Training Jenna Benn, An Imerman Angel, A Cancer Survivor

Cancer’s got nothing on Jenna Benn.

I started training Jenna Benn this year, a woman I met through my brother Alex.  She was once his roommate.  Jenna and I got along immediately when we met many years ago.  She smiled big, welcomed me over and took an interest in getting to know me.  Jenna has become a recent student of mine at POW! MMA & Fitness.

Jenna is a survivor of Grey Zone Lymphoma (a rare blood disorder).  She found out December of 2010.  She wrote a very well composed letter about her new diagnosis and sent it to her close friends.  My brother of course sent it to me because he knew how much I cared for her.  Although they were no longer roommates at the time , I immediately reached out to Jenna on facebook ( the miracle domain for keeping in touch).

She was very smart in her coping strategy with this horrible new finding.  She immediately began fertility treatment on December 23rd, 3 days after finding out what she had.  THREE DAYS!  A common thread between us I guess – children, she wanted kids once surviving.

Instead of thinking of her immediate peril and dwelling in the horrible reality – she knew she was going to survive and thought about her offspring.  Pretty cool.  On January 21, 2011 she began R-epoch & intensive chemotherapy which required 5 hospital stays totaling 120 hours of chemo (6 total rounds) each.  So every 21 days she went back to be blasted, over and over again.  Even your mortgage doesn’t come that quickly.

Isolation was her immediate future.  But she kept her job.  She asked her employer – the ADL, yes that is right, The Anti-Defamation League to see her through.  She told them that she would work from the hospital and mange her workload.  They said yes, and she did.  Despite the confidence and support from the ADL (and of course her family/friends), she was still feeling isolated.  She needed to move, shake and feel alive after all.

So she started to dance alone in her hospital room and quarantined home environment.  Hey we all do it – the shower, kitchen, bedroom – so dancing solo became her form of living.  She sang at the top of lunges, screaming words to songs, ran the treadmill and started boxing.  So that is where I came in.  She reached out to me and asked if she could train.  Her initial request was too early in her treatment program and I turned her down. She was driven and motivated, and we both felt that boxing would make her stronger.  But she listened and understood why it was important to wait.  So we waited one more cycle.  We started on March 21st this year.

She had never hit anything before.  I started teaching her boxing, punching technique and then the heavy bag.  I taught her a little about strength training because of course she lost a lot of weight and muscle.   I gave her a routine for the hospital and showed her how to use the resistance tubes.  We also threw in a few exercises for the butt.  Cancer was not going to keep her from a firm butt.

Jenna has been writing in her blog.  It is cleverly called Kill it in the Butt!. Along with the support of the Imerman Angels, she shared her process, struggles, frustrations, daily successes, daily tragedies and life with the world.    Her blog, which has had over 41,000 reads, has provided a healthy platform to spread her approach to dealing with the lymphoma.

My first workout with Jenna fell on the lucky day she always looked forward to during the chemo when she could handle being physically pushed.  So I told her it was going to be great re-building her body the way she wanted.  She could start from scratch to have the shape she dreamed of –no freshman 15 to haunt you, no bad break up weight could stand in her way and no summer of every Cubs game in the bleachers was going to prevent her from having the dream butt and legs.   These are the average young woman’s nemesis’.  She basically said right on!

Our second training session came about 21 days later and the third 21 days after that.  She was side tracked by a vicious bacterial infection that proved to be the worst day and week of her entire fight against the cancer.  Hey but we still boxed and even learn some kicks.  I gave her new exercises for the hospital room and her bed room.  She did them.  Then it was May, as spring was sprung so was Jenna – from the hospital.  She has had 2 clean CT scans since.

Well, what has Jenna been doing in her POW! workouts?  Take a look and see how she Kills it in the Butt.

“There is a fine line between vulnerability and strength and the desire to live is stronger than pain.” These are Jenna’s words in a speech she recently gave in Grant Park.  These are my favorite lines from a speech she recently gave in Grant Park.

So here are a couple of famous lessons most life long martial artists discover, and learn

Lao-tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Bruce Lee,  “Knowing is not enough we must apply.  Willing is not enough we must do.”

Sun Tzu, Art of War, “Opportunities will multiply as they are seized.”

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