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Cancer and CrossFit - Episode 1

Krystal: Hey guys, welcome to our podcast, Cancer and CrossFit with your hosts, Krystal and Rich.

All right. Welcome to our podcast, Cancer and CrossFit. Thanks for listening in. My name’s Krystal and this is my co host Rich.

Rich: Hi, Thanks for joining us.

Krystal: We are Cancer and CrossFit. A big welcome to everyone joining us for our first episode. Thank you for listening in. So I I guess we should introduce ourselves.

I am a scaled for life CrossFitter as I sell myself, but could probably put my big girl pants on and start branching out into doing some intermediate stuff. And by doing some stuff, maybe only like a few things. I’m comfortable in my scaled space, truly grateful for my CrossFit box. I’ve got some amazing coaches obviously, and classmates, but the good thing about CrossFit as you all know, it’s being a hundred percent adaptable.

So based on my energy, I just do what I want, when I want, how I want, and they join me for the ride. How about you, Rich?

Rich: I’m, I’ve been doing CrossFit since about 2014, 2015, and recently got a cancer diagnosis of my own. So then Krystal and I obviously, unfortunately have that in common. So this is how the podcast came about, how we’ve been dealing with cancer through the judicious application of CrossFit, does that it makes sense? Yeah, I think that makes sense.

Krystal: I feel like our coaches at our box don’t get paid enough for putting up with our ever evolving antics and inconsistency. But Hey I guess that’s cancer as well, the coaches seem to love us, hate us maybe a little bit for our antics, but they get a good giggle anyway.

Rich: They claim to like us.

Krystal: Yeah, absolutely. I should probably announce, for anyone who’s new and listening in and doesn’t know us already I am a stage four advanced stage pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer kid in my thirties. Ooh, glad that one’s out there early. It is. So yeah another little fun fact I’ll just throw in there.

That Rich and I are actually born on the same day. So I feel like there’s a few things that kind of, yeah, a few things that kind of align there. Weren’t there, Rich? We’ve got our birthdays together. Go to the same, go to the same CrossFit box and yeah, share that nasty C word.

Rich: Yes. My cancer, I guess I should add is, was, hard to know bladder cancer.

I’ve been through treatment for that about a year and a half ago. Actually, not quite that long, about a year ago. I went through the first surgery for that and follow up treatment. And as far as I know at the moment, it’s under control. However, it’s one of those ones that can and will come back.

So bladder cancer is one of the more common cancers, as I’ve discovered, in men usually a bit older than me, but usually in 50s and 60s. And yeah, so it was a bit of a surprise that I had it. I had a good surgeon who took care of me and claims that, yes, it’s going to come back eventually. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

So we need to be on top of that. And I think the CrossFit angle on that is the interesting part to me is how your energy levels are impacted by something like that. And you’ve obviously had a lot more experience with that Krystal. Maybe you want to talk about that a little bit while we set the scene here.

Krystal: Yeah, speaking of energy levels every day obviously is, different to the next or the last definitely going through treatment and any kind of treatment can definitely impact that. And I think you just have to wake up each day and go, all right, what am I capable of today?

Or what’s my goal? Even if it’s just a little goals, like sometimes I just don’t feel like doing an actual WOD. So I think maybe if I just go in and do something even if it’s, open gym on my own. Then I’m still achieving things. And I guess the good thing about our coaches, as I said earlier about being adaptable they’re happy to just go, look, if you want to scale it.

If you want to join in part of the class, maybe just do the weightlifting part, then do your own thing while the WOD’s on, then that’s absolutely fine. And I must say we have a fantastic support network. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through, like it doesn’t have to be cancer.

It can be any kind of chronic illness, mental health illness, or anything like that, if you’ve got a really supportive gym they should be there for you and support you and adapt for you when you need it. So I guess with the adaptability. Topic rich and I are a little immature sometimes have a bit of a dark sense of humor.

We’re like a pair of 21 year olds, maybe 12 year olds sometimes we like to keep life interesting, fun, real. Yeah, just off topic a little bit, I guess we probably should say that we’re obviously by no means medical professionals or experts in the field, but. We will talk about a little bit of stuff along the way and in different episodes.

And it’s just what we’ve learned about ourselves from our specialists. Come along for the ride, but yeah, just just be aware there is a lot of dark humor that goes along and that’s just how we deal with things. So I guess sometimes you could say we put more energy into that.

Hey, Rich, then anything else?

