She was given the kind of medical news no one wants to hear. But when it came to fighting back to health, Therese McAllister was more ready than even she knew.

Fitness has always been an important piece in the puzzle of Therese McAllister’s life. She didn’t realize just how important it was until recovering from three surgeries, including a bilateral mastectomy.

For years, running was Therese’s go-to exercise…completing three marathons. While her fitness schedule often changed to meet evolving family and work demands, this Grand Rapids, Michigan high school English teacher always made time for cardio and weight training. In the past, what she was training for wasn’t always clear. Today, she trains to be ready…“ready for whatever life brings you,” and she encourages others to do the same.

Life brought Therese unexpected news in 2015. What began as a typical busy weeknight ended with a phone call from her doctor that included the words “incidental find”. She and her team of doctors determined her course of action would include a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, which Therese later chose to reverse. “I decided to have it all taken out and just be flat. It was the perfect decision for me for many reasons,” explains Therese. She says she was physically and mentally uncomfortable with the implants and felt her authenticity return when they were removed. “I think it is important for women to understand that being flat is an option.”

Therese had first discovered Les Mills’ programs 14 years ago. Back then she had no idea they would end up playing a pivotal role in her recovery from three surgeries. “During all of this, I actually increased my attendance,” said Therese. “The classes provided me with an hour's respite from the fear. While I was squatting and lunging, etc., I felt powerful and in control. During this hour, I felt empowered and knew that I could overcome the challenges. I had been attending for years, but it was during this time that I recognized how much the class could do for my body and my mind that I decided to become an instructor. When this was all over, I was determined to share this with other women.”

Therese says because she was fit and strong pre-diagnosis, she was able to reduce many post-operative challenges associated with surgery. “I was able to sit up in bed without help. I could take care of all of my basic needs that required core strength because I had been fit going into the whole experience.”

Therese’s last surgery was in February 2016. “When I started back with my strength training, I could only bench-press my bar, no weight,” she recalls. “I did all my pushups on the wall. I worked hard to regain my strength by attending BODYPUMP™ regularly and accepted that even baby steps were still steps forward.”

Four months later, Therese felt strong enough to attend a BODYPUMP initial instructor training course. She passed her assessment video and became a certified instructor. “It was such a rewarding experience to realize this goal, so I decided to keep going.” In the last six months, she has become certified to teach BODYCOMBAT™, CXWORX™, and has recently completed training for BODYBALANCE™.

“Being ready” is a theme Therese carries through all her classes. “I tell participants when they are suffering through a challenging lunge track that ‘this is how we all get ready, because you never know what you will need to be prepared to do’”.

Therese is grateful for the love and support from family and friends, and the inspiration she gets from her favorite group fitness classes. “During the surgeries, I became even more determined to share the gift of fitness and to spread the message of the importance of being ready for whatever life brings you.”

Carrie Knight is a BODYBALANCE Trainer and a BODYBALANCE and CXWORX Assessor Lead for Les Mills in the United States. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. Her background includes being a TV news anchor, radio talk show host, fitness writer, and recording voice overs. Carrie is thrilled to combine her love for fitness and journalism by writing for Fit Planet.

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