i’ve lost a friend

When I started this blog 19 months ago, I didn’t know Nick Ryan. But as I began my quest for fitness and health, he became my trainer and eventually my friend.

Two and a half weeks ago he and some friends were hiking up in Montana. As their yearly trips went, this was not even dangerous, yet his amazing life was cut short from a fall.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this. It’s one of those inexplicable tragedies in life that seem so absolutely wrong.

Over the last few days, my husband and I have been watching Shark Week on Discovery Channel. The people in these shows are risking life and limb, literally, to film, and yet aren’t killed by their serious risk-taking choices. Nick, on the other hand, was just out with his friends hiking one minute and gone the next.

I’ve wrestled with God and asked questions about the seeming lack of fairness of it all, yet have to quiet my heart, and say, “You are God and hold our lives and times in your hands.” My heart aches, not only for my loss, but for Nick’s wife and two little girls who have lost a terrific man, husband and father.

I wasn’t able to attend Nick’s funeral, so wrote a brief tribute to honor him and his impact on my life. Here it is:

A Tribute to Nick

I first met Nick in January of 2010.

A friend of mine had begun working out at Fitness Together in October 2009, and I saw such changes in her that it gave me my first glimmer of hope in nearly six years.

I’m a two time breast cancer survivor. The second cancer experience left me physically very weak with a serious lack of balance, in addition to 50 extra pounds due to many drugs and lack of activity. I didn’t look like myself to me and I didn’t feel like myself either. I had become so discouraged with my situation, I thought, “I fought off cancer twice to live in a body that was hi-jacked by cancer and now doesn’t even look like the me I remember before cancer?!”

Dieting and exercise didn’t effect much change for me and I lost hope that my body could ever become strong and active. My heart was damaged by the chemotherapy and my lungs were damaged from the pneumonia. My balance was off for 7 long months from some unexplained inner ear malady that left me unable to drive or look at any movement without feeling severe nausea.

My upper body lacked physical strength from lack of use, but also from my chest muscles being “messed with” due to my radical bilateral mastectomy. I was in terrible shape and I felt old and worn out and weary.

That’s the Kris Beauchamp that walked into Fitness Together seeking help in January 2010. Although looking back, I was hoping for a miracle but Nick wasn’t going to promise me one! I was hoping I could get in and outta there in 2 or 3 months. He was gracious not to laugh or roll his eyes, but he told me realistically that it was going to be a longer commitment than that.

I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed of my fat body and horrified that he had to weigh and measure me. If it hadn’t been for my friend’s success I might never have gone back after those numbers were written down!

I’d go in, very quietly and do whatever was asked, thinking I was going to pass out from oxygen deprivation or hyperventilation, but he always pressed me just to the point I thought I couldn’t achieve and right before I’d pass out he’d let me stop! Nick got me to do more than I thought I could; more than I would have ever done on my own.

Nick was positive and encouraging. Always ready with a bright, friendly smile.

He took me where I was – didn’t make me feel ashamed for letting my body get in the situation it was in and looked at the facts and asked me where I wanted to be in 6 months or 12 or 24!

Initially I wanted to be able to enjoy life with my family. I wanted to lose some weight to feel comfortable again. I wanted to be alive for my future grandkids and be able to get down on the floor to play with them and be able to get back up again afterward too! Seriously. Once down on the floor, I couldn’t get up again by myself! That’s how weak I was!

I progressed ever so gradually, but Nick was always ready with praise for even the smallest increase of strength. I’d downplay it because of embarrassment and he’d remind me how far I’d actually come. No progress was too small to celebrate.

I’ve gone back and reread several of my blog posts about working out at Fitness Together and was reminded of just how monumental my progress actually was.

I remember telling Nick that I was out walking with my husband up a hill and I could feel a shift. All of a sudden I could breathe deeply, all the way in. I could fill my lungs and it was the best feeling ever! It was the first time in 3 or 4 years that I could completely fill my lungs with air!

