Hero of the Week: Cerebral Palsy and Cancer Couldn’t Stop This Athlete From Opening Her Dream Gym
Stephanie “The Hammer” Hammerman and her twin were much anticipated by their family. They were miracle babies, but on the day they were born, their parents had to readjust their expectations — or so they thought. While her twin was perfectly healthy, Steph (or The Hammer, as she’s known to friends) had been born with cerebral palsy.
Her family was devastated. Doctors told them baby Steph was never going to be able to talk, read, or write. And walking was out of the question.
“That was the beginning of me going against the grain,” Steph told ABC News. Her development may have been slower than her twin’s, but Steph was a fighter from the start.
Every time someone told her she wasn’t going to be able to do something, Steph was immediately spurred into action. She would find a to prove them wrong. She not only learned to speak, read, and write, but also attended mainstream school. By the age of 7 she was already going the sleep-away camp. School led to college and then a master’s degree.
It was at college that Steph found her unshakable love of fitness. At that time, she lacked direction in her life and her health wasn’t too great. Then Steph found a trainer who spurred her on to set an impossible goal for herself. She decided to finish a marathon– and she did it, something clicked inside her: she was now an athlete.
In 2012, looking to up her marathon game, Steph went to a CrossFit gym on the recommendation of friends. She immediately knew she had found a community. Everybody at the gym was congratulating each other for their successful workouts and their progress. Within a year, Steph became a certified coach. In 2014 she became the first Level 2 CrossFit trainer with cerebral palsy.
By 2016, Steph was ready to open her own CrossFit gym. She had an amazing boyfriend. Life was good. And then she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
But not even cancer could stop her. “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 told People.
The positivity and determination to beat all odds that Steph had demonstrated since she was a baby helped carry her through 29 weeks of cancer treatment. By the next year, Nike had signed her as its first adaptive athlete. She was working out, coaching, and competing again.
Now, a short two two years after her cancer diagnosis, Steph has opened Hammer Driven Fitness, a CrossFit gym outside Raleigh, North Carolina where she gets to help and inspire regular people and athletes alike, while doing what she loves most.
Of her realized dream, Steph said: “I am in the business of changing people’s lives and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”