Carly Walters and Gemma Fox “Compete for a Cure” Together Between Chemotherapy Treatments

December 11, 2023 by
Photo Credit: @abbeywhalen_photography
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Last January, just a month after her 26th birthday, Carly Walters heard the words, “You have cancer.”

The long-time CrossFit athlete who was training five or six times a week and was in the best shape of her life went to a dark place. And when her doctor told her she would have to give up CrossFit, that place got even darker. 

A few weeks later, while going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, Walters came across a video put out by Compete for a Cure about a woman named Gemma Fox.

Fox, 43, had the same kind of breast cancer as Walters, and her journey looked very similar. But Fox wasn’t just continuing to train in CrossFit — she was still competing.

Walters reached out to Fox online. At the time, Walters said she was, “ready to stop working out, or at least really, really scale it down.” But Fox convinced her not only was it possible, but it would be helpful for her to continue doing CrossFit through her breast cancer journey.

After that, the two began bouncing ideas off each other and sharing tips and tricks.

  • “I was really concerned I wasn’t going to be able to use the barbell (because of the port in her chest), and Gemma had had the same concerns and learned she could continue to use the barbell, so I was able to follow in her footsteps…She gave me the courage to try things,” said Walters, a member of CrossFit Unlocked in Georgetown, DE.
  • “When I would workout in the beginning, I was like, ‘Gemma is doing it and she’s going through chemo.’ And her chemo regimen was more frequent than mine. ‘If she’s doing it, you have to do it,’” Walters said about the inspiration her new friend started giving her.

The two women grew closer and closer in the following months, and their support for each other only strengthened when they found out that, after multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries, they still were not cancer-free.

  • “We might both be frustrated or upset or angry or think ‘Why did it pick us?’ but it has always been me motivating her and her motivating me,” said Fox, a member of CrossFit Doors of Daring in Waxhaw, NC.

Girls Gone Rx Competition

Both Walters and Fox are currently undergoing more chemotherapy, with Fox set to undergo a second surgery the day after I interviewed her. However, this didn’t stop them from finally meeting up in person last month at a Girls Gone Rx and Compete for a Cure event at CrossFit Kaiju in Matthews, NC.

Walters drove eight hours from Delaware to compete on a team with Fox, who just had chemotherapy the day before, to raise money for Girls Gone Rx, the same organization that helped bring them together in the first place. 

The meet-up was a long time coming.

  • “There were a lot of emotions. It gave me a lot of strength to finally meet Gemma in person. It was just so important for her and I to do that,” Walters said, adding that preparing for a competition also helped motivate her in training each day.
  • “When we met [in person], it was like we knew each other. It was super easy, and now we get to be friends forever,” said Fox, who was diagnosed with breast cancer the year before Walters in 2022. 

Next up for the forever friends is to continue to support each other, continue to fight together, and continue to prove that cancer doesn’t mean fitness, and life as they know it, needs to end. 

  • “Gemma said in that very first video I saw of her, ‘I’m not broken.’ And that has been a driving motivation for me this entire time,” Walters said. “It has been so important to me to show people I’m not letting this stop me. I’m not letting this slow me down. We’re going to stand here together and compete and hold our own and be just as strong as we were before, and probably even stronger because now we’re mentally stronger than we ever thought we could be. We’re still here.”

Both women credit Girls Gone Rx for providing them the opportunity to meet each other and build this strength together.

  • “They’re the connection that put this all together for us. Without [Girls Gone Rx], we wouldn’t know each other,” Fox said.

Walters added: “I can’t say how much Gemma has done for me. There are no words.”

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