Don’t Quit

Don't QuitPam Kusar thought she had “GHD gut.” Or worse.

Anyone who’s done GHD sit-ups after a reprieve from the movement knows the feeling—getting out of bed, sneezing, laughing, crying all induce pain, if you’ve done more reps than you should have.

After her first event at her first CrossFit Games in 2015, the Masters athlete thought she had pulled a muscle doing the movement.

But the Games had ended in late July. It was September. And the pain hadn’t subsided. Kusar also noticed she had started getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

“I thought I had a urinary tract infection,” she recounted.

So Kusar visited her gynecologist.

The truth was more sinister.

An ultrasound showed a 4-inch mass on Kusar’s ovaries. The doctor called it malignant.

“It lit all up. So, they just sent me to the oncologist.”

The specialist told Kusar she needed a hysterectomy but he wouldn’t know for certain if he’d be able to remove the entire cancerous mass until he performed the surgery.

“It was kind of a shock. I just never expected that (was) going to happen to (me).”

In October, Kusar went under the knife.

The good news: The oncologist removed the entire mass. The bad news: Six weeks of recovery lay ahead before she could begin 18 weeks of chemotherapy.

“I woke up with staples all the way up my stomach,” Kusar recounted. “When you’re (lying) in bed and your family leaves the hospital and the nurse doesn’t come and you can’t even sit up, you knew your life was gonna change for a while.”

More change was coming.

During her six weeks of recovering from her hysterectomy, doctors told Kusar she tested positive for a breast cancer gene. There was an 87 percent likelihood she, like her mother, would contract the disease. Kusar had three options: do nothing and hope she was among the 13 percent; undergo additional chemotherapy; have a double mastectomy.

Kusar opted for another surgery.

“I did not want to go through chemo again after all that,” she explained.

In May 2016, doctors removed both of her breasts.

To assume Kusar, a former bodybuilder and a former competitive powerlifter, was sedentary during that time would be wrong.

While she recovered from her first surgery, Kusar started walking around inside her house. Her husband, Jerry, had bought her a wearable activity tracker to monitor her movement.

“Within days after having a hysterectomy, she’s gettin’ 26,000 steps,” he recalled. “I mean, she’s that kind of (person). She won’t sit down.”

Until she was healed from both surgeries, walking was about the only activity Kusar could do.

“I did a lot of walking—lots of walking,” she emphasized with a laugh.

By September 2016, Kusar was in a deadlift competition; she pulled 300 lb.

“With her wig on,” Jerry noted. “She was wearing her wig back then.”

Still, by the time the CrossFit Games Open rolled around, Kusar didn’t believe she was physically ready.

“There’s thousands of people. No one cares. Just go in and do it,” Jerry told her.

Kusar ended up finishing 24th in the world in her age group, the Masters Women 55-59 Division. She placed 2nd in the Central East Region and went on to compete in the Online Qualifier, ending in 17th place overall.

“It was a big surprise,” Kusar said of qualifying for the Games.

She continued: “It was a great goal to try and do that for myself. It gave me something to work toward.”

Her goal for this year’s Games is to make it to the final event.

“That would be awesome,” Kusar said.

In 2015, she finished 6th in the 55-59 division.

Although she had her days of “getting down” during her two surgeries and chemotherapy, Kusar said she tried to take life one step at a time. First, she focused on healing from the hysterectomy. Once she started chemo, she dialed in her nutrition to ensure her blood count was back up to normal before beginning the next round of treatment. After that was done, she prepared for the mastectomy.

“I did the best I could to stay positive,” Kusar said. “I knew that lots of people go through this. You just gotta do it.”

At 5 foot 1 and 117 lb., the 57-year-old might not look imposing, but she’s tough, Jerry assured.

“She doesn’t stop. She won’t let it knock her down,” he said.

He added: “Don’t quit—that’s the message.”

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