It is often said that every cloud has a silver lining —this definitely holds true for Cheryl Kire Achumi, a breast cancer survivor. After being detected with the illness, she didn’t let the trials and tribulations bog her down. Instead, she took on the challenge of beating cancer, and marched forward to help other women like herself find holistic solutions to fitness.
Achumi serves as an inspiration for other breast cancer survivors, who often lose hope of living post diagnosis. With this type of cancer spreading far and wide in India (and all over the world), it is crucial that early diagnosis happens for survival, she believes.
In a freewheeling chat with HealthShots, Achumi shares all about her journey, her entrepreneurial ventures, and what gives her courage to navigate through troubled times.
Although the very mention of cancer sends shivers down the spine, Achumi believes that the damage can still be contained, if the illness is detected on time. As women, we don’t pay much attention to our health, and instead focus on domestic responsibilities and other chores. That’s where the problem lies, she believes.
“Women don’t take a proactive approach to health. Most of our time goes in taking care of our kids or husband. Plus, even when it comes to health, we rely on our husbands or the men in our families to take us for check-ups, even when we can do it ourselves. This has also happened in my case, and I have seen it otherwise too, since I am a part of a cancer support group,” she shares.
Unlike how women push their husbands or fathers to go for regular medical monitoring, no one does it with them. That’s why it is essential that we take charge of our own health, and not neglect it!
Although being diagnosed with cancer came in as a rude shock, Achumi was rather stable, since she suffered various challenges in the past. “I had already experienced struggles in the past. After I got married, I could not have children for six and a half years, and went through multiple miscarriages. It was a dark phase in my life. After that, I had my two boys, a year apart. I think recalling how I overcame this gave me confidence to deal with this turmoil,” she says.
Achumi had to undergo three clinical operations, six rounds of chemotherapy and 15 rounds of radiotherapy. Fortunately, the cancer was nipped in the bud, and she had a second chance at life.
“I wanted to make my life better, and wanted to switch to a clean lifestyle. I had in mind that gaining strength is important. So, I became conscious of my diet, exercise regime, and started looking for a gym to work out in. It was difficult to find the right kind of space, because either they were unhygienic or didn’t have a proper trainer. Because of my treatment, I had gained a lot of weight, and I was determined to lose it, and get my life back on track,” adds Achumi.
Also Read: Cancer will be scary only when you get scared, says this 63-year-old ‘fighter’
Due to the absence of proper gyms, it was her husband who started to train her, after training in certain fitness courses.
“We realised that there was a gap that exists in the fitness industry, and people who had conditions like me had nowhere to go. I had no one to give me proper training. I was also recommended to a physiotherapist, but I realised that I needed something else. That’s how my husband and I decided to start our own gym. Although I was already an entrepreneur, this was something rather different,” explains Achumi.
Based out of Dimapur, the City Gym is a gender-inclusive gym that helps to take care of people’s health and fitness goals in a holistic manner. In September 2016, she opened its first centre — it emerged as the first-ever gym in the city to have a dedicated ‘women’s fitness section’ incorporated into their facility.
The raging success of her enterprise prompted Achumi to add another location in 2019. The enterprise has till date served the fitness needs of 400+ clients from in and around Dimapur.
“The troubling thought that there must be so many around me and like me – who might be struggling to find a proper fitness centre equipped to handle the special cases with expertise, is what moved us to action instantly. From that point onwards, there was no looking back. Through the years, our fitness centres have inclusive space for people of all age groups and socio-economic backgrounds seeking fitness training. My aim and vision is to empower and enable as many people as possible to become the fittest version of themselves,” she says.
Being a lifelong learner, Achumi has upgraded her credentials over the years to become a certified diet and nutrition coach, and fitness trainer herself. She is today a member of various national and international cancer survivors’ peer groups.
“I am backed and supported by ‘Her&Now-Empowering Women Entrepreneurs’, implemented by GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This is in partnership with the Government of India’s Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MoSDE). It is with their support that my entrepreneurial journey has been so smooth,” she explains.
The pandemic caused heavy losses to their gyms, right at a time when they were in the process of opening up their third centre. In March 2020, when the first lockdown was announced, Achumi and her partner had to deal with various financial and emotional struggles.
“It was also around then that we opened up a home gym for older clients, with proper safety protocols. I believe that the pandemic has increased awareness among people regarding the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and so many women have signed up to our gym. I am thrilled about that,” she adds, sharing that they launched a football centre last year, and a preschool for kids.
The future looks bright, with Achumi looking to turn her roadblocks into milestones at every step!
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