February 16th, 2010
04:23 PM ET

Fit Nation Challenge: If I can do it, you can, too!

By Angie Brouhard
CNN Fit Nation Challenge Participant

When my husband heard about the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge, the first thing he said to me was “You have a great story! I think you should share it!” I do have a good story, and I think a lot of women across our country can relate to my life.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/17/angiephoto.jpg caption="CNN Fit Nation Challenge participant Angie Brouhard."]
I have always taken care of myself and my family. We eat healthy meals, enjoy being active, avoid foods that are high in fat or cholesterol. So we were stunned by my April 2009 diagnosis of breast cancer, detected by a routine mammogram. My husband and I began gathering information, meeting with doctors, asking opinions, researching treatments. Our strong faith, our family and our friends helped us get through that difficult time.

At 40 years old, I was in pretty good shape, jogging a few times a week and biking with our kids. When the breast cancer diagnosis came, my activity level dropped. Throughout my surgeries and treatments, I walked through our neighborhood once or twice a week, but my energy level was low and my motivation even lower. I gained over 15 pounds from my diagnosis in April to my last surgery in December. Just one week after my reconstructive surgery, my husband saw Dr. Gupta’s segment on CNN that would change my life.

The hardest part of the Triathlon Challenge for me has been jumping into the fitness routine – especially the swim. My idea of swimming is floating in the lake wearing a life jacket or splashing around in the pool, playing sharks and minnows with the kids and jumping off the diving board. Not swimming lap after lap. The morning of my first swim workout, I watched the ladies on the masters swim team at our local YMCA. They looked so graceful, beautiful, and strong as they sliced through the water, lap after lap. I lowered myself into the water and splashed toward the other end, gasping for breath and praying that I could make it to the wall. Yesterday, I finished my 10th pool workout, and although I am still uneasy being seen in public in my swimsuit in February, I am happy to report that I can swim 700 yards – stopping to catch my breath after every 50. I have found that I love to swim!

The first day of my bike workout was a similar experience. Walking into a cycling class for the first time is intimidating. Everyone else followed the instructor’s directions without missing a beat – stand, lunge, push up, squat, stand again. I could hardly even stand and pedal. After 5 minutes, I was ready to climb off. Again, I am happy to report that the last class I took, I could complete 90 percent of the instructor’s directions. Much improvement in just a few classes!

My husband and oldest son are runners. When I watch my son run, I see him practically fly. His feet barely touch the ground. My first “run” of my training consisted of a 2-mile jog/walk through our neighborhood. Now, four weeks later, I can jog 4 miles without stopping.

I admit it is tough to juggle the everyday demands of life – keeping up with the laundry, cooking, cleaning, working, taking care of the kids, driving the carpool, shopping – without working out six days a week. Crazy! But I want to take control of my physical well being. I want to be an example to my kids that I am taking care of myself and that I will rise to any challenge – whether it be breast cancer or a triathlon.

I remember lying on the couch last summer recovering from a chemotherapy treatment and wondering if I would ever feel like myself again. With the motivation of the triathlon and the help of my faith, family and friends, I know I will not just feel like myself again, but I will feel better than ever! So when I cross that finish line on July 18, I will have completely conquered breast cancer. I will be strong and healthy and physically fit! And I will collapse in my husband’s arms and wish him Happy Anniversary!

I hope to inspire others across the country to get out there and do it! Join your local health club and swim a few mornings a week. Take a ride on your bike or get out and start walking. It might put you outside of your comfort zone, but you can do it! If I can do it, you can, too!

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Steve

    Yes, it can be done! Don't wind up like me. I was 238 6 ft tall and 59 years old. Then a heart attack hit me. Stent placed in a 90% blocked artery. At that point, seeing my son, daughter and wife lookin at me in the ER with tears in their eyes, scared the heck out of me. When I got out I changed my life style (basically food). I have worked out for over 3 years and I do not starve, I eat like the next person, but check fat and calorie intake. I am now 164 lbs and feel like I'm 18 again. I get the heart going like I never have before. Please! Take my advice and don't wind up like me with a heart attack. If I can do it, anyone can do it!

    February 16, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Janette Bailey

    What an inspiration you are to not only women who have battled breast cancer, but an inspiration that our physical, mental and spiritual well being is crucial to a healthy lifestyle.......You are an inspiration to me. Thanks for your testimony and motivation!

