No time for illness – Erica’s story

At 28, Erica Croke never thought she’d be battling cancer. Read her incredibly story of survival and how group fitness helped her recover against the odds.

My name is Erica Croke and I am a Group Exercise Manager and Group Exercise Instructor in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I am 28 years old and I am a cancer survivor. I never thought that this would be something I would ever say, let alone say it in my 20’s.

I started my GoodLife journey 8 years ago in 2005 when I joined as a member of the new Blackmarsh Road club in St. John’s, NL. I had never worked out before and really didn't know anything about exercise. I wasn't overweight but I was completely out of shape and I could not manage to walk up a flight of stairs without having an asthma attack.

After several weeks of plodding along on the treadmill and elliptical, I stepped into a Newbody class for the first time. I was determined to get through a WHOLE hour of exercise. After that, I knew that this was what I wanted to be doing at the gym. I tried the Les Mills classes BODYSTEP™ and BODYPUMP™ and was immediately hooked! Two years later I took my first Les Mills instructor training for BODYSTEP™. I then took on BODYPUMP™, BODYATTACK™, RPM™, BODYCOMBAT™, BODYVIVE 3.1™, CXWORX™ - I trained to teach ALL of them!

On July 23, 2013 I was diagnosed with a rare type of thyroid cancer that had spread throughout my neck and chest. I had no symptoms aside from one innocent looking lump, so I was quite shocked. GoodLife promotes “peak attitude” and Les Mills uses the New Zealand phrase “Kia Kaha” (be strong), so I employed both of these from the very beginning. There was no other option – I would have my surgery and then get back to teaching my classes as soon as possible. No one could tell me otherwise.

I had my surgery on September 11th, 2013. They removed 21 cancerous lymph nodes as well as my entire thyroid gland. My neck and back were seized up from my lack of neck mobility, my right eye was drooping from nerve damage, I could not feel the right side of my face, and all my body wanted to do was sleep. I knew the only way to get back to normal was to start doing what I normally do – go to classes. Six days after surgery, I went to a BODYBALANCE™/BODYFLOW® class (doing mostly lower options) to get my arms and back moving again to relieve the pain. A few days later I went to an RPM™ class (after all I didn't need my upper body to cycle)! I then worked my way through a BODYVIVE 3.1™ class (modifying where necessary). I then gained the confidence to go to BODYSTEP™ and BODYATTACK™ a few times. My first BODYPUMP™ class back was the toughest, but I lightened my weight and pushed through. Just four weeks after having surgery, I was back on the stage teaching my own classes again and feeling better than ever.

‘‘ I truly believe that being fit and healthy can get you through anything. ’’

-– Erica Croke

I truly believe that being fit and healthy can get you through anything. It’s preventative medicine. When I told my surgeon at my 5 week check-up what I was doing, he was very surprised. He said that he would not have expected me to be able to do all of this, four weeks post-surgery.

Just recently before my BODYPUMP™ class, a new member came up to me and hugged me. She told me that her first BODYPUMP™ class was the one I had taught right before I had surgery. I told the class that I would be back soon. She said to herself “Well if she is coming back soon after going through that, there is no excuse for me not to come back!” If it weren't for Les Mills classes and GoodLife, I would not have bounced back as quickly as I did and would probably be still sitting on the couch right now. One of my favorite quotes is “Those who do not find the time for exercise now, will eventually have to find time for illness”. I didn't have time for illness, but I will always make time for Group Exercise classes.

This inspiring story comes courtesy of Erica and GoodLife. Erica has been teaching LES MILLS™ classes at GoodLife Fitness for almost 6 years. Starting with BODYSTEP™ in January 2008, she went on to obtain certifications in BODYPUMP™, BODYATTACK™, RPM™, BODYCOMBAT™, BODYVIVE 3.1™, and CXWORX™. She has worked in several roles with GoodLife including: Personal Trainer, Member Ambassador, TRX Team Coach, and her current role, Group Exercise Manager. Erica also loves spending time with family and friends on the weekends, teaching her parrot Milo new words to say, and road trips.*