Survivor Fitness Foundation gives cancer patients chance to rebuild, reboot strength

Positively Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – If you have ever heard the words, “you have cancer,” and you’ve gone through treatment, you know most survivors are left feeling so different than before: Weaker, sometimes frail, and the last thing you want to do is exercise.

But in most cases, it’s the best thing you can do.

That’s the idea behind the Survivor Fitness Foundation.

Cancer survivors come in to do dumbbell presses and battle ropes, part of a 12-week series helping patients like Christie Ekern and Taylor Rotella rebuild their strength and stamina.

Survivor Fitness Foundation is a nonprofit started by cancer survivor Aaron Grunke, who learned in his 20s he had testicular cancer.

“When I finished treatment, at age 23, ” Aaron told us, “I was out of shape. I had put on some weight through the treatment I had been through-chemo and multiple surgeries – and I knew I needed to get back in shape, but I didn’t know how to get back in shape from cancer.”

Aaron reached out to professional trainer Jared Lawrence who opened his Performance Training Inc. facility, pairing experts with patients, to help them safely reach their fitness goals.

“The mentality sometimes is to push hard, ” Jared says, “but sometimes you gotta scale back to make sure you’re giving them what they need.”

Christie is a mom of five, enjoying her workouts now after being diagnosed just last August with Stage 3 colon cancer, followed by surgery and chemotherapy.

“To have a level of fatigue where walking to the end of the driveway was debilitating was just humbling,” Christie remembers.

Taylor, a former shot-putter at the University of Tennessee learned last March she had a rare form of cancer known as Birkitt Lymphoma. Tiny tumors were found throughout her upper body. Now, after intensive treatment, she’s gotten the all-clear.

Her oncologist recommended the Survivor Fitness program.

Little did Taylor know she’d be working out with the very trainer who helped her get ready for her time as a Division 1 athlete.

“I was like, yeah, this is home, it’s where I feel like God stepped in every step of the way,” Taylor told us.

Taylor and Christie now part of the 100 cancer survivors who have gone through the Survivor Fitness program, ranging in ages 23 to 76, battling different types of cancer, all with different fitness levels, all — grateful for the chance to rebuild and reboot.

“Our time here on earth is so short, ” Taylor says. “We have such an opportunity to make the world around us better. That’s really where this program comes into play. I feel like this has given me a new ‘square one.’ And it’s kind of the first chapter to the rest of my life.”

Survivor Fitness is hosting a “Fitness on the Field” event tomorrow, 9 a.m., April 27th at UT Football’s Anderson Training Center, the indoor practice facility.

It’s a fun group workout for all fitness levels, and you get to work out where the Vols work out!

For more information and to register, go to:

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