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Getting in Shape Saved Virginia's Police Officer's Life

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- Troy Lindsey felt fit as could be this summer, and for good reason.

The city police lieutenant was exercising daily, powering through workouts difficult for officers decades younger. He could lie in bed admiring his rock-hard abs.

What he couldn't see was a cancerous tumor eating his right kidney. If left alone a few more months, it likely would kill him.

Christmas 2010 was Lindsey's final straw. He'd just turned 50. Lethargic, he fretted over how much he'd eaten and how fat he'd gotten. He weighed 252 pounds -- as heavy as he'd ever been and too much even for his 6-foot-2 frame.

"I've got to do something," he said. "I've got to change my life."

Lindsey cleaned up his diet with help from his wife, Tricia, turning mostly to organic foods. He felt they helped energize him. He started basic workouts such as weightlifting, running and cycling.

Those weren't doing enough, though.

"I guess the older you get, the harder it is to get in shape," he said.

Lindsey had been a long-distance runner in his younger years, and he competed in triathlons in the 1980s. He went looking for exercise that would push his limits.

His night schedule wasn't ideal for gym classes. He tried instructional videos at home, but they were too repetitive.

Scrolling the Internet, he found CrossFit, a high-intensity workout involving heavy lifting and cardiovascular exercise. Workouts are nontraditional -- like running with heavy truck tires attached to the hips, throwing weighted balls at the ceiling and leaping onto 2-foot-high boxes.

Workouts typically last less than an hour but are different each time. They also require quick bursts of activity, which Lindsey found ideal for his jobs as commander of the Police Department's dive team and the department's night commander.

"You're going to get total-body fitness," Lindsey said. "Speed, endurance, strength. You're going to be ready to fight for your life."

Lindsey was down to around 200 pounds within months. His physique went from flabby to chiseled.

"The fat started to melt off," Tricia said.

Things changed one morning in July. Troy noticed the right side of his stomach wasn't as flat as the left side. He wasn't in pain or having any other problems, so he chalked it up to getting older.

His wife of 21 years thought differently. She ordered him to a doctor.

"Most of the time I'm like Troy," Tricia said. "Rub some dirt on it, and it'll be OK. I'm not sure what made me think this was a good idea."

Tests showed what neither could've imagined. Lindsey had renal-cell carcinoma, or kidney cancer. The main tumor was about the size of a football. He also had two smaller tumors.

"I'm thinking, 'My life is shattered,' " Tricia said.

An eight-hour surgery followed. Doctors removed his right kidney. The tumor eating away at that kidney weighed 11 pounds. They also removed part of his small intestine to attack the smaller tumors.

"When they first diagnosed me with renal cell, they said if I hadn't come in when I did, hadn't been diagnosed and didn't have the surgery, I probably would've been dead by the end of January," Lindsey said.

Police Chief Kelvin Wright visited his friend of more than three decades a few days after the surgery. Not only was Lindsey alert, he appeared healthy and was walking around the hospital.

"I was blown away," Wright said. "Was he even sick?"

Lindsey returned home a week after his operation. He started walks around the block. Within three weeks, his walks lasted a mile, and he was pushing doctors to let him start running.

That was no surprise to Jeff Jeffries, a sergeant in the special operations unit. He's known Lindsey about 13 years. Lindsey introduced him to CrossFit.

"Troy's probably the most driven person I've ever met," Jeffries said.

Lindsey's recovery has been tough. He's undergoing chemotherapy for the smaller tumors. That saps his energy for days. He's on sick leave from work and likely will be for a few more months.

What's really irking Lindsey, now 53, is that he can't work out much. He's able to jog and do a few basic exercises. CrossFit is out for at least a few months, though.

"I love to work out," Lindsey said. "And it's gotten me this far. The last thing I want to do is stop."

The Lindseys believe the exercise program saved Troy's life. "If he had not lost that weight, we would never have found that tumor," Tricia said. "And he probably would be gone."

That's why Troy is driven to promote CrossFit. He's training his wife, using a gym he set up in their garage.

He's also gotten Chief Wright into it. And he's preaching it to any military members, firefighters and law enforcement officers who will listen.

"You have to be ready to fight for your life and the life of other people. This is what prepares you for that," Troy said.

He paused. "It prepared me for it in a way I didn't expect."

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