Everyone faces adversity in their life, and how a person responds to that tells a lot about who they are. Jamie Stec, a personal trainer at the Macomb YMCA, proved herself to be strong not just physically but emotionally as well when she faced a frightening breast cancer diagnosis last July, and didn’t let it stop her from working with clients or keeping up with her own exercise routine.
Despite the fatigue and nausea of cancer treatment, Jamie kept coming in to work with her clients as often as she could “still rocking the bald head,” she says. She finished up radiation and still has some surgery in front of her, and will be on medication for years to control the cancer, but all things considered she’s doing very well. she says. She’s back to training for the Detroit International Marathon this fall and knocked out a 14-mile training run just this past weekend.
Jamie believes that already being fit and healthy helped her stay active throughout her treatment, a fact she tries to pass along to her clients now. “Being a distance runner as well, I was no stranger to stress on my body and no stranger to pain,” she says. “I knew there was a finish line, it would just take me awhile to get there.”
Her clients, as well as other Y members, told her how much she inspired them by continuing to work out even while she was facing such challenges. “They would tell me ‘if you can do this, I don’t have any excuses.’”
Her Y family stepped up to help her after her diagnosis. “I would not have been taken care of the same way if I worked at a gym,” she says. “Because I worked at a place that cares about its employees, its members, and the community, I was very well taken care of.” The staff gave her children a week of day camp, so she could recover from surgery without worrying about them. A friend took over working with her small group training class and refused to take the fee, asking that it still go to Jamie. And she especially notes that her boss, Wellness Director Christina Wollcott, was incredibly supportive.
Her family is very involved at the Y: Her husband is a triathlete and trains there, and her children are in Y sports. When she was undergoing her education to become a personal trainer, she interned at the Y, and volunteered there when she was done until they could hire her.
As her recovery progresses, she is looking at it as an opportunity to discover her true strength.
“Cancer really can adjust your priorities,” she says. “It’s been interesting, but I find I myself, as I progress through all of my treatments, finding out exactly how strong I am.”