JAYNE GAGLIANO'S LIFE CHANGING RPM CLASS
RPM Instructor Jayne Gagliano shares the remarkable story of how one RPM class changed her life forever - and how her fitness helped in her miraculous recovery.*
It was a Monday just like any other. I was prepping to deliver the latest RPM™ release, (scheduled for that weekend), and was excited about teaching the new class. Little did I know that my regular 6:30pm RPM class would change my life forever. About midway through a gruelling track 7, I felt pain in my left leg. I pushed on, as I frequently cramp up during RPM. But as I completed the stretching, I noticed that my left hand was white and very cold. A fellow instructor and several class members urged me to go to the emergency room to get checked out, but I felt okay. When I awoke at 2:30am with purple, painful fingertips and blotchy bruising all over my left hand and forearm, I dragged my husband out of bed and we went to the ER. I thought I was having a heart attack.
The doctors listened to my heart and told me that I had a slight murmur. Many hours and one CT scan and chest X-ray later, they found the mass in my heart. Unsure of what it was, the attending physician ordered an echocardiogram. Then, things got interesting.
The mass turned out to be a left atrial myxoma, a rare congenital tumor that I was told is usually found during autopsy. You see, the leg and fingertip pain and hand bruising was caused by pieces of the tumor breaking off and ending up in my bloodstream (called emboli). Fortunately, they landed in my hand and leg. I was told that most people aren't so lucky; they have a major stroke and die, leaving the tumor to be discovered after the fact. I had no idea it was there, and had I not been teaching RPM, I may never have known. Hearing the news was absolutely terrifying, both for me and for my husband.
Once word of my condition traveled around the ER, I became a teaching moment. At one point, I had at least a dozen ER doctors, hospitalists, internists, cardiologists and nurses gathered around me to look at my heart via another echocardiogram. They were all amazed that I had been teaching the RPM class at the time. "How was it possible that I was instructing at such a high level with this tumor?" they all asked. Needless to say, every one of them knew about Les Mills by the time I was sent over to San Francisco for surgery.
On Thursday, January 30th I underwent open heart surgery to remove the tumor, which ended up being four inches in diameter. My surgeon was optimistic that my recovery would be unremarkable, as I was in such excellent shape. I have to say, it wasn't easy by any means, but the first few days after surgery I realized just how lucky I was to have a strong core from teaching CXWORX. The nurses were all very impressed that I was able to sit up and get out of bed on my own (keep in mind, I was the youngest person on the cardiac recovery floor by about 30 years!). The physical therapist was pleased that I was able to walk by myself after surgery. The doctors and nurses were still amazed that I was teaching RPM when this all happened. Obviously, though, I missed the launch.
‘‘ I owe so much of strength during recovery to the LES MILLS programs. ’’
Five days after surgery, I was sent home to continue my recovery. Part of that included getting back on a treadmill... and a bike. Three weeks after surgery, I climbed back on a bike just to pedal. I rode by myself in the RPM studio when no one else was around. I walked outside. I walked on the treadmill. Five weeks after surgery, I was cleared to take my first RPM class. It was very slow going, but just being back in the Les Mills environment felt really great. I found that my technique and core strength served me well as I continued to take class after class. About two months after surgery, I tried teaching a few tracks at a time. I've continued to get stronger and healthier and I can't wait to get to class each night.
This month, the Bladium team will launch RPM 62 and I'm proud to say that I will be teaching alongside my good friend Michael Bokor. As I look back at this journey, I find that I owe a great debt of gratitude to RPM for literally saving my life. Without the emboli, I may never have known I had the tumor. Yes, it was a very scary situation, but as far as things like this go, I don't think it could have gone any better. I owe so much of my strength during recovery to the LES MILLS programs and my desire to get back to teaching classes again. It has been a long road and I'm not entirely there yet, but having the support of the Les Mills community at the Bladium, (as well as several 24 Hour gyms), has made all the difference. We truly are one tribe. We rally around those who need support and inspire each other to get back up to be the best we can be each day. I'm so proud to be involved with such a wonderful organization.