Conquering Cancer: Johnny’s Story

Conquering Cancer: Johnny’s Story

I first interviewed Johnny in 2018, after being truly inspired by his courage and ability to overcome extreme adversity.

I am a strong believer in the old adage that ‘every challenge in life creates an opportunity.’ Johnny is living proof of this, and his ability to conquer cancer has given him a platform to help people within his community and around the world overcome their own personal challenges,

I am happy to give Johnny a platform to share his story, and how he used exercise, nutrition, and mindset to help him conquer cancer.

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Johnny’s Story

In 2013, I was diagnosed with stage three prostate cancer. At the time I had been a fitness advocate for 43 years and I had competed in over 25 fitness competitions starting back in February 1975 when I won a silver medal in the Junior Olympics for weightlifting.

Anyone who is involved in any sport for this long at a highly competitive level has had to overcome some sort of adversity in their lives. This was going to be my greatest challenge.

It was a devastating blow for me, and one that was very unexpected.

After doing countless hours of research, looking into doctors, different options of surgery and what I was going to be experiencing both before and after my surgery, I started to plan my recovery almost immediately.

Exercise, nutrition, and mindset can all play important roles in supporting recovery from cancer, both physically and emotionally. Here’s how they can impact the recovery process:

  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can have numerous benefits for cancer patients and survivors. It can help improve cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and overall physical function. Exercise has been shown to reduce fatigue, improve mood, and enhance quality of life. It can also aid in managing treatment-related side effects, such as fatigue, muscle loss, and weight gain. However, it’s crucial to work with a physical therapist or a fitness trainer to determine a safe and appropriate exercise plan based on individual needs and treatment status.
  • Nutrition: Proper nutrition is vital for cancer recovery as it supports the body’s healing processes and helps maintain strength and energy. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients to support immune function and overall well-being. For some cancer patients, maintaining weight can be a challenge, so working with a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition can be very beneficial.
  • Mindset: Mindset has always been my greatest strength throughout my entire life. I have always advocated that the body follows the mind and if you want to be successful in fitness, the body part you must work on every day is your mind!

With that said, it came as a shock to me that my biggest strength now became my biggest weakness. Being forced to take considerable time off after my surgery when I was finally given the green light to resume exercising was the biggest difficulty for my mindset. I spent weeks trying to regain the proper mindset that would give me the discipline I needed to get back into exercising properly, but nothing was working.

Coping with cancer can be emotionally challenging; cultivating a strong mindset can enhance emotional well-being. I finally made the decision to go back in time 43 years earlier when I began my lifelong journey into fitness. I remembered that I would write down everything that I would do and I would monitor my progress and my results. I would follow up at the end of each month to see (and I mean visually see) the results I was achieving.

This gave me something to strive for. I figured it worked for me in the early 1970s, why can’t it work for me now?

It worked. I started getting more motivated and being able to look at the results I was achieving motivated me even more.

Practices like mindfulness, meditation, and therapy can help manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Engaging in activities that bring joy and purpose can also contribute to a more positive outlook. Remember that every individual’s journey with cancer is unique, and the impact of exercise, nutrition, and mindset can vary. At my gym, Johnny O’s Gymnasium in Boca Raton, Florida, we feel it’s important to consult with fitness professionals who specialize in  developing a personalized approach that takes into account the specific type of cancer, treatment plan, and individual needs.

Best of luck on your fitness journey and in achieving your goals. If I could ever be of any assistance to you, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram (@johnnyogymnasium).

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