Rich: Yeah. I keep wondering when I’m going to hit the point that I find a joke or something I see that’s too dark and you’re going to go, Oh, wow that’s too much. I haven’t hit it yet, but yeah, I’m testing those boundaries a little bit and I, just, I think one of the, one of the things with cancer is you become okay with death.

I dunno, we’ll get onto that at another point, but I think if you can’t laugh at it. What are you going to do? You’re going to be miserable and sad all the time? Or are you just going to go, you know what? It’s happening. Fuck it.

Krystal: Yeah, absolutely.

Rich: And it also, and it gives people, I think the dark humor gives other people an opportunity to take a breath because when you get a cancer diagnosis, one, some people come out of the woodwork and say, hey, I haven’t told anybody, but I’m actually battling this type of cancer as well.

And people get a little strange around you when they find you have cancer and they’re not quite sure what to say or what to do or how to be.

Krystal: 100%

Rich: I think by us making stupid, ridiculous jokes about, dying and death and all sorts of shit like that, like it gives them permission to actually ask questions.

I don’t know. Be okay around us. Hey, we’re cool. You can talk to us, yes, we may be dealing with something that’s ultimately going to kill us, but everyone’s going to die eventually anyway.

Krystal: Sooner or later.

Rich: Get over it. Move on.

Krystal: Yeah. Actually, speaking of dark humor jokes, I it’s obviously our birthday coming up in a couple of days.

Hitting some pretty cool numbers I’d like to think anyway. And I keep saying, my, my maturity level does not match the birthday year that I’m having. But that’s okay. It’s all in good fun. But yeah, so I, I was thinking of having a a party and a celebration of life actually. To join the two together.

And there was talk about what the theme for the party would be. And I I’d come up with, let’s do an ABC party theme dress code. And it’s anything but clothes. Wrap yourself in tinfoil. In a shower curtain in your bed sheets, anything but normal clothes. And then being winter here in Melbourne, it’s pretty cold.

So it probably wasn’t the smartest idea. And given I have no spleen and a pretty average non existent immune system, wasn’t really a great idea for me either. I said, all right, let’s can that. We’ll just, wear whatever you’re going to wear to a birthday party. And someone said, Oh, maybe another time we can do this ABC.

And I’m like, yeah, how about my funeral? And it was good because my friends tend to join in. Like they, a lot of them now are so used to me with my dark humor that they’ll join in on the jokes. And and then another person chimed in can you imagine the look on the celebrants face seeing everyone coming in?

In ABC dress code to your funeral. And I really wanted to write back, Oh, I’d love to see it. But I’m like, I’d be dead. Not quite going to happen, but let’s hope it comes to fruition.

Rich: It’s lost on you, but a good for us.

Krystal: Yeah.

Yeah. Yeah. So I no pressure guys, but I hope it comes to fruition and you can give me that wish dying wish.

Rich: Yeah. You know what we’ll do? We’ll do it. Why not?

Krystal: We’ll put it in the plan. Yeah,

Rich: we’ll have it on a nudist beach or something. Crazy,

Krystal: but you wouldn’t be nude, right?

Rich: God, I hope not. We’re CrossFitters, we’re, almost that most of the time anyway,


Krystal: Yeah

I hope some people can get some giggles out of our dark humour and maybe join in and just I don’t know, make that stigma around cancer not so scary and not ooh, what do I say or how do I act?

And that kind of thing. Yeah, obviously we are, we’re still gonna be very vigilant of, there are going to be people out there who are dealing with it a lot harder and don’t have my sense of humor. We’re still empathetic. We are just choosing to do things like this. And it’s good to have Rich along for the ride.

I’m really glad that he’s in the clear at the moment and but I think it’s also healthy to understand, with his specialist saying, it could come back or it will come back. We just enjoy each day as it comes and be idiots. Go to the gym, be silly, make each other laugh, try and get everyone along for the ride.

Rich: Just enjoy it while you can, right?

Krystal: Yeah.

Rich: Because one day you won’t enjoy it anymore because you’ll be dead.

Krystal: Yes, this is true. I probably also should add in actually a little bit of background. So I don’t actually work anymore. I am just a full time stay at home mum. My daughter’s at school so I’m not really at home with her. All mums out there or stay at home dads know what I’m talking about.

