Frontline Worker Spotlight: A CrossFit Nurse Talks about Her Experience with COVID-19

May 26, 2020 by
Photo Credit: Jill Herlihy (
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Last week, we put out a request to affiliate owners to nominate an inspiring nurse from their community.

Within fifteen minutes, we already had close to 50 nominations to sift through. And while we could have selected any one of them, some stories jumped out of our computer screens. Suzi Cancar’s story was one of them.

Cancar, an ER nurse in Cleveland, OH, didn’t think much when she started experiencing some congestion at the beginning of May. She suffers from allergies, and allergy season was upon us.

  • “Then I started to feel a bit short of breath at work and had a headache, but again I thought it was from a long 12-hour shift wearing a mask. Headaches are pretty normal after a long day wearing a mask,” said Cancar, a member of CrossFit Roaster Barbell.

Shortly after that, Cancar noticed she had lost her sense of taste and smell, which she knew was one of the less common COVID-19 symptoms. But again, this often happens to her during allergy season, so she was convinced it wasn’t the virus. Besides, she had been doing every right to protect herself: wearing a mask, washing her hands, disinfecting appropriately.

Though unconcerned, Cancar decided she would get tested anyway.

  • “Just in case,” she said.
Photo Courtesy: Suzi Cancar

The day after her test, on Saturday, May 9, Cancar received a call: She was positive for COVID-19.

  • “I was actually shocked. I basically just did it for peace of mind,” said the 28-year-old.
  • “But I’m so glad I did, because my parents were going to come over that day to help me with something around the apartment,” she added.

After that, calls trickled in, including one from the Ohio Board of Health, who told her she had to adhere to a very strict 14-day quarantine, where health officials would monitor her symptoms every day.

Working in one of the busiest ERs in the greater Cleveland area, Cancar admitted the last couple months have taken a toll on her emotionally.

  • “At the beginning (of the pandemic), you would get all these patients that were just super sick, and some ended up in the ICU to get intubation. I was really scared for my parents, who are in their 60s,” she said.
  • “I remember when we got our first patient. He had just come from Italy. It was the middle of March. He had a fever through the roof and he was the first one who went into the ICU. He did end up recovering, but it was very very scary, especially because we didn’t know a lot about the virus.”

However, as time went by, life in the ER dealing with a pandemic just became normal, she said.

  • “COVID patients just started to feel like regular patients,” she said.

So by the time she received her positive result, she “wasn’t scared of getting COVID anymore,” Cancar said.

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Jill Herlihy (

Being quarantined in a small apartment is one thing when you’re super sick and need to rest all day, but this wasn’t the case for Cancar, who, despite taking all the necessary precautions, believes she contracted the virus during one of her work shifts. Aside from the congestion and loss of smell, Cancar felt largely, normal, so it was hard to stay inside all day every day.

  • “Before quarantine, most days I would hit well over 10,000 steps a day, but in quarantine I was lucky to get 1,000 steps from just walking around my apartment like a weirdo,” she said.

Having the CrossFit Roaster Barbell community in her life made her days much more enjoyable, she explained.

  • “(Coach) Pete (Taylor) loaned out equipment so I have a rowing machine in my apartment. And I have a barbell here, and he posts multiple workouts each day: A bodyweight workout, one with (limited) equipment, and then a strength option… I didn’t push myself that hard, but I just wanted to keep moving. It would have been so easy to not want to do anything during those days at home in my apartment, so I had to create some sense of normalcy,” she said.

Cancar credits her good health with allowing her to get through the virus without much trouble.

  • “I, 100-percent, think that being active and fit and healthy helped give me such a mild case,” she said.

And while Cancar never feared for her life, she has been incredibly worried about others.

  • “The biggest thing for me was I kept wondering who I possibly exposed, and that was really  unsettling because I don’t want to be the reason someone got sick, and possibly really sick,” she said.

As far as she knows, Cancar didn’t spread the virus to anyone, and she couldn’t be more thankful that taking a precautionary measure to get herself tested “just in case” might just have saved another life.

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