Nestor Strong

A Cape Moment– perhaps something as simple as completing a project or helping a friend in need. Or a moment when you find a way to get back up after being knocked down. These are so significant and we want to share the many in our Durham community. You can see more at Cape Moments.

Nestor Paonessa was nominated by friends, co-workers and clients for his Cape Moment. Eight months ago, a life threatening cancer diagnosis became a detour on Nestor’s journey. Thank you Tracy Cox for providing most of the text for this blog post.

More than a trainer

image6I met Nestor in the summer of 2014 when I joined Empower Fitness looking for some strength training. What I didn’t know then was that Nestor would become so much more to me than a personal trainer.  During our sessions together we bonded over our shared love of running.  Although Nestor‘s idea of running was way different than mine–he was training for the Tough as Trails series.  That series is 3 trail races–The Eno River Run, Uwharrie Trail Run and Mountains to Sea.  Nestor completed the series running the longest distances in each race: 11 miles, 40 miles and 50k.  I volunteered at the Uwharrie and Mountains to Sea races so I saw him in action–calm, deliberate, focused, with just a little humor.

Nestor‘s training was definitely making a difference in my life.  I was gaining muscle, losing weight, and running better.  Nestor was more than just a trainer I went to once a week. He made working out fun.  He was a great source of support and motivation.  He encouraged me to tackle a big goal–a marathon PR.  He gave me the confidence that together we could make it happen.

Life-altering news

image2There comes a time in life when you receive life-altering news. For some it happens when you are young, others may reach their later years before they are faced with great challenge.  For Nestor and his wife that news came on June 26, 2015 – the exact day they closed on their dream home. At a time they were supposed to be celebrating one of life’s most joyous occasions, they were rocked to the core to learn he had a brain tumor.  Since that time things have moved at lightening speed thanks to our great friend Dr. Henry Friedman and his phenomenal team at The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke. Nestor underwent a very complicated, but successful surgery on July 1, 2015.

Unfortunately the pathology report revealed that the tumor was classified as Glioblastoma Multiforme. This type of malignant tumor is very aggressive, but Nestor‘s team  encourages him, his wife and their circle of support to all think CURE rather than treatment. Nestor starts a regimen of daily chemo and radiation and he will certainly need additional treatments after this first round.

A Cape Moment

Nestor‘s diagnosis was a gut punch for everyone who knew him.  It was unfathomable. The guy could run for 40 miles in the mountains!  How could this be true?

What’s a guy like Nestor to do with that reality?  Nestor was determined, focused, and courageous.  He did what runners do–set a goal, make a plan and work the plan.  Sure he would do chemo and radiation treatments that made him weak and compromised his vision.

Would he stop running?  No way.  Would he give up that quirky sense of humor.  Nope.  Would he become selfish?  No.  He gave himself a goal — train for the Angels Among Us Road Race, with several races leading up to it, including Florence Forth.  While he was at it, he’d also raise some money for the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke where he’s being treated by selling #NestorStrong t-shirts.

For me, Nestor‘s strength and courage, became a motivating force.  In my training and during my races, he’s the voice in my head, the mantra, pushing me to be Nestor Strong.  In November I set that marathon PR.  Nestor was right–together we made it happen.


Thank you Tracy Cox and Empower Personalized Fitness for providing much of the text for this post.