Challenge Accepted: A Breast Cancer Survivor and Her Best Friend Find Fitness Inspiration in an Unlikely Source

By Alyson Ward

Shvon Lowe, 39, is a four-year breast cancer survivor. She knows her health is irreplaceable, and that healthy food and exercise are part of her long-term recovery. But by the end of a busy 2018, smart eating and exercise had taken a back seat in her life.

She had a new gym membership, “but I wasn’t going as often as I wanted to,” she said. And she wasn’t sure how to turn it around.

Lowe found herself at a turning point. She wanted to lose some weight and knew she needed to get active again. So when she learned about Memorial Hermann’s Resolution challenge, she decided to give it a try.

Resolution, a free five-week program offered by Memorial Hermann, is designed to provide the tools needed to help create a healthier life. For Lowe, it also lit a spark of motivation.

Lowe – who works at Memorial Hermann as an administrative manager in Supportive Medicine – was one of more than 20,000 people to sign up for the first challenge, which launched in January 2019.

Throughout the program’s five weeks, she received weekly emails filled with meal plans, recipes, at-home workout plans, useful articles, and videos that demonstrated workouts and recipe prep.

A Resolution recipe is what first caught Lowe’s eye.

“It was a cauliflower stir-fry,” she recalled. “And I was interested in different ways to use cauliflower as a rice replacement.”

The dish turned out to be delicious: a hearty mix of vegetables tossed with soy sauce and sesame seeds, which she served on a bed of cilantro-and-lime-seasoned cauliflower rice.

So Lowe tried another Resolution entrée – a ground pork egg roll bowl, which offered all the goodness of an egg roll without the fried-dough casing.

Her kitchen success turned out to be the push Lowe had needed.

“I quickly decided that, in addition to managing what I eat, I should also focus on my exercise routines,” she said. “Based on my inspiration from Resolution, I said ‘I need to make some changes.’”

That’s when Lowe brought in her best friend, Candace Fountain.

Fountain, 37, has also beat breast cancer. She works at Memorial Hermann as a manager of projects and strategic initiatives. And like her friend, Fountain was looking to “get right” with her diet and exercise.

Lowe started sharing Resolution recipes with Fountain – especially the veggie-heavy recipes, because Fountain had just adopted a mostly plant-based diet. But they knew they could do more to help each other.

“We always talk food,” Fountain said. “I think at that point we decided exercise needs to be a part of it. As part of our long-term health and (cancer) prevention, we’ve got to start exercising.”

So the two became accountability partners. Inspired by Resolution’s workout ideas, Lowe and Fountain started walking and following exercise videos online.

The pair even completed a three-month boot camp together: “The only reason I finished was because of Shvon,” Fountain said.

Memorial Hermann’s Resolution program is designed to offer support for healthy lifestyle changes. It was created with input from Memorial Hermann dietitians and affiliated physicians, IRONMAN trainers and wellness coaches.

Participants get a roadmap for success: Each week, an email is delivered to their inbox with a five-day meal and workout plan. The recipes are integrated with H-E-B’s website so users can send the ingredients they need straight to their online cart, for fast and easy checkout. Participants are also offered guided meditations and an invite to join a closed Facebook group that provides motivational reminders.

Throughout the Challenge, Lowe would get Resolution emails that reminded her what her goals were: “I would get a reminder about increasing my activity, making mindful decisions.”

After three months, Lowe and Fountain had lost 22 pounds each and say they feel better than ever.

And Lowe has become dedicated to eating right. She has picked up the meal-prepping habit. On weekends, she fills containers with chicken, fish and lots of vegetables so it will be easy to grab healthy meals all week.

She also packs plenty of healthy snacks so she’ll be prepared for stress-induced cravings.

Since her weight loss, Lowe has signed up for the Resolution program again and decided to find better ways to relieve stress. Now she uses breathing exercises and practices qigong, which is similar to tai chi.

Just before the holidays, Lowe and Fountain signed up for another rigorous workout program together.

“I think our resolution has always been to empower each other with more education, more support, and just more overall health,” said Lowe.

READY TO JOIN RESOLUTION? Go to: http://www.memorialhermann.org/resolution/signup

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Ali Vise