round is just the finisher,” he said. 

“Not saying she isn’t still showing incredible strength, but her treatments are taking a toll … She’s done some amazing things during her treatment, but I don’t want to make people believe she’s still doing handstand pushups and clean and jerks during her final week of treatment,” Nick added. 

That being said Lisa has made an effort to share a different CrossFit movement on social media each time she receives chemo: “I did handstand push-ups one week followed by full-body plyo clapping handstand pushups,” she told the Morning Chalk Up. 

“People want to know how I’m doing so I decided to show them. I’m still strong and this cancer will not define me.” 

No surprise the posts have been viewed and shared thousands of times, prompting Lisa to begin her #Stronglikelisa campaign. She nominated her followers to complete a push-up challenge now donates every cent raised to sarcoma research.  

Later this year, Lisa will undergo surgery to have approximately eight inches removed from her femur. Doctors had planned to replace it with a fake implant but Lisa conceded that wouldn’t be strong enough for her lifestyle. 

She’ll instead take four months off weight-bearing exercises to have her calf bone taken out and screwed into both ends of her thigh bone and overtime that bone will grow to be just as strong as her original. 

“People want to know how I’m doing so I decided to show them. I’m still strong and this cancer will not define me.” 

Lisa Fosnough

“The coolest thing is my coaches want to meet with my physical therapy team once I get started so they can find out what they can have me do in the gym,” she said. 

Her CrossFit coaches and community are just grateful to play a small part in her journey. 

“Lisa inspires others by who she is. She’s humble, grateful and full of grit,” her coach Nick added. 

“Because of who she is, she’s able to do amazing things … Those of us close her are inspired by that.”

Stay up to date with Lisa’s journey here


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