Those who fight cancer face all kinds of challenges: chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, side effects of drugs and more. When they are through with the battle, their bodies are sapped.
That's when Lori Powell takes over.
Powell, a personal trainer at the Tri-City Court Club in Kennewick, leads Cancer WellFit, a program that helps cancer survivors rebuild their strength and -- in some cases, quite literally -- get back on their feet.
Court club owner Carl Cadwell heard about something similar in California, and he wanted to provide the program here. Powell, who has worked for Cadwell for seven years, was asked to run the program. And because of her personal history, she agreed.
Powell, who grew up in Walla Walla, was 24 years old when her boyfriend, Dan Boul, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. The skin cancer was removed via surgery and stayed in remission for two years. In the meantime, the couple married. Then the cancer came back, metastasized in his lymph nodes and spread throughout his body. He went from strong and physically fit to a wheelchair in six months.
A year and a week after they married, he died.
Powell moved to Pendleton, where she became a chemical-dependency counselor, then moved to the Tri-Cities in 1996 and later became a personal trainer.
"I've always had a passion for helping people," she said.
So when she was asked to take on Cancer WellFit, there was no hesitation.
Cancer WellFit is a 10-week program that is a joint venture of the court club and the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. Participants meet twice a week with Powell for fitness training. During the program, they receive free memberships to the court club and can make use of the entire facility. Powell estimates she has led 250 cancer survivors through the program.
"After treatment, our goal is to help people gain endurance, energy, camaraderie and support," she said.
Two years ago, one man started the program in a wheelchair, barely able to lift any weight. Within a couple of weeks, he had moved to a walker, and by the time the class concluded, he was easily moving through the circuit training and had regained his vibrancy.
"I've had people say to me, 'I feel so much better, I have energy, I can stay up longer, and I can do more things with my family.' That's what's really awesome."
For those taking the class, Powell is their biggest supporter because she understands what they have been through and what it will take for them to regain their strength.
"I know it's really hard to get motivated," she said. "It's good to have someone there and to know you're not alone."
The program is open to anyone who is going through treatment or has completed treatment in the past six months. For more information, call the Tri-Cities Cancer Center at 737-3420.
-- Andy Perdue: 582-1405; aperdue@tricity herald.com