Keep the Earth Below My Feet

Is this your card?

Is this your card?

On a random December week, right before boot camps were to begin, I asked all the fitness Rebels to do something for me.

I asked them to fill out two cards ANONYMOUSLY; 1 card depicting the number one negative thing they repeat to themselves every day, the other the number one compliment that would absolutely make their day upon receiving it.

Once everyone was done and before we got started I asked everyone how many of them had ever FELT that negative mindset, and I mean TRULY FELT IT, towards any other individual other than themselves.

Not a single hand was raised.

These are those people and these are the actual comments they wrote (In no particular order as to keep with anonymity).

There’s a lesson here.

– Rebel8

Cheryl Murray – “I’m not Disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

Cheryl fat face

Cheryl Murray – “I’m not disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

“I’m unwilling to be a helpless victim. Sure I’m scared sometimes, but I force myself to do what I have to do. It’s not the things I’ve done that I’m proud of, it’s the stuff in my head I’ve had to fight through to do it.”

                Those were the first words to come out of Cheryl’s mouth when I asked her what she wanted her story to say once people had the chance to catch a peek through the kaleidoscope that is her. Simple yet powerful her statement cuts like a knife through the gimmicks and trickery often sought after to “make it through” life by trimming away the bullshit and leaving you with a foundation you can either choose to accept or deny; you have the choice to be life’s victim when it attacks unexpectedly and relentlessly but rest assured that throughout that decision making process it will be terrifying beyond belief. We ALL have felt the mind and body blows of that last statement, but it’s what you do with yourself as the dust settles that defines who you are at your core… How do you respond and what actions do you take? If you’re Cheryl you respond like a cat with nine lives and the tenacity of a tornado… This is a glimpse of Cheryl’s storm.

                If you were to catch snippets of Cheryl’s life growing up you’d swear you were watching reruns of “Leave It to Beaver.” You’d see a loving family with a nice home in Northern California that recycled before it was cool. Church every Sunday with full societal calendars for the whole family in between… they were the epitome of the American dream. A dual parent household with one daughter and one son that ate healthy, exercised regularly, exceled in work and school, adorable family dog… I think you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, per all circumstances her upbringing carried with it the “usual suspects” regarding growing pains and tumultuous times but to her own admittance nothing too extraordinarily tragic beyond that.

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                It was while she was attending grad school at the San Jose campus of the University of Phoenix when Cheryl’s Americana upbringing suddenly took a turn towards “The Twilight Zone” of the television spectrum. It started with a hospital trip and the two reasons that prompted her to take it; a bruise resembling a black and purple vortex that showed up out of nowhere on her hip and the nonstop bleeding that occurred after casually scratching an itch on her head. Combined with the extreme fatigue she’d been feeling (among other symptoms) she decided it was time to promptly get checked out so she stopped her dinner preparation for that night and had a friend bring her to the ER.

She never made it back home that night.

                After having some tests run Cheryl could hear her name announced over the intercom with a tone of urgency that instantly made her anxiety swell. Her husband at the time was working night shifts which left Cheryl by her lonesome to deal with the fear bouncing around in her head like pieces of shrapnel.

“I was in the waiting room for the longest time. While I was there my greatest fear was that it could only be one of two things… cancer or AIDS.”

                A lot of us have gone the “Web MD” route in our brains of figuring out the worst case scenario and convincing ourselves that’s EXACTLY what we’ve got, but when it turns out to be true… it can be profoundly soul shattering. Unfortunately, it did end up being one of those two things… leukemia. At the very least she had an answer to the suddenly surging ailments she was experiencing; it just wasn’t the answer anybody ever hopes for. Boot straps were pulled up as treatment started immediately and aggressively. With her grit to keep moving forward and the support of her family Cheryl went about trying to beat the cancer that had suddenly found its way into her family’s home.

                Progress was swift and after only a few months of dedicated cancer management (radiation therapy included) the cancer began reverting course! They’d beat the cancer into remission! It was an optimal situation because it gave them more time to get it gone for GOOD.

That lasted 3 months.

                The beginning of 1998 did not bring good tidings as the cancer came back with a vengeance in January forcing Cheryl and her family to get right back into defense mode. It would only be fair for Cheryl to deal with one life-altering catastrophe at a time but as we all know life is FAR from fair and it was April of 1998 when life dropped another sledgehammer driving Cheryl even deeper between the rock and hard place she’d already found herself in… On the day Cheryl was scheduled to have her annual bone marrow biopsies from the diagnosis a year prior, she had a stroke.

