“I am focused on being strong not skinny” says cancer survivor who lost 8kg

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Natalie came out stronger – literally – after fighting an uphill battle with Ovarian cancer.

Natalie May started her fitness journey 10 years ago after realising she was not her best self, but due to unforeseeable health circumstances she fell back into old habits.

She told body+soul that “a busy life was a great excuse” for leading her unhealthy lifestyle back then. “No strength, couldn’t run if I was being chased, could barely walk a flight of stairs, terrible eating habits and rarely drank water.” the mother-of-one reflected. But enough was enough for Natalie.

“My personal trainer at Anytime Fitness Brighton, Stefan Mckenzie turned me from a lazy 30-something-year old to someone who enjoyed exercise and was excited to go the gym,” she said. “In 2013, we had built my fitness and strength to something I was really proud of. Eating healthy and regular gym and PT sessions had made me fit and strong,” she explained to body+soul. “I had dropped nearly 10kg, built muscle and had a really good understanding of how my body worked and reacted with food and exercise.”

It was this close relationship and understanding of her own body that led Natalie to discover that there was something not quite right about how she was feeling a few months later.

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After visiting her GP, May explained that “High Grade Cancer cells” had been found in the cyst in her left ovary. The gruelling process of cancer treatments – multiple rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries – made her spiral out of healthy habits and hit rock bottom. She felt weak from “two months of being in bed and not exercising” and “ major abdominal surgery” which was hard to recover from.

Natalie did not anticipate that the fatigue and weight gain would eventually have such a big impact, until she gained 16kg. “The steroids took their toll and after 18 chemo treatments and a blood transfusion, I had gained 16kg,” she said.

Not only was her physical health in jeopardy, but her mental health was also tested during this time, when she was diagnosed with PTSD. “After reading about the statistics and how many women lose their ovarian Cancer battle, I was hit with a massive reality check that I wasn’t expecting,” Natalie explained. She is now happily clear of PTSD.

Natalie’s diet

As a busy mum and business owner, travelling is a part of her job. Sometimes this can be an issue for Natalie, but she tries to make the most of it. “I make smarter food decisions when on the road but I limit my carb intake, I don’t drink too much coffee, eat lean meats, enjoy a glass of Sav [ignon Blanc], I eat fruit and veg, drink heaps of water, rarely eat chocolate but I live each day happy and healthy.” To her, that’s what matters the most.

A typical day on a plate

Breakfast: Coffee, yoghurt and muesli

Lunch: A salad wrap and fruit

Dinner: Lean meat or fish and salad

Snacks: Nuts, seeds, strawberries and protein balls

Natalie’s Exercise Routine

After her critical cancer battle, Natalie had to adapt her workout routine depending on how her recovery was going. Since her weight gain, she has lost an impressive eight kilograms.

“I travel regularly with my job so my strength and fitness is more important to me than ever,” she explains. With the help of her personal trainer, she now trains at Anytime Fitness twice a week usually with kettlebells and weights.

Her advice for others in a similar circumstance

Natalie’s biggest tip for others who might be going through health difficulties and wish to get back to their fitness routines, is to be patient. “It’s been a very slow, hard and long road back from ovarian cancer for my fitness but I am focused on being strong not skinny and this is what it’s all about for me. I now realise who and what is really important in my life and I’m putting my energy into that,” she says.

She encourages everyone to “trust the process” and understand the changes that will inevitably occur after. “If I didn’t have someone like Stefan and the team at Anytime Fitness Brighton to guide me through every exercise and understand what the surgery and chemicals have done to my body then I probably would have done myself some damage and made my recovery longer.”