Issaquah Fitness Member Spotlight: Donna Walker
We appreciate when members choose to share a little bit about themselves with the IF community. Donna Walker agreed to do a Q and A with us about her experiences at the club and how it relates to her life. We came away inspired by what she shared… about fitness, about a fight she waged and about a future of hope.
Tell us a bit about your family, friends and daily life?
I am 55 years old, have been married to my husband, Steve, for 27 years, and we have 2 daughters. Jana is about to turn 21 and is a nursing student at Gonzaga studying abroad in Florence right now, and Tara is 23, graduated from Seattle Pacific University, got married last year and now works at corporate Starbucks.
I have been employed by Hewlett-Packard for over 30 years, and currently, work from my home office in Issaquah as a Finance and Operations Manager in support of a large government program.
My big story is that I was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer nine years ago in September of 2007 at the age of 46. I found out I had cancer during my youngest daughter’s first week of 6th grade and when my older daughter was starting her sophomore year of high school. The survival statistics at that time didn’t have me likely living more than five years. Fortunately, I have been able to battle hard and overcome that statistic. Over the last 9 years, I have had four full abdominal surgeries, over 100 chemo treatments and participated in multiple clinical trials. I also found out that I share the same genetic mutation that Angelina Jolie has, called BRCA1, and was incredibly blessed that neither of my daughters inherited the mutation. It has been quite a battle over the years. But on a positive note, my 4th remission has been my longest and I have now been cancer free for just over two years. I’m very hopeful that will continue!
What are your hobbies and interests outside of the club?
My husband and I spend a lot of time together at the club in exercise classes. But when we are not experiencing “date night” in Chizzled or attending other classes, we enjoy following the Gonzaga basketball team, going to movies, and going on coffee dates. We live on Tiger Mountain and like to head out our front door and make our way up to the many hiking trails near our house too.
I attend a faith-based cancer support group once a month for people with many different types of cancer. I also have recently become involved with a charity, the Ovarian and Breast Cancer Fund Alliance Survivors Teaching Students®. Two or three ovarian cancer survivors go out to college pre-med and nursing programs around the state and tell our stories, focusing on the symptoms we experienced prior to diagnosis. The hope is that the students will remember our stories when they see patients in the future that present with the symptoms we have described. Early diagnosis is so critical, and survival rates are higher if the diagnosis is made in earlier stages of the disease. Currently, it is often misdiagnosed which causes valuable time to be wasted. We are now branching out as well and trying to find ways to educate friends, family and anyone that will listen about the symptoms of this cancer. If they, or someone they know, experience any of the symptoms we have described, they will know to get to the doctor sooner rather than later. It is such a great feeling to have someone say that they have made different choices because they heard my story.
How long have you been a member at Issaquah Fitness, and what has been your experience at the club?
I became a member at the club in 2011. I have had an incredible experience at Issaquah Fitness. I’ve tried a little bit of everything. I started with a personal trainer, began attending classes, sampled some fun add-on classes like kickboxing and participated in challenges when I was up for it. It is a gym that has worked with me when I had health challenges, encouraged and promoted working out with my daughters, and now is a special social environment where my husband and I workout together along with people we really enjoy being around. We have gotten to know many of the members and appreciate the social interactions we have with people who take classes with us. All of the instructors and employees are fantastic and so willing to help too. It has really improved my quality of life in so many ways.
What inspired your fitness journey?
When I started my third remission my husband recommended that I join a health club. I had gained quite a bit of weight due to steroids and inactivity and needed to take care of myself. I was looking for a calm, low stress atmosphere and checked into Issaquah Fitness. I started out slowly with a personal trainer. Once I gained some strength, I decided to try a Zumba class. It was in Zumba class that I met and became friends with Irena who talked me into trying John’s Chizzled class. It was very tough at first, but putting in the effort led to a major improvement in my health. After about a year of attending Chizzled and several other classes, I had a recurrence of my cancer. I was healthier than I had been for a very long time at that point. I was facing my 4th surgery, and can honestly say that the time and effort put into fitness paid off immensely. My stays in the hospital the first 3 times were anywhere from 8-14 days. After working out consistently for a year, I cut my stay to 3 days and was back in the gym shortly afterwards. The improved recovery time was amazing.
Unfortunately, the chemo I had to undergo after the surgery took a toll on my energy and I stopped working out for a few months. When I finished treatment and gained a little of the energy back, I started slowly going back to the club. My husband started joining me in classes for the first time as well, which really helped motivate me to stay consistent. We now push each other to make sure we go to classes as often as possible. It has become part of our normal routine, one that we hope to continue doing for a long time to come.