After completing school to be a hair stylist, Sarah DeVito left her home state of Massachusetts and moved out to Colorado in 1998. She started CrossFit 5 years ago at CrossFit Verve in Denver. It didn’t take long for Sarah’s will to fight through a challenge to reveal itself. Initially, like many, Sarah struggled learning to snatch. Her coach said to her, “If you can’t get this, I honestly don’t know what you can do.” At first Sarah thought about quitting, but the next day she turned those words into motivation and not only stuck it out but, in time, excelled at the movement.
Over the years at CrossFit Verve, Sarah has developed a reputation for making people laugh and brightened many days. She is one of those people whose personality draws you towards her. In nominating Sarah, Caitlin Rice described her as, “the girl in class who motivates everyone, makes jokes and keeps everybody’s spirits up.” Another friend and fellow CrossFit Verve member Amy Whiteside-Schaeffer remembered meeting Sarah. “When I first met her at the gym years ago I knew there was something special about her. She wore badass cutoff shirts, flexed her tattooed arms but mostly made me laugh and brought me joy! I worked harder when she was around and pushed myself further knowing she was doing the same. Looking back, I realize now that the “special” quality is her ability to make people feel hopeful – when you are around her, things aren’t so bad, the sun shines a little brighter and life feels a little more full.”
On September 14, 2015 Sarah had a massive headache. She’d been at a friend’s wedding and thought the headache could be a hangover. But the headache persisted for several days. She started to lose her words and forget things. Beginning to worry, friends encouraged (forced) her to see her doctor. Initially, doctors said the headache could be from a sinus infection. But when Sarah mentioned forgetting things they immediately did a scan that revealed tumors on both the left and right side of her brain. On September 24, 2015 Sarah was diagnosed with Glioblastoma (GBM). Six days after being diagnosed, she underwent a craniotomy to remove as much of the left tumor as possible. Doctors were unable to remove the tumor on the right side of her brain because the location of the tumor imposed a risk of losing movement of her left leg. Surgery was followed by 6 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. In addition to traditional western treatments, Sarah used integrative medicine which included injections from Germany, acupuncture, meditation, THC oil and a ketogenic diet.
Sarah’s community has rallied to support her in this fight. From the minute Sarah became sick, friends wanted to give her as much as she had given them. They organized a tattoo fundraiser, a silent auction, and hospital rides. In December 2015, CrossFit Verve hosted the “It Takes a Team Challenge” with all proceeds going towards Sarah’s medical expenses. The event sold old with thirty-two three person teams competing. Despite the effects of chemo and radiation, Sarah also competed. Seeing her battle with an unyielding spirit inspired those around her to dig deep and push through to the end of their workouts. In addition to planning all of these events, Sarah’s friends have simply been there, by her side, during her fight. Of her community’s support Sarah said, “Every single person in that gym has been nothing but supportive and generous and I cannot even begin to thank them all for this!”
Recently, Sarah traveled to Duke University to participate in a brain tumor study. While at Duke, Doctors compared scans of Sarah’s tumors both before and after treatment. On the scans doctors hope to see that the left tumor they removed is still gone and that the one on the right is continuing to shrink. They were so impressed by her progress they began asking detailed questions about her treatment because they want to be able to recommend it to their patients. She continues to take a chemo pill for 5 days every 28 days. Her next MRI is scheduled for March and she will go back to Duke in July. Sarah left Duke with a trial 5 day anti-nausea medicine that seems to be working and news that if her tumor recurs she will be enrolled in their study.
Asked about her battle with cancer Sarah says, “It’s tough, I’m not going to lie. Going through 6 weeks of radiation and every single day taking chemo and only “given” 2 years to live, it’s an emotional roller coaster.” But Sarah adds, “I believe I have way more of a fight in me because of fitness and the amazing support group around me. I will be around much longer and will get back in the game!” And for others who have been diagnosed with cancer she offers this advice, “Keep fighting! Meditation, acupuncture, integrated medicine, diet, and most importantly yourself and your loved ones. Dogs! Can’t forget dogs!!”
In her fight Sarah has truly embodied the Everyday Warrior spirit. As Amy said, Sarah has “shown everyone that strength is much more than just muscle…it’s about heart and respect – it’s about hope. Sarah represents hope to her friends, her family and strangers passing through. Every time she meets up with friends, goes to the grocery store or hits the gym, Sarah brings with her hope and it makes us all a little bit stronger.”