client spotlight

“You Have Breast Cancer” - Shelly Head’s Story (Part I)

In this PushPress Client Spotlight, meet Shelly Head, owner of Grapevine CrossFit. After a 2021 breast cancer diagnosis, her CrossFit community stepped up to help.

Emily Beers
October 4, 2022
“You Have Breast Cancer” - Shelly Head’s Story (Part I)
In this PushPress Client Spotlight, meet Shelly Head, owner of Grapevine CrossFit. After a 2021 breast cancer diagnosis, her CrossFit community stepped up to help.

How Fitness and the CrossFit community made the difference for Shelly Head

“You have breast cancer.”

Those are words that Shelly Head, owner of Grapevine CrossFit and long-time PushPress client, had to process in the summer of 2021. In Head’s case, though, the words were never actually spoken to her out loud. She figured it out for herself.

That’s because Head is a registered nurse, who looked at her pathology report online before she was able to speak with her doctor. She was able to deduce for herself, ‘I have breast cancer.’

“My heart sank,” said Head, who was soon diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in July 2021.

Shelly Head Barbells for Boobs
Shelly Head with Johnna Dionisio at the annual Barbells for Boobs golf outing.

And so began a long process of researching her options, a stressful journey of uncertainty.

Head weighed her choices: Lumpectomy with radiation, a single mastectomy or a double mastectomy. She eventually chose to go with “the most aggressive” treatment: a double mastectomy without reconstructive breast surgery. She said it felt like the right decision for her.

The CrossFit Community Steps Up

As surgery neared, it was an incredibly difficult time, both emotionally and physically. Head said having the Grapevine CrossFit community in her corner made a world of difference, for both practicality and mindset.

Before she went in for surgery in September 2021, dozens of her members donated both meal vouchers and home cooked meals. Neither she or her husband would have to worry about cooking for their family for more than three weeks.

The community also hosted an event for Head, aptly named ‘Farewell to the Tatas.’ They got together, socialized and worked out, in an attempt to make light of a heavy situation and help ease Head’s burden.

“It’s stuff like that that helps you get through it. Those are the times where I’m just so thankful I have CrossFit and the CrossFit community,” she said. Head added that those months post-diagnosis would have been much more difficult without her daily workouts.

Grapevine CrossFit celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Grapevine CrossFit at the annual Barbells for Boobs event.

“I remember a lot of workouts, a song would come on and I remember sitting on the rower crying, and just rowing and I’m crying and trying to get through it. But it’s amazing how it helps. I think it would have been a lot more of a struggle if I didn’t continue to work out,” she said.

Continuing the Breast Cancer Fight

This is why Head continued with her workouts all the way up to her surgery. This including doing Grace - 30 clean and jerks for time - in the annual Barbells for Boobs fundraiser the day before she went under the knife. The event raised $13,500 for the fight against breast cancer.

“When I did Grace, I was super emotional because leading up to (surgery) your mind is going in a million different places,” she explained. She said it would have been a whole lot worse without the strength and ability to “push through” struggles. This is the mindset CrossFit has given her, she explained.

“(CrossFit) really does help with the mental aspect of having a cancer diagnosis because it teaches you how to deal with stuff,” Head said. “Little did I know that CrossFit was preparing me to get through my breast cancer journey. The mental game is a huge part of a cancer diagnosis. CrossFit taught me how to get through it.”

Head also credits PushPress for helping out at this time. The company donated money raised from t-shirt sales to her cause, helping raise an additional $36,000.

Looking Forward

Head’s advice to other women is, “Do your own research. And then just take all the information and do what’s best for you. There’s really no right decision. It’s really what’s best for you,” she said.

And then, of course, keep working and find a supportive community to help ease your stress.

“It was amazing to see all of our community come together and support me,” she said. “I’ll never forget that. It reminded me that there are some really great people in the world. I’m lucky because they all somehow ended up at my gym.”

Emily Beers

Emily Beers is a health, fitness and nutrition writer. She has also been coaching fitness at MadLab School of Fitness in Vancouver, B.C. since 2009.

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