Lynn Friebel, 55, has a half-glass-full attitude when presented with trials and tribulations.
About eight years ago, she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in her left thigh. Following the surgery, she was advised to steer clear of running — one of her favorite forms of exercise.
But instead of dwelling on what she couldn’t do, she focused on what she could do.
“When they told me about my leg, that I couldn't exercise or walk up the steps, I thought, ‘Well, I can still move my upper body,'” the Shelby resident said. “So I was still able to do some exercises.”
Thanks to physical therapy and determination, she was able to run again, just not like she used to, she said.
But then her running came to another halt last year when her C2 vertebra (located in the neck) shifted out of alignment, causing severe head pain — what she described felt like an “explosion” in her head.
Doctors advised her to rest.
“I'm always moving and being physical, so I'm like, ‘Great, what am I going to do now,’” she said.
She managed to get her exercise fix by following along to workout videos on her laptop.
Typically she’s the one leading fitness classes — something she’s done for over 35 years.
Fitness has played a major role in her life ever since she was a teenager decked out in shiny tights and leg warmers working out to jazzercise. She started weight lighting with her brother around 16, and later became a weight lifting instructor in her 20s.
In 2014 she opened Adeva Fit in Shelby, a full-service fitness center for women.
“This all came from having the malignant melanoma,” she said. “I just really started to think about life a little bit differently.”
She maintained a busy schedule at the fitness center, not initially realizing how taxing that would be on her body.
“I was doing all the classes so I'd get up at four o'clock in the morning and get home at nine o'clock at night,” she said. “Sometimes I'd be too tired to even shower.”
These days she’s careful about the type of exercises she performs considering the cervical shift of her C2.
“I’m more mindful of what type of movements I do. I do still do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes; I just don't do the jumping,” she said.
“I know my body well, so I don't do anything that's going to cause any type of injury.”
She regularly teaches restorative yoga at her fitness center and SilverSneakers at the Shelby Community and Senior Center.
It would have been easy and understandable for Friebel to give up on teaching classes altogether while coping with chronic pain, especially when she’s told to avoid certain exercises.
“Basically what (the doctors) said was, ‘You're going to have to find a lifestyle that you can deal with this pain.’ That meant my running was done and jumping, anything like that,” she said.
But in true Friebel fashion, she focused on what she still was able to do.
“I was trying to think how I could still help people if I physically can't move as well as I normally do,” she said. In brainstorming ideas, she decided to become certified in holistic nutrition.
“I just wanted to learn more, basically how to help myself regain, I call it my ‘oneness,’ and then to help other people,” she said.
“I had never experienced chronic pain. I had heard other people talk about it and I could always sympathize with them and feel sorry for them, but I really didn't have that empathy because I didn't understand it, I guess, so that's why I decided to go into this holistic health coaching.”
As she personally has implemented holistic nutrition principles in her own life, she’s noticed a change.
"I started doing the elimination diet and noticed all the swelling was going down and that I could move better. I didn't have that brain fog,” she said.
Finding a diet plan that works has proven especially helpful as she was also diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
The health battles she’s encountered are enough to make any person frustrated. What’s helped Friebel through it all is staying positive and clinging to hope.
Before getting out of bed in the morning she reads her daily devotional. She also has found meditation to be healing.
She hopes to encourage others to look on the bright side.
“I just tell people, ‘Don't look at what you can't do, look at what you can do,’” she said.