Cancer survivor personal trainer for
others in need
By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer
"Not everyone is Lance
Armstrong," says Suzanne Mulenos. "He’s an exception to the rule
about post cancer care. He’s an anomaly."
Armstrong, who has won the
Tour de France bicycle marathon three times, is a survivor of testicular cancer.
Mulenos, a Sun Valley resident for the past four years, is not only a breast
cancer survivor but also a registered nurse. She has turned her passion for
physical training into a practice by helping cancer survivors with their
While living in Seattle with
her family, Mulenos worked as a nurse and a personal trainer.
One of the things she learned
from her dual career is that some medications can affect a patient’s ability
Mulenos was diagnosed with
breast cancer when she was 43. "Aggressive surgical and medical radiation
was applied to the disease," she said in the medical jargon that peppers
her speech. "I think of myself as cancer free."
Shortly thereafter, the
family moved to Sun Valley.
"Instead of being
victimized, you have to take charge," Mulenos said. "The wake-up call
gives you permission to live a life that expresses your passions."
Her wake-up call convinced
her to help others heal and strengthen after treatment for cancer.
"I live my passion to
work with oncology patients." She feels her position as both a former
patient and a nurse gives her an authentic perspective.
"Once patients are done
with all the stuff, then what? There’s a huge schism. They can fall into the
victim mode or they can become proactive," Mulenos said.
Mulenos uses several methods
to aid in a patient’s recovery, working with an oncology nutritionist in
Seattle and in collaboration with the patient’s primary physician. These
methods include rehabilitating areas affected by radiation, surgery and
"We do three things for
cancer: burn, slash or poison."
The procedures come with
recovery needs: rebuilding muscle structure after surgery, rebuilding nutrition
based diets and helping to rebuild physical confidence.
Stress is a high risk factor
in cancer, and can "severely impact’s ones immune system," Mulenos
"In a nutshell, stress
increases cortisol in the system, which may be a pathway to cancer cell
production." Cortisol, a necessary steroid hormone, is made in the adrenal
glands adjacent to the kidneys.
For her clients, Mulenos
recommends relaxation techniques that may be anything from having a talisman to
hold—worry beads, a rosary, or a piece of crystal—to meditation, yoga or
"I’m not a spiritual
counselor but reattaching to one’s spirituality is effective. I’ve learned a
lot and have been exposed to a lot. I hope to empower them and make cancer a
turning point in their lives.
"But people get
desperate, so if I’m out of my realm, I send them to appropriate people like
therapists or priests."
Her clients also keep a food
journal. Mulenos helps her clients improve their diets, alcohol and calorie
intake, and teaches them how to balance fats, protein and carbohydrates. She
said improving antioxidant intake is vital but not until after treatment.
Antioxidants are found in teas but also in brightly colored vegetables and
fruits, ranging from purples, reds and oranges to yellows.
"Also, the spicier the
food the better, and dark chocolate is wonderful," she added gleefully.
Mulenos shows her passion by
being extremely knowledgeable and curious about cancer. She stays updated on the
latest news regarding cancer treatments and recovery. Indeed, Mulenos was a
vocal participant at the recent Expedition Inspiration Breast Cancer Research
public forum at River Run Lodge. She asked so many thought provoking questions
the panelists finally had to ask her to let others get a word in.
Mulenos, who was a
competitive swimmer in her youth, has run the Danskin Women‘s Triathalon four
times. For the first two years, her whole team was made up of cancer survivors.
"Two years ago we finished in the top 10 overall," she said proudly.
Today, she trains at both
Thunder Spring and the Sun Valley Athletic Center. In addition, she’s involved
with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Music Conservatory.
She approaches all forms of
cancer in her work, but says breast cancer is her specialty based upon
experience. Part of her message to her patients is to live.
"You have to take more
from cancer than it takes from you. An unrequited life is a failure."