Skip to content
Join Life Time
Two people standing with their arms raised above their heads in a Life Time class

In the summer of 2022, Trish Burton went to a dentist appointment for a cheek wound that wasn’t healing. An hour later, she was in biopsy surgery; and was diagnosed with head and neck cancer within a few days. Two weeks later, she had surgery to remove the cancer and shortly after began seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiation to her head and neck.

Trish came out of the treatment cancer-free, but not without physical and psychological scars. And despite treatment being done, she still faced a long road of recovery.

“Chemo strips you of everything,” she says. “I lost my ability to take care of myself. I could barely talk, and I had to relearn how to walk because of muscle atrophy. I could only stand for five minutes at a time. I had scars on my neck and face, and I did not want to be seen in public, which led to feelings of hopelessness and depression.”

Strength in Community

Trish’s husband, John, was her greatest champion throughout this journey, and the Burton family leaned on their community for support. This included the members and team members at their Life Time club in Chappaqua, N.Y., which they joined in September 2021.

While Trish was in treatment and recovery, John continued attending his regular workout classes with coach and group fitness instructor, Julie Henick. John began taking Henick’s classes in early 2022 and realized there was something special about her.

“I have a family member who went through cancer treatment, so I empathized with what the Burtons were going through and I wanted to help,” Henick says.

“People were always asking about Trish, wondering how she was doing and what they could do to help,” John says. “I really leaned on the Life Time community and Julie to figure out a plan for Trish’s success once she was able to come back to the club.”

Six months after treatment, when Trish was ready, John encouraged her to attend one of Julie’s Alpha Conditioning classes to help her get moving again. They chose the class because it was the easiest to modify.

John was by Julie’s side throughout the workout, Henick recalls. “John and I had a conversation where we strategically mapped out which classes of mine would be a good place for Trish to start. He attended every single class alongside her. He would hand her the weights because he knew it was difficult for her get up and down. He was there helping her with her balance when she felt wobbly. The love and care he showed her was absolutely beautiful to see.

“In that first class, Trish had her hat pulled down over her eyes and stuck toward the back of the class,” Henick adds. “During a high-energy part of the class in which we typically use our lighting system, I noticed Trish that started to cry and then left the room. I immediately turned off the flashing lights — and Trish came back in after a few minutes.” Her perseverance in that first class back amazed Henick.

“Because of my radiation treatment and the trauma I experienced, I’m sensitive to noises and lights,” says Trish. “I was just learning to walk again — I didn’t even want to go to the grocery store. But John reminded me that Julie was waiting. She was counting on me to keep coming back to class. For a long time, Life Time was the only place I felt comfortable going.”

“Inhale Calm, Exhale Stress.”

One day during an Alpha class, Trish broke down crying during a particular exercise. “I saw her on the floor, so I walked over and calmly knelt down next to her — I did not want other members to notice,” Henick remembers. “I told Trish to breathe, but that wasn’t helping, so I whispered in her ear a personal mantra of mine: ‘Inhale calm, exhale stress.’ We said those words together a few times as we breathed.

“Only a few minutes went by before Trish wiped her tears and stood back up. I placed the dumbbells back in her hands, and she continued the exercise as a smile lit up on her face. Her perseverance is always shining through.”

Each day Trish worked with Henick, she gained more strength and confidence in her movements. Eventually, the two started to set weekly goals; in July 2023, Trish set her sights on accomplishing box jumps.

“When Trish first started to jump, it was only up and down,” Henick explains. “Box jumps became our goal. It’s a move that pulls in all sorts of movement requirements, including balance, coordination, and strength, all of which were impacted during Trish’s cancer treatment.”

Trish adds that her feet “just wouldn’t talk to each other at first.”

“It was a tough challenge,” she says, “but I knew Julie was rooting for me — even sometimes more than I was rooting for myself.”

Eventually, Trish was able to jump up onto a 3-inch step; a month later, she could jump onto a 12-inch box. Today, she can complete jumps using a 24-inch box.

“Taking that first leap is all mental strength,” Henick says.

Holding Onto Gratitude

Trish credits her relationships with family and friends for getting her through some of the hardest moments in her life.

“I’ve studied mindfulness, and when you’re going through something tough, research shows that finding gratitude can help you push through. I wrote down everything I had to be grateful for — my doctors and nurses, my family, my friends. We had so many things going for us. I wanted to keep going for them, for my 15-year-old daughter, for all the people who helped me get here.”

John adds that Henick is one of the people that both he and Trish are grateful for. “When you go through something like this, you learn a lot about the quality of a relationship, regardless of the duration of that relationship,” he says. “Julie really showed us that. She didn’t get paid to care; she just did.”

Trish recently returned to her work as a third-grade teacher and aims to continue her workouts with Henick.

“This work is truly about our members who come to the club looking to be healthier and have experiences that will improve their lives,” Henick says. “Trish has inspired me more than she’ll ever know. She was never negative. She never complained, even in the face of all her challenges.”

“You never know what someone is going through,” Trish says. “I now have people who walk up to me at Life Time and tell me their own treatment stories. This environment gives us the confidence to share our stories and be stronger together.”

Emily Ewen

Emily Ewen is a senior writer and content editor at Life Time.

Thoughts to share?

More From Life Time

A dynamic personal trainer in a training session with a client.

Dynamic Personal Training

Go further, faster. Available only at Life Time, this revolutionary approach to training fully engages your mind, body and spirit to help you achieve more than you ever thought possible.

Book a Dynamic Personal Training Session


More Like This

Two medical professional working in a lab.

Looking at Health From the Inside-Out

By Emily Ewen

How one Life Time team member’s stroke taught him the importance of knowing the full picture of his health — and what he wants you to know about it too.

Rosina and Brian smiling photos and stretching

Finding Strength in Partnership

With Brian McKinney, CPT, and Roshini Rajkumar
Season 6, Episode 17

Working with a coach or personal trainer can boost your fitness efforts and help you make meaningful progress toward your goals. Sometimes, however, we overlook how powerful the partnership can be, including the gains that go beyond physical fitness. In this episode, we hear the firsthand experience of Life Time member Roshini Rajkumar and her coach Brian McKinney, CPT, how they get the most out of their experience working together, and what to look for in your own trainer-client relationship.

Listen >
A Dynamic Personal Trainer working with a client

The Dynamic Difference

By Emily Ewen

One couple shares the successes they’ve each seen from working with their Dynamic Personal Trainers.

Back To Top