Cancer is Harder Than Training - Here's a Man Who Beat Both

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
March 31st, 2016
Updated: June 13th, 2020
7.4K Reads
Cancer is Harder Than Training - Here's a Man Who Beat Both
Many believe working out most days to be a difficult feat, let alone over coming a disease such as Cancer. Brad Borland conquered both; read his story.

Training isn’t hard.

Effective training, the type of training that requires progress, consistency, and unwavering self-discipline is hard.

Hard training yields real results. There are no tricks or shortcuts to it. But here’s the thing, training and all of its nuances are completely in your control.

You set the stage. You put in the effort. You cultivate the type of environment needed for optimal results.

It’s the things out of our control that we truly need coping ability, creativity, and resilience for.

Have you ever had one of those days when everything is going along like always and then you get sideswiped (figuratively speaking)?

Your normal, mundane day turns not only upside-down but is twisted, crushed, and pummeled into pulp?

I was on my way to work on a sunny day on February 19, 2004 when my phone rang. It was my doctor.

Just some months prior I was in Afghanistan on a deployment with the Air Force, working hard and looking forward to coming home to return to life as I left it.

Cancer is harder than training- Brad on Deployment

Once back, I found a significant mass on my neck under the skin. A few doctor’s visits, some tests and blood work later I thought nothing of it. My doctor told me it could be an allergic reaction or my body’s defense against an infection.

Under suggestion, I had a simple, outpatient surgery performed to investigate the lymph node – a biopsy. I was sewn-up and sent on my way.

Fast forward: Looking down at my phone, I quickly answered expecting no big news. Maybe I needed an antibiotic or possibly the surgery took care of the problem. Maybe it was nothing.

It was cancer.

I’ll spare you all of the stories, anecdotes, and strange details. Here I wanted to shed some light on the lessons I learned. Oddly enough I found that the principles I followed in training, the mindset I developed over years in the gym, were the ones that would get me through to the end of chemotherapy treatment and beyond.

Here is a succinct list of seven things I instilled in myself in and out of the gym.

Cancer is hard, but your resilience is tougher.

1. Accept the challenge

Whether it was the latest round of chemotherapy or being on deployment, one thing was steadfast in my mind: Don’t resist the challenge, embrace it and make light of it.

I remember joking about cancer to my parents and others around me. I gave everyone a green light to make fun of me losing my hair, getting skinny, and using the “cancer card”. On deployment we all tried to make the best of our situation. We would rely on each other to laugh and for support through those long days.

Cancer is tougher than training- Brad getting a UV

If you can’t change your circumstances take stock, embrace them, and press on.

2. Build discipline over time

This is a timeless and universal piece of advice that can be applied to almost any endeavor. When you start training, or come back from a layoff, you will be faced with a seemingly arduous goal. The mountain you are to climb will appear intimidating. The big picture might look too big.

Related: How to Build Muscle - 5 Step Guide to Lean Gains

Many times discipline is the culprit. Discipline is the intangible commodity we so desperately need to move ahead towards our goals. Build discipline, much like your physique, over time.

Avoid starting every single aspect of your training and nutrition program at once. Begin with one change, do that for a week or two before adding another. Moving forward add one and only one change at a time.

3. Expand Your Comfort Zone

Most often the things that are worth doing are hard. The rewards that are genuinely beneficial aren’t easy. They never are. If it were easy, everyone would have the best of everything. Think about it, every true success story includes beating the odds, relentless hard work, and a belief in possibility.

Cancer is harder than training- Brad resting

My treatment was an opportunity to experience struggle. That experience taught me to cultivate a visual picture of what I was going to do after treatment was over.

You have the opportunity every day to make strides in your progress in and out of the gym. The act of sticking to your diet is an opportunity, the fact that you can get to the gym most days of the week is an opportunity, and the notion that you can set achievable goals is an opportunity. Be aware of them.

Related: How to Increase Strength - Ultimate Guide to Getting Stronger

4. Avoid Jealousy

It’s no secret or revelation that those who take up training in any way, shape, or form have passion. This passion is internal and many individuals are personally motivated to share this passion.

Additionally, some will progress faster than others. Some will have the perfect genetics, advantages regarding the best foods, and the best schedules to train. Jealousy, prejudices, and strong opinions will crop up leading you down a dead end road.

Tearing others down may seem satisfying. You think of excuses for yourself. They’re cheating. They don’t have the challenges you do. They are genetically blessed. It’s easy to think this way, but it doesn’t benefit you in the least. When I was in chemotherapy what good would it do me to be jealous of others? I still had my own battle to fight.

5. Negativity Serves No One

Blurting out negative comments, giving in to gossip, and spreading rumors serves no one. We know that deep down, but why do we still do it? Worse yet is when we do it to ourselves. That little negative voice in your head, doubt, will eventually make an appearance.

Negative self-talk or the fear of failure is paralyzing. It can gnaw at you a little each day preventing you from realizing your full potential. Not only should you stop doing this to others, you should also put the brakes on doing this to yourself.

Yes, there were times when I wanted to stew in my own misery during treatments, but I knew it wouldn’t provide any benefit. I had to keep my focus on what I was going to do after chemotherapy and visualize that success.

Cancer is harder than training- Brad's last day of Chemo

6. Don't Cheat Yourself

Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t cheat in life. It’s an age-old principle that needs to be held in high regard today as well. But here I am speaking of cheating yourself.

One thing I had to get over after all of my treatments were completed was the fact that I had to move on with my life. It would have been easy for me to always use the “cancer crutch” as an excuse for everything I didn’t accomplish. And to top it off, who would argue with me? No one, aside from my close friends, would have told me otherwise.

After some time had passed, I could no longer enter the gym as a recovering cancer patient. I had to get past that identity and just be me and go in and train my butt off again. No excuses, no more cheating myself.

7. Pay It Forward

One of the greatest lessons I learned was the act of giving back without any expectation of return. Whether it’s giving your time, your knowledge, or your talents, giving back is a powerful act.

Cancer is harder than training-giving back

When you are training at your local gym and see a newbie lost amongst the benches, racks, and dumbbells, what is your first thought? Do you think this guy needs to get out of my way if he doesn’t know what he’s doing? He’s wasting space? Or should you think more along the lines of benefiting this person and offering help?

Maybe they need direction or your unique talent to show them correct ways to train. Whatever situation it may be, learn to think in terms of benefiting others and not just yourself.

*To read more about these principles and my story please visit

Posted on: Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:09

Thank-you for sharing your story.

Posted on: Fri, 04/08/2016 - 20:53

Also a cancer survivor (breast cancer) and back in the gym and loving it!

Posted on: Tue, 04/05/2016 - 00:39

Brad, as always, you're a stud. Thank you sincerely for your service.

Posted on: Tue, 04/05/2016 - 14:46

Thanks, Spence!

Posted on: Sat, 04/02/2016 - 11:36

Thank you for your service and thank you for sharing your inspiring story!

Posted on: Mon, 04/04/2016 - 10:20

Thanks so much, Mike.

Ann Shepherd
Posted on: Fri, 04/01/2016 - 07:15


Posted on: Fri, 04/01/2016 - 12:03

Thanks, Ann.