Kandace Hudspeth, Vice President of Brand Innovation for Bodybuilding.com and founder of the women's wellness brand Nourish + Bloom, always prided herself on her discipline and determination.
Throughout her adult life, she used the gym to develop both qualities, pushing her limits on a regular basis. Along with her successful career, the skills she built helped her become a national-level figure competitor and then a competitive CrossFit athlete. She's also famous at the Bodybuilding.com headquarters for her regular "Conditioning with Kandace" workout class, without a doubt the sweatiest 60 minutes of anyone's week.
But recently, Hudspeth had to see how well those skills would stand up to the ultimate test, when her doctor told her she had cancer. Fortunately, the illness was caught at a very early stage. But the treatment was still going to be significant: major surgery, months of rehab, and her physical training coming to a standstill.
But that didn't mean she had to take the news lying down. Here's how this powerful woman planned ahead so she could bounce back.
Pre-Op: Create A Comprehensive Plan
Hudspeth says she was heartbroken when her doctor told her to expect a period of 'limited movement, bed rest, and no lifting' following the surgery.
"Managing the news of a medically necessitated hysterectomy was emotional enough. But having to face the reality of going several months without my workouts was tough," says Hudspeth. "My gym time has always been my source of strength."
While preparing for surgery, Hudspeth began searching for inspiration from athletes who had also faced major medical challenges. But instead of finding stories that could empower her with messages of hope, she found herself surrounded by tales that focused on negative aspects of the procedure, the endless physical limitations, and the hardships of recovery.
"One of the most challenging aspects of this entire experience was not being able to find a story of an athlete who faced their challenge with a positive outlook," she explains. "So I decided early on that I was going to 'flip the script' and very consciously focus on turning any negative thoughts into positive ones."
Rather than letting herself get overwhelmed by fear and worry, she focused on creating her pre- and post-op strategy. Here's what it entailed:
- Work hard while you still can. She knew that her physical health would be a pillar of resilience during her recovery, so she gave maximum effort in the gym during each training session building up to the surgery.
- Take stock of your life before it is tested. Long before she entered the operating theater, Hudspeth evaluated her nutrition and planned the exercise modifications she would make once she had the green light to train again.
- Let others in on your journey. It can be easy to withdraw during times of personal struggle. Hudspeth stayed close to her inner circle of friends, and leaned on their belief in her strength.
- Prepare for your absence. At work, Hudspeth hustled even harder to make sure nothing would skip a beat if she was unable to be at the office for a week or more.
Post-Op: Move As Much As You're Able
Hudspeth went on to have a successful surgery and immediately began the process of recovery, determined to show that while you can't always control what happens to you, you can control your attitude and actions.
From her earliest post-op hours, movement was part of her plan. She was up and walking—in a safe, limited capacity—within just a few hours of surgery. No, it wasn't easy, and yes, it hurt, but she knew that it was a crucial part of recovery, and putting it off wasn't going to make it any easier.
"Keeping my normal routine was a priority for me early on. The routine itself gave me strength and kept me moving forward with full confidence in my ability to overcome," says Hudspeth. "As my rehab progressed, I was grateful for any movement I could perform. I didn't focus on the limitations. Instead I focused on what my mind and body would let me do, and did as much of that as possible."
Believing in Yourself Is Strong Medicine
Now several months post-op, Hudspeth is back in the gym on a regular basis. Her recovery is far from over, but she says that even in the short term, she's found it has made her only more focused on her work, her fitness, and her goals.
She also has a new appreciation for the role that the mind plays in overcoming physical challenges. Here are her biggest pieces of advice for women who are about to face similar challenges:
- Don't play the "what if" game. There's nothing to be gained from it! Accept the obstacle, focus on what you can control, and lean into your strengths to guide you to success.
- Do everything you can to build discipline before it gets tested. Discipline is a powerful tool, keeping you moving forward in times of low motivation and morale. Don't wait for your challenges to strike before you prioritize it.
- Know why you're fighting, and remind yourself of it often. It's easier than you think to let the struggle control your life. Care deeply and always center on your "why."
Having made it past the most difficult part of this latest challenge, Hudspeth takes a little extra time these days to reflect on her life. Each morning, she says these words to herself: "Thankful and blessed, today I will continue to work and expect the best of my effort."
Oh, and she's back in the gym now, too, once again leading her sorely missed "Conditioning with Kandace" classes at Bodybuilding.com.
For more information or to follow Hudspeth's progress, visit her Instagram page.