“Life is given to us, we earn it by giving it.”- - Rabindranath Tagore
Erika Ryerson Crushes Leukemia Then Crushes the CrossFit Open
For 38-year-old Erika Ryerson, a Leukemia diagnosis in November of 2021 was a grim one.
T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia was the specific diagnosis and Ryerson said the outlook was a daunting one to face.
“It’s uncommon for my age group and it’s considered a high risk cancer,” said the Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina resident. “It’s becoming more common and more treatable over the last 20 years, but its historical outcomes, especially for adults, are not good.”
Ryerson said her first thought that something might be wrong with her was when she was having a harder time than usual finishing workouts at CrossFit Contrivance in Apex, NC, where she was one of the founding members back in 2018. Eventually, after a number of tests, she got the call and the diagnosis, which required her to head to the hospital for an overnight stay.
“Everything happened so fast that I didn’t have much time to be scared,” said Ryerson. “We didn’t even meet our doctor until a week after diagnosis. So it was a scary time waiting to find out what was coming. When we finally met him he gave us some hope that I could be cured.”
On top of everything was a global pandemic which meant Ryerson’s kids couldn’t visit her at all during the first month of her stay, as she only got to see them a couple times outside of the hospital. Ryerson said she had a lot of support, but it still meant a lot of time by herself with her thoughts.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, approximately every three minutes, one person in the US is diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. An estimated combined total of 186,400 people in the US are expected to be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma this year and new cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are expected to account for 9.8 percent of the estimated 1,898,160 new cancer cases that will be diagnosed in the US this year.
Ryerson was not deterred however, and set about making sure she stayed physically busy during this tough and grueling period. Out the gate, she was already working on her fitness.
“While in the hospital, I did as much as I could to stay active, which most days was just walking. The nurses told me that laps around the cancer floor equaled one mile, and that one recent patient had walked so much that they walked a whole marathon during their stay. My initial goal was to walk a mile a day. I worked up to about five to six miles a day. By the end of my month, I walked about 130 miles, or five marathons.”
Ryerson also found an extra added push from the CrossFit world, and once again started to accumulate goals to help her with her recovery. Early on during chemotherapy her husband showed her an article about a CrossFitter from Singapore who was competing in the CrossFit Open after her treatment
“I used that as motivation and dreamed of being healthy enough to be able to do CrossFit again, let alone compete in the Open someday.”
Come March, Ryerson achieved that goal, completing all three workouts of the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open, 16 months after her initial diagnosis
“Now that it’s over I feel so excited to be back at it and be able to do things I couldn’t do for so long. I just recently got the strength to do pull ups again, so I was happy to be able to do all of them in 23.2. One of the side effects of my chemo treatments is numbness and tingling in hands and feet, which has affected my grip strength and balance. I also still have a port in my chest so I was concerned about being able to do heavy cleans without damaging that. So overall, I was just really happy to be back competing alongside my friends in the Open.”
Ryerson has become an inspiration not only to her friends and family but the whole community centered around CrossFit Contrivance. She said at the end of the day, CrossFit ended up helping prepare her for battling Leukemia in the first place.
“When you do Crossfit, you are choosing to do hard things everyday. Being diagnosed with cancer wasn’t my choice, but being a CrossFit athlete helped prepare me to handle the hard parts of cancer. Each stage of my disease brought new challenges and unexpected outcomes. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable I think was a huge advantage for me. It was still incredibly hard, but I had experiences with hard things to draw from.”
Still Recovering from Being Upside Down on 23.3?
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Open scores: Today the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open will be finalized, and the winners will be announced. Keep an eye on our Instagram and website for all the breaking news and analysis.
Preggers!: Kara Saunders recently announced she won’t be competing this season, and now we know why. Congrats!
Sponsor update: Perfect Hydration is now the official water partner of the 2023 NoBull CrossFit Games.
Awesome: Great TV piece on how Crossfit Balance member and chef Hamilton Johnson lost 120 pounds by redefining his relationship with food. 👨🏻🍳
Interesting read: The Washington Post has a great piece (paywall) on the FDA redefining “healthy” and the pushback from the food industry.
Running and CrossFit: Training for a Half Marathon During the CrossFit Open
Less than six weeks ago, a couple of friends and I decided to sign up for a half marathon. We’re all in the firefighting academy together and none of us had been running consistently prior to signing up. We decided this was a fun challenge to kick start a running habit, as we need to prepare for our academy running test in June.
I’m a lifelong athlete, but I am not a distance runner. My background is in basketball, football and baseball, so most of my development has been on the speed, power and stamina side of things. I’ve been training CrossFit consistently for the past eight years and the furthest I’ve ever run is a 10K.
Maine Doctors Buy CrossFit Gym, Bringing New Level of Expertise as Affiliate Owners
The new owners of CrossFit Breakwater, located in Ellsworth, Maine, are hoping to bridge the gap between the medical world and CrossFit by bringing their expertise to the sport.
Dr. Casey Johnston, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, and Dr. Dan Waterman, with a doctorate in athletic training, went all in on CrossFit after purchasing the gym in February. The business partners understand the CrossFit methodology and believe there is a better way to enhance the CrossFit experience with medical professionals at the helm.
“I’m really hoping that I am bridging this gap and bringing a sense of safety or a thought of safety to the CrossFit methodology and the practice of CrossFit,” said Johnston.
“Even in these first two weeks where it was announced locally in our town that we took over we’ve had several people from the community immediately come in to the gym and say, ‘we’re ready to start CrossFit now because we feel safe that you are heading it and guiding it and supervising it.”
Johnston adds, from her PT school background, “when I was in school there were definitely a lot of things missing as far as our education with treating not just athletes, but specifically athletes who are doing a lot of the things we do in CrossFit, like the Olympic lifting, powerlifting and gymnastics, and there’s definitely an age bias that goes along with that in healthcare once you hit 40.”
There is no question crossfitters defy the odds. One of the major populations of CrossFit athletes are the masters divisions. Some of the greats of the sport have started to age up, including Rich Froning and Sam Briggs, who are registered in the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open under the 35-39 and 40-44 divisions respectively. Current worldwide standings have Froning at 157 and Briggs at 1056.
Elevate Your Coaching with the Battle Cancer Program Level 1 Certification
If you know anyone who has battled cancer, then you know that having a great team in your corner makes the difference. If you are a coach, then you need to learn about what cancer does to the body, what treatment does to the body and how to scale and help those post treatment so you can help your athletes. Morning Chalk Up readers can get a 10% discount on the Level 1 Certification using code “MCU10”.
Spacer Mobility is showcasing their amazing female athletes for International Women’s Day, including Danielle Brandon, Lauren Fisher, Emma Lawson, Sara Sigmundsdottir… ever heard of them? Plus, profit from all Spacer Mobility sales today will be donated to Girls on the Run, a national non-profit organization that inspires girls of all abilities to recognize their strengths while building a sense of connection in a team setting.
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Congratulations to Lucy Saltmarsh from CrossFit Resurgens in Atlanta, GA on the lifetime PR overhead squat of 145 pounds/65.7kg.
Congratulations to Ben Sondgeroth from Babylon CrossFit in Babylon, NY on achieving his goal of one snatch rep at 185 pounds/83kg for a score of 208 reps in Open Workout 23.3.
Speaking of Babylon CrossFit: During the final week of the 2023 CrossFit Open, the New York affiliate hosted a free workout for pregnant and postpartum mothers that incorporated safe and effective movements customized for each woman’s personal journey. #infinitelyscalable
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