I am Nestor Paonessa, Assistant General Manager and Health and Fitness Coach at EMPOWER Personalized Fitness in Durham, North Carolina. I am a brain cancer survivor, ultra-runner, backpacker, world traveler, tennis player, pianist, and very lucky husband to Ashley Paonessa.
Now, at the relatively young age of 36, I believe that I have already had quite a diverse array of life experiences and have encountered and overcome many significant challenges along the way. Some were voluntarily, others not so much; most notably I found myself faced with a diagnosis of a grade 4-glioblastoma malignant brain tumor at the age of 34.
Some voluntary challenges that I have taken on include several ultra-distance trail races (40 miles, 50km, and 100 miles), hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, and hiking to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. As a result of all of these experiences, I have figured out to what extremes I am able to push my body and my mind and still come out okay in the end, if not stronger and better. I also confirmed some facts about myself that I already believed: that I possess great physical and mental strength and endurance, willpower, and resolve. I think the tangible and measurable results of my recent life experiences speak for themselves.
I succeeded in completing each ultra distance race under my own power and within the time limits set for each event. I did this by creating and executing a comprehensive training plan before each race, trusting the results of my training, believing in myself, being as mentally tough and stubborn as I’ve ever been, and by leaning on my race crew for encouragement and logistical support (mainly Ashley every time, with several other friends included for the 100-Miler).
I succeeded in climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa by physically training beforehand with lots of weighted stair climbing, heeding the advice of my doctors and taking the altitude sickness preventative medication as was prescribed to me, and by leaning on the massive support crew of guides, porters, fellow adventurers, and of course, Ashley. I succeeded in beating brain cancer by following my doctor’s treatment plan of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, maintaining a high level of physical fitness and healthful eating throughout, and by leaning on my extraordinary social support system for motivation, encouragement, and accountability. Oh, and because… Ashley! I am going to teach you how to redefine, reframe, and recommit to your personal life goals in the face of a recent diagnosis of cancer or some other life-altering illness or event, all to help you get back on track towards creating and experiencing the life that you envision for yourself.