Faced with adversities, fitness coach vows ‘to make just about every day count’

Existence has offered Ashley McCallum plenty of motives to shed sight of her objective, to open her individual health studio.

But if there is everything the 38-12 months-old Spotsylvania County woman has acquired from the adversities of the previous 5 years—the decline of hair, then skin cancer, a critical motorcycle incident, then the discovery of a risky ailment lurking inside of her—it’s that she’d improved get on with everyday living even though she can.

McCallum located out 6 months back she has an aortic aneurysm, a bulge in the wall of the principal vessel that carries blood from the coronary heart to the relaxation of the physique. It’s getting monitored, and she’ll need to have open up-coronary heart surgical treatment if it grows.

Right until then, she’s pressing forward with classes at Smash Athletics, her new studio in the Massaponax area that formally opens later this 7 days. Her cardiologist has reported the routines are very good for her heart but cautioned her to not grow to be a physique builder and pressure to carry weighty stuff.

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As a final result, McCallum is entrance and centre, encouraging students of assorted ages and sizes to comply with her lead and kick, punch and if not knock the crap out of something standing in the way of their desires.

“Life is so important and so fragile and recognizing, hey, I have this detail in my heart that could explode at any 2nd, I could be a goner, I have to have to make each and every day depend,” she mentioned. “It is a constant reminder each individual working day, that I’m going to reside lifetime to the fullest.”

As the only female in a household of soap-box derby opponents that spanned a number of generations, Ashley Lohr was a little bit of a princess, she says. Right after superior faculty, she was schooling to turn into a nurse but scrapped that plan when she fell in like with conditioning lessons.

She also fell in appreciate with her long term husband when she was 14. Jeff McCallum was a deejay at a skating rink and 8 many years her senior, and she had a massive-time crush. The two met once again a few a long time afterwards, following he’d married and returned to the place from California. She was his waitress at Purple Lobster.

In advance of he still left the cafe, she questioned what he was undertaking that night time. He claimed, “I’m getting you out,” and both gushed, for the duration of a latest job interview, that they’ve been together ever considering the fact that. That was, of training course, soon after she designed confident he wasn’t continue to married and he was particular she’d turned 18.

He experienced a son, Logan, from his initial marriage, then he and Ashley had a few boys together: Tylor, Bryce and Liam. When she designed postpartum despair, along with anxiety and body weight gain, following the start of her next child, she turned to team health and fitness for aid.

It adjusted her, bodily and mentally, he claimed. She needed to become a conditioning teacher and help many others the way she’d been helped.

“Word distribute of her talents,” he mentioned, and her ability to assist men and women adjust how they felt and seemed, within and out.

In 2017, Ashley McCallum was asked to audition for Les Mills United states, element of a company with 20,000 golf equipment worldwide. She used to be on the trainer, assessor and presenter workforce, instructing pupils and instructors in classes about body combat and physique attack. The crew was sponsored by Reebok.

Then her hair begun falling out.

Her hairdresser seen a bald patch on the aspect of her head. Ashley McCallum and other exercise instructors experienced worn their hair in corn rows as portion of a new method start, and she believed the rubber bands may well have been as well restricted.

Then, her extensive, brownish-blonde hair started out slipping out in clumps. In a make any difference of 6 months, she was absolutely bald and dropped her eyelashes, eyebrows and every strand of hair on her system.

She jokes now that “from the neck down it’s wonderful since I under no circumstances need a razor,” but it was no laughing subject at the time.

Ashley McCallum inevitably was diagnosed with alopecia, an vehicle-immune dysfunction that results in the overall body to assault its personal hair follicles. For months, she tried using many treatments and analysis to decide the lead to but got no responses.

“At 1st it was far more of an identification detail, I was like, oh, gentleman, I’m a lady and I really do not have any hair, what is going on?” she reported. “It was challenging to phase out into the earth and seem distinct.”

Then, she determined, ample.

“I mentioned, I just have to settle for who I am and where by I’m at and I can both enable it determine me or permit it empower me,” she reported, “and I selected to permit it empower me.”

She took off her hat and bared her bald head—and then a weird place appeared above her neck.

Due to the fact she no for a longer period had hair to guard her scalp, Ashley McCallum created squamous mobile carcinoma, a common but intense kind of skin most cancers, on the back again of her head. A golf-ball sized area was eradicated, then her skull was stapled back together.

Even while she felt comfortable with her baldness, she experienced to put on hats and wigs for safety.

“I even now rock a wig mainly because I like them now,” she stated. “It took me a extended time to be in a position to say that.”

Matters have been superior for a few decades. As the revenue supervisor at Safford Dodge, Jeff McCallum was the key breadwinner and ever-supportive of his spouse. She taught classes, and produced a next at numerous fitness centers. She talked now and then about having her possess studio, but there wasn’t the likelihood to pursue it.

6 months in the past, she was on her motorbike and he was right powering her on his, heading to Central Park for some protein powder. She’d been on that extend of street a million instances, but for whatsoever cause, she mentioned the bike fell out from beneath her.

She flipped over the motorbike, into oncoming site visitors.

“I saw her lifeless physique,” he claimed.

She had 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns all over. Amazingly, almost nothing was broken, but her knees and upper arms have asphalt burned into them.

Individuals treating her were being astonished at how speedily she recovered, contacting her Superwoman and inquiring her mystery.

“Group conditioning,” she responded. “I just don’t teach, I consider the courses.”

But even as she healed from that accident and observed ease and comfort, at the time much more, in doing work out with other individuals, she was about to discover the most significant difficulty: a coronary heart aneurysm.

Dr. Alex Na, Mary Washington Healthcare’s director of cardiovascular surgery, reported her aneurysm about 4.4 centimeters in sizing, and if it grows to 5 centimeters, she’ll need operation. Getting a “fixer,” she questioned if she could just get the surgical procedures over with so she wouldn’t have a cloud hanging over her head.

He said the latest possibility was not truly worth the reward. Na also certain her that she could proceed the conditioning lessons, as prolonged as she monitored her heartrate and didn’t strain her entire body by lifting weights.

McCallum was anxious during the to start with few lessons right after the prognosis. But then she became that significantly much more enthusiastic.

“It has actually created her put her foot on the gas” to open her have studio, her spouse said.

They found a vacant studio off Southpoint Parkway, throughout from the Cracker Barrel in Massaponax. They received it prepared for pop-up lessons, right before this week’s official opening, and folks who’d experienced with Ashley McCallum at other local studios adopted her there.

Amy Cascio had taken body combat classes in Richmond and was apprehensive when she moved back to Fredericksburg in 2012 about finding a new instructor. She was “completely amazed” just after one particular class with Ashley McCallum. That sensation boost right after Cascio’s brother died two decades ago and she had to make herself go to health classes.

“Ashley served me by means of the toughest instances by her inspiration and determination,” Cascio reported. “She’s been by means of so significantly herself but absolutely nothing has saved her down.”

Tracey Goodnough of Culpeper County reported the identical, calling Ashley McCallum an “overcomer” and “motivational inspiration,” and Jeff McCallum, her major supporter.

“There are so quite a few partners, if they experienced to temperature the storms that Ashley has had with her well being and stuff, the husband would have remaining,” Goodnough reported. “It’s just been the opposite with them. It is just been lovely.”

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425


McCallum was anxious all through the very first few lessons following the prognosis. But then she became that a lot extra motivated.

“It has truly built her put her foot on the gasoline” to open up her possess studio, her partner said.

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