“A little over four months ago, I don’t think you would have found anyone more resistant to the idea of joining the body challenge than me. Basically I didn’t think I could really commit to it; I was unemployed, studying for the Bar exam, clueless as to whether or not I would be moving out of the area during that time, and just didn’t think I had the physical ability to really be competitive… and I need to be competitive. I was happy just doing my own routine, knocking off a few pounds here and there; why would I ever want to join something I couldn’t really commit to, let alone win?

Then Bill Garvey, the 2009 winner, and my step-dad started getting on me about joining, you know “keeping it in the family.” Then CJ cornered me in the gym. And then finally, my mom turned to me after noticing how much weight I already dropped, and was like, “so at this rate you’ll win the challenge without actually joining.”

I had started back at the gym right after New Years. I realize it’s a bit of a cliché, but everything in my world had sort of gotten flip-flopped around and it seemed like good timing. I just graduated law school, moved back home, and was settling into another hectic few months of studying and waiting. But more influential than all of this was that I was coming up on my 5 year cancerversary. I was just 21, a senior in college, when I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Yes, that’s the cancer of the one main organ in your body that controls things like weight and your metabolism. Since then, I’ve had enough yearly surgeries and radiation treatments to systematically destroy any body. Throw in the added stress of four years of law and grad school, and a set of bad knees from my days as a proper athlete, and this spells a recipe for physical disaster. I know I’m a stress eater, and I know that I probably pack on more weight because I’m always a bit strung out. The final blow came last February when I was told I would always have cancer; I would always test positive for it; it would always be there, and I would just need to watch and wait. The weight suddenly packed on with rapid speed.

Then New Year’s came along and I decided that five years of letting cancer effect my life was quite long enough. My resolution wasn’t so much to lose weight, but rather to put my life back where it was five years ago, which just happened to also include taking off the weight. In the end, the timing for the challenge couldn’t have been better. A month into it, I unexpectedly got a clean bill of health; it was like all the weight and stress dealing with my health had been lifted off my shoulders, and for the first time in five years I actually had the energy and stamina to get back into shape.

Initially I used the challenge as stress management while I studied for the Bar; you wouldn’t believe how many people didn’t have the endurance for the exam, and spent the months leading up to it completely strung out on caffeine and junk food. After the Bar, the challenge became a distraction. To make things more interesting I started throwing in totally random lessons for things I’ve always wanted to learn: tennis, golf, aikido, and even a surf conditioning class. All of my normal stress and anxiety got channeled elsewhere. Next thing I knew, I got a job, passed the Bar, and suddenly crushed my pre-cancer diagnosis weight. New Year’s resolution was more or less achieved before May.

I had a few hurdles with the challenge; little things, like I don’t particularly like meat and eggs (I’ve gotten over this), I couldn’t afford to work one on one with a trainer, and with my thyroid meds, I can’t take any stimulants/metabolism boosters/ or proper fat burners. Nothing is more depressing than having one of those days where you’re completely exhausted, you get to the gym, and all your friends are hyper pumped off of stimulants. It all made me push myself just that little bit harder to keep up with everyone else.

My favorite day was the day after the second Mt. Trashmore challenge; that night everything clicked. Bill and I went for a jog outside. Now I suck at running, I’ve never been a runner; I can sprint and jump, but not really run. Bill paced me at an awkwardly slow speed, and I went from only being able to run for about 3 minutes, to an hour-long jog. Like I said, everything just clicked, and I now wake up every morning and jog around my neighborhood watching the sunrise over the ocean; I can’t imagine a better way to start my day.

I can’t really explain how good it feels to have so much going on your life all at once the way things have for me over the last few months. And then to tie it all together by getting back in shape, crushing my goal weights, and pushing myself to do physical activities I didn’t think I would ever do again, is all overwhelming. I can’t believe I ever resisted joining the challenge, and I want to thank everyone who pushed me into it and through it, all the trainers, Bill, and most of all the whole Great Neck team. You’ve all been awesome!”