A life transformed: Local man embraces fitness after beating cancerBy Kelsey Oates
The sinewy strings tighten as places are called and participants grow quiet. Muscles contract, held in tension, as eyes focus on the backs of the competition. Everything is still when the gun goes off, unleashing an explosion of energy that launches a thick pack of tangled up runners onto the course and into the race.
Their muscles will combine with adrenaline to propel them toward the finish line, pushing them up sudden hills and sending them around the ensuing twists and turns. Their lungs will expand so often and so deeply that quick cramps will hit. As the hours pass by, their bodies will slowly break down until they pass the finish line triumphant, or collapse onto the crunchy gravel.
The hamstring, the muscle that connects the hip and the knee, is crucial to an athlete’s success, helping to lift and force forward the runner’s body. So how do you run 13.1 miles when you’re missing half your hamstring?
Five years ago, Wayne Shulman, a native of Canton who graduated from CHS in 1990, was itching for something new. The excitement of the bar scene was dissipating and the 3 a.m. food runs were starting to catch up with him.
Tentatively, he began exploring the gym, lifting weights at Fuzion Sports Club in Canton for the first time in his life. He enjoyed his new hobby so much that he even found himself working out while visiting his parents down south.
Stretching under the sun, a trainer approached Shulman, unintentionally upending — and possibly saving — the 34 year old’s life. A bulge the size of a Florida orange was protruding from the back of his left leg.
After he returned to Boston for testing, Shulman received what he called the “worst phone call of [his] life.” What he thought was simply a part of his leg was actually Grade 2 liposarcoma, a rare type of malignant tumor that grows in the fat cells in deep soft tissue.
A surgery was immediately scheduled, followed by six to eight weeks of radiation. Contrary to the typical image of a waif-like patient, Shulman actually gained weight while he underwent treatment, packing on 50 pounds as he waited for his body to recover.
As his lymphatic and immune systems grew stronger, Shulman craved a return to the gym. He had dipped his toe in the world of fitness and he could not wait to get back.
Once he was rid of the cancer, he had to combat the disease’s effects on his physique and mentality. By 2008, the 6’1” IT specialist at Harmonix had reached 242 pounds. Shulman credits his new outlook on life and the efforts of his personal trainer, Mike McDonald, for helping with his weight loss goals and his newfound love of the healthy life.
“I feel like I’ve become a different person by working out with him,” Shulman said of McDonald, who graduated from CHS in 2007.
McDonald insists it is all his client’s doing. “He is an animal,” McDonald said. “I have never seen a person who has as much drive as him. He is dedicated, passionate, and loves what he does.”
Shulman’s dedication to working out and running half marathons has transformed his social life as well. He calls any of his fellow gym goers, once distant lifters and runners, his friends. His peers cite his passion despite his deficit as an inspiration in their own activities.
“I’m truly honored to work with Wayne,” McDonald said. “He reminds me why I love my job and fitness. The experience has been a blessing.”
Shulman is entertaining the idea of doing something more with his love of exercise, to fulfill his own sense of satisfaction and as a means of helping others. Affected so deeply by his own experiences, he might want to become a trainer.
As his time lying limp on the couch — fresh radiation burns still stinging — moves farther behind him, the cloud of cancer is disappearing, freeing up Shulman to pursue new goals.
“The cancer was a big life-changer,” he said. “I don’t want to go back to the way I was before.”
Whatever he ends up doing, working out at Fuzion will likely be a key part of Shulman’s life as a means of staying slim, keeping focused, and having fun.
“When I’m exercising, I don’t think of anything else,” he said. “Just being healthy.”
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