Where would I even begin? If I had to be honest, I would say that it was in February 1999 that I felt like my life had traveled to a point of no return. Here I am, sitting in a hospital waiting room for hours with my then two-year-old son, impatiently waiting to be discharged after his MRI. Honestly, we were waiting there for at least two hours before a team of doctor’s entered the room and gave me the news that would change my life forever.
My son Austin was diagnosed with a highly malignant Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid tumor of the optic nerve. Oh, yeah, and was given 2 to 8 weeks to live. Fortunately for me, with excessive radiation treatments, I was given seven months to say, “Good-Bye”. I sometimes still beat myself up for putting him through so much, just because I wasn’t ready to let go, but what kind of mother would I have been if I didn’t even try? The mental tug of war during that time in my life came with a price that I never expected, morbid obesity.
My son passed away in September of 1999. I couldn’t fit any of my clothes, my physical features had changed, and the scale said that I was 80 pounds heavier. I had never been here before, and I didn’t have the first clue as for how to shed that weight off my body and regain control of my life. Within a decade of disbelief and denial, I tried everything from gym memberships to meal supplement programs and nothing worked. I even mustered up the courage to audition for a weight-loss show called the Biggest Loser; four times. Who say’s that the fourth time can’t be the charm? I’m actually happy that I didn’t make it the other three times, because I wasn’t mentally ready to change my life. The Biggest Loser, with the assistance of Jillian Michaels helped me do just that. Having the opportunity to be on that show helped transform my mind and my life into something so powerful that even obesity could never again have control over.
Losing the very first challenge that would have guaranteed me a spot on the ranch was an eye opener for me. I suddenly remembered that I was still someone’s mother. I didn’t just lose a child, but my oldest son had lost a brother and to some degree a mother too. I wanted my son, Ulysses to know that no matter the adversity, you can triumph over any circumstance. So because of this, I fought my way back to get that second chance on the ranch by losing 39 pounds in one month at home. This accomplishment just made me a target for my teammates to use game play to vote me off after only one month on the ranch. Still never giving up, I worked out almost everyday for at least one hour, I’d take group fitness classes, just to change it up a little, I’d maintained eating clean, and I would reminded myself everyday how important it was that I live a happy healthy lifestyle. I did all this, while working a 40-hour a week, sedentary job. I would find every way I could during the workday to incorporate physical activity during my shift. I’d take the stairs instead of the elevator, and would take power walks outside during my breaks. Pretty soon, my coworkers would ask if they could join me. Delighted by their interest and support, I only became that much stronger and encouraged. My reasons for regaining my life became more of a reality than ever. I was now a representative for everyone and anyone who wanted to change their lives for the better. It was time to pay it forward. I would begin to accept invitations throughout the country to motivational speak and share my story; I became an AFAA personal trainer and a Zumba instructor; and I went back to college to finish my degree in Social Science.
We can’t go throughout life without experiencing some type of hardship or pain. Sometimes events are just out of our control, but we do have a say as to how we can rise above it. Personally, I’m a representative of God’s light, and I place my faith in Jesus Christ. Because of my faith, I will continue to help others recognize their issues, aide in picking themselves up, and encourage them to continue fighting, never giving up. Since my transformation to a “Better Me”, I’ve lost close family members, I’ve had knee and foot surgery, I’ve gained weight and lost it again; but this time it’s different for me. I know now, that no matter what, I will survive.