Empowering lives through fitness: Former wrestler helps community fight breast cancer through free workouts

Posted at 12:49 PM, Oct 12, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- In a small corner of our community, there’s a gym that goes hard. You won’t find an easy workout there. You will find a trainer who is pushing hard; using tough love, loud commands, and upbeat music to push your muscles to the ultimate limit.

Ten years ago, Erica Porter, a former WOW Women of Wrestling Superhero World Champion, opened the doors to Endorphasm gym in Midlothian, Virginia, because she lives for the high, which she calls “E Strong." It's something she aims to make you feel too.

Erica Porter

“Endorphasm is the moment during movement that you feel all things are possible and when you're able to connect to that feeling, and it changes us as humans. And that is Endorphasm strong,” Porter explained.

The 48-year-old wife and mother of one pushes those in her group class hard but uses a different approach during one-on-one sessions.

She has a softer voice, and a more gentle demeanor but gives a dose of the same medicine – movement.

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After all, Porter truly believes that “we, as humans, were designed to move. When we stop moving, we die. It's connecting with the ‘Endorphasm’, the power of that movement and the movement of power; that ability to be able to conduct yourself with confidence and integrity and feel like you are still your whole person.”

This feeling of power is just what Crissy Wingfield desperately needed.

“I wish I would have known about this. I would have been here much sooner, for you,” Wingfield told Porter. “Working out and feeling better about myself because, over the years, it’s gone downhill. But now I’m here.”

"Yes!” Porter replied. “You’re going uphill now.”

It’s been an uphill battle, but Wingfield is fighting back after the mother of two from Chesterfield got the wind knocked out of her.

Crissy Wingfield

"I was diagnosed in 2019 with breast cancer. It was stage three. I caught it by mistake," Wingfield shared with CBS 6 News Anchor GeNienne Samuels.

Her treatment plan and recovery journey have been extensive over the last four years.

She had a bilateral mastectomy and then four rounds of what is called “Red Devil” chemotherapy. Then 12 rounds of Taxol.

One month later, Wingfield found out she was a carrier of the BRCA2 gene. That led to her needing a hysterectomy, followed by 20 rounds of radiation.

“You just never know when it's going to end," Wingfield said about the experience. "It's like one of those roller coasters that you're in pitch black and you're just holding on for dear life, and you think you're going to be at the end, but you're not.”

The roller coaster still spinning

In 2021 doctors told Wingfield she needed surgery to repair a painful breast encapsulation.

Then a Diep Flap eight-hour breast reconstruction procedure.

In all, 11 surgeries left Wingfield with no motivation and a ton of time on the couch.

“Most recently I gained 30 pounds in six months. Then my hip started to hurt. I just wasn't moving enough. And then I have two kids. I was out of breath or physically just couldn't make it to do some of the things they wanted to do, like sports or riding the bike or anything like that. So, I knew something needed to change," she said.

Unable to keep up with her two boys, Wingfield turned to the strength within the walls of the “Red Room” in the Endorphasm Gym.

The Red Room

“Ironically, I found her pamphlet in my oncologist's office. I was like, ‘Okay, this sounds like it might be for me,'" Wingfield said. "Once I spoke to Erica, I knew, and we went over everything. And I knew from there that this is what I needed."

But she found so much more than “just” a workout at the gym.

Erica Porter

She found other warriors battling cancer, like Bonnie.

In between one-on-one sessions, Wingfield and Bonnie spoke with Porter, her husband Carlo, and GeNienne about the comfort, support, and energy they have both found at Endorphasm.

"This is going to be a nice community for all of us," Bonnie said. "So many of us that feel like we’re alone in this struggle. This is going to be something big. I just feel it.”

She shared that she felt like a new person after just one movement session with Porter and was excited about what’s to come.

Here Wingfield and Bonnie are not alone, they fighting this battle together.

It’s a cancer-fighting community with accountability.

"I came today because I knew she [Erica] was going to be here for me. She helps with that commitment," Wingfield said. "I don't know if it was someone else besides Erica if I would be doing this because it truly is empowering to know everything she's been through, and that I’ve been through, and we can have that bond. That's very helpful."

Wingfield and Porter have an immediate bond through a common battle and understanding of what it truly means to fight this fierce disease.

Porter was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in June 2020.

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“It was almost an out-of-body experience for me," she said. “I am a cancer patient. I understand the impact, not only the emotional impact, but I understand the physical impact of going through treatment. I understand how easy it is to go home and to not want to move. It seems counterintuitive, to almost say, the more you move, the more energy you actually have.”

Porter created the Endorphasm Foundation in October 2020, four months after being diagnosed.

It’s a free community where certified Cancer Exercise Specialists help people move through cancer.

“The medical community is great at treating the disease, but they're not as great at treating the entire person,” said Porter. “There are two kinds of people in this world, those that allow the world to impact them and those that choose to impact the world. And so a diagnosis was what was being done to me, how the world was impacting me. I made the decision that I was going to impact the world.”

An impact that she noticed in Wingfield after their first one-on-one session.

Erica Porter

“Day one I saw a change in her mindset. When somebody says, 'I wish I had this all along, you know that what you're doing,' is something that is impactful," Porter said. "You don't understand the impact that it has on you until you're living it. I think for her to have somebody that she can talk to and connect with that has been there is also incredibly valuable for her in this moment.”

Wingfield also realized how physical activity is just as important as any medicine, after just a few movement sessions.

“I felt energy, but I felt sore," she said. "And I think the soreness made me feel good. It wasn't a bad sore. It was like a good. I felt like I did something. I was not just sitting around the house.”

Seeing herself in Porter’s reflection, Wingfield vowed to live fully and spread awareness about breast cancer, so that other women are not blindsided by an unexpected diagnosis.

“The biggest thing I can tell women out there is to please make sure they're doing their monthly checks at home. If I had done them, I would have found my cancer before it was advanced to Stage Three," Wingfield said. “Everything does happen for a reason. I had to go through a lot to get where I am, but it's made me stronger. It's made me realize how valuable life can be. That's what I’m hoping to do, is to help people understand that yes, cancer sucks, but you can get through it just on the right support system.”

Erica Porter and the Endorphasm Foundation community that she has cultivated is centered around movement, support, and accountability.

“I have a really important job as an individual who has expertise, but also has an understanding very different from other people,” Porter said. “I respect and I honor each person that walks here and trusts me. How they walk out of here is really important to me.”

Erica Porter

The Endorphasm gym offers group workout sessions to everyone, at varying levels of fitness. You can join in on a class.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, movement is key in fostering a well-rounded approach to your care.

The Endorphasm Foundation is a free resource available to help you move through your treatment with a certified exercise specialist to guide you every step of the way.

You can also join the Endorphasm Foundation on Saturday, October 14, for the 4th Annual Burpees for Boobs fundraiser to raise money to further the non-profit’s mission. Click here for more information on how you can support the cause.

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