(Read Part 1 – Raw, Real, Naked and Penniless, if you are just joining the series.)
But a storm had been brewing for years. Cancer was just the first marathon in my young adult life. Ten years prior when I was 15, smack dab in the middle of my high school years I got saddled with the big D…Divorce. And like cancer, I didn’t deal with that well so much that I spent the first year of my parents divorce in and out of the local mental hospital.
Yep. I said mental. Back then that’s what they called them, but I was far from crazy. My roommate Faith was in for not wanting to be a Jehovah Witness. I was just like most of the kids…dealing with the drama du jour. I was mad. I was ashamed. And once again, I felt alone and abandoned by my parents.
Divorce stunk in the 1990s. It was becoming more accepted, while nowadays it is commonplace. What made my situation more uncouth is that my mom, a very respected member of the medical profession, owned her alcoholism. And, for her sake, and ours, she got sober. She’s still sober today, a true sign she too, fought.
In the years after the divorce, I didn’t take care of myself emotionally or physically. When I wanted to feel anything, I ate.
Food doesn’t talk back. If it’s prepared well (fried or sautéed in butter), it usually tastes good, therefore it made me feel good. Alcoholics can kick the bottle and drug addicts get clean, but overindulging foodies still need to eat. Cutting food out completely means flirting with the other side of this spectrum: anorexia or bulimia.
My health was deteriorating. The weight began piling on my 5’3 frame into my 20s and impacted every social situation. It defined the friends I kept, the men I dated, and the kinds of jobs I had. I heard about it from doctors. “You’re overweight.” I was overlooked for promotions at work. I was even fired, once. I don’t think my weight was THE reason but it didn’t help me. Even my parents politely tried to put me on diets. Most of my closest girlfriends at the time were as heavy as me, and the guy I was steady with also led a sedentary lifestyle so I found it easier to continue to exist this way.
Then suddenly, I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. Dr. Kasper, the surgeon on call changed my life. He told me I needed to shape up or prepare myself for more problems including an early death. His arrogant bedside manner was abrasive, but, he was right. The signs were all there.
Not too long after that, I was in a grocery store (of all places) when something life changing happened.
I saw a woman collapse to her death. She just died. Her 3-year old child just stood there begging, “Mommy get up. Mommy, wake up!”
It crushed me. “She was heavier than me”, I told myself. The fact is I was heavier than her, marriage-less, and childless. But I was alive. I had survived cancer. I had fought to become this woman who would have a child one day, so why was I on the path to death again?
That day changed my life. For the first time in my life, I had 100% control.
What did I do?
- I owned it. All of it. And I realized… it’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
- I called Dr. Kasper and with his careful assessment, I had surgery to lose the weight. I then had a complete body transformation performed by Dr. John Lomonaco. Prior to this approach, I lost 50 lbs to prepare myself for success. Both surgeons were my lifelines. In total I lost 150 pounds.
- While I lost this weight, I did the hardest work. I saw a therapist 2-3x a week to deal with my parents divorce, cancer, precocious puberty, and the other remarkable things in my past I had to surface. I got at what was “eating me”. When you own your stuff and figure out what drives you to poor behavior, you can channel it differently.
- I chose not to be alone. My mom came to support me during surgeries and dad helped to finance. Both of them invested in me 100%. I let go of the hurt, embraced their parental flaws and began to see them as human beings.
- I hired a Nutritionist to re-learn how to eat proper portions and make good choices.
- I enlisted personal trainers: Jeremiah and Tony who never gave up on me.
- I shed the closest girlfriends I was keeping. They just didn’t understand the journey I was on, and that’s okay, it wasn’t for them. I promoted the girlfriends that mattered…the ones who cheered me on, lifted me and never gave up on me.
- Mr. Wrong broke it off with me. I was getting ‘lofty’. Because I am loyal to the core, I really look back and thank him for dumping me.
I fell in love with the life I was recreating and in myself. My career soared and I joined Shell, where I had a safe place to cultivate a professional life that played to my newfound strengths.
I found the most amazing man, father, and husband who taught me about boundaries and putting myself first. He embraced my flaws. We married and soon after had my miracle, Ally. Gaining weight during my pregnancy was very difficult on my self-esteem. He stood by me patient.
I began a journey to walk a mile and then run one. I ran 3. Then I ran 13.1. In 2009, I decided I’d train to run the 5 world major marathons, which led me to write this crazy blog!
(And damn, there are now 6 world marathons, so I have 2 left to go. And I believe this 5 year blog is steadfastly becoming a book before I turn 40.)
You’ve all come to know me over time in different parts of this journey. Maybe you don’t know me and today you stumbled on this post because someone who loves you shared it with you. I am so blessed to be here to share this with you. I’m not perfect. I have immature moments. I have plenty of flaws. I make mistakes. I’ve failed.
But, I’m me. I’m beautiful, remarkable, and oh my, I’m alive.
And it’s all because I fought to become her…