I was medically discharged from the Air Force in 2017 with a spiel about we can’t deploy you anymore because you don’t have a spleen and your cancer might come back. This is my second time around having this cancer. The first time I had surgery. No other treatment, good to go, was feeling pretty awesome lasted 10 years and then it came back with a bit of a vengeance, I’d I’d pushed my limits and it came back stage four and it spread. First time round I lost the tail of my pancreas and my spleen in between lost a few other organs. I’m doing pretty well. And then this this second time round. Lost a bit more pancreas quite a lot of my stomach and that kind of thing.

But with the Air Force saying, we can’t keep you in anymore and medically discharging me. I thought one, one door closes and other opens. So 15 years, thanks Air Force. It’s been real, but I went to Uni and started doing psychology and then now I’m just like volunteering my time, helping out others and I’m an end of life doula.

So yeah, always continuing to grow, always continuing to keep myself busy and finding CrossFit just over a year ago has been an absolute mental and physical godsend. It’s amazing how much exercise can help you and help with treatment. And, there’s heaps of studies out there as well.

I’m sure, as rich as well, rich just how much doing CrossFit or any exercise for that matter can really just save you.

Rich: Absolutely.

Krystal: When things are looking quite bleak.


Rich: Whether it be, just putting angry music on in my case, and lifting heavy and throwing weights around or just, getting around a bunch of people and having fun.

One of the great things about CrossFit is the community . It’s talked about a lot just the really positive, uplifting environment before you have any problem like cancer. So coming in there with, the weight of the world on your shoulders or whatever. A CrossFit gym is amazing and I would not be where I am today without CrossFit.

The gym we go to, we’re very fortunate, we have excellent coaches, the community’s amazing, everyone’s really supportive. And, they just get around us. And the biggest adjustment for me is having done CrossFit so long before I got my diagnosis, was just how much it slowed me down, and trying to deal with the fact that I need to scale a lot more than I used to.

And, Bit of an ego lifter in a lot of cases and not being able to do that so much anymore is pretty confronting, but everyone’s really supportive. And, some days, like you said before, Krystal, like you just have to go in and show up with what you’ve got and do the best you can.

And, that’s okay. And that’s been a big adjustment, but like I said, it’s the type of environment where nobody judges you for, you used to be able to lift a lot more than that. What’s wrong with you? Never heard that. Everyone’s wow, yeah, good job. High five. Off we go.

It doesn’t make a big deal out of it either. No one’s Ooh, you’ve got cancer. You’re doing so well. No, there’s none of that. It’s just show up, do your thing, go home, love it.

Krystal: Absolutely. We Rich and I have a a tendency to, as in any gym, you have all kinds of different coaches, how they approach things and how they will teach you and their little idiosyncrasies and different things like that.

And one of our coaches she’s very much a Tough, hard ass, I’ll say if I’m allowed to curse on a podcast and and she’s some, when I first met her, I was like, this is what’s going on, fully open about my diagnosis and prognosis and everything. And now she’s we’ll stir me up and she’s Krystal, just do better.

You can’t play the cancer card. Just get out there, do better. And it’s all in good Jessica, of course. She if things were going bad and I was like really having issues or struggles or just, having any problems that she’d be the first to, go, Hey mate, what’s going on? Let’s look at this, we’ll see what we can do.

There’s always things we can do differently, but. I like the hard ass approach. It reminds me of my military days and yeah she’s good fun.


Rich: I know the coach you’re talking about and I think I think she’s good like that because she’ll give you tough love, but she’ll also give you love when you need it, but you’re there to work out, you’re going to work out.

Krystal: Yeah. She’s a bit gooey on the inside. I reckon there’s a heart of gold. There is a bit of softness to her.

Rich: Don’t tell anybody though.

Krystal: No,

Rich: ruin her reputation,

Krystal: another example of like how amazing our community is. And I really hope that like other gyms have these amazing communities. It’s surprising actually.

And I’m sure a lot of people can resonate with this, but it’s surprising how many other people you get to know and become friends with, or even, associates, whatever from other gyms when you’re like, Oh yeah. So you might search on socials, cancer and CrossFit or. CrossFit with cancer or whatever.

And there’s quite a few people, around Australia and the world who are just like kicking goals and trying to do their best. But yeah our gym in particular, just, I wish everyone had the same community and the coaches and supporters we do because they’re absolutely amazing.

And speaking of amazing things the community got behind me for my birthday and because of my prognosis and they got behind me and rallied together to raise money. And they are sending me to the CrossFit games to coach, sorry, not to coach, to judge.

Rich: Yeah.

