Hometown: Barberton, OH
Education: Dual Masters in Educational Leadership & Library Science/Information Technology, BA in Science (Physical Education with a concentration in Sport Science/Strength and Conditioning)
Certifications: CrossFit L1, CrossFit Mobility, CrossFit Weightlifting, CrossFit Judge
Background: Michelle has participated in sports since she was 5 years old. Pretty much any sport you can name she has played. Michelle was signed to play soccer at The University of Akron when she was diagnosed with compartment syndrome and had to undergo multiple surgeries. By the time she was released to play she was also ready to graduate. Michelle started teaching physical education, executive physical education (strength and conditioning), and coaching Varsity volleyball in 2002. She was responsible for the strength and conditioning of all her athletes as well as player/skill development. Through coaching Michelle found that she enjoyed the strength and conditioning aspect of coaching a great deal. Michelle got involved in CrossFit in 2010 and fell in love.
Why I Love CrossFit & Why I Opened CrossFit 330
Breast cancer. Two words that can have such a devastating impact on one’s life. Two words that can feel like a sucker punch to the gut. Two words that nine times out of ten will turn me in to an emotional wreck.
Rewind fourteen years. Finishing up my senior basketball season I notice my grandma is conspicuously absent from a game. She never missed my games. In asking my mom about it I came to find out that she was at home recovering from a mastectomy because she had breast cancer and opted to have the whole breast removed. She didn’t want me to know before my game for fear that it would have an effect on my performance. Luckily, she fought and won her battle.
Fast forward to 2008. Upset about something at work that at the time seemed like a big deal, I called my mom to leave her a voicemail venting about the situation. To my surprise she answered her phone. Almost immediately my reason for calling went out the window and I was completely focused on why she wasn’t at work and was able to take my call. Finally she told me she had found a lump and was on her way to the doctor’s office to have it checked out. Needless to say I met her there. During that appointment we were told that most likely it was nothing. The lump displayed all the characteristics of being benign, but that they would aspirate it and send it out just to be sure.
A week later we went back to get the results. Before the doctor even said anything, both my mom and I could read on her face that she had bad news: Breast cancer, Stage one. The sample was going to being typed and we would meet with an oncologist the following week about treatment. The only choice we needed to make then was whether my mom wanted to do a lumpectomy or mastectomy.
She opted for a bilateral mastectomy. The next week was tough, but she didn’t let on. That’s the kind of person she was: strong and independent. She never cracked, she was a rock. That first appointment with the oncologist is still a blur to this day. I remember hearing the doctor introduce herself to us and telling us that she believed in being 100% open and honest with her patients. In her next sentence she uttered the words “Triple Negative Breast Cancer” and “get your affairs in order…” After that I have no recollection of anything that was discussed.
The next year passed by in a fog. My mom had her surgery along with six preventative chemo treatments. Never once did I hear her complain. All throughout her chemo she continued to take care of my grandmother, step-dad and herself. She only mentioned her discomfort when asked about it.
After chemo she was given the “all clear.” It seemed as though she was good to go. That lasted a year, almost to the day. Then life drastically changed. On September 21, 2009 my step dad forced her to go to the ER for stomach pains she had been having all week. At the ER they performed an ultrasound of her stomach and then transported her to the cancer unit. The next doctor we saw came to tell us that her cancer was back and had basically taken over her body. In the following days we learned that it was everywhere but her lungs. It was consuming her liver, bones, brain… It was everywhere. Her oncologist met with us and told us with treatment we might get a year.
With those words my world came crashing down. My mom was my best friend and the strongest person I have ever met. She raised me as a single parent working three jobs to support us and never complained. She was also one of the healthiest people I had ever been around. She exercised regularly, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t eat red meat. She always had her water bottle with her so she could stay hydrated. She did everything she was supposed to. So how could this be happening to her?
In that year she continued to be the strong woman that I have looked up to for my whole life. I don’t think any of us know how much pain she was in- she never let on, she was still looking out for everyone else. Tragically, in November of 2010 she lost her battle.
One might think my story could end there, that breast cancer could leave me to deal with the death of the most important person in my life. But the thing about cancer is that it doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t play fairly, it doesn’t have a conscience or feelings. Unbeknownst to me, when everything was happening with my mom, she and my grandma decided to have genetic testing done to see if they carried the gene associated with breast cancer. My mom’s doctor wanted me to have the testing done as well. It turns out none of us had the gene.
However, given the circumstances, this fact didn’t make the doctor feel any better about my chances of not getting cancer and recommended that I have a mastectomy by the age of thirty five. After thinking about it, I did not want to take the chance on waiting and opted to have the surgery done immediately.
So at thirty years old, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I remember waking up from surgery and having immense pain in my chest. Now I’m no novice to surgery. I have had my share so I had a pretty good idea of what I would feel like, but this was worse. I remember asking why I had so much pain and the nurses wanted to give me more pain meds and I said no it’s like muscle pain and that won’t help. Why do I have so much pain? They wanted me to talk to the doctor. As it turns out the doctor ended up having to remove part of my pec while he was operating. And the rest of my pec had to be reshaped and manipulated. So yes, the pain made sense. In meeting with him after my surgery and getting my release to return to physical activity he cautioned me that I may not be able to do the things I used to. Not only was I missing part of my pec, but he had also had to sew into my triceps and lats when he was rebuilding my chest. It was possible that I would never be able to do push ups, pull ups or basically anything involving much upper body strength ever again.
After this conversation I was very hesitant to get back into CrossFit. I was used to being good at things with very little effort. Hell, I was used to being the best and it was pretty clear that wasn’t going to be the case anymore. I remember that my first workout back involved wall ball, lots of wall balls. Every time I extended my arms to throw that ball up I felt like there was a string yanking them back down. It was the oddest sensation. Almost like I was a puppet. I was painfully sore for the next two weeks. I could have used that as an excuse to not go back. It would have been easy.
But a strong woman raised me to be better than that. And she certainly didn’t raise a quitter. So instead I chose to learn from that workout. I learned to accept the fact that I have limitations and my body is different now. It has been said before regarding CrossFit and it will be said again- there is no room for ego in CrossFit. I gave my body a little more time to heal and then I went back.
When I went back I took what I learned back with me. I made sure to scale my workouts. At first, I had to scale weight and the amount of the workout I would do. Gradually, as I kept going, I was able to complete a whole workout with only scaled weight..
Now, a double mastectomy, four reconstruction surgeries and one emergency blood vessel rupture surgery later I am able to do push ups, pull ups, and rope climbs – things that I was told I may never do again. I may not be able to do a ton in a row, and I may have to modify them during a WOD involving tons of reps, but I am able to perform the movements. CrossFit has allowed me to do things that I was told I would never be able to do. I want to pay that forward. We have it in us to do more than others think is possible. Hell, we have it in us to do more than we think is possible. This a big reason why I decided to open CrossFit 330. I wanted to provide others with all the tools they need to exceed their expectations. Along with CrossFit we offer The World’s Best Boot Camp, BOOM Sports Performance, and 330 Power (Olympic Lifting). At CrossFit 330 we preach “Fitness for EveryBODY”- and we mean it. Everything we do can be done by people at any fitness level and of any age or body type.