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Survivor Status

Survivor Status

JoAnn Wilson puts your skip-the-gym excuse to shame.

If you’re an avid Wilson’s member, you’ve seen this inspiration walking the halls and busting out pumped-up workouts in the group fitness studios. Or maybe you recognize her fresh face from Kathie Lee & Hoda.

At 65 years old, JoAnn Wilson is in better shape than many of the members milling around Wilson’s, and her attitude about maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is truly inspiring. Since around the age of 30, JoAnn began taking aerobics classes, and she quickly moved from the last row in the group workout room to front and center. Her love of cardio classes set her on the fast track to becoming a certified fitness instructor.

“I’ve taught everything from step classes to yoga, hot barre, Pilates and even Spinlates,” she says. “But my favorite is a class I teach now. Total Body Workout combines strength, cardio and flexibility. It’s a one-and-done type of class.”

Although she has no biological relation to the owners, JoAnn is truly part of the Wilson’s family. She was around when Wilson’s moved into its Forum location, and she was one of seven or eight original aerobics instructors.

For someone who is so passionate about fitness and keeps a balanced and healthy lifestyle, it’s shocking to hear that JoAnn is a survivor of stage three colon cancer.

“Yes, I had the cancer for old fat men,” JoAnn says. “It was very unusual for me. I say that if I can get cancer, anybody can get cancer because I lead such a healthy lifestyle.”

She was diagnosed four years ago after agreeing to go into the doctor for a colonoscopy that was prompted when her younger sister, Teri Grieg, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.

“I would have never experienced any symptoms until I was dying,” JoAnn says. “Literally, she saved my life.”

Teri and JoAnn both have go-getter attitudes. Teri completed the Kona Iron Man while going through chemotherapy, and JoAnn continued to inspire everyone at Wilson’s.

“I never skipped a class while going through chemo, not a single one,” she says. “That was my release and inspiration to keep going and doing things. Even toward the end when I was toxic and could barely walk out the door, I would walk into the gym and think, ‘I can do this.’”

Now doesn’t your excuse to skip your workout today seem a little bit, well, pathetic?

“My classes have been my support group,” she says. “My whole attitude during chemo was based on teaching aerobics and simply making it to the gym. Even if I could barely stand up, I would sit in front of the class on a workout ball and instruct while my daughter showed the moves. I would feed off the motivation from my class, and they fed off me. It was a mutual thing.”

Her cancer might have slightly slowed her down, but now it’s taking a back seat to her ambition. “I once told James I was going to teach until I was old and gray,” she says. “Well, now I am old and gray, so maybe I’ll stop once I’m 80. I still have 15 years.”


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