“After the cancer came back I harbored a LOT of anger. When I had the stroke though… It was bad… I mean I’m 29 and I’ve suddenly lost the ability to walk, talk, drive, ski… I thought I’d never be able to go to work, travel, or get on a plane ever again…Things you can take for granted until all of a sudden you can’t do them anymore.”

                Awhile back Cheryl and I had a conversation about the daily planner she kept at the time of her stroke. Cheryl detailed how she kept track of everything in this agenda; work obligations, social events, and medical appointments filled the bylines within the weeks up until the day where she was set to have a bone marrow biopsy which was cause for a very powerful moment when she showed me the point of stoppage. It bore a symbolic resemblance to an author stepping away from writing a carefully crafted book mid-paragraph.

                With the leukemia coming back around a second time and in rapid fashion the bone marrow transplant was a necessity still regardless of this newfound “kitchen sink” life had just rocketed Cheryl’s way. After gaining some control on the stroke situation the transplant was pushed from April to July. It was during those months Cheryl found herself dwelling on what she’d lost in her life and reveling in the anniversaries of bad occurrences for a long time afterwards.

“When I was in the hospital my Dad brought in a ‘PEOPLE’ magazine for me and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t read it. I remember thinking ‘I JUST WANT TO READ THE F*&@!ING MAGAZINE!!’ but… nothing. That was hard.”

                When the time came for the transplant fingers were crossed and prayers were sent out that Cheryl’s body would accept the new bone marrow and an immediate road to recovery could begin so they could put as much of this awfulness as possible behind them. At this point in the story I’m sure you’ve picked up on the tone that things hadn’t taken a lucky break yet and I’ll tell you they weren’t about take a turn in that direction now. With her body rejecting the transplant Cheryl suddenly found herself in yet another situation where she wasn’t sure she was going to make it out alive. Things got so bad physically she nearly needed a feeding tube to combat the inability and lack of desire to eat. Luckily Cheryl found herself able to stomach grilled cheese sandwiches which is essentially what she lived off of from July of 1998 until February of 1999, the date she was released from the hospital with her body finally accepting the donor marrow.

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Christmas of ’98 was spent in the hospital. Making it to Christmas of ’99 was in genuine doubt in this picture…

                Once released from the hospital the fight was far from over, but things were at long last starting to look up. With the bone marrow transplant going from being rejected to being accepted it wasn’t longer after Cheryl was deemed cancer free. The rigorous, aggressive, and draining treatment paid off! Sure, she had to get annual marrow biopsies for 10 years (they have to drill a hole in your hip to put in perspective those unfamiliar on how “not simple” this task is) but that’s better than actually having cancer! Cheryl’s spirit, however, was far from healed… The unexpected and sudden loss of abilities coupled with the weight gained from the drugs she now had to take left her in a dark, defeated place.

                It took a fateful crossing of paths at church with a single mom who had multiple sclerosis that started the revolt against her own demons keeping her down. 

“What I really admired about her was that she never let the MS get her down. I started going with her when she ran errands and even went to the gym with her. She helped introduce me to people after I’d been in a cave for so long. She showed me that things could be different…”

Bit by bit Cheryl started to crawl out of her shell as the days went on. She even started to do some volunteer work at her Church again! Over the years Cheryl dug deep to regain her life back even though the realization that it wouldn’t be the same life she had before had a tendency to send her on a roller coaster of ups and downs. Through the rough times Cheryl retaught herself how to drive, how to walk, and how to eat healthy again. She got herself back to work, travelling with the family, and even joined several gyms with yoga becoming a new favorite therapy for not only her body but her mind, too.

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Getting back to everything she was able to do before sometimes means needing a cane or motorized transport to aid with the devitalized left side of her body, but it all goes back to the first words Cheryl said when we sat down to put the pen to paper on this;

 “I’m unwilling to be a helpless victim. Sure I’m scared sometimes, but I force myself to do what I have to do. It’s not the things I’ve done that I’m proud of, it’s the stuff in my head I’ve had to fight through to do it.”

It was 2009 when Cheryl found her way to Anytime Fitness.

Cheryl group

“I’ve belonged to a lot of gyms in my life, but none of them hit like Anytime did. It was different… I found myself actually wanting to go and really liking the people there. I also remember thinking ‘who’s the weirdo who yells a lot?’”

(Spoiler alert: I was am that weirdo who yells).

Wasting no time she joined up with a transformation challenge that just so happened to be on the verge of starting and wouldn’t you know it… she won the damn thing. She even lost 20 lbs in the process! It was soon after that when Cheryl, who was once told she wouldn’t ever regain the ability to walk all that well ever again, trekked across the Golden Gate friggin’ Bridge.

