By Gareth Shoulder @garethshoulder
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Videographer / director: Alec Gary
Producer: Gareth Shoulder, James Thorne
Editor: Pete Ansell
Steph Hammerman, 29, from Knightdale, North Carolina, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth, undeterred by her condition Steph defied the odds and became the world’s first Level 2 (of 4) CrossFit trainer with cerebral palsy.
In May 2016, Steph was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an uncommon cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
After 29 weeks of chemotherapy Steph went into remission and moved to North Carolina with her boyfriend to achieve her goal of opening a gym.
Steph told Barcroft TV: “People constantly want to know, how do I overcome all these challenges in life?
“I was born with cerebral palsy; I don’t know any different.
“I like to show people how I do it by doing things every day.
“If you hang out with me for six months straight, you will realise this is my routine, this is what I do”.
Steph met her boyfriend Tyler Roach on the dating app Tinder in 2015, and after communicating via messages, the pair finally decided to meet in person on 31 October.
In the past Steph concedes she would hide her disability on her profile, but Tyler was indifferent to the fact Steph had pictures with her walking aides.
Steph said: “I made a conscious effort to just be myself because at the time you could Google me and find out whatever you wanted.
“I remember one of the things I asked him first was ‘does it bother you that I have cerebral palsy?’
“His answer was ‘would it bother you if I was pigeon toed?’”
And Tyler told Barcroft TV: “As I was scrolling through pictures, her pictures were out there with using crutches and all that kind of stuff. And it was cool, it was different.
“When we first started talking, she was really open about using accessibility devices.
“She was very optimising and very passionate about what she did.”
After five months of dating, Tyler insisted Steph visit a doctor after she was feeling excruciating post-workout pain.
Unsure the cause of the discomfort, after several hospital visits in New York, Steph was diagnosed with stage 3B Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a cancer of the lymphatic system.
She said: “Five months into our relationship he actually found my cancer. And he actually helped save my life.
“We’ve been through probably more than most people have been through in their entire lives.
“It’s a little crazy we were only dating five months and it completely changed our entire life.”
In November 2016, after 29 weeks of intense chemotherapy treatment, Steph was declared to be in remission.
Two weeks later the pair relocated to Knightdale, North Carolina.
After settling down, the couple found a space to rent across the street from their home so Steph could achieve her goal of opening her own gym.
Steph said: “I was supposed to be dead when I was born, I was supposed to be dead after my cancer, and I’m not.
“I knew that I wanted to open a gym after I was done with chemo. I had a goal I just needed to be able to get past it.
“When they told me I was cancer free in seven weeks, I was ready to go.
“It came with its challenges, it definitely came with trying to understand a new side of life, but this is my third chance of life now.”
The first time Steph stepped into a CrossFit gym was 3 May 2012 – a date she says not only changed her life but also the world.
Over the past seven years, that decision has allowed her to inspire people and help others achieve their fitness goals.
She said: “To think seven years has gone by and so much has happened in that timeframe is beyond ridiculous.
“I always knew I was going to achieve something kind of bigger than myself, but I didn’t know what that was.
“I didn’t know that seven years ago I would be such an influential part of this adaptive community and this adaptive culture.”
Steph attributes her healthy lifestyle and CrossFit to saving her life.
Steph hopes that her gym will continue to motivate others and give people the tools they need to stay driven.