Jerome Snell shares his story of rebuilding strength with Kate Telge, our Community Manager, in this Tonal Talk. In August of 2019, after discovering a lump in his neck, Jerome was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. After undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment, Jerome was physically destroyed but determined to rebuild his strength and body. With Tonal, he was able to regain 30lbs of muscle and his confidence.
Let’s start with the good news. “I had a full body pet scan at the end of June, ,” Jerome shares, “so as of now, I’m cancer-free.”
On the Friday that Jerome got the doctor’s call that he had cancer, he was working on a budget deck presentation that was due on Monday. “Once I got that call, my first thought, not knowing much of anything about cancer, was how long do I have to live and being scared to death about not being able to see my daughters grow up. It’s an awful feeling. The first week was the absolute worst.”
Seven days later, Jerome went to see an oncologist for the first time and found out his cancer had metastasized. This meant he would go through a seven-week treatment plan, which consisted of daily radiation treatments from Monday to Friday and weekly chemotherapy treatments. “It was pretty horrendous. For me, the worst part wasn’t the chemo. It was the radiation.”
During his treatment, Jerome went from 190lbs to 160lbs. At 6″1, he was unrecognizable. His normal daily routine had also changed dramatically. “I’d move from the bed to the couch, and I was sleeping about 15 hours a day. I was on so many drugs. I had a fentanyl patch and a series of painkillers, and they kept the pain down and manageable, but the side effect was being exhausted all the time.”
During these months of Jerome’s life, where he was losing body mass and going through treatment, he drew strength from his wife and family. “The real story of strength, in my opinion, is my wife. Her ability to run the family, keep our three and five-year-old daughters fed, in school, and clean. Then, deal with taking me to daily appointments and having her full wits about without the luxury of sleeping 12-16 hours a day. She just was amazing.”
Images courtesy of Jerome Snell: On the left, Jerome during his treatment, on the right, post-cancer and working out with Tonal.
After finishing his treatment and getting the go-ahead from his doctor, Jerome was motivated to get some muscle back. A self-professed geek and software professional, he was attracted to Tonal’s technology and strength training component.
“I was looking into getting a real free weight set up in the garage, but my wife said no way are we taking up that much room, and it can’t go in the house because it’s ugly. Tonal is perfect. It does everything and looks like a TV on the wall.”
Installing Tonal was easy enough, but the next step was working out again. “It was tough. I didn’t know where to start, so I did a beginner course with Coach Natalie. It’s a great program, and I started moving to the intermediate and advanced programs from there. Having access to Tonal at home also made it more manageable for Jerome, and working from home has helped too. “I can get a workout in and then have lunch and [work in] the afternoon.”
After just a few months of working out with Tonal, Jerome got the confidence to do Go Big or Go Home, one of Tonal’s most challenging programs. He now weighs 170lbs, has more energy, and is starting to see muscle and definition. “It’s incredibly encouraging to see. With Tonal, I’m more consistent — it’s addictive! That’s probably the secret to the improvement I’ve made. For me, it’s partially about what you look like in the mirror, but it’s really about confidence and how you feel inside.”
For others battling cancer, or for those that have loved ones that are or going through something similar, Jerome shares this: “Going through something as traumatic as being a caregiver for a loved one with a terrible disease or having it yourself is incredibly stressful and incredibly difficult.”
“I guess the piece of advice I would give is if you are a caregiver or going through the fight yourself, and you have the energy, take the time to do something for yourself and don’t feel guilty about that.”
“[Finding your why] is critical for everybody, for your activities and especially for something you’re going to spend a lot of time doing, whether it’s strength training or work, or in my case fighting cancer. You’ve got to think of the big picture. It’s not just about curling your bicep. It’s about why I’m doing it and for who. I gained strength from my wife and kids. I wanted to stay around and be with my family longer.”
“Whether it’s working out on Tonal, going for a walk, just doing something to keep your mind right, being able to get away and lost in your thoughts is very therapeutic. It just helps, especially when you’re going through something where it’s difficult to process what’s going on and what’s next.”
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tonal Talk is a weekly Facebook Live interview series highlighting stories of real strength from within the Tonal community.