Alison Rieman was at the top of her fitness game in 2015.
She went to the gym almost every day, ate well, and gained 15 pounds of muscle.
Then she was diagnosed with cancer.
On October 6th 2015, Alison found out that she had acute myeloid leukaemia. It was an aggressive form of blood cancer that needed to be hit with an aggressive chemo regimen, she told UNILAD, and she was inches away from death.
During Ali’s first round of chemo, a gangrene toxin blew up in her gut, killing six inches of her colon. “All of my organs started shutting down and I was in excruciating pain,” she said.
She was immediately rushed into emergency surgery, nearly losing her life in the process. To save it, doctors gave her a colostomy. She spent the next six months in hospital, losing 40 pounds and all the muscle mass she gained before she was diagnosed.
I have yet to meet a person who finds it attractive to have your intestine on the outside of your stomach, but, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." And have I ever given anyone consent to make me feel badly about my self image? Hell no? Do I wish I didn't have a stoma? Of course. But I'm not going to let society tell me how I should look or feel about it. It saved my life and I am grateful for it. I LOVED the way my body looked and performed before cancer happened, but just because I am in a smaller, less strong body does NOT mean I am any less of a strong individual. It does not change who I am as a person and the impact I have on the people around me. My body does NOT define me. Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me. I can't wait for the day my doctor gives me the OK to get back in that gym! Although, I will continue to love my body and love myself in the meantime. I'm done living in my past and I can't predict my future, so I will love myself for the now. Stop hating yourself for everything you aren't and start loving yourself for everything you already are. Admire someone else's beauty without questioning your own and appreciate what you already have while working for what you want! You attract what you are, not what you want. If you want great, then be great. #bodypositive #selflove #survivor #advocare #webuildchampions
Ali told UNILAD:
When I lived in a cancer center, I was so weak at times, I couldn’t even get out of bed to walk to the bathroom. When I moved back home, something as simple as walking around the house was a struggle.
I came out [of the hospital] being really skinny and boney.
She was just 103lbs at the time.
Now? She looks like this:
Sorry if you're offended that I'm in my underwear lol. But I need to show the world what proper nutrition & supplements can do!!! First pic was when I got out of the hospital last March. Middle pic was this past summer (July). Most recent pic is this March (1 year apart from the first pic). And that's all while having a major stomach surgery and being hospitalized throughout the year due to infections. But proper nutrition, a couple months of weight training, & world class supplements will make the legs and booty grow ? Proud of my progress!!! ?? #Advocare #cancersurvivor #oneyearprogress #webuildchampions
The photo, posted only a year and 5 months after Ali’s diagnosis, gained over 16,000 likes on Instagram.
Before I got sick, I got really into fitness… I did weight lifting as a hobby and just being in the hospital for so long and being stuck in bed and sick for so long and feeling weak, I just wanted to get back on my feet and get stronger. I couldn’t wait for the day I could get back in the gym.
I’ve been through so much and I had every excuse to give up, but I pushed on despite the hand I was dealt.
She’s since spent time documenting her treatment, recovery, and progress on social media to show others what cancer really looks like.
Including hair loss:
Progress isn't always pretty. And life isn't always pretty. You can't truly change lives if you only show your highlight reel. If people only ever see your strengths, they'll probably get discouraged & think, "Oh good for him/her. But I'll never be able to do that." But when people see God using you in spite of your weaknesses, it encourages them to think, "Maybe I can do that too." Our strengths create competition, but our weaknesses are what can be REALLY inspiring. At some point in life you have to make the choice of wanting to IMPRESS people or INFLUENCE people. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable enough to use what you view as your biggest "flaws" or "weaknesses" to change somebody else's life.
First day of chemo done! I had to cover my face with a pillow so I didn't have to watch it. And yes I am hugging a teddy bear that @joshypoox bought me! I'm allowed to be scared haha. I'm getting 10 more days of chemo this round and I will be losing my hair and knocking out my immune system. But I've already accepted that I can rock the bald head lol. What I really need is prayers to help me fight through these 6-8 months of chemo and donations to help my family afford it. I have an aggressive type of leukemia and it needs to be hit hard, but I have nothing but hope. Someone set up a fundraiser and I put it in my bio: www.gofundme.com/7s63mj48 Any sort of donation would mean the absolute world to me and my family because we have no idea how we're going to make this work. Thank you all for the love and support!!!! I will beat this with your help!!! ??? #beatleukemia #beatcancer #gofundmeplease #godisgood #hope #faith #love
And colostomy bags:
“When I was first diagnosed I really didn’t know much about cancer. I knew cancer patients were sick and bald, and that’s really all I knew. I really just wanted to share my story so people knew what cancer patients actually went through,” Ali said.
But her progress didn’t come with ease.
Ali, who was bodybuilding before she was diagnosed with leukaemia, didn’t start working out until she was cleared as cancer-free.
“I slowly started consuming more food each day and I walked on the treadmill to try to gain endurance. It was a very slow process,” she said.
While she’s avoiding cardio in order to gain weight, Ali is now able to weight lift – and does so almost every day in order to get back to where she was.
When my doctor asks me to show him what workouts I'm doing and I totally tune mom out ? pic.twitter.com/gTV7nvw5RR
— Ali☀️ (@AliRieman) March 2, 2017
Her journey has since inspired thousands of people – nearly 8,000 on Instagram, to be exact.
And as for her incredible transformation photo, Ali says the response has been ‘incredible’.
She told UNILAD:
I had so much positive feedback. I was sent hundreds of private messages about how much I inspired people I didn’t even know. Knowing that people are inspired by my journey definitely gives me an extra push to keep going.
I have always looked at other fitness accounts for motivation and inspiration so if I could do that for someone else, by all means I will do it. It’s a really good feeling knowing your hard work isn’t only helping yourself, but others as well.
Now Ali advises people in her position looking to get healthy again to do the same.
My advice to them is this: It is going to be a challenge. Even for people who aren’t sick, it is challenging – so don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s going to take time, so be patient with yourself. Some people don’t realise that slow progress is still progress. Just don’t make it slower by quitting. It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger…And for those who are survivors- if you survived cancer treatment, you can survive a workout.
“I was literally skin and bones and the progress that I made in a year is just awesome. If I can do it and I can go through being as sick as I was, anyone can do it,” she added.
Keep Ali’s story in mind next time you want to give up during that 30 minute workout.