We love hearing about the journey members have when they come to Real Fitness—the initial terror, the euphoria when they complete their first WOD, the confidence as they see improvement, and the satisfaction from friendships that grow within our great community. It’s a similar story told by many of our members. It’s the story of Russell Knight … and of his wife, Vangie.
Russell says he remembers reading a description of how a person feels going into the first WOD: two minutes before is nervous anticipation. Two minutes in, you’re convinced you’re going to die. Two minutes after, you’re asking to do it again. “That’s how I’ve felt since the first day I tried CrossFit in January, 2013,” says Russell.
His wife Vangie noticed Russell’s improvement from CrossFit and joined him at RFS in April 2013. Together, they attended the 6 pm class, encouraging each other to push through the WOD and make healthy choices outside the gym. In the fall of 2013, they completed the Paleo Challenge, and Russell took second place!
In October, 2013, they participated in GRACE, the benchmark workout of 30 Clean & Jerks that’s performed in CrossFit gyms throughout the world to raise money for the BARBELLS FOR BOOBS organization. Proceeds raised through Barbells for Boobs give women of any age and income level access to mammograms for the early detection of breast cancer.
Three months later, in January 2014, Vangie began to complain of pain. Thinking it was her form or technique, they asked the coaches—and eventually a physical therapist for advice to manage the pain. But after weeks of therapy, her pain continued. Then in March, Vangie noticed a lump on her breast.
“They said it was breast cancer, but they weren’t sure which strain it was,” explains Russell. “Still, they treated it immediately and as best they could.” Seeing Vangie’s response to the chemo, the Dr. recommended they withdraw treatment. “They told me no matter what they did, Vangie wouldn’t be here next week,” Russell explained. Two days later, on April 2, 2014, they transported Vangie from her hospital room to a hospice facility, with Russell following close behind. “When I walked into the room and saw her, I took her hand and said, I’m here. She opened her eyes, which she hadn’t been able to do, took a few breathes … and that was it,” says Russell. Vangie died of breast cancer at the age of 48.
Russell says he felt incredible support from the coaches at RFS. “Really, everyone showed concern, but the coaches—they were like family.” It’s been a hard, dark 6 months for Russell, both emotionally and physically. “I’m discouraged with the shape I let myself get into,” he says. “I’ve rearranged my schedule, and now I’m going to the morning class, but it’s still hard. I haven’t gotten my ‘LET’S KILL THIS WOD’ attitude back yet. I know it’s because I am really missing her companionship and encouragement during the WODs.”
“Sometimes I sit back and think about all that’s happened,” says Russell. “I know it’s cliché, but you just never think it’s going to happen to you. So, I guess if I could say just one thing, I’d tell women to go get tested. Go early—even if you’re scared it’ll hurt. And guys—encourage your women to go. We’ve all heard it in a Nike commercial, and in this case, it can save a life: Just do it.”
Real Fitness is participating in the BARBELLS for BOOBS fundraiser on Saturday, October 4. We will perform GRACE on the hour from 8a-12p. Russell will be there, in memory of Vangie. We encourage ALL our members to join him and to donate (and raise donations) at barbellsforboobs.org.