I’m not sure, but I think I may be the only person who would ever leave a workout with Nick by thanking him. But I did. Yes, I paid him to work with me and it wasn’t cheap, but I still thanked him for making me a better, stronger, healthier, happier me. He’d tell me I was the one doing the work, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.

At my last workout with Nick, I told him that I’d lost three pounds since my last weigh in (which amounted to a measly half pound a week in my mind). He turned sideways and looking over his left shoulder at me from across the room he grinned, saying with exuberant conviction, “Kris! You are doing it! If you keep doing what you’re doing now, you will reach your goals!”

Nick and I would discuss things I’d blog about relating to weight loss, fitness or nutrition. He’d challenge my thinking and press me to see a different perspective.

One day I wrote about a quote by Horace Mann:

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

I know I’m just me, not a great person in the whole scheme of things, but I’m sure if you asked others, they’d feel the same way: Nick was a person who won a victory for me. He helped me conquer the ravaging effects of cancer in my body to become stronger, healthier and happier. His death is untimely for sure, but there is no shame in it. Nick won a huge victory for me by helping me find my way back to myself, back to even a better place of health and wellness than I ever thought I could.

Nick, I’ll do my best to carry on your legacy of winning some victory for humanity in my world. I’ll miss you, but I’ll do you proud.


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8 Responses to “i’ve lost a friend”

  1. Jan Lane Says:

    Made me tear up:(

  2. Mom B. Says:

    My Precious Kris,
    How shocked we were to hear of your loss! When we visited you in June you looked wonderful and seemed happier than we had seen you in the past years. Nick did indeed perform a miracle with you and your body while he was training you. Your posture, your self-confidence radiated good health. i pray you will be able to find another trainer very soon and continue the progress you have made. Sending our love, and prayers, Mom and Dad Beauchamp.

  3. Valerie Bosselman Says:

    I spoke with Nick Ryan a few times. My heart wanted to hire him as a personal trainer, but my post-cancer finances after losing Megan (and bills that kept rolling in) prohibited it.

    All I know is that when I saw you, Kris, after half a year of training with Nick, you looked like a different person. Your countenance was strong. You stood with power. No longer the ‘hijacked’ woman recovering from chemo, but a Kris that is more strong and beautiful than ever.

    Instant grief hit my soul to hear of the world’s loss. In the days after Megan’s death, “Lament for a Son”, the story of a dad losing his son in a climbing accident, inspired me the most. To think of Nick Ryan suddenly gone from us in such an accident made me weep.

    “If God would have him, there’d be none to stop Him.” But what about us that miss him so?

    I do know that his life speaks of how one solitary life can change the world. Nick Ryan transformed yours, dear Kris.

    I grieve for you, in the loss of a trainer who understood about pointing you to the finish line…not to just finish, but finish strong.

    I grieve for his wife and family, and the unimaginable pain of their lives changing suddenly. You are non-stop on my heart since your blog. Please convey my deepest sorrow to his family.

    Most of all, run strong, Kris Beauchamp. When you run, feel His pleasure….but we feel the sorrow of the loss of Nick Ryan.

  4. Stephanie McConachie Says:

    Thank you. This inspired me to keep moving forward to overcome my own personal challenges and trusting God that the day will come when I will no longer be defined by the lies of Satan or my past…but only by who God says I am! Thank you again!!!

  5. Nicolette Says:

    Thank you for sharing your tribute to Nick. He sounded like a patient and encouraging man. Thank you, also, for your genuine frankness and vulnerability. In this way, you are also “doing it”.


  6. Claudia Kaser Says:

    Kris – you have already “won some victory for humanity” with all your wise words and comments, both as a writer and speaker! Your life journeys are a huge inspiration to me, as I know they are to others! “Little Things” will find a new home in many of my adult friends lives as Christmas gifts this year, just as a beautiful little reminder of life’s treasures! Indeed that’s what you are – a treasure!

    Love & hugs!

  7. Angie Baratta Says:

    I have several neighbors that trained with Nick. He must have been such a terrific person. I am so sorry for your loss. Your tribute was beautiful.

  8. Bonnie Dean Says:

    sorry for your loss.

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