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Christine Appleton: Survivor to Thriver

By Aunica Koch SWX

Every Wednesday morning you can find Christine Appleton teaching her POUND class.

“I love it because it’s movement, it’s music, and it’s fun,” said Christine. “You can be silly if you want, you can be super intense if you want, you can let out frustration with the drumming. It’s one of my favorite things ever.”

Like most trainers, Christine radiates strength in a physically invincible type of way.

“You’re in it and you’re feeling good and even if there’s moments when it’s hard and it sucks and you’re out of breath,” said Christine, “Just keep going because at the end you’re like, ‘I did that. Look what I just did.’”

She felt that way too, until November 2016 when she received a call from her doctor saying they found a 15-centimeter mass in her abdomen.

“I’m like, ‘I’ve got kids.’ My kids were eight and ten at the time,” she said. “I thought let’s go to Billings and see what happens. We scheduled surgery because I had such a big mass and sure enough it did come back that it was ovarian cancer.”

Wallowing in sadness is an option with a stage-three cancer diagnosis, but that’s not Christine.

“After those first few weeks I was like, ‘Alright, this could be a long journey and the poor me card is not going to do it. I still have to me a mom, I still have to be a wife, I have to be a friend and I have to take care of myself.’”

“When we got that diagnosis she was like, ‘Nope. I’m not going to be that statistic,’” added Bryan Appleton, Christine’s husband. “My role for her is anything she needs. She supported me through my life, my struggles, my own issues. It’s an honor to step up and do this for her.”

Fighting back is having support. Instead of constantly running two hours to and from chemo she made the challenging decision to transfer her care to Bozeman - and did just in time for the next heavy hit.

“Doctor Thomas, I remember him coming in to see me and he said, ‘So your cancer is stage four non-curable cancer and you have breast cancer,’” said Christine. “I was like, ‘Okay.’ And he was like, ‘No, let me make sure you’re hearing me. Stage four, non…’ and I said, ‘Listen. I wasn’t betting on your cure at stage three which was my initial diagnosis and I don’t need your cure at stage four. I’m going to leapfrog my way through life. Whatever happens, whatever recurrence to stay here and be with my kids and my husband for as long as I can be.”

“As an individual that’s a lot to burden,” said Bryan. “But when you’re given this diagnosis and you can draw from the strength of your family - I know she loves me, but she’s fighting this battle for our kids.”

Stage four ovarian cancer, breast cancer, lost weight, feeding tubes, daily tasks harder than any workout she’s ever done. Despite all of that, Christine still wanted to make sure she was being mom - which meant taking her kids on a promised family vacation.

“Even when we told the kids back in November that it was cancer and they asked all their questions about that the next question was ‘Are we still going to Walt Disney World?’”

“Any time something came up it was always like ‘but I have to make this, and I’ve got to make this,” said Bryan. “It was something she had to have.”

“Three weeks after chemo ended, seven weeks before my Walt Disney World trip, I did a bilateral mastectomy. Went to Walt Disney World, struggled, it was a struggle, and then a few months later decided okay, it’s time for fitness to come back on.”

Christine hit the gym She slowly gained weight, confidence, and her life back.

“My mantra then became ‘chose your hard,” said Christine. “Chemo was hard, surgery was hard, a bunch of my complications were hard and those workouts they’re hard, don’t get me wrong, they’re hard - but it’s a matter of which hard do you want.”

“You’re always going to have challenges that you can overcome,” said Christine’s fitness instructor and performance manager. “I think that her perspective on life has helped get her get to where she’s at so it’s been awesome to be a part of, to represent us when she’s doing that.”

Two years post-diagnosis things were seemingly normal, but they say bad things come in threes. For Christine, that meant yet another cancer - this time in her brain.

“Instead of the woe me this sucks - don’t get me wrong cancer sucks - but you know, what are you going to do?”

“Her spirit is unbroken,” said Bryan. “If you’ve got the piece of mind and the energy to beat it - how can I help?”

The road to recover started again. Christine used her passion of working out as motivation a third time - bouncing back enough to take her kids to school, exercise daily, and do what she loves - teach POUND.

“I wanted to show people that it doesn’t matter what your fitness level is, it doesn’t matter what you have going on in your life emotionally, mentally - you can still do this work out,” said Christine. “You can have fun and you can release some energy and you can do something good for yourself so that’s kind of what POUND has become for me.”

A change of perspective. If three bouts of cancer isn’t enough to do that, Christine and her family say fitness will do the trick.

“The day to day of getting through treatment, that was survival mode.”

“I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy but it’s given us a new lens to look through life,” added Bryan.

“I feel good, I have no evidence of disease, I want to do more with my life. I want to keep moving my body, keep going on adventures, keep helping people on their journey and thrive.”

For more on Christine Appleton and her story - you can follow her blog from day one at BeAwesomeLiveFit.com.

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