Inspire the World to Fitness®
Whether in treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or teaching fitness classes, IDEA member Lynne Kurutz serves as an example of hope and health.
For 20 years Lynne Kurutz has loved spreading the joy of movement to her group exercise students. As a picture of health, she had no reason to think that anything would get in the way of her teaching. However, 4 months after the birth of her second son in 2002, she was shocked to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her journey toward recovery has not been an easy one, but Kurutz has been committed to exercise throughout the process.
In the early days of her diagnosis Kurutz felt lucky. Because she had no symptoms, she continued to work out and teach. After natural medicine treatments got rid of a lot of the disease, she continued with life as usual until spring 2007. Then she started to feel horrible. Her blood pressure was out of control, she was getting fevers and night sweats, and she ended up with hydronephrosis in one of her kidneys. A biopsy of the mass showed that cells had transformed into aggressive, as opposed to slow growing, cells. “I felt that I had no choice other than to go with aggressive traditional treatment for the cancer.”
Although many people wouldn’t want to exercise while undergoing chemotherapy, Kurutz resolved to do as much as she could. “I brought ankle weights and a resistance band to use at the hospital,” she says. “I ran 5 or 6 miles a day on a treadmill until about the fourth day of chemo. Then I had to back off. I tried to use the chair, my bed and even the IV pole to do some toning and core work. The staff thought I was a nutcase! Once the chemo took over, I was pretty much married to my bed.”
On the seventh day of Kurutz’s treatment, she was infused with stem cells. Her energy was gone and she frequently slept. After her blood counts started to come back, she optimistically tried to walk on the treadmill. “Unfortunately, it was like someone had stripped my body of my years of exercise,” she says. “After returning home, I was eventually able to walk for about 15 minutes at a slow pace. Little by little, I increased the time and pace. My ability to start over once the transplant had taken place had more to do with my mental attitude than anything else.”
Throughout the course of her disease, Kurutz has taught at American Family Fitness in Vestal, New York. She has developed quite a circle of dedicated students. “I have been open with them in every step of my treatment,” she says. “I never knew what kind of motivation I was offering by just being me.”
While she was preparing for her stem cell transplant, little did she know that her students were planning a surprise. One Friday night after warm-up during her double step class, a student turned off the music. “I had no idea what was going on,” she recalls. “They made me close my eyes, and when I opened them all the students were wearing black tank tops that read ‘Lynne’s Lunatics’ on the front and ‘Friday night double step’ on the back. By this point all my hair had fallen out, and I was teaching in baseball caps. My students soon created Lynne’s Lunatics baseball caps and rubber bracelets, too. They were beyond supportive, and I felt so touched.”
Kurutz has always been bothered by the way the media focuses on the negative aspects of cancer. “Life doesn’t end with a diagnosis,” she says. “I’d like to be an example of hope. After my stem cell transplant, I returned to teaching. I started sooner than I should have, but I needed to teach. Teaching is so much a part of me that I couldn’t wait any longer. My class was understanding when I had to take breaks and just call out the moves. I felt like I got hit by a bulldozer every night for quite some time. Things slowly improved. I will continue with my classes because they always make me feel better.”
A CT scan in late July showed her lymphoma to be stable. “However, I don’t think the doctors know what is going to happen long term with me, so I’m forced to live with the thought that the disease could come back at any time,” she says.
The past year has taught Kurutz a lot about herself. “I have always been a full-speed-ahead person,” she says. “My time in the hospital gave me an opportunity to reflect on all that I have been through in my life and what I would like to change.”
Her advice to others? “Never believe you can’t do something. Listen to your body, but don’t be afraid to give a little push now and then. I’m 100% sure that because of my physical condition, this journey has been just a bit easier for me than the average patient.”
Note: Kurutz says she is happy to share more about her experience. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.