Krystal: This year.

Rich: Yeah, we did.

Krystal: Step back a bit. Good old chemo brain.

Rich: Yeah, see, there you go. . Yeah, so you started CrossFit a year ago. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, right? So a little over a year ago, you’ve qualified as a judge. You’ve got an L one, you’ve judged at the Torian Pro, which is a semifinals in Oceania on the main stage, like not. Out in the, the outside part, you’re on the, with the elite athletes and now you’re going to Madison in the main event.

So that’s pretty cool. Like you’ve come a long way in a very short space of time. And this seemed like the, the end of that part of the journey to like the icing on the cake for you, if we could make that happen, we wanted to do it. And fortunately, we were able to do so in a little over a week, you’re on a plane and you’re in.

The US and well, talk about it. What’s going on there?

Krystal: Yeah.

I don’t know, I still feel like it’s such a dream come true and hard to believe that it’s actually real. This may be tiny to someone else. And obviously athletes themselves are always like, I want to make it to. The CrossFit games and there are lots of people who have the potential to do it and lots of hard work behind them, but obviously I know that’s not me.

I’m gonna be a scaled for life athlete, but for the next two and a half years, , hope, hopefully I might buy the odds and get another

Rich: that’s still for life, right?

Something. Yeah.

Krystal: Or it’s for my life, . But yeah, so I’m, I bit cliche I guess, but I wrote up a bucket list and this was on there.

And word got out and I thought, let’s apply. Let’s see what happens. And in the background, what I didn’t know was that my community was rallying behind me and my one of my coaches had spoken to people and also applied and they’re like, Oh, no special consideration like that.

She’s got cancer. She just said, Has to apply like normal people. And I’m like, okay. Yep. Cool. So obviously I didn’t know this at the time because it was all in secret and I had no idea. And then one weekend at the gym I got presented with this envelope that said, you’re going to the CrossFit games to judge like you’ve been.

Chosen your application was successful your gang of people have put money in and we’ve got enough to buy your flights and yeah. So I’m actually going over with a bunch of other Australians that I know staying with them and yeah. Dream come true.

Rich: Chance of a lifetime.

Krystal: Absolutely. So yeah, I’m stoked.

I am so lucky and I’ve just, yeah, I can’t. Even

Rich: you’re not lucky

maybe, but it’s not like you didn’t play the cancer card to get there. You earned your spot. You did an, a fantastic job of judging at the Torian pro you’re good at what you do and you have cancer.

Krystal: Yay!


Rich: In the coming episodes, I think we’ll cover you touched on the end of life doula thing, and a lot of people probably didn’t know what that is. I certainly didn’t. And it’s obviously something that’s very important to you. So I think we should talk about that. That will be probably an episode in itself, would you


Krystal: Yeah, probably. And there’s quite a bit to go into without getting too dark. Yeah it’s a lot of information, but really something that I think people will have their eyes open to in what’s available. And you don’t have to be dying obviously to incorporate an end of life doula.

So you can just get planning.

Rich: Yeah. So I think some of the things that we can talk about, obviously if anyone out there wants to talk to us on air about. Cancer and their journey with or without CrossFit be great. One of the goals I think is to, reach out to people who may be feeling a little isolated, not sure what to do with a diagnosis they may have just received or may not have just received, but still not quite know how to process.

Takes a while. Or you want to talk about CrossFit, we might just have a whole episode about CrossFit and how much we hate burpees.

Krystal: Yes. I don’t know anyone that actually loves them.

Rich: Short people.

Krystal: There might be like one or two people and I’m short and I don’t like them. Oh, they’re okay for a while, but yeah, a bit tedious, but yeah, I think I’m hoping we’ll be able to have.

Some guest appearances. I know I’ve reached out to a few people already that would be keen to, to jump on and have a chat to us and talk about their journey that, if you want to use that for a word, there’s probably a better word out there and not, not everyone likes that word, but yeah, so there’s a few people that would like to jump on and have a chat and, we want to be able to educate people, but also give people a bit of a laugh.

And. Joke around and as I said, that dark humor. Probably we should have said at the start, actually, this is probably NSFW. So there’ll be some brutal truths. I, at some stage will go into my prognosis and I guess what I’m facing, but not for a first episode, keep it light till death do us part.

Rich: Yeah. There you go. That’s what we should have called it.

Krystal: A huge thanks to everyone for listening in. We hope you enjoyed it and you’ll come back for the next episode.

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