Ben Dearman realized his dream of rising to the highest levels in fitness and owning a New Hampshire gym counted among the state’s top 10. He trained Navy Seals and Rangers. Then, this year, his life changed when unobtrusive swelling in his neck was diagnosed as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He’s had two biopsies and surgery to implant a power port for chemotherapy, and begun a course of treatment scheduled to go into September
But in a blog where he’s chronicling his journey, two main themes emerge: Don’t call it cancer — it’s a fight. And don’t complain about what’s happening — deal with it.
“You go through these three transformations — the person you were before, the person you become as you are going through this and the person who comes out,” the 37-year-old Dearman says. “Theoretically, I’m supposed to be done by September, but even if everything goes well I’ll have no hair on my body, my immune system will be like that of a 6-year-old, I may be 10 or 15 pounds lighter and my digestive system will be totally different. I figure it will take me at least three to six months before I’m back.”
Before the diagnosis, Dearman weighed 181 pounds and was training for one of powerlifting’s ultimate goals: the “3-4-5,” or 300-pound bench press, 400-pound back squat and 500-pound deadlift. Now, he says, his definition of exercise is different: it’s about concentrating on movement and not worrying about lifting or how hard he exercises.
The same hard work, determination and willpower that are seeing Dearman through his fight have been the pillars of his success since the Lewisburg native graduated from Bloomsburg in 2004 with a degree in exercise science. An internship at a gym near the college convinced him he loved personal training, and after graduation he landed a job as a strength training coach at Bucknell University. He then spent a year as a civilian contractor working with the Navy Seals and Rangers.
Eight years ago, he achieved his dream: opening a small gym, KDR Fitness, in Lebanon, N.H., with his girlfriend, Jamie Crowe. He now owns a 4,800-square-foot facility with eight employees.
After he wins his fight, Dearman plans to educate people about cancer the same way he’s enjoyed teaching about fitness. That’s one reason he’s doing the blog — www.bendearman.net — to develop material for a future book.
“You are more likely to meet someone who had cancer than who has had a kid – it affects one in three people,’’ Dearman says. “I want to educate people about how you go through this process. Just because you’re diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence. It means a lot of things, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think.” l
Jack Sherzer is a professional writer and principal partner with Message Prose, a communications and public relations firm in Harrisburg.