CrossFit Mayhem’s Rory Mckernan on His Cancer Battle and Battle Cancer: “The right people doing the right things for the right reasons”

November 13, 2022 by
Photo credit: Mayhem Nation
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The next Battle Cancer fundraiser is taking place Saturday, November 19, 2022 at CrossFit Mayhem, and the cause runs deeper than just another opportunity to exercise fast. 

Cancer is a diagnosis that hits particularly close to home for the Tennessee affiliate, with Mayhem’s own Rory Mckernan being a survivor of testicular cancer after being diagnosed in 2011 at 28-years-old. 

At that time, Mckernan had already been CrossFitting since 2005, and working with CrossFit Media for a couple of years. Currently, he serves as the Director of Business Development and Athlete representation at Mayhem Nation.

“For me, they (Battle Cancer) represent a lot of why I was drawn to CrossFit in the first place, which is the right people doing the right things for the right reasons. And after my cancer journey, one of my top priorities was, ‘Hey, I want to give back to this community’.” 

“Once it was clearly in my rear-view, I was like, ‘Okay cool, this is something that’s going to be with me forever. It’s part of my identity, and it’s something I want to give back to’. However, I never made it my job. And so people like Scott (Britton), like Battle Cancer, who put such a priority and work tirelessly to serve communities who are in need of help, like the cancer community, they have a big piece of my heart for those reasons,” Mckernan said. 

“And so for me, it was a very obvious natural fit and being blessed to be part of Mayhem, whose literal identity is — the last part of our actual mantra is ‘service’. And so I was very lucky to be in an organization like this that had the opportunity to make a massive impact and choose different groups and people to bless.” 

Mckernan continued: “And so when this event came up and Scott brought it up and mentioned that they were moving into the United States, it was a slam dunk for me. And I was really happy when all of Mayhem, including Rich (Froning) and Josh Malone, Director of Mayhem Events, and the facility were fully on board and just kind of threw their way weight behind it.”

Battle Cancer holds events around the world, and through their CrossFit competitions aim to raise awareness and funds for cancer charities, connect like-minded people with a supportive community and promote health as a preventive measure against illness. 

“The cool thing about them (Battle Cancer) is that they’re obviously focused on that specific community. But in my heart of hearts, I believe that you don’t have to be a cancer survivor to know the value of the CrossFit community, whether it’s cancer that you’re facing or some other crazy adversity that people can’t necessarily identify with, they can identify with the fact that you’re hurting. You need support and not babying. Right? Like, they’re still going to say, ‘three, two, one, go’.” 

“They’re still going to battle alongside you, but they’re going to allow you to be in that environment where you can block out the world for a workout, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour, and get that healing of being with people who truly care about you — and you can feel that empathy just kind of oozing off of them.”

The event: Grab your friends and register to come throw down for a good cause. The workouts are programmed to be fun, inclusive and approachable for all fitness types and skill levels. Teams can be all male, all female, a mix of male/female, or you can sign-up solo and get teamed up on-site. Or, stop by to hang out and cheer on your crew! 

  • Event 1 starts the moment you sign-up with a fundraising effort that gives you an advantage on the leaderboard. You and your teammates will choose a cancer charity to support when you secure your spot, and be given resources to help you raise money for that charity. The more you raise, the higher you’ll start your placing before the four in-person events on competition day.
  • Spectator tickets are free and we’re told there’s a great DJ, brand giveaways and other fun activities throughout the day.
  • The competition is still looking for volunteers/judges if you’d like to lend your time without getting as sweaty.

With no shortage of online qualifiers and local competitions available throughout the year, Mckernan reminds us that choosing an opportunity to work out for a mission much larger than ourselves can provide a true sense of perspective.

“A lot of people get in a bad habit of like, ‘oh, this workout is going to suck’, or ‘it’s going to be hard’, when in actual fact, it’s like, dude, my body works. I’m in fantastic health, and yes, it’s going to hurt, but the opportunity to do that is a massive blessing,” he said. “And the flip side of that coin is that you never know what other people are going through. And so again, I find that most CrossFitters and especially coaches, are very naturally empathetic, meaning they truly care about what other people are going through. It’s not just lip service when they say, ‘Hey man, how’s your day? Are you going through anything I can help you with?’ But being very conscious about recognizing that somebody may be smiling on the surface, but you have no idea what they’re facing at home and their real life and their health. Some people keep those cards close to the chest. 

Photo credit: Rory’s Instagram (@rorymckernan)

He continued: “What we’re doing in the gym is far more important than what your abs look like and it’s far deeper,” he said. “It’s trying to make that human connection and trying to reach out and realizing you can make an actual tangible difference, and a huge tangible difference, in not just someone’s day, but in their life…just by being caring.”

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