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Breast Cancer Survivor Finds Strength Through Fitness
Diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer at 34, April Capil's fitness goals were suddenly sidelined by an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. When an adverse reaction to the drugs threw her into a depression, it was physical activity that pulled her out.
"I had just begun doing Sierra Club hikes, and was running twice a week, but once I started treatment, all that changed." Multiple surgeries and a particularly brutal chemo regimen took their toll on Capil's health, even as it helped her fight cancer. Unfortunately, many of the drugs that treat the disease have detrimental side effects on healthy cells. Adriamycin can lead to a weakening of the heart muscle and shortness of breath. "I would get exhausted just cleaning the house," Capil says, "I used to hike for hours, but I could barely walk two miles." Switching to a different drug in the second phase of her treatment brought new problems, even as it resolved others. "When I finished my cycle of Adriamycin and Cytoxan and started Taxol, I was plunged into a horrible depression. I'd never felt anything like it; I wanted to die." Realizing that something wasn't right, Capil consulted her doctors, who recommended counseling and suggested anti-depressants. "The drugs they recommended would have taken three or four weeks to work, and I was scared I wouldn't last that long. I realized that I hadn't worked out in three months, so I started walking in the hopes that it would help." Turns out, it did. "After a week of counseling and walking every day, I felt better and more hopeful about my future. My depression lifted, and I thought about setting a goal that would really be worth striving for." The week before her last chemotherapy treatment, Capil registered for the 11.5-mile Mt. Tam Peak Hike, benefitting the Breast Cancer Fund.
"I started working at Sports Basement in Walnut Creek, and all of my coworkers were really enthusiastic about fitness and the outdoors, so they inspired me to aim even higher!" Capil joined Lou Kristopher's Prime Body Boot Camp in Walnut Creek. The Boot Camp is circuit-training based, just a half hour, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. "Within a week, I was running a half a mile an hour faster on the treadmill, and my lower back, which always seemed to bother me, was feeling stronger than it had ever felt. I spoke with Lou about my medical history, and he always made sure there were ways to do an exercise easier if I couldn't do it the regular way." Capil credits the Boot Camp with strengthening her commitment to fitness, and enabling her to complete the Los Angeles Avon 2-Day Walk and the Mt. Tam Peak Hike this past September. "I can't believe that, three months out of chemo, I hiked 11.5 miles on Mt. Tam, two weeks after I walked 26 miles in a weekend! Lou helped me bring my body back stronger than before; he helped me rebuild it after cancer tried to tear it down. I will forever be grateful to him for being my coach on this journey."
Next on Capil's list? 38 more events, to raise awareness and donations for breast cancer research - a project she's calling her "40-by-40": http://www.teamaprilonline.com.
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About Team April: Started by Breast Cancer Survivor April Capil, Team April maintains a blog at http://teamapril.blogspot.com and a YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/