In 1998, Diana Geddes had to undergo surgery for a precancerous diagnosis related to a 20-year-long smoking habit.

While recovering from surgery, she got in the car to go buy cigarettes, but she turned the car around and went to the doctors office to get on the nicotine patch instead.

“I never smoked after that,” Geddes said. “I struggled but never picked up another cigarette.

“Quitting was the single best thing I ever did — and the hardest thing I have ever done.”

The weight gain that typically comes with quitting smoking lead Geddes to Fit Time for Women, located at 102 Brighton Park Blvd.

Upon her retirement from the state in 1999, Geddes shifted her focus from the office to the gym and soon became a part-time employee of Fit Time. Her duties included staffing the child watch area and the front desk. Her interest in the gym grew over time and she bought out the owners in 2006.

FRANK.: Was this the first gym you ever attended?

Geddes: I played softball for 10 or 12 years in a league, but I never did anything in the gym.

It was very intimidating at first, but we have a circuit room that separates you from the gym. Once you start feeling the physical changes, then you have the confidence to know you’re not as wimpy as you thought you were.

FRANK.: What is your personal workout routine?

Geddes: I work with trainers three times a week. They have different styles. They keep it fresh. It’s as hard for me to get back in that gym as anyone else. If I don’t schedule it, it’s hard for me to do it.

FRANK.: In what ways are you making the atmosphere at the gym more comfortable for women?

Geddes: We do a big group fitness program. We cater to those different wants and needs. There’s a yoga and dance class.

There’s someone who tells me once a week their blood pressure is down or their bone density is up.

We have some come in and want to lose 40 pounds, but we don’t harp on them.

My job is to motivate them to come and to try to keep it a routine and a habit.

FRANK.: How does it make you feel to know that you’re helping women better their lives?

Geddes: It’s why I do it. It’s all I do to keep the doors open financially. There are days I get down, and someone comes up and says “I don’t know what I would do if the gym wasn’t here.”

It’s also a vehicle for me to do a lot of community stuff. Some of these ladies aren’t a part of a group and it gives them a place to be able to help and give back.

FRANK.: What programs are you involved in?

Geddes: We do Angel Tree at Christmas time, we collect for the food pantry and the Backpack Snack program. And, we collect plastic bottle caps for benches.

I’m also an elder at First Christian Church. I do a lot of the hospitality ministries. We do a Wednesday meal each week where we invite the community in.

I’m on the board for Backpack Snack program. I organize volunteers that do packing and delivery.

Sometimes I think my calling is food and fitness maybe because I have a lot of both. I can’t imagine life without health and being able to do what you want to do, and I can’t think of anyone going hungry. Food is my passion.

FRANK.: When did you get involved with Relay for Life?

Geddes: I’ve been involved in Relay since 2005, after my husband, Bill Stewart, died from colon cancer. I got involved with Relay with a vengeance. I chaired luminary one year. Now, I do the survivor dinner. The church is the sponsor and host.

FRANK.: When you’re not at Fit Time or volunteering, what do you like to do?

Geddes: I have one son, Michael Stewart, and daughter-in-law, Brett, and two grandsons, Sutton, 4, and Jensen, 3. They’re fun. I keep them on Mondays and Thursdays. Those are granny days. I don’t do anything else on those days.

We just hang out. We build forts and play outside, bake cakes, build towers and play in the pool.