From cancer to Paralympics

Published 11:06 pm Friday, April 13, 2012

Personal trainer Rodney Sanders gets Diana Woods into condition for the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games, in Richmond in June.

When a veteran from Burbage Grant attends the 32nd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Richmond later this year, her sights will be set on qualifying for the next Paralympics.

Dianna Woods, 29, had been on active duty in the Navy for nine and a half years when she was diagnosed with stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma on Nov. 2, 2009, and was medically discharged.

The aggressive cancer attacked her spleen and spinal cord, and she found herself wheelchair-bound.

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But the good news is Woods has been cancer-free for two years, and she hopes to compete in the Paralympics for shot put, discus and weightlifting.

“I did shot put in high school,” she said. “I started weightlifting in the Navy — I like to lift.”

Thyroid problems from her cancer caused Woods to gain weight, so she has been getting into shape with personal trainer, Rodney Sanders, of Godhap 4 Fitness in Bennett’s Creek.

Sanders said Woods became his client after she called one day and said, “I need some help.”

“Me being me, I said, ‘Come on, let’s see what I can do,’’’ Sanders said.

Woods being his first wheelchair-bound client, Sanders has had to adapt his own usual routines.

“I’ve had to come up with new ways of doing things, which has helped me a lot,” he said.

“The biggest thing is to get her comfortable with getting in and out of the chair. We do a lot of things out of the chair – balance stuff to get her used to not being in her comfort zone.”

To make it to the Paralympics, Woods said she has to finish in the top three in her events at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, on June 25-30.

“That would be my dream come true,” she said, adding that her sporting hopes have helped her come to terms with the cancer and her wheelchair.

“It has been really hard,” she said. “When you are used to doing something for so long … and now you have to have a carer to help, it’s hard. You have your ups and downs about anything, but it has been more negative being in a wheelchair.”

But Sanders says Woods has a strong will to achieve.

“The bigger thing is the mindset,” he said. “Her attitude is perfect. She’s self-motivated. It makes my job a lot easier.”