    February 17, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jason

    Great story – amazing that you're making such good progress. The pool sounds like quite a struggle to get started with....

    February 17, 2010 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. fluidportland

    What a great story! Keep up the good work Angie!

    February 17, 2010 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Natalie Johnson

    You are an inspiration to all Angie! Your testimony brought a smile to my lips along with some tears in my eyes. What a wonderful testimony in all areas of your life. I am so proud of what you are accomplishing and I pray that I will be motivated to take better care of myself because of it. We will be praying for you every step of the way!

    February 17, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dawn

    Angie, thanks for sharing ur testimony!! You are an inspiration to me too!! I only walk a mile a day and definately need to do more. It just goes to show u that no matter what we go through in life we can overcome it and come out better than we were before with God on our side. God BLess you!!!!!

    February 17, 2010 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Joyce Cox

    Angie, I am so proud of what you have accomplished. God has blessed your husband and children with such a wife and mother who puts God, and family first. You not only feel better but everyone who knows you gets a gift of joy and happiness. You will never really know how many lives you have touched and saved. Keep up the good work and I will be looking forward to your updates. Right now I need to get on that TREADMILL AND EXERSIZE. I want to be healthy too.

    February 17, 2010 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Roger N

    Proud of you Angie. Pray for you constantly-be strong in the Lord. We thank God for putting you and your family in our lives! Love you all.

    February 17, 2010 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Beth Patterson

    I heard your story through the grapevine but reading it brings tears to my eyes. I am so proud to know you and share your faith. What an incredible story you have, and I am inspired more than you will ever know. Keep working hard, I am cheering for you, and praying for you too!

    February 17, 2010 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tammy Hickman

    Way to go, Angie! You are a beautiful person with a truly beautiful and inspiring story to tell. I am so very proud of you for stepping up to this challenge . . . . . . your motivation and dedication to everything in your life is why you will succeed with this triathalon. God bless and victory to you always 🙂

    February 18, 2010 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Brian DeSantis

    Angie, the amazing thing about you besides your perseverance is that I have never seen you without a smile. Your love for life and your family is very evident and you are going into this (another) difficult challenge of competing a triathalon with an incredible attitude. Keep it going and we will continue to be inspired by you as always. Your blog has me wanting to swim, but I would have to hire 2 lifeguards. Maybe I'll just stick to running.

    February 18, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Linda

    Listen girl YOU GO!! What an inspiring story and should inspire all of us to get off the COUCH.

    February 18, 2010 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Deb Simon

    Angie, you are a role model for us all.....from the young to the old, to those of us that take our health for granted. Your inner strength is an inspiration to the nation & I'm rooting for you all the way! You are already a champion in my eyes!

    February 18, 2010 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Linda Fisher-Lewis

    Angie, thanks for sharing your story. You are doing awesome and as Laura says it is one foot in front of the other. Somewhere between crossing the finish line and falling into your husbands arms, we will definitely be high fiving!

    February 18, 2010 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dean Myers

    We are all your cheerleaders and we pray for you daily. Go Angie go!

    February 18, 2010 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Michelle Sefton

    You are truely amazing and an inspiration to us all!!! I was just saying I need to get back to the gym- I have NO excuse! It is easy to make excuses and to get caught up in our daily lives, but listening to your story made me realize that you just have to MAKE time! Keep going- you are doing an awesome job!!!!!!

    February 22, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sue Kessling

    Angie, What an amazing story! You keep going and pushing forward! I am rooting for you! Keep the Faith!

    February 24, 2010 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Lori Driskill

    Hey Angie...I was so glad to have finally met you last week. I'm so glad you wrote your story and are having an opportunity to share....it's a great motivator. God bless and we'll be praying!! 🙂

    February 25, 2010 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Julie McNeil

    Go Angie!!! You are an inspiration to many and God will continue to use you for His good as you are allowing Him! God Bless you 🙂

    February 26, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Sarah Cox

    We are so proud of you. We tell everyone we know about what you are doing! Keep it up!

    March 9, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Gina Pulver

    Angie, you are amazing and an inspiration to us all! God Bless! Gina

    May 29, 2010 at 06:41 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 2, 2021 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.