The idea of being a cancer coach sprung to Chris Irwin’s head from someplace familiar.
The 47-year-old had been an avid outdoorsman and fitness junkie in the years leading up to his head and neck cancer diagnosis in January 2012, and unlike most, he managed to stay that way through five months of radiation treatment.
According to his doctors, Irwin also suffered fewer treatment-related side effects than most patients, despite undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy. He once even requested an extra treatment for the boost the IVs gave to his emaciated, often dehydrated, frame.
Now more than a year into remission, Irwin figured his was a story worth sharing.
That’s when the former pee wee football coach started his website, cancercoachchris.com — a place, Irwin said, where people with cancer can feel motivated, rather than nursed, back to health.
“The exercise world I was very familiar with; the cancer world I was not,” he said. “I was looking for a name that could show people ‘you can beat this,’ and that’s what I’m trying to offer: The opportunity to be a coach, to motivate people.”
He doesn’t want for experience on the motivation front. Irwin said he spent the better part of last year forcing himself to do whatever he could at the gym, which sometimes wasn’t much.
There were times, he added, when he maybe shouldn’t have even been there, but the medicine behind Irwin’s madness was always sound, according to Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada oncologist Dr. Khoi Dao.
“There are several studies showing that patients who exercise fare a lot better than those who don’t,” Dao said.“A lot of times people end up in the hospital because they can’t eat, can’t drink, but patients who exercise make it through treatment a lot easier.
“Chris is a great example of that. He’s one of the few who can push himself to stay active.”
Today, Irwin takes it upon himself to spread that gospel mainly through his website, which is aimed specifically at motivating fellow cancer patients to work out as hard as they can — whether that means a few minutes on the stationary bike or a short walk around the block.
What started as a personal blog with 20,000 total page views has grown into a professionally appointed multimedia website and a sponsored radio show on KLAV (1230 AM), both of which recently helped Irwin earn a paid cancer advice gig through answers.com.
The reason for that growth, Irwin said, is the novelty of the cancer coach concept. Through exercise and stubbornness, Irwin’s doctors agree that he was able to improve his cancer treatment outcomes.
Now, through awareness and lots of his own time, he hopes to help others do the same.
If that means walking readers around the block himself, Irwin said, that’s what he’ll do.
“My doctors were very supportive of me continuing to exercise,” Irwin said. “There were times where they were shocked that I kept at it, but it just kind of made sense to me that if I am having these chemicals pumped in my body, that I should keep the heart pumping and the blood flowing, that it might make (treatments) more beneficial.
“I believe exercise helped me beat cancer, and that’s what I’m trying to get out there.”
For more information on Irwin, visit cancercoachchris.com. For more information on Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, visit cccnevada.com.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at 702-477-3839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.