“Sometimes It’s OK Not to Be OK” – What It’s Like Supporting A Loved One With Cancer

Expedition Leader Angela has a reputation for being a tough cookie – just watch her ‘Excuse Buster’ video for the proof!

However, despite her strong exterior, Angela is vulnerable to the hardships in life like anyone else. The outdoor fitness instructor and mother of three recently lost her close friend and mentor Andy Jones to cancer – an experience that has been incredibly difficult within her fitness community.

Angela told us about both the privilege and intense difficulty of supporting a friend or loved one through cancer. With eloquence and emotion, she gave insight into what it’s like putting on a brave face for others, as well as advice on how to cope.

Angela and Andy were close friends who bonded over a love of fitness.

These are her words.

Growing up Greek, there are a lot of ‘strong’ women in my family. These role models helped shape who I am today, as well as the traditional expectations of women to always be there for your family and to help others. 

I also developed resilience in the face of challenges at school. I’d hide from bullies in the school gymnasium during lunch times but gradually empowered myself through exercise. I went on to represent my school in team sports and at national championships – proof that I could overcome adversity.

Because of this, it came as no surprise when I pursued a career in helping others get stronger through fitness and growth mindset. Alongside working for the family business and PT work, I work for an outdoor fitness company called PowerFit, where I help people grow their self confidence and get fitter. There is no room for the words “I can’t” in my vocabulary, only “I’ll try”.

Then, in April of 2023 my incredible mentor and very close friend and founder of PowerFit Andy Jones was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. This devastating news struck our  community deeply. I remember the evening Andy and I spoke whilst he was still in hospital digesting the news. I immediately told him not to worry about PowerFit; I would manage it, take the classes and support members during his absence. 

So that’s what I did. The support and community spirit of all our members was the fuel I needed to simply keep going. But more importantly, it was knowing that Andy could rest assured that PowerFit was still benefitting its members. We stood strong because of the physical and mental resilience Andy had instilled in each and everyone of us. This was something he had spent so many years nurturing and growing into what it is today. 

Outdoor exercise group in a muddy park.

Angela and a group of other Powerfit members are taking to the event start line in February.

Of course, it was tough. Trying to stay positive when you’re watching your friend fight for his life could be exhausting. There were days when I just didn’t care. I didn’t want to be the positive person, to be strong and focused, I simply wanted to hide away and cry. Scream at the cruelty of this indiscriminate disease and demand answers – answers I knew no one could give. So like Andy, who endured surgery, radio and chemotherapy, took on physical challenges to help raise awareness and money for cancer charities, I too challenged myself to keep going. I put on my PowerFit uniform day after day, turned on my alter ego and tried to stay strong.

If you too are supporting someone with cancer, or find yourself in a position where you feel you have to ‘stay strong’ when you want to fall apart, I have the following advice:

  • Talk. Be sure to find the person or group that you can be open, honest and emotional with. You need to feel comfortable and confident to share exactly how you feel with them. 
  • Make time for yourself. Look for an outlet or at least someone you can rely on unconditionally – be it a support group, councillor, close friend, family member, person of faith or social media platform. There are also so many wonderful charities who offer support in many different ways not only to the cancer patient but their family and friends too.  
  • Be kind to yourself. You might not be able to ‘get it right’ all the time; other areas of your life may be compromised during this process. The most important thing is to not beat yourself up – you’re not a superhuman and you’ll be better at supporting and caring for others when you are physically and mentally well.

Andy sadly lost his battle and passed away peacefully on Sunday 28th January 2024 surrounded by his family. The PowerFit team are taking part in the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run in his memory. We will remember his words of encouragement during a PowerFit class or when he demonstrated his own sheer determination, strength and resilience whilst taking on his climbing, canoeing, touring and cycling challenges during his illness. When we find it hard, we will say “take another step, push yourself a little further, dig a little deeper. Channel your Inner Andy”.

I want to highlight the undeniable support of the PowerFit members that were and still are my bandaid during this time. They really did ‘look out for me’ and never put any pressure on me to turn up week after week to instruct their classes, insisting even that I took timeout. 


Rest in peace Andy, and good luck to Angela and the Powerfit team at the event.