NEW WATERFORD, N.S. —
Glen Hutchison has dedicated the majority of his life to living a healthy lifestyle.
It wasn’t uncommon to see the New Waterford native at the gym upwards of four times a week to not only stay in shape as a powerlifter, but also stay active as much as possible.
Unfortunately, things changed a bit in August 2019 when the now 63-year-old was diagnosed with cancer in his esophagus.
“I was having a little bit of trouble swallowing — I have a hiatus hernia and I’ve always had it and I thought that’s what was giving me the trouble,” said Hutchison.
“My two brothers died of pretty near the same thing I have, so I was getting scopes done just to keep an eye on it and that’s when they found the cancer.”
Later, Hutchison received more unfortunate news. After a biopsy, doctors discovered more than 30 cancer spots on his liver and diagnosed him with Stage 4 cancer.
Prior to learning he had cancer, Hutchison had been an active powerlifter and competed in events for more than 40 years off and on at various levels.
“I was going into a powerlifting contest in New Brunswick in May 2019 and the doctors figure I had cancer then,” said Hutchison.
“I was trying to cut a little bit of weight for the contest to go into a lower weight class. I lost the weight and I wasn’t thinking much of it, it came off relatively easy, and that’s the reason for it but I didn’t know.”
In November 2019, Hutchison had his first chemotherapy treatment and remained out of the gym.
As things slowly began to improve, Hutchison had a setback that forced him to visit the emergency room in February.
“My chest was really sore and I didn’t know what it was,” said Hutchison. “Luckily, I ran into a doctor who knew what he was talking about and all it was muscle spasms in my esophagus — it was like a car sitting on my chest.
“It was a rough point, but I saw the doctor and he gave me some medication and it fixed me right up.”
Back to the gym
As the month went on, Hutchison began to feel better and made the decision to slowly return to the gym while being cautious because of his treatment.
“I started picking at the gym and I kept picking at it and the more I picked at it the better I felt,” said Hutchison. “I started eating good again and the chemo was helping.”
Since returning to the gym, Hutchison has had four CT scans.
“Everyone has been better than the last one,” said Hutchison. “I was able to put it all into one pot, and with the help of a couple prayers, here I am today.”
With the desire to never give up, Hutchison credits going back to the gym and staying strong for where he is today in his battle with cancer.
“Talking to a few people who are involved in the health profession, what I’m doing with this is replenishing my cells — getting involved in exercise replenishes cells and makes the bad cells go away, you need to have the good ones to fight this thing.”
A lifetime of lifting
“The chemo helps every 12 days, but if I didn’t stay strong over the last 40-plus years, it would have definitely kicked me a lot harder than what it is.”
Hutchison first began lifting weights as a teenager with a friend in his father’s musky basement. He was later introduced to Harry Corbett and began training in Corbett’s barn.
“I didn’t really know much about powerlifting at the time,” said Hutchison, who first joined the Canadian Powerlifting Union in 1977.
“My father was well built — he wasn’t a big man, but he had a good physique and I had always been kind of impressed with the physique.
“I was overwhelmed when I saw how much some of the guys could lift and that’s when I decided to jump in with both feet.”
During his time working with Corbett, he was taught powerlifting as well as Olympic lifting. He would eventually do both for several years.
Although he wanted to lift as much as he could, Hutchison admits the health aspect of the gym has always been the driving force behind his desire to continue lifting.
“If it wasn’t for Harry, I wouldn’t be here. Because of that I’m sitting here talking to you,” said Hutchison. “The chemo helps every 12 days, but if I didn’t stay strong over the last 40-plus years, it would have definitely kicked me a lot harder than what it is.
“Not just because I was sick, the gym was always the place for me to go and I could do my thing. The physical and strength part of it was secondary, the mental aspect of it is primary.”
‘Don’t give up’
When he was first diagnosed, doctors told Hutchison he might not be able to gain weight and might have to be on a liquid diet. At the time, he weighed 150 pounds. Today, he’s 170 pounds.
“I’m the type of fella that when (the doctor) told me I wouldn’t be able to put on any weight, I didn’t want him to tell me what I couldn’t do,” laughed Hutchison. “I put my nose to the grinder and I knew I’d get it done.”
Robert White has been a friend of Hutchison’s for many years. He said Hutchison’s physical fitness early in life has had an impact.
“All those years of looking after himself physically and mentally have definitely given him an edge,” said White. “His inner strength is an inspiration to those around him.”
“When I feel good, I move. When I don’t feel good, I don’t move. It’s a game is what it is, and you have to play the game if you want to survive.”
Hutchison understands it’s not easy for everyone to remain active when going through medical treatment.
“The best thing I can tell people is you have to keep moving,” said Hutchison.
“I know it’s hard, everyone is different. I was fortunate that I did have so many years under my belt that kept me strong to handle what I’m handling.
“If we can get the younger people in their 30s and 40s to start realizing now is the time you need to start taking care of yourself because we all know these things don’t play favourites.”
Hutchison said there are many different things people can do to be active in their homes without having to go to a gym.
“Get up and move around your house — don’t give up,” he said. “Sit down in your chair and stand up and do that 10 times. If you can only do it once, do it, and then tomorrow try to do it twice.”
Hutchison, who doesn’t consider himself an inspiration to others, doesn’t know how many more chemo treatments he’ll need, but doesn’t intend to stop getting exercise when he can.
“When I feel good, I move,” he said. “When I don’t feel good, I don’t move. It’s a game is what it is, and you have to play the game if you want to survive.”
Jeremy Fraser is the sports reporter for the Cape Breton Post. He’s been with the publication for four years. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @CBPost_Jeremy.