“When I walked the Golden Gate, it wasn’t exactly something I’d been fantasizing about for years and years or anything… It was that things were going really well and I wanted to make a bucket list to give myself some goals and aspirations. I needed that, or else I wasn’t going to keep pushing myself. You need to have goals to work towards or else you won’t do anything.”

To know Cheryl now means most would be surprised finding out that for as gregarious as she is, she still sticks to her reclusive tendencies  (only they are much healthier now). From that initial challenge in 2009 Cheryl has joined damn near every single Hulk/Rebel challenge since (missing one due to hip surgery in 2011), putting her up there as one of the most tenured Hulkster/Rebels there is. Her presence is coveted and her inspiration is legendary as she’s shown more people than she knows the true meaning of strength, inside and out. If you ask her about her inspiration and her take on it though, you get a much different and humbled response:

“I get it, you know… People being happy for people with disabilities being able to make it past them, but I don’t see it that way. In my head I don’t see myself as disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

Cheryl cross legged

This photo was taken once we concluded our session. What you’re seeing is the first time Cheryl crossed her legs casually in a conversation since her stroke. The best part is it was inadvertent yet instantly recognized. Thank you Cheryl for such a wonderful moment :).

AhhhOOO.

–          Rebel8

PS Check Cheryl out!

Test of Heart

Tin Man Wants a Heart

“Now I know I’ve got a heart, because it’s breaking…”

Test of Heart

After a visit to the post office, the Rebels find themselves in a Test of Heart that has been patiently waiting for this precise moment. The Test of Heart is simple in nature and filling with love. It is a gesture of good will and an example of humanity. It is the chance to send a ripple effect of soul philanthropy through the cosmos, starting with something as comparably small as a butterfly flapping it’s wings… The Living Room Screenshot First, let me introduce you to “The Living Room” which is a local organization serving all of Sonoma County that functions purely off grants and community donations. Monday through Friday, they provide the following for homeless or near homeless woman and children:

  • A warm and safe atmosphere to be during the day when other shelters are closed.
  • A nutritious breakfast and hot lunch.
  • A place for children to play and learn.
  • A place where the newly homeless, and women on the verge of becoming homeless, can receive guidance and referrals to other community agencies.
  • Information tailored to meet individual needs including job search skills, mother and child care education, and health care knowledge.
  • Essential hygiene items such as food and clothing for women and children. (Click on our Urgent Program Needs page to learn more about how you help.)

Where us Rebels come in is quite easy… Starting September 4th (Wednesday) and going until September 11th (Wednesday) I want everyone to bring in at least one of the following items:

For women:

  • Peanut Butter
  • Fruit Jelly & Jam
  • Razors
  • Deodorant
  • Underwear (new)
  • Socks
  • Sanitary Pads

For children:

  • Diapers –  sizes 4, 5 and 6
  • Baby Wipes
  • Underwear (new)
  • Socks

Clothing:

  • Clean and gently used (brand new is also okay) children and women’s clothes

*Side note* All clothing goes through Heavenly Treasures Thrift Store and the women and children being helped by the Living Room are given vouchers to go there. If you’d like to make a direct donation or check it out and get your thrift on click on the link for directions! *Side note*

There will be a silver “Rebel” bin near the group room at the gym (Anytime Fitness – 2885 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95407) that will be available the entire week (the 4th until the 10th) to drop off goods any time you’d like! You are MORE than welcome to drop stuff off and add to the assortment of necessities even if you aren’t a member of the Rebellion or even signed up at the gym! Simply drop by during staffed hours (Monday-Friday 10am until 7pm, Friday 10am until 4pm, Saturday 10am until 2pm, and off on Sundays) or give the items you’d like to donate to a Rebel to bring in for you!

On Tuesday (September 10th) and Wednesday (September 11th) Rebels will receive their “Test of Heart” charm. It will run on the honor system, and I will ask for a show of hands as to who brought in something to give to those not as fortunate in our community. Every raised hand gets a red charm to match the “Test of Courage.” By the end of the week, I will be taking a photo and presenting everything we were able to gather together as a Rebellion to showcase the true power of when people bond together for a greater good. Remember…

It’s not about how much you give, but giving as much as you can.

You've always had the power

Let’s continue to change the world, Rebels!

– Rebel8

Let’s lose a LOT of weight this week!!!

