This Exton Nonprofit Founder Wants to Beat Cancer With Fitness

When three of 2015 Be Well Philly Health Hero Christine Meyer's patients — and her aunt — were diagnosed with advanced cancer, she felt helpless. So she started running.

christine meyer

Internal medicine physician Christine Meyer created the Team CMMD Foundation to raise money to fight cancer through exercise. / Graphic by Meredith Getzfread

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be chatting with some of our past Be Well Philly Health Heroes to give you a glimpse of the people who are helping Philadelphians live healthier lives. Got your own Health Hero to nominate for this year? Do so here.

Name: Christine Meyer

Role: Creator of Team CMMD Foundation, a nonprofit team of volunteers, runners, walkers, and cyclists who exercise to raise money in the fight against cancer.

What motivated you to create Team CMMD?

In 2012, three of my dearest patients were diagnosed with advanced cancers, and I felt powerless as a physician to help them. Then my aunt and mentor was diagnosed with Stage IIIB colon cancer. I hit rock bottom and decided to train for and run Broad Street for the American Cancer Society. Our initial team of four has become the amazing powerhouse of runners and do-gooders that is Team CMMD today.

How has running Team CMMD inspired you to live a healthier life?

As a doctor, a mom, and a nonprofit founder, I see myself as a role model. Because I encouraged, cajoled, and sometimes shamelessly begged people to come running or walking or biking for our charity, I had to do the same. I had to SHOW UP…when I was tired, sick, or in a bad mood. I had to SHOW UP when it was pouring or icy or 100 degrees out.

I thought I was showing up for THEM, my team, my tribe, my patients. Then something amazing happened — my exercise became ritual. And to this day nearly seven years later, I have not stopped exercising at least five times per week. So now, at 47, I am actually in the best shape of my life. Crazy!

How has winning the Health Hero Challenge helped you further reach those in need?

Oh, wow. In SO many ways. Being able to share this honor the year my book about the foundation was published lent me so much more credibility as an author. When I made it to the final four in 2015, I made a commitment to donate all of the winnings to support pediatric cancer patients. Cancer is awful at any age. But it is downright despicable in a child. We donated the funds to three specific groups that support pediatric cancer research: Cure 4 Cam, Mimi’s Fund (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

What do you have in the pipeline now?

The foundation, Team CMMD, has raised more than $1.3 million for the American Cancer Society. We sponsor a local family struggling with cancer every year and send them a cash grant of $2,000 every month for the year. In addition, we give local families financial assistance totaling about $15,000 every month. We award one $20,000 scholarship yearly to a graduating senior whose family has been touched by cancer.

We are also working on several community outreach projects. On May 31st, we hosted a lantern lighting in honor of loved ones lost or fighting. On June 2nd, we hosted a brunch for cancer survivors in our area and their loved ones. Lots more awesome stuff like that!

Our pipeline is sadly full of families that are newly diagnosed. As long as there is cancer, we will keep raising money and putting it directly in the hands of those who need it.

What is a misconception you think people have about what it means to be healthy/what they need to do to be healthy?

People think they have to do everything all at once. They wake up and decide to completely change their eating habits and start exercising every single day. People need to make small, consistent changes that are meaningful, like not drinking alcohol during the weak, skipping the coffee and soda, or committing to taking a 10-minute walk three times per week.

What advice would you give to those looking to make a healthier shift in their lifestyle?

Don’t wait for Monday or New Year. Do one thing and do it RIGHT now. Then tomorrow, repeat. If you have a bad day, make a bad choice, or skip your exercise one day, all is not lost. Put that day behind you and go at it again.

What advice would you give to your fellow Health Heroes — those looking to help others make a healthier shift in their lifestyles?

Link health and wellness to something you are passionate about (in my case, cancer.) Then, write about it, blog about it, shout it from the rooftops. Exercise for purpose, not a number on the scale. Don’t ask others to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. Lead by being present and accessible to those who look to you for inspiration. Be an example. Show up. Even when it’s the last thing you want to do.

Know someone who deserves to join Meyer in the ranks of Be Well Philly Health Heroes? Nominate them here.

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