AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – To the fitness world, instructor Karen Ollari is known as a work out warrior but to so many others who have gotten to know her on a personal level, she’s also a breast cancer survivor and a true inspiration.
The owner of Knock Out Fitness in Agawam had a bout with breast cancer 12 years ago. She says her journey was long, uncertain at times. So she knows first hand what nearly 280,000 other woman will experience when they’re diagnosed each year.
“I’d had maybe about 6 lumpectomies. It was always on one side and after so many they were like, ‘It keeps growing back.’ Every time it grew back, it was getting a little bit bigger so the recommendation was to have a double mastectomy, which was shocking because you kind of hope, ‘Oh I can just get treatment,'” said Ollari.
Ollari went to Boston for a second opinion, doctors there confirming she’d need to undergo that invasive surgery. She had it back home in western Massachusetts at Baystate. Then came the good news. In January of 2012, K.O. had knocked out her cancer. It was then that her two worlds collided, her fitness family and her family of survivors, coming together to celebrate her life and countless others.
“The very first year my husband and I signed up to run at Rays of Hope. And our daughters showed up that morning. They were like, ‘We want to walk with you,’ and it felt really good. And ever since then, I get a team together but it means a lot that everyone’s willing to do that,” said Ollari.
While the walk takes place once a year, for the other 360 something days Ollari has made it her mission to keep those on a cancer journey or life journey going. Teaching various fitness classes throughout the week, where her door and her ears are always open.
“This is the only body you have and it’s going to take you through your life, so we need to take care of it,” said Ollari.