Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, Heather Colby, a fitness instructor, took her POUND exercise classes outside, starting with about 10 people in a local park where she lives in Long Island, New York. It was a welcome break for her class to get moving and do something social safely.
“Some people who watched the POUND class in the park also asked to try and that way we met new people,” she said. “I know it’s helping people to have a workout – it lets out frustration! – but doing extra classes on the side helps me to give back to something that is near and dear to my heart.”
Heather’s mother-in-law, Elyn, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in November 2020. She initially had surgery for a tumor on her head due to skin cancer – an 11-hour procedure. A post-surgery full-body scan revealed a large kidney tumor, and rather than leave the hospital, Elyn opted to have her kidney removed right away.
“My mother-in-law has been fighting the good fight,” Heather said. “She’s the strongest lady I know, she’s been through so much.”
Heather’s POUND class is cardio-focused dancing with weights.
“It’s one of my favorites, you’re rocking out when you’re working out,” she said. “It’s good music, it’s jumping and a lot of floor work, a lot of squats – a full body workout. It’s not like running on a treadmill, you forget that you’re working out!”
The class was a good physical and mental outlet for her and others during the pandemic. After seeing her mother-in-law go through her cancers and surgeries, Heather put her skills to work on raising awareness and funds for kidney cancer research.
“Fundraising is a good way to help, if you can raise money for something you’re passionate about,” she said. “And even if people have busy schedules, if a POUND class is a half hour of one day, we can make it happen.
Heather’s first fundraiser was a success and she’s preparing to hold a second one this year in partnership with Crunch gym in Bellmore, NY with fellow instructor Josine (pictured above). She has plans to make it an annual event.
After the surgery, further scans showed some of Elyn’s cancer tissue remained and it had spread to the other kidney and a lung, meaning she was stage 4.
The family rallied, found a local doctor they liked, and Elyn started immunotherapy and continues to be monitored and managed for side effects like colitis. Heather, her wife Meagan, and son Caleb live nearby and Heather’s schedule allows her to help Elyn, a retired elementary school teacher, during the days if she needs it.
“I’d say try to stay as positive as you can, even though it’s hard,” Heather said. “Unless it’s pouring or snowing, I’m doing these fundraisers so I can help in some way.”