Our latest featured Warrior’s positivity and zest for life leaves those who meet her with no idea of the struggles she has faced. Matt Wallengren (Wally) met Angie Lutz 3 years ago, “unbeknown to me, she had just completed her second battle against breast cancer. The person I grew to know was simply a magnetic, strong, sarcastically funny kickass crossfitter. As I grew closer to Angie and her fiancé Kevin, she shared with me her past battles with cancer in a very matter of fact and let’s move on way. So, our relationship became one centered around working out [at Nevermore CrossFit in Baltimore, MD] and throwing around sarcastic jabs and cracking up in the process.” Ivana added, “I can clearly remember meeting Angie 6 years ago in one of the CrossFit Gyms in Baltimore. It was my first CrossFit class on a Sunday morning. We were paired together to do the WOD and I remember thinking ‘wow, I just want to be as strong as she is’.”
In March 2016 the cancer returned for a third time in 10 years. This time it had spread to her bones, liver, lungs and spine. Angie was 43 years old and convinced she was going to be dead in a month. She questioned if she or her doctors could have done something differently to prevent the aggressive reoccurrence. As Wally remembered, “That sense of frustration and giving up was completely understandable, but what hit me hard was that it was coming from Angie of all people.” With a little time to digest the news and some help from her friends Angie’s fun and positive vibe returned. Angie said, “I can get angry or overwhelmed with sadness at times but those moments pass and I am able to appreciate that I need to feel these things and then move on.”
After the diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer Angie spent a week in the hospital. Her room overflowed with visitors and laughter as they came up with t-shirt slogan ideas like “F@#$ Constipation” and “I am strong enough to punch you in the F@#$en face.” One doctor, noting the atmosphere in the room, said he felt like he should bring a bottle of wine. Kevin said, “Visitors felt like they were missing out on the fun when they had to leave. Angie turned the experience of a week of living in a hospital room into a memory of joy and love that will remain with me forever.”
One of the first people Angie called to tell of her diagnosis was her sister Jen. Sobbing Jen searched for the next flight from Wisconsin to Baltimore to be with her sister. “After she got out of the hospital, it was a day or two before she was ready to hit the gym. I went with her, and I was not a regular crossfitter. Entering the gym was scary for her, she didn’t want people to treat her differently, so she entered the way she always did. The workout started and I will admit it was emotional. We had to run a 400 with a wall ball, and watching her lose her breath and have to sit down was devastating and emotional. I wanted to sit down with her, but I knew she wouldn’t want that, so I kept going. Every time I thought she was done, suddenly I would see her back up and going again. It was at that moment that I knew cancer wouldn’t stop her. She finished that workout, even though it took her a long time.”
Cancer has not stopped Angie. Faced with this new reality, Angie found perspective on life. Some say she became a deeper thinker, others say she became a hippy. She turned an old pallet into a sign that reads, “In the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” And she has been busy filling her years with life. She started volunteering for Meals on Wheels and The Red Devils (a non-profit helping those with cancer). She learned how to build furniture, hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim, and planned a dream trip to Hawaii for her and Kevin that was made possible by a GoFundMe campaign her friend, Malia, created.
Angie refuses to stay knocked down. She completed Murph this year and is doing a sprint triathlon in September with her friend Tara. “Angie is superhuman and I truly believe this, there is no way any normal human being could convince me to do a triathlon- at 42 and limited training, I have not swam in years, never biked, can barely run oh and I just had a baby 7 months ago. This is why Angie inspires me- she gets me to do things that are new or unusual, and makes me want to do it because of how enthusiastic she is about it.” Reflecting on Angie’s fight Ivana adds, “I read somewhere that "moral strength is about making a conscious decision to be a person who doesn’t give up when it would be easy to, to be lesser because the journey is less arduous". Well, that day I met Angie again. This time it wasn't the physical strength, skill or muscles that left me thinking “wow, I just want to be as strong as she is". It was her moral strength and her resilience. Her ability to go on despite the fear, disability or hardship. It was the ability to recover and change course. We still trained together, we still competed together and she still kept pushing me. This time she pushed me to work on my moral strength.”
In true CrossFit community fashion, local gyms have stepped up to support Angie. Kevin organized a fundraiser WOD, Fight Gone Angie, and an auction followed by a party. The fundraiser was so successful that they were able to make a donation to the Ulman Cancer Fund. Other area affiliates, Outsiders CrossFit and Push511, organized their own events to provide support. Angie credits the CrossFit community with keeping her sane and strong as she continues to fight. She writes, “A year ago I NEVER thought I could feel this much hope and happiness after my diagnosis and thanks to everyone I am surrounded by I am truly happier now than I was pre diagnosis.”
Her cancer isn’t curable but instead is treated like a chronic disease. Currently, Angie has three weeks of chemo followed by 1 week off. This treatment will continue until it is no longer effective at slowing the progression of the disease and then doctors will try a new regimen. All the while Angie will go on learning to thrive with cancer, pursing passions, cracking people up at chemo, and inspiring others along the way. Kevin said, “The bad news is my best friend is supposed to be dying. The good news is she’s not. She’s living. And she’s dragging me along for the ride.”