Sherry Poss wakes up most days excited for her 5 a.m. workout. Five mornings a week, she does Alpha classes at Life Time; she also often cycles two to three times, and depending on the season, runs a few times as well.
It’s a routine she’s stuck with for nearly four and half years, and one that’s part of a healthy, active lifestyle that began 15 years ago, when she set out to lose weight and improve her health.
After achieving her original weight-loss goal, Poss was motivated to keep going and committed to continuing to work out regularly. That drive and determination lead her to Life Time in 2016, where she connected with a trusted community.
Life’s Twists & Turns
Poss’s foray into Alpha wasn’t immediate; in fact, she observed the class from afar for a while, initially feeling intimidated by its Olympic-style lifting and conditioning focus. Once she gave it a try though, she was hooked; she’s been an avid member of the program and community since 2018.
“Alpha helped me grow stronger physically,” says Poss, who is mom to an 11-year-old daughter and works full-time. “I was able to lift heavier weights every week and accomplish more in less time. I also grew stronger mentally — I realized I can do hard things.”
That improved mental strength became especially important in July 2020. Poss had started feeling sore all the time, and while she often pushed her body to the limit during her workouts, this seemed extreme. So she went to get checked out at an urgent care, where the doctor suggested she had a pinched nerve and prescribed rest for a few weeks.
But the soreness only got worse. “Within a week, I started retaining fluid,” said Poss. “I looked like I was six months pregnant.” She went to the emergency room, where doctors did a CT scan and ran blood tests. “Within an hour they told me I had cancer — not what I expected to hear. I was admitted to the hospital that day.
“The first night was the scariest because the doctors came in with very sad faces — or more like sad eyes, because that’s all I could see behind their masks,” Poss recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to die.’”
The next day, she was diagnosed with Double-Hit Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma with Central Nervous System Involvement, stage IV. Lymphoma is a blood cancer, but it can also cause solid tumors; Poss had three in her abdomen. Tests also revealed cancer in the bone marrow in her right hip and cancer in her spinal fluid.
Her diagnosis was serious, yet the prognosis was optimistic: The cancer was curable. “Staging with lymphoma is different than other cancers,” Poss explains. “While stage IV is very serious, it means the disease has spread beyond your lymphatic system.”
Terrifying as the diagnosis was, it sparked her determination. “Once the doctors narrowed down my cancer type, their demeanor changed,” Poss reflects. “At that point, I knew I could beat this and that changed my focus to start doing whatever I needed to do to survive. It was very mental. I mean, it sucked that I got cancer — I couldn’t change any of that. I could only control how I responded to it.”
That first hospital stay lasted eight days and included various tests and procedures, including a bone-marrow biopsy and her first round of chemo. After that, Poss was in and out of the hospital seven more times over the next several months, for a total of 51 nights. The experience was long and challenging, but she found ways to make it more tolerable.
Due to the pandemic, Poss was already working remotely, and she continued to do so in the hospital. “Working actually helped me. I would work around my chemotherapy appointments, and sometimes during my treatments because I was connected to the chemo for 24 hours at a time. I never got chemo brain,” said Poss.
She also used the treadmill in the physical therapy wing of the hospital for walking and staying active (to an extent). “I realized that for me to be able to sleep at night, I had to be both mentally and physically exhausted. So I added workouts in.”
After a round of chemo, she would be sent home for a couple of weeks, then begin the cycle again. At her three-month PET scan in October, however, Poss learned the chemo was not working and the tumors in her abdomen that initially shrunk were growing again.
In consultation with her healthcare team, Poss adjusted course in hopes of qualifying for a clinical trial for CAR-T immunotherapy. It took a few months — and several unsuccessful chemo treatments — before the clinical trial sponsor approved Poss for the therapy.
On February 2, 2021, she received her T cells, which had been harvested back in October. “The first day or two was fine, and then cytokine release syndrome kicked in. I was basically in bed for eight days experiencing a high fever, fatigue, nausea, and no appetite.”
During the first 60 days after treatment, Poss was unable to drive, and had to have a caregiver — primarily her husband — with her 24 hours a day in case she developed any late-stage side effects. “Thankfully I did not have any of those effects once I was released from the hospital,” Poss recalls.
She visited her clinic regularly for follow-up lab work and monitoring. “My first PET scan wasn’t until 90 days after I received my cells. However, I had a few ultrasounds leading up to it, so I knew the tumors were shrinking.”
In May 2021, Poss finally heard the two words she’d been hoping for since her diagnosis: “Complete Response” — she was cancer free. “It was one of the best days of my life,” she recalls.
Now, she reflects on her journey and how her priorities have shifted: “I don’t take my time for granted,” says Poss. “I want to stay more focused on experiences over things, and quality time with people.”
And she’s resumed the fitness regimen that she credits with helping her be here today. “Being physically fit prior to having cancer and staying active throughout treatment helped me recover and get back to the level of fitness I was at before my cancer diagnosis. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are very hard on your body, and I feel incredibly grateful that I am back doing all the activities I love.
“Exercising is like therapy for me,” Poss continues. “And I value my Alpha class and the peers I work out with. It all helps me stay mentally grounded and calm.”
Life Time has partnered with performance footwear and apparel brand HOKA ONE ONE to amplify voices and inspire people to move by spotlighting Life Time members and team members within Humans of HOKA athlete stories.
Poss’s HOKA ONE ONE shoes of choice are the Bondi 7. Find your go-to pair at HOKAONEONE.com.