By Rebecca Drew
MEET the bodybuilder who has been inspiring his 23.8K Instagram followers by sharing his fitness journey after he beat blood cancer twice and even managed to fit in a competition in between.
Optimum Nutrition athlete, James Kearsley (22) from Tasmania, Australia, was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in February 2014 and underwent three rounds of chemotherapy until June that year when he was announced in remission. It was during this time that he decided to share his journey on Instagram.
As soon as he felt well, James hit the gym to regain the two-stone of muscle lost during treatment and competed in his first bodybuilding show in September 2015. Three months later in December, James was once again diagnosed with Leukaemia and had to undergo two more cycles of gruelling chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow stem cell transplant.
James was finally announced in remission in July 2016 and has now been cancer free for 13-months. Incredibly, James has re-built his body to its former glory and offers personal training and coaching services to others.
“I was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in February 2014. My diagnosis was found rather early due to me being a regular blood donor leading up to that point,” said James.
“Obviously it was a great shock to everyone at the time, I had to begin chemotherapy treatment immediately and half way through my initial treatment a friend recommended I begin to document my journey via social media, so I started to post my updates, insights, and positive words on sites such as Instagram and YouTube.
“I underwent three intensive cycles of chemotherapy in 2014, most of the time was spent as an inpatient in hospital. My second diagnosis, I underwent two cycles, followed by the bone marrow transplant treatment which included chemotherapy and immunosuppressant drugs. This drug regime was one of the strongest protocols to be administered.
“I was never really prepared for the potential side effects of chemotherapy, like most people I was ignorant to it prior to experiencing it.
“Due to my blood counts being so low it caused a feeling or lethargy, not having the energy to perform any task or exercise, essentially my body was functioning on 1/8th of the cells it normally would have.
“The usual initial effects included tiredness, nausea, vomiting, aching bones. After the initial effects, my gastro intestinal tract took a heavy hit, making it very hard to eat, hence a substantial amount of weight was lost in a short time- I lost two-stone in roughly a month.”
Two years prior to his first diagnosis, James joined a gym and had gone from 10st 3lbs to 14st 13lbs in that time – he credits his active lifestyle for his speedy recovery.
“I’m a firm believer that any given situation is how you perceive it. Obviously, a cancer diagnosis is a scary thing but I was not going to let it break me. I was determined to fight and to win,” he added.
“Negative thinking brings literally no benefits, so I would never give it the time of day, each day was focused on the goal in mind.
“I never wanted to fall victim to the victim mentality, asking ‘why me’ and feeling sorry for myself – that would not accomplish anything.
Instead I saw it as an opportunity to gain a new perspective on the world and to help other people experiencing their own battles.
“I have absolutely no doubt that my history in sport, fitness and weight training helped me significantly during my treatment; with my prognosis and general recovery.
“I was unable to do any form of exercise during my intensive treatment, much to my disappointment.
“During my bone marrow transplant treatment, I was part of a physiotherapy clinical trial – looking into the effect of exercise on cancer patients, this was predominantly the exercise I was able to perform during that period of treatment. This included cardio assessments, strength training as well as psychological help for those who needed it.”
James trains at the gym six days a week and can squat 180kg, deadlift 220kg and bench press 140kg. He wants to stress the importance of good health and hopes to be an inspiration to others.
“I cannot stress the importance of taking care of your health,” he said.
“This means having regular blood tests, knowing your body, checking your body for anything unusual, and talking to someone if you have something on your mind.
“Within the fitness industry everyone is more concerned with their looks rather than their health, and this needs to change.
“I receive many messages from people experiencing their own cancer journey, or having a friend or family member experiencing one of their own.
“They tell me how my story and my posts have brought inspiration, motivation or hope to themselves; and that is something that motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing – because I can see the positive effect it is having with people, and I can see how many people it helps.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/jameskearsley