As most know, I am bit of a kyokushin fanatic as well as always searching for inspiring stories. I was doing just that one evening when I came across a post that combined both, by Kyokushin Karate-ka Cynthia Ballesteros. The post said: First Karate class tonight at my dojo CKP – Centre de Karate Perez after an 8 month ‘pause’ to battle Cancer. It’s good to be back! I felt normal again. Now it’s time to get my ass in gear and train my heart, body & soul the way Sosai Mas Oyama intended his students to do! OSU! #Kyokushin #Karate #ConquerCancer It was just so inspiring and I had to contact her. Cynthia was kind enough to allow me to interview her. Please enjoy and be as inspired as I am. Osu!
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Cynthia Ballesteros and I am the Executive Director of RAW:natural born artists, throughout Canada. With a background and schooling in the music industry, this position finds me in the production of large events helping struggling artists get visibility in their art form. I personally struggled for years, singing across town nightly, to try to ‘make-it’ in Jazz/Blues, while also raising my two boys as a single parent. I know the difficulties there are in these industries so I’m happy to now be able to provide a platform for artists to shine. My kids are also happy I’m generally home, most weekends!
What made you get involved in Kyokushin?
My eldest son was diagnosed with Dyslexia and an Auditory Processing Disorder at the age of 8. By the time we found this out, he had been going through a hard time at school, getting picked on because he couldn’t read. I thought that if I got him started in Karate he could learn self-defense, discipline and self-control. While sitting through one of his classes (with all the other parents), I thought to myself, “why am I just sitting here? Why don’t I set an example and do this with my kids instead of watching them”. So I did. I signed myself and my two boys up for the next season. I have since become addicted to Karate and my boys have unfortunately begun other sports and left Karate (for now!).
How did you find about the cancer and it’s impact on you?
Throughout the 8 years that I’ve been doing Karate, I have had some health problem (Gall Bladder removal, Kidney stones, Liver problems), which might have forced me to slow down but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Cancer October 2013 that I was forced into a complete stop. My life took a turn to the left and I suddenly found myself on a much different path. I was diagnosed with Melanoma Cancer, which had unfortunately spread into the lymph nodes of my body. The Cancer was no longer just on the surface but in me… Travelling throughout my body. The thought of this just angered me. I wanted it out. Just like “Breaking Boards” I had to use my training to visualize breaking the Cancer out of me. In an instant nothing else mattered yet everything mattered. Things I may have taken for granted because I’m human, suddenly were at risk of being taken away from me or rather I was going to be taken away from them. My doctors reacted so quickly and I underwent treatment so fast that it all just seemed like a whirlwind around me. Come the holidays in December, following radiation and an operation, I found myself lying in bed with over 100 stitches down my spine, my right shoulder blade and my left armpit. I couldn’t even lift my arms to stretch. I couldn’t lie down. Every position I tried to put myself in killed. The doctors (miracle workers if you ask me) had to go fishing through my body to remove the malignant tumors and find a couple of ‘traveling lymph nodes” that were also infected with Cancer and moving through me. January 22, 2014 I was officially announced to be “Cancer-free”. So here a new year begins and everything is back to normal…. But was it really?
What was it like returning to Kyokushin training?
Post Cancer, I struggled to get my life back and act as though everything was back to normal but every time I heard the word Cancer in an ad, a commercial I cringed. I think the reality of the situation I had just gone through only hit me afterwards. When faced with a challenge (or opponent in karate) we are all taught to use our skills to react and fight back. I didn’t hesitate initially but after all was said and done, I found it hard to go back to a normal routine. I still couldn’t lift my arm, how was I going to manage just one push-up….? Terrified of returning to karate, my Sensei, Hugo Perez, of Centre de Karate Perez, really pushed me into returning, the sooner the better. He said “Do what you can. Just try your best. As long as you’re training, you’re getting stronger. Sosai Mas Oyama also had Cancer and trained for as long as he physically could. You’re not a quitter Cynthia.” So I did, I returned in May 2014. It was exhilarating! It was the first time in 8 months that I felt myself again. I’m a 1st Kyu Brown Belt and have gone back to training with a plan in place to reach 1st Dan in May 2015. I’m determined to make it. Karate is a huge part of my life even more so now than ever.
Anything you wish someone told you before, that you learnt on your own?
Karate doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. The more I trained, more was asked and expected of me… Life is the same way. It will throw you kicks and punches but you have to learn how to take them and know how to fight back. Osu!