Living with Cancer: Chad Rooney Credits CrossFit BEO with Giving him the “Health and Strength to Fight”

May 15, 2023 by
Courtesy of Chad Rooney
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Chad Rooney was close to four years into his CrossFit journey when, in 2019, he heard the dreaded words: “It’s cancer.”

Other than telling his wife and immediate family, Rooney, a member of CrossFit BEO in Sioux City, IA, largely kept his prostate cancer a secret, as well as any details about the treatment he was about to undergo.

Rooney’s treatment—androgen deprivation therapy (ADT)—involved basically “removing all of the testosterone from my body,” he explained, leaving him feel like he was a shell of the man he had been.

  • “I considered myself a 65-year-old woman post-menopause,” said 48-year-old Rooney of how he felt during six months of ADT. “I was getting 20 to 30 hot flashes a day. I was waking up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat.”

He added: “And my emotions were off the chart. I mean I could watch a Hallmark commercial and it would bring a tear to my eye.”

Still, Rooney kept going to the gym, because he knew it was the best thing for him.

  • “CrossFit just checks every single box across the board for exercise for prostate cancer rehabilitation (and for) future management (of the disease),” he said. 

That being said, his body felt weak and tired, and he lost a ton of muscle mass and gained 20 pounds, and there were certain moments where he felt like he was having a heart attack and would have to sit down, and catch his breath mid-workout.

  • “I’d quit WODs because I couldn’t catch my breath, and people would be like, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Oh, I’m just not feeling too good.’ I kept it real tight lipped,” he said of the secret he kept. 

Revealing his Secret

After six months of ADT, while he was in the hospital ready to undergo surgery to remove his prostate in March 2020, Rooney decided to share his cancer diagnosis with the world. 

He didn’t feel comfortable calling or texting his buddies, so he took to Facebook and put up a quick post.

  • “When I came out of surgery, my phone was blowing up, my social media was blowing up,” he explained, adding that many of the well wishes were from his friends at the gym.
  • “At that moment, I knew that I had a bigger support group than I knew,” he said, adding that this support was only magnified when he returned to CrossFit BEO. 

And from this support, “lifelong friendships” started to grow, filled with tighter bonds than Rooney could have ever imagined, he said. 

Further, Rooney became an inspiration to all who knew what he was going through. The common saying became: “Well if Rooney can do this with no testosterone in his body…I’ve got no excuses.”

Living with Cancer

Nine months ago, Rooney found out his cancer is back, although doctors aren’t sure where it’s originating from now.

The good news is it’s an “extremely slow-growing” cancer, Rooney explained, so it could be months, or even years, before he has to undergo any kind of treatment again.

Still, it’s a huge mental challenge to know that cancer is in his body, yet there isn’t anything they’re going to do about it right now. 

This has led Rooney to really embrace the idea of controlling what he can.

  • “I was diagnosed with cancer. I can’t control that diagnosis. I have it. It’s in me,” he said. 

But what he can control is his nutrition, sleep and hydration, staying fit, and especially maintaining “as much muscle mass as possible,” he said.

And he credits CrossFit, and the CrossFit BEO community, for making it easy to focus on these things, and for giving him the “health and strength to fight,” said Rooney, who even qualified to Quarterfinals this season. 

  • “Everything about the world of CrossFit has been an amazing ride so far,” he added.

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