Athlete of the Week: Ben Spickes III from Omnis CrossFit North
Ben was nominated for athlete of the week by a former athlete of the week, Blakley Lensing.
In his words....
"In the spring of 2021, I kept having the feeling like something was wrong when I was working out. I kept feeling like my strength was declining and that I did not have the stamina that I used to. My endurance, I felt, was falling off. I tried cleaning my diet back up, added some of my supplements that I used to take, and tried to drink more water. All the normal stuff that I thought I was slacking on. In my day-to-day life, everything was normal and I could not tell there was any problems. However, when I was working out, I could tell something was just not right.
After doing a timed 1 mile run in June, and only running a 8 minute mile instead of my usual 6:15 minute mile, I finally went to the doctor thinking I had low testosterone. They ran blood tests, did a physical, and finally on Sept. 9th I was diagnosed with CLL (Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia), which, after more testing, was changed to MCL (Mantle Cell Lymphoma), a rare but aggressive form of a blood cancer.
The cancer was so aggressive at first. It had spread to my lungs and liver, and caused my spleen to swell up a little over 3 times its normal size, which caused me to have to stop working out. The cancer caused me to lose 25 pounds and all of my muscle mass in one month.
Every other round of chemo, I have to go into the hospital for four days to receive chemo over that period of time. My first time in the hospital, I was in my room, wondering, “Will I ever be able to get back to working out? Will I ever be able to run half marathons again? Will I ever be able to compete in competitions again?”. One night, while I was scrolling thru Instagram, I saw a video of Blakely Lensing just crushing it. Seeing how far she has come after her own battle gave me some motivation. Watching Blakely turned into a source of inspiration for me. She has been a huge reason I was so determined to return to the gym!
After 2 months of treatment with chemo and antibody infusions, my spleen went down enough to be able to return to the gym. November 4, 2021 was my first day back to Omnis North and there was a welcoming party to receive me. It was awesome! My faith in God is pretty strong and it has so far carried me through my battle with cancer. Something I noticed after I started working out again was not just how much better I felt physically but how much better I felt mentally. The mental boost from being there and receiving all the support from my friends was a game changer for me. Being able to step away from everything I had going on for a little while and winning small goals in the gym was huge for my mental wellbeing. Mentally, I did not realize how much I needed to be back working out until I was back doing it.
Every three weeks I do chemo and I usually take the first few days off after receiving it. I try to get back to working out as soon as possible, usually 3 or 4 times a week. The coaches at Omnis North, Kelley, Taimi, Josh and Lori have all been awesome. They all help me scale the movements to what I can handle and, most importantly, they help me save myself from myself. Sometimes, I want to do more than I should, or do something that I don’t need to do. With a PICC line in my arm, I am limited on the movements I can do, and the amount of weight I can lift with my arm. No Olympic lifts at all, and the only barbell work I can do is squats. They are great at scaling the movements and coming up with alternatives for me.
Anybody going through chemo battles low energy, and having a hard time gaining weight back, because of loss of appetite. I was no exception to this. However, after the swelling in my spleen went down, and my oncologist released me to start working out again, something remarkable started to happen. Not only was my attitude getting better, my energy levels were up, and I was starting to feel better physically, but I started gaining some weight back. It was crazy! Now all of the sudden I started to have more of an appetite. During one two week period between doctor visits in December I gained 9 pounds. My oncologist told me, “Whatever you are doing, keep it up”. My weight is getting closer to my precancer levels.
On November 11th, 2021, after being back to working out for a week, we were doing the hero workout CHAD for suicide awareness. My goal was to do half the reps, 500 box step ups. When I reached 500, I felt OK and my buddy Dave Sluder told me then try to get to 750. After 500 reps the wheels on the bus fell off and I started to get nauseated, my legs were screaming “What are you doing to me?!” and I was side stitching badly. After going outside to get some fresh air for a minute, I was contemplating just stopping the workout. I told myself “Not today cancer, today you are not beating me”. I made it to 750 then I was determined to finish that workout and reach 1000 reps. Sixty-seven minutes later with the help of the class cheering me on I finished the workout. That day was a game changer for me. I left out of the gym with a new motto. “Not today cancer”. Sometimes, we just need a win, and that day was my win!! After that day I carry that motto around with me “Not today cancer”. You are not beating me.
My faith in God has been my source of strength since the beginning of this battle. If I told you I don’t ever have times of doubt, I would be lying, but being back at the gym has improved my outlook on life tremendously! Physically I feel better and mentally I feel way better."
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