Colleen Grote has been a member at CrossFit 151 in Marion for just over four years. Being a part of a supportive community is what keeps her going back to the gym.
“The person at CrossFit who always gets the loudest cheers is always the last to finish and so there's just really that support and that motivation to keep going no matter how difficult things are," said Colleen.
Each year, the CrossFit Open gives athletes across the world a chance to compete against each other. Colleen has participated each year and just missed the quarter-final in 2021.
“I was really close, so I made a goal that I wanted to get there," said Collee.
After last year, Colleen silently made a goal to make it to the quarterfinals this year. Two weeks after she made that goal, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
At the age of 34, she found a lump. Her mammogram and biopsy happened on the same day. The next day she learned it was stage two, triple positive.
“My girls were five and one at the time of my diagnosis. So, it really just became okay, how can we make it through?"
She set aside her CrossFit goal and the focus became staying alive. Her family kept her going, especially her youngest daughter Oliva, and oldest, Madelyn.
She describes Madelyn as the most empathetic person she has ever met.
“Throughout this entire process she’ll color little cards and make little things and for mother's day that year on one of her little books that they fill in she wrote, 'I'm really so proud that my mom is so strong.',” said Colleen.
The girls were there every step of the way including helping Colleen shave her hair. But they still needed their mom to be there for them, even on Colleen's worst days.
“I don't know if they will ever know how important they were to me during this time," said Colleen.
Second, to family, the gym kept Colleen going. She would work out every day following chemotherapy appointments.
“Whether class was going on or not the coaches would let me come in and sometimes the best therapy is just throwing weights around and not having to deal with anything but movement."
After a double mastectomy and an additional surgery, Colleen finished Chemotherapy in June. Now she is in active treatment to reduce her chance of breast cancer recurrence.
"For me, it's really about spreading that awareness that it's still not over and everyone's experience with breast cancer looks different and there is really no right or wrong way to have cancer and to deal with that," said Colleen.
One year later, the CrossFit Open has come back around. This time, Colleen made it to the quarterfinals. She still accomplished that goal, even after her battle against breast cancer.
“I went into the open this year with just the mindset of just have fun, let's push as hard as we possibly can, nothing is harder than what the last year has been.”