Neither breast cancer nor broken legs keep her from the gym

Ruth Litman-Block

By Patricia Corrigan, Special to the Jewish Light

Ruth Litman-Block has survived breast cancer twice. She has diabetes and she recently healed from two broken legs. She has taken all that in stride  – and lost 32 pounds as well.

“Attitude is very important,” says Litman-Black, 67. “I keep my focus on staying healthy, exercising and eating right. I keep in mind that I have the love of my family and friends, and wanting to be with them for a long time keeps me on track.” Born in Boston, a self-described “bit of a tomboy” when she was a girl, Litman-Black moved to St. Louis in 1979. Twenty years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her second diagnosis came in 2008. “I’m just fine,” she says, “and doing well.” Litman-Black took time recently to talk about her health and also her fitness program.


Do you work out regularly?

I do. I joined the Jewish Community Center about 30 years ago, and for the past decade, I have worked out there with my friend Martha Bogart. Twice a week, we do low-impact aerobic exercises and lift weights with Nancy Itzkowitz, a trainer, and twice a week I take a deep water aerobics class.

After all those years as a member, what made you decide to work with a trainer?

I realized if I put working out on my calendar as an appointment, I would always make it to the gym, rather than going randomly. Also, Nancy has inspired me, been my champion, through everything.

What was your original goal?

Better health. Then about nine months ago, I decided I needed to change my eating habits as well, because I want to live a long time to enjoy my grandchildren. My weight used to go up and down, but now I have lost 32 pounds. I would like to lose another 18.

What specific changes did you make in your eating habits?

I started on the Jenny Craig program, eating a lot more vegetables, whole grains and fruit. My husband is losing weight with me. With a combination of eating well and working out, we plan to be a healthy couple in our old age.

Has losing weight been difficult?

Not really. It has been slow, but consistent. Also, I have a lot more energy now.

In the middle of practicing all these good health habits, you broke both legs?

I did. I was in California in July, playing with my grandbabies, when I missed a step and fell down. I broke one ankle, and in the other leg, I broke a distal tibia, a real gnarly break that required putting in a metal plate and screws. I stayed in California two and a half months, healing and playing with the grandchildren, which means I managed to miss the worst of the hot weather in St. Louis.

Have you healed from the breaks?

Yes. I healed beautifully. In the past, I had worked out five days a week and also walked at the mall. The doctor said to cut back on the walking, but he attributes my fast healing to all those years of working out. A week after I got my casts off, I was back at the J.

You seem so motivated – are you never tempted to skip a workout?

Not really. It’s on my calendar, and it’s important to me. Besides, as you get older, it’s harder to lose weight, harder to be strong, so you need to be consistent about working out.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You’ve been through it twice. What would you say to someone newly diagnosed?

When you are first diagnosed, your whole world gets turned around, upside-down. It’s almost an out-of-body experience. It’s important to move on, to have a deep faith that you are never given more than you can handle. We are not victims – these things just happen. It’s best to keep moving on.