JFSA women dedicate event to friend’s fight against cancer

Anna Greenberg at Sabino Canyon in a “Run with Anna” t-shirt. One of her brothers, Aaron, created “Run with Anna” events as a way to promote regular physical activity. See facbeook.com/RUNwithANNA.

Get healthy — it could save your life. That may sound incredibly obvious, but in the case of Tucson native Anna Greenberg, it’s the start of a remarkable story.

Greenberg, 26, was told two years ago that her weight was jeopardizing her health. Her doctor, also a family friend, went so far as to tell her if she didn’t change her habits she’d die — although at that point, she hadn’t developed any obesity-related health issues such as diabetes or heart disease.

At 5’4″ and 247 pounds, Greenberg decided to get serious about weight loss. She changed her eating habits (key factors: 1,200 calories/≤35 fat grams daily/plenty of water) and began working out with a trainer. By October 2011, she was training for the Mount Lemmon half-marathon and had lost 90 pounds. She completed the Oct. 9 race, but her right leg was bothering her and it looked odd. “Is this what a sexy, toned thigh looks like?” she asked her trainer the next day. Measurements showed her right thigh was two and a half inches larger than her left.

Greenberg, who works at the American Cancer Society as a community relationship manager, had recently heard about a tumor misdiagnosed as a pulled muscle. She wasted no time getting to the doctor.

It turned out that she had a rare malignant tumor called a rhabdomyodosarcoma.

“If I didn’t lose the weight it wouldn’t have been seen, or not as early at least,” says Greenberg. Determinedly upbeat, she named the tumor “Thunder” because it reminded her of the “thunder thighs” she’d worked so hard to lose.

Greenberg had surgery to remove the tumor on Nov. 15, followed by two types of radiation and ongoing chemotherapy. She’s been extraordinarily frank about her condition on her Facebook page, which has become a venue for an outpouring of community support.

As part of that support, the Young Women’s Cabinet of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona has decided to donate proceeds from its “Let’s Get Physical!” winter event on Wednesday, Feb. 29 to the American Cancer Society in Greenberg’s honor.

The event will be held at the Tucson Jewish Community Center from 7 to 9 p.m., with workouts led by Zumba instructor J Lynne Prikosovits and Israeli dance instructor Lisa Goldberg, and a fruit and yogurt parfait station. Admission is $18; to RSVP, contact Karen Graham at kgraham@jfsa.org or 577-9393, ext. 118.

Moved to tears when she learned of the honor, Greenberg emphasizes that staying active is a key element of healthy living, both for those hoping to reduce their risk of developing cancer and for those struggling to overcome it.

While she can’t focus on weight loss right now, she’s still working out five days a week when she can, even if the effects of the chemo mean her workouts involve more walking than running these days.

Being around people is important, too.

On Feb. 4, she says, she attended Young Jewish Tucson’s Hava Tequila party. Some people were surprised to see her out and about.

“Well, I’m not dying. I have to stay active,” she told them. “I have to keep a lifestyle. I have to be me. Yeah, I have cancer, but I’ve got to still go dance, have fun, go enjoy.”