One Step Ahead – Michael Washburn’s Story of Resilience
Written by Tricia Moore

Michael joined our community in June 2020. He walked in the door in April as some of us were cleaning up between sessions. He was frail and curious. It was clear he was recovering from an illness, I didn’t ask, I just welcomed him in. We chatted briefly and I kept in touch with him. He joined after reading my weekly tribe emails and got to observe our facility from afar as he continued his stem cell treatment. He lives across the street and would watch us work. He wondered what we were all about. Little did we know the influence we would have upon each other’s lives.

Invictus Mindset Podcast

Listen to Michael tell his “Story of Resilience”.

Michael wouldn’t ever want us to say it but he is a cancer survivor. He prefers to be known as someone who is staying one step ahead of his cancer. Put simply, he is managing it. For most of us, 2020 brought a year of chaos. For him all these restrictions are meaningless. He has bigger fish to fry.

He was at a low point personally and professionally. He left a lucrative job in pharmaceutical sales in 2013 and was looking to reset his life. He wasn’t personally happy despite the income. He began his search. He ended up in LA, living out his sister’s garage and working at a hotel in Santa Monica. He simply wanted to be in an environment where there was energy. It was a dark time he was at a low point financially, personally, and spiritually.

In Jan 2015, he went for happy hour beers with a friend. He got up from a barstool pain and experienced extreme pain in his lower back. As he got home it worsened. He went to the ER and after multiple tests he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Follicular Lymphoma, an incurable cancer. Despite treatment, he was warned it will be back in 10, 20, 30 years. He was alone and doctors were very guarded with their words. He was frightened and felt he had brought this on himself. 

He reflects back on his negative self talk…“It was my fault, your life isn’t working for you. You need to figure out what is going to make you happy.” He knew life going forward would be different, it had to be. No longer did he have expectations he simply wanted to survive. 

He made three major changes…

  1. Work that brought joy – not prioritizing money.
  2. Desire to take care of his health more – keep up with his habits. 
  3. Spend more time with family – everyone who showed up for him. 

In October 2019, he was diagnosed again. He lifted his arm in the middle of the night and felt a lump. He knew, and he thought this wasn’t supposed to happen yet. He was thankful to be working at UCSD. And he was thankful he had developed good habits, because this lump was different. The cancer had returned and it was growing faster. He needed to show up for himself in a big way for the rest of his life. He knew he needed to do more to manage his care.  

Today he feels his job is to outpace his cancer. He does this by eating clean, showing up to workout, and by staying on track with doctor care. He controls what he can and lets the rest go. He sees his job as to remove whatever he can to keep his environment as healthy and clean as best it can. He knows he needs to stay one step ahead of it. Walking in the door in April of 2020 was Michael staying one step ahead of it.  

Here’s what Michael’s learned through all of this and his time at Invictus…

“Release yourself from expectations. Moving through adversity requires that you are kind to yourself. For me, I go back to ‘showing up’ for myself. And, it’s easy  to forget. To workout, to make sure I’m eating healthy, not drinking, and taking good care to be around people who support me, and add value. I still must remind myself of this. I belong to a fitness community because I may not show up for myself and I need the support. I remind myself it’s an inspiration to see others, to see them meet their goals – others motivate me. I’m here for the community.

Battle Cancer Program

Invictus is proud to partner with the Battle Cancer Program to help more people like Michael regain their strength and stamina and to take back their lives. 

The Battle Cancer Program puts cancer survivors in local gyms and provides them with a free, 12-week functional fitness course of two free classes per week. The training is specifically built with survivors in mind, while groups are kept small to foster a community of peer support through a shared experience of cancer. We are honored to be a part of this program and have our team of coaches oversee this very important piece of a survivor’s comeback plan.

The program is available online worldwide for FREE for anyone in post-cancer treatment. We will offer the same program – in-house – that will be overseen by Coaches Fritz Nugent, Tricia Moore, and TJ O’Brien. If you know anyone who would benefit from this program or are interested in learning more about what they do, please visit the Battle Cancer Program website


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