Back in 2015, Alison Rieman was at the top of her fitness game. She went to the gym almost every day, ate well, and gained 15 pounds of muscle.
Then she was diagnosed with cancer.
On October 6th, 2015, Alison found out that she had acute myeloid leukemia. It was an aggressive form of blood cancer that needed to be hit with an aggressive chemo regimen, she told UNILAD, and she was inches away from death.
During Alison’s first round of chemo, a gangrene toxin blew up in her gut, killing six inches of her colon. “All of my organs started shutting down and I was in excruciating pain,” she said.
She was immediately rushed into emergency surgery, nearly losing her life in the process. To save it, doctors gave her a colostomy. She spent the next six months in the hospital, losing 40 pounds and all the muscle mass she gained before she was diagnosed.
Alison: “When I lived in a cancer center, I was so weak at times, I couldn’t even get out of bed to walk to the bathroom. When I moved back home, something as simple as walking around the house was a struggle.
I came out [of the hospital] being really skinny and boney.”
She was just 103lbs at the time.
Now, She looks like this:
The photo, posted only a year and 5 months after Ali’s diagnosis, gained over 16,000 likes on Instagram.
“Before I got sick, I got really into fitness… I did weightlifting as a hobby and just being in the hospital for so long and being stuck in bed and sick for so long and feeling weak, I just wanted to get back on my feet and get stronger. I couldn’t wait for the day I could get back in the gym.
I’ve been through so much and I had every excuse to give up, but I pushed on despite the hand I was dealt.”
She’s since spent time documenting her treatment, recovery, and progress on social media to show others what cancer really looks like.
Including hair loss:
And colostomy bags:
“When I was first diagnosed I really didn’t know much about cancer. I knew cancer patients were sick and bald, and that’s really all I knew. I really just wanted to share my story so people knew what cancer patients actually went through,” Ali said.
But her progress didn’t come with ease.
Ali, who was bodybuilding before she was diagnosed with leukemia, didn’t start working out until she was cleared as cancer-free.
“I slowly started consuming more food each day and I walked on the treadmill to try to gain endurance. It was a very slow process,” she said.
While she’s avoiding cardio in order to gain weight, Ali is now able to weight lift – and does so almost every day in order to get back to where she was.
Her journey has since inspired thousands of people – nearly 8,000 on Instagram, to be exact.
And as for her incredible transformation photo, Ali says the response has been ‘incredible’.
“I had so much positive feedback. I was sent hundreds of private messages about how much I inspired people I didn’t even know. Knowing that people are inspired by my journey definitely, gives me an extra push to keep going.
I have always looked at other fitness accounts for motivation and inspiration so if I could do that for someone else, by all means, I will do it. It’s a really good feeling knowing your hard work isn’t only helping yourself, but others as well.”
Now Ali advises people in her position looking to get healthy again to do the same.
“My advice to them is this: It is going to be a challenge. Even for people who aren’t sick, it is challenging – so don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s going to take time, so be patient with yourself. Some people don’t realize that slow progress is still progress. Just don’t make it slower by quitting. It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger…And for those who are survivors- if you survived cancer treatment, you can survive a workout.
I was literally skin and bones and the progress that I made in a year is just awesome. If I can do it and I can go through being as sick as I was, anyone can do it,” she added.
The moral we learn today from Ali’s journey is that life is never, and never will be, easy for anyone in this world. Disease, money or whatsoever you can’t afford mediocrity. Push yourself and keep Ali’s story in mind next time you want to give up during that 30-minute workout.