To Keep You inspired….. Club Fit Member Katherine Stern
By Lisa Olney
Days before embarking on the July 9, 2016, 31-mile Manhattan Kayak Circumnavigation, known as “The Circ”, 67-year old Club Fit member Katherine Stern received a diagnosis that would send her into unchartered waters: early-stage breast cancer. No one would have faulted her for pulling out of The Circ, but for Katherine kayaking offered a spiritual solitude in which to think, to clear one’s mind, and to take charge. And 31 miles cutting through the currents of the Hudson and East Rivers provided her with the best therapy for what lay ahead.
Two days after completing The Circ, Katherine had a lumpectomy. “I consider myself one of the lucky ones because of early detection,” Stern says. When her oncologist explained the diagnosis, prognosis, and everything in between, Katherine interrupted, simply asking, “Is it going to kill me?” “No,” was her doctor’s answer. “Then I don’t want to bother with details” Katherine replied. “Just tell me when and where to go.” Chemotherapy began in August – every three weeks in four-hour sessions through February 2017 – followed by a six-week daily course of radiation.
While Katherine was strong and fit heading into her treatment program, the chemo and radiation robbed her of her strength and vitality making her feel like a prisoner in her own body. After each chemo treatment, she would have ten days of extreme sickness and fatigue that worsened over the course of her treatment. “Within months, I was an old lady, and as the months went on, those 10 days got worse and worse,” Katherine remembers. “Food was difficult, and I could only seem to handle white foods – things that I had never kept in my house before.” With no energy, Katherine gained 40 pounds and remembers it as being a very isolating time.
Her treatments ended in mid-April, and Katherine was ready to take back her body. Her doctor recommended Club Fit’s Help RX program, a physician-referred exercise program designed to ease patients back into exercising. A discounted three-month membership program, Help RX features personalized attention from Fit Coaches in order to set goals and achieve lifestyle changes. To ease her re-entry into an active lifestyle, Katherine traveled to a yoga and boot camp spa in Mexico. “I had no idea how young everyone was going to be there, but I thought I would just go for it,” she laughs. “It was the start of taking control of my body.” Upon returning home, she began her Club Fit Help RX program, with a dual goal in mind: to regain her strength and to complete the 2017 Circ on July 15.
At the gym five days a week, Katherine’s workout included strength training, treadmill, and a Pilates class. A fitness level that was once in her wheelhouse, however, was now difficult to recall – especially in Pilates. But with the help of Club Fit’s Fit Coaches, instructors, and her laser-like drive, she stuck with it. Everyone she encountered at Club Fit made her feel like she could reach her goals. “Eric, one of my Fit Coaches, treated me as if I was a regular person, but 20 years younger,” she recalls. “He was no-nonsense with a sense of humor and would always say, ‘You can do it!’ He sensed that this was really important to me, and once I was at Club Fit, I knew I could do it.“ After just a couple months, her fitness level soared. She could not only handle the Pilates class, but her goal of the 2017 Circ, became a reality on July 15 as she lowered her kayak into waters of the Hudson under unusually ideal weather conditions.
Today, Katherine has lost 28 pounds, kayaks on the weekends, is at the gym four days a week, but most importantly, she is cancer free. Strength training remains her favorite activity and she still catches up on CNN while on the treadmill. “I feel strong again and that’s my way of being in control of my body.” Katherine continued her Club Fit membership after the three-month prescription period due to the supportive atmosphere throughout the Club. “I would never have considered coming to Club Fit without the Rx program, and I probably would have gone back to my old club,” says Katherine. “It would have been a totally different experience, because I would have had no motivation to work on the equipment. But at Club Fit, I knew that working on the circuit would help me to regain my strength, and this was the key.”
Owner of Katherine Stern Design, Katherine is an interior designer and stager. She also volunteers with the Northern Westchester Hospital Cancer Wellness Center in Mt. Kisco and is the driving force behind promoting a lesser known cancer therapy option called Cold Capping, a method that prevents hair loss by freezing hair follicles. If she could impart any wisdom to her friends and the Club Fit community it would be to get annual mammograms. “You’ve got to get regular mammos,” says Katherine. “There is no history of cancer of any kind in my family, but I’ve always been very good at getting regular mammograms. And, then they found something.”
Thanks to early detection, Katherine is now spending her weekends kayaking around local lakes, rivers and the Eastern Seaboard. If you’re out in the Hyde Park area along the Hudson this October and see any kayakers, give a wave, because there’s a good chance one of those kayakers just may be our own Katherine Stern.