Here’s the scoop. As you saw in the video, I cleaned my room and got rid of a lot of literal excess baggage. I thought to myself, I says “Hey myself, that’s a lot of clothes you’re gettin’ rid of there. You should think about making a video and encouraging everyone to do the same.” So, I had that thought… and here we are!

It’s something extremely easy to do. It helps out countless others (it will ALL be donated to Goodwill). It clears space in your house. It gives you a reason to do that “deep cleaning” you’ve been meaning to do forever and haven’t gotten to. It’s a fun family bonding experience? Well, probably not… but maybe! \

Regardless, I am encouraging everyone to bring as many unwanted clothing items as they can ALL this week. Tuesday through Saturday, before boot camp, bring your clothes in. I’ll weigh all the bags of clothes and tally up how much “weight” we’ve lost at the end of the week!

I can’t wait to see how much weight Goodwill gains :). Rebels, this is your chance to make a difference in an EXTREMELY easy way. The point of ANY Rebellion is to make a difference. This is that moment. One of many. AhhhhOOOOOOO!!!!

It all starts with the person in the mirror 😉

– Rebel8

Don’t get rid of THESE shirts though! As a reminder, bring me a shirt and I’ll set you up with original Rebel Wear! Welcome to the rebellion!

Rebels… UNITE!

The photo of that handsome young man above is that of Anthony C. Sanchez. Born August 1st, 1989. Son to Anthony and April Sanchez. Many of you know Rebel sisters Kristie Clay and Sam Enos, wh0 have been fighting this rebellion alongside us for quite some time now. Anthony happens to be their cousin. He was 23 years old. His aging stopped on May 14th, 2012.

Last month, Anthony was diagnosed with AIDS. After blood testing, they found out 2 things… 1) it looks to be he contracted HIV from an unknown source when he was 15 years old and 2) had he been tested only a year ago they could have stopped the HIV’s progression to AIDS. Fact of the matter though, you can’t wish about changing the past when your reality is the present. Ever the optimist, he was told that if he maintained taking care of himself and with the right medications, he’d be alright!

As it would turn out, this prediction was far from coming to fruition. He WASN’T feeling better 2 weeks later and found that he was starting to have trouble breathing. A trip to the hospital uncovered the unfortunate circumstance of Pneumonia. Given the dire scenario, he was admitted to the hospital. For 4 weeks, he fought with all he had. His family fought with everything THEY had.

On May 14th, he went down swinging.

Do give a bit MORE of a backstory, Anthony’s younger brother Dylan had gotten into a bad car accident a year prior. He was on his way to school and was blindsided. Even with more surgeries than you’d think possible, Doctors didn’t predict survival. If he DID survive, full recover was slim to none. The bright spot on this story is that via some sort of miracle, Dylan DID make a full recovery. By the grace of whatever you find to be holy, he made it. I’m sure you caught some keywords in there though… “Surgeries,” “Doctors,” and “Recovery.”  The hospital bills piled up. So much so they lost their house in order to keep moving forward.

Trying to keep afloat after such a trying event is hard enough. That’s when the family was hit with AIDS diagnosis. With no paid leave off of work, Anthony’s mother and father (Kristie and Sam’s Aunt and Uncle) stayed by Anthony’s bedside till the curtain was closed. A new set of hospital bills emerged…

As a community, this is where we come in. Kristie Clay does photography of the professional variety. She is amazing at what she does, and wants to help out her family. If she was a millionaire, her and her family’s problem would be solved! She’s not, however so… it’s not. To compensate, this Sunday and next Sunday, she is offering one hour of a professional photo experience. The weather is perfect for family portraits, right? Doesn’t the sunshine make you want to commemorate how much you love your hunny with a picture or several? How about those glamour shots you’ve been looking to send off to those modeling agencies? Pick your pleasure! Either way, the breakdown is as follows:

What’s the deal?: 1 Hour of professional photography with a full CD of all photos taken, professionalized by Kristie herself

When?: May 20th (Sunday), May 21st (Monday), and May 27th (Sunday). ALL DAY! Space is limited to hours in the day!

Cost: $80 (normally $100-$200 depending). 100% of the proceeds are going to the Sanchez family. No profit, just love!

Location: Spring Lake. Kristie knows all the great photo op spots!

Contact Kristie Clay to book your appointment! She will be running them ALL DAY both days, so you’ll have lots of options (before they fill up that is!).

Kristie Clay Contact Info: 

If you aren’t able or would prefer not to do photos but would still like to help, call, message, or e-mail Kristie to find out more info on how you can contribute!
Thank you Rebels. I’m proud to know every single one of you. Rebels UNITE!

– Rebel8