Former Fitness Club Merritt Island Owner Linda Wardell Passes Away at 60 After Fierce Fight With Breast Cancer
By Space Coast Daily // March 14, 2022
died from liver failure Friday evening, March 11, surrounded by kids and grandchildren
EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Fitness Club Merritt Island owner Linda Wardell passed away March 11 at age 60. Below is a tribute by Laruen Wilken and Mary Beth Phelps, followed by a Space Coast Daily story published in 2014 detailing Linda’s fierce 12-year fight with breast cancer:
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of former Fitness Club Owner and friend, Linda Wardell, after an agonizing 12-plus years battling cancer. She died from liver failure late Friday evening, March 11, surrounded by her kids and grandchildren.
Linda came to Florida from New Jersey approximately 10 years ago as co-owner of what today is Fitness Club. Soon, she became sole owner and relocated the gym to the current South location. She updated and remodeled her “family-friendly gym” while continuing her own personal battle with cancer.
In October 2018 she sold the gym to Lou Manley and Steve Ash. Soon after, she relocated to Georgia to be close to her two children, Mark and Brittany, and her three beloved grandbabies.
In 2009, Linda was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and given three months to live…she didn’t agree and immediately took it upon herself to treat and defy all odds, not just this once, but 60 more times! Yes, 60!
Linda was a true inspiration and “miracle woman” and, by far, one of the most courageous, strong, determined persons that anyone could have had the pleasure to know.
She was a truly beautiful woman, both inside and out! Her smile lit up the room. She was an incredible mother, grandmother, true friend, employer and business woman. There will never be another Linda Wardell and she will be sadly missed by those who knew and loved her.Rest in Peace beautiful Linda.
– Laruen Wilken and Mary Beth Phelps
Fitness Club Owner Linda Wardell Fights, Overcomes Stage 4 Breast Cancer: Published February 4, 2014 on Space Coast Daily
‘When I Got Diagnosed, They Said I Had Three Months To Live’
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – If Linda Wardell had listened to her physician’s predictions, she would be long dead.
Fortunately, Wardell refused to give up and, in the process, the Cocoa Beach resident has become a poster girl for successfully fighting breast cancer.
Wardell’s odyssey began around Halloween of 2009, just after she had come from Monmouth County, New Jersey, to be with her new boyfriend, who operated Island Fitness in Merritt Island.
“Six weeks after we started dating, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer,” said Wardell.
Her doctor in Jersey didn’t recommend breast surgery, since he considered her too far gone for surgery to be of any value.
“When I got diagnosed, they said I had three months to live,” she said. “They said why take your breasts out, when the cancer is all over your body.”
The cancer had metastasized beyond the breasts into the lymph nodes, lungs, liver, both hips and two spinal disks.
“I had 21 tumors in total, a mass on the right breast the size of a lime and five fibroids the size of grapes and a walnut-sized mass on the left breast with four more grape-sized fibroids,” said Wardell.
NO FAMILY HISTORY
Wardell couldn’t believe the extent of her cancer, because she had no family history of the disease and the only discomfort she had experienced before the diagnosis was a nagging cough for several months.
“I had been coughing for nine months previously, but four different doctors had told me I had chronic bronchitis,” she said.
About a week later, Wardell entered chemotherapy, traveling to New Jersey for treatments that continued until 2011. Her treatment protocol included high doses of abraxsine three Mondays a month, zomeda for her bones one Monday a month and avastine two Mondays a month.
Before her move to Brevard, Wardell had owned a tanning and swimwear boutique by coastal New Jersey around the Sandy Hook area, known as stomping grounds for Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi.
“Both of them had gone into my store,” she said.
‘YOU’VE GOT TO KEEP MOVING’
Like the two superstars and many other residents of that part of the Garden State, Wardell is proud of her ability to squarely confront any problems that come her way with typical Jersey gumption.
Cancer was a big problem, she acknowledged, but one that could be beaten, or at the very least, staved.
“I really believe there is no cure, but a combination of faith, attitude, western and eastern medicines and homeopathics can do wonders,” she said.
“I was very proactive,” said Wardell. “I got every one of the scans and read them myself to see where I was at. Dr. Juan Castro of Space Coast Cancer Center started taking care of my Coumadin levels because I was spending more time in Brevard than New Jersey. He received all my chemo records and collaborated with my doctors in New Jersey on my condition.”
Wardell adhered to the treatment suggested by her doctor in New Jersey, but she also read up on homeopathic alternatives.
“I had always used homeopathy and eaten healthy,” she said.
She started a regimen that to this day includes plenty of essiac tea, which she purchases at health food stores. “I started the first week I started chemo,” she said. “I feel it really helped.”
She also added beta glucans with maitake, Ester C 2000mg. and Montana yew tips, which she tosses into her tea. She performs whole body detox every three months.
Sugar is out for the rest of her life, and she has cut out red meat and never uses the microwave. Her diet these days is primarily vegetable-based.
Exercise, even during chemotherapy, was another must-do.
“You’ve got to keep moving,” said Wardell, who made it a point to walk down the beach or go for a bike ride as soon as she woke up from a chemo crash.
As part of her take-charge approach, she nixed an additional round of chemo and several medications she felt had side effects that far outweighed their benefits.
“I said, no, thank you,” she noted.
“More people die from the side effects of chemo than cancer, so I wanted to have only the minimum amount of chemo needed to make a difference.”
KEEPING THE FAITH
Her faith also helped immensely, said Wardell, as did the faith of her friends. “I had a lot of people doing group prayers for me,” she said. “Faith and attitude are very important.”
In April of 2013, Wardell heard the good news. The cancer was nowhere to be found. By October of last year, Wardell had finished her western medicine treatment and was concentrating on homeopathic remedies and natural foods, which she continues.
Wardell’s doctors are amazed that she is alive and well.
“With Stage 4, they’re not allowed to say that the cancer is in remission, but they basically told me that there is no cancer in my body,” she said.
“They said whatever I’m doing, keep doing it.”
‘I NEVER GAVE UP’
Wardell has been asked for her recipe for cancer success so many times that she has developed a series of handouts to help ease the journey for others who are struggling with the same problems.
“I don’t really know why I’m still here, but maybe I’m supposed to be here to help other people,” she said.
Wardell never really gave up her post at Island Fitness and has now taken over management of the operation. She soon plans to move the facility to a better location that would allow the exercise center more elbow room for additional amenities.
She never made a big deal about her disease and continued business as usual, which astounds gym visitors.
“There are people at the gym who I’ve known for four years that didn’t know I was ever sick,” she said. “They can’t believe I had this kind of cancer.”
Perhaps the most critical part of her recovery plan was Wardell’s decision to refuse to let the disease get the better of her.
“The first thing I did was to try and figure out what I had to do to get rid of the cancer,” she said.
“I never gave up.”
– Originally published in February 2014