Life doesn’t always give you lemons – a statement that rings particularly true for Shari Whittaker who was forced to put her active lifestyle on hold not once, but twice since 2004 after being diagnosed with breast cancer and then, three years later, with colorectal cancer.
While her time spent dealing with illness was long and challenging, this driven optimist redirected her experience into a positive outlook, taking up photography during her recovery and wasting no time getting herself back into the routine of living a healthy lifestyle once she completed her treatment. Shari is proud of her abilities as a self-taught Photoshop editor and has since produced an impressive array of unique and stunning photographs.
Shari started working with us in July of 2008 after being given the okay to start exercising again. Her trainer, Janet, feels privileged to have worked with her for so long, stating: “This amazing lady has had some major health issues in her life and yet she has the best attitude I have ever seen. Over the years I have gotten to know her as someone who truly does not know the meaning of ‘giving up’. She knows the importance of taking care of yourself to be able to enjoy the things you love the most in life and truly believes that it’s never to late to get started.”
Today, Shari remains happily married to an incredible guy with whom she rescues Dachshund dogs (they’ve enjoyed 4 so far) and loves to travel. She feels extremely lucky to have seen so much of the world in the last 30 years but still continues to hold onto a strong love for our beautiful city, feeling nothing but wonderful things towards West Van and Vancouver, where she has lived for all of her 72 years.
When did you realize it was important to take care of your health?
2003. At 60 I felt I was getting out of shape and needed more exercise and checked out the local community gym. I started going regularly and then was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. I had to take a break in routine but got back to the gym within a year.
In 2007 I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and went through a bad year. I had two long sessions in hospital and because I had to wear an ileostomy bag for a year I did not feel comfortable working out. After that I knew I really needed to keep up my workouts because I wanted to do everything I could to prevent getting sick again. Mid 2008 I got back to the gym and saw Janet training someone, asked if she could help me and the rest is history!
What keeps you going?
Janet’s inspiration – and the fact that I always feel better about myself and my body after I have done a session at the gym. I know this helps strengthen my bones. I recently had a serious fall getting out of the way of a bike and I honestly feel if I had not been keeping up with my strength training I would have broken a hip or an arm.
What is one thing that you’re really proud of?
Keeping up with my workouts three times a week. Feeling the strength to do most things I want (lots of walking, snowshoeing or biking). I am also proud that I have taught myself so much about photography and editing software. I think we need goals and hobbies in our lives that keep us active for our bodies and brain.
What’s one thing that you’re passionate about personally? Something you really enjoy…
Surprise – I love shopping! I really enjoy both fashion and design. I like to keep both myself and our condo up to date and if there is a store around it is hard to keep me out of it!!!
What helps motivate you to not give up?
My morning Nespresso coffee.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Just try to live one day at a time.
What’s your favourite quote?
Life is not a rehearsal.
Where can we find you on a typical Sunday?
If weather nice – walking with husband and dog and stopping for a bite or coffee at an outdoor cafe.
Raining – curled up with a good book.