Woman with cerebral palsy beats cancer, opens CrossFit gym

When Steph Hammerman was born with cerebral palsy, her future was unclear. Doctors initially told her that she might never walk, talk, read or write. But now, at age 29, she's done all of those things — and more. 

Hammerman — who also goes by "The Hammer" — grew up beating what others had expected from her. From going to sleepaway camp to later earning her master's degree, she always wanted to achieve more. But after graduating from grad school, she realized that she needed to prioritize her health first.

Hammerman began working out with a trainer, who helped her reach what was then considered an impossible goal: completing a marathon. When Hammerman eventually finished with a time of 4:34:16, she not only impressed herself but began to see herself as a competitive athlete. 

In 2012, Hammerman tried CrossFit classes at the recommendation of a friend and found that she connected with it more than any workout she had tried before.

“First of all, I love a challenge,” she said in an interview with People. “I love anything where people look at me and say, ‘Hmm, I don’t know if you can do that.’ And second was the community. I remember going into the space and people were lying on the floor after the workout and high-fiving each other. It was just this really cool feeling of acceptance everywhere."

The following year, Hammerman decided she wanted to apply her positive attitude as a coach. After many years of hard work, education and determination, she became the first CrossFit level 2 certified trainer with cerebral palsy.

"This new role gave me the opportunity to start changing people's lives on a larger scale," she said.

Unfortunately, after two years of training and coaching, Hammerman was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. 

“I remember thinking to myself: I don’t have time for cancer. I have so much that I want to do and so much life that I want to live,” she recalled. “Going into it I looked at the doctor and I said, ‘Tell me what you want to do and I’ll do it.’ And she told me that I just needed to be myself, do exactly what I needed to do and I’ll be fine.”

Hammerman's optimism pushed her through her cancer treatments, and after 29 weeks, she cleared her scans.

"Beating cancer reinforced that I am capable of way more than my initial set of blueprints insinuated I would be," she said.

In 2017, Hammerman became Nike's first adaptive athlete after she praised the company's sneakers for being sturdy enough to handle her movement on crutches. Last year, she opened her own CrossFit gym, Hammer Driven Fitness, in Knightdale, N.C. 

“I get to wake up every morning and do what I love, and not many people get to say that,” she told ABC News. "I am beyond grateful for every opportunity that comes my way. It is no secret that I have a long list of accomplishments, but I’m far from done."

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