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Health and Fitness

Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials- Dressel

Chief Navy Counselor Ching Dressel

Wounded warriors are often thought of as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have been wounded in action and have visual representations of their medical conditions.

Not all wounds are easily visible or identifiable at first glance. Some injuries take a different form altogether, but still leave scars equally as painful on the inside.

Take Chief Navy Counselor Ching Dressel, for instance. From the time it was discovered in 2012 she had myelodysplastic syndrome, Dressel went from being a competitive, avid runner to a medical patient requiring chemotherapy as well as both a bone marrow transplant and stem cell transplant in a matter of weeks.

"It wasn't reality for me because I was healthy," said Dressel. "I had outstanding physical fitness assessments, I was running almost every single day and having been told by my doctor that I had myelodysplastic syndrome, I was lost."

Dressel appeared to be the model of perfect health to even the keenest eye, but internally was suffering from a type of cancer in which the bone marrow is not making enough healthy blood cells and instead replacing them with abnormal and ultimately cancerous cells.

"That was a very challenging part of my life," said Dressel. "I had chemotherapy for about a week-really severe, heavy doses. I had my transplant a day later and then was hospitalized for about a month. Through that whole process, I lost a lot of my muscle tone and endurance, so as an athlete and someone who is an avid runner, it crushed me physically."

In the face of such unforeseen adversity and a form of cancer in which her body was incapable of providing an adequate amount of healthy blood cells, Dressel chose to remain optimistic about the potential for a full recovery.

Although initially capable of walking only a few steps upon completion of her chemotherapy treatments and two successful transplants, she chose to spend each day walking a step or two further than the day before. With help from the Navy's Safe Harbor program, Dressel found the strength to jog and eventually run again.
  • Navy Photo

    Chief Navy Counselor Ching Dressel competes in the 1500-meter run during the 2014 Wounded Warrior Team Navy trials. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jackie

  • Navy Photo

    Chief Navy Counselor Ching Dresseland Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Joseph Baird pump air into a bicycle tire before cycling practice during the 2014 Wounded Warrior Team Navy trials. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jackie Hart

  • Navy Photo

    Chief Navy Counselor Ching Dressel sits at the starting line for cycling practice during the 2014 Wounded Warrior Team Navy trials. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jackie Hart

"Once I was introduced to Safe Harbor and discovered all these programs with track and cycling, I thought 'Okay, I'm on it. I can do it. I can meet that goal,'" said Dressel. "I'm a competitive person by nature, so to be introduced to this program gave me a goal and pushed me further and further."

Citing her teammates and fellow wounded warriors as her inspiration; Dressel is now excelling in her physical fitness assessments again and showing no signs of myelodysplastic syndrome. Dressel is expecting to return to active duty in the near future.

"It's been a challenging year and a half, to say the least. When I was told that I was fit for full duty, I felt like I won," she said. "When they first told me I was unfit, I knew I needed to work harder. To come back around full circle and be told that I'm fit for full duty, I won. I beat it and I can't tell you how good the feeling is."