Saturday, August 9, 2014


The week of the race, I trained a little more. I  was blessed enough to swim, bike and run the Iron Girl course with an amazing and diverse bunch of women.  Women who experienced the course on their own journey or have been triathletes long enough to help out the new athletes in some way physically emotionally or spiritually.

I made it to the Saturday before but not without panicking and wondering with each text message, call or facebook post if I was really cut out for this race. I made it early, met a lot of great friends I'd made along the way and talked my way out of nervousness.   Thank God for Kathy, who put my mind at ease on plenty of occasions. Somehow knowing that my friends new and old were either IN the race or cheering me on helped me get through that itch to run the opposite direction.  I waited in line for registration as I set Betty on the rack to wait. Looking at the registration table, I knew every face but 2. It had a calming affect on me. I love these ladies. I truly do!  As I stepped up for my turn, I took some Iron Girl temporary tattoos for myself and Little Bear. Honestly I took enough to last me for 6 years but I worked hard for this race and I would wear them and wear them WELL!

The name was misspelled but I forgot to have it changed. Oh well!

Next I ran over to get my registration packet which included my wrist band, a cool shirt, my cap which was cardinal red (more like a brown really) and this tracking doohickey thing that I've heard about but wondered how to use. "Doug will know how to use it!" I thought. There IS instructions. I rant to get my bike like I was ready to transition out of the park already. I ran so I could get that good spot I figured out in my head. I ran through these people who wanted to see my wrist band.  Mary Lou from the Tri Club I've seen on occasion was very kind with her help and sweet smile. She directed me and I ran to find my numbered area.  "Where is my numbered rack?" I kept asking myself and anyone who would listen.  "They must have tagged me as nuts. I'm already talking to myself for crying out loud!" I said.   Finally with several odd looks in my direction (because OBVIOUSLY I didn't learn how to count in preschool) I found my...What the?!  WHAT?  No! All I could do was laugh.

The spot that was divinely chosen for me. The red seat is my old swim cap. lol It works! Thanks Coach.

If you are familiar with bike racing at all you know that the racks used for many races are long metal racks which I gathered to be about 5ft long.  When I was looking at the numbered signs, MOST of them had around 15ft of room to figure out where precisely to place your bike for the race. I saw people placing their bikes, shaking their heads and changing it again and again and again.  I looked at my rack which was only about 5ft long with only 7 bikes allowed on it and placed it at the very end of the rack so I could run in from the swim, grab Betty and walk WITH PURPOSE again out to bike. This is how much God has a sense of humor in my opinion! People were changing their bikes to strategically place them in a good spot and mine was already chosen for me.  He knows I'm terrible with direction and about to poop my pants! The last thing I need is to have more than one place to choose from.

I woke up at 430am and left so I could get to the race on time. Anyone who knows my husband and I knows that we are night owls. Getting up at wee hours of the morning for a race is miraculous but we were even more astounded that people actually paid to get up and suffer to get to the finish line. ESPECIALLY those of you who run 70.3's, back to back Iron Mans, half and regular marathons.  What I found out during this process is that this hour really IS the land of the living! You get to open water swims early enough to see the sun come up, you make friends, you get to run and bike in freely.  It was this that reminded me how lucky we truly are to live in a free country filled with Gods beauty.  It's an amazing hour to stretch out, take in all the goodness in the world and prepare yourself for the day.  Strength comes from being grateful for these very things. Thanksgiving isn't just one day out of the year. It's every day you get to see a new day. To cherish the people you love, the scenery we get to observe and the overall health and wellness WE have the opportunity to take part in.

It was cold and foggy outside as I warmed up the car.  It took me much longer to get to the site than anticipated. I'm so glad I got there before the parking lot started to fill up.  I slowly looked around at all the women excited to start the race. I got out, grabbed my bucket and tried to remember if I forgot anything. "Let me see", I thought to myself.  For the swim I need sunscreen, goggles, swim socks and my cap. "Oh Lord, please get me through this swim!"  For the bike, "you got this Bek, you got this!" I needed Betty who is already racked and ready to go (my bike named after my gram), my helmet, "put your glasses in there Bek! You don't want the bugs smashed into your eyeballs! That would really stink if your race was cut short because you forgot your sunglasses." bike shoes and sunscreen.  For the run, "dear God I'm scared! I'd ask you to help me run like the Holy Spirit Lord, but then I'd be asking to run all over the place.  Help me jog a a steady pace Lord. Help me to remember to take my helmet off and remember my darn running shoes." SHOES! Oh gee.  I brought two pairs of running shoes. The knew ones I bought specifically for this journey in January and the shoes I bought in 2007 which I'd never run in but I certainly walked to and from places a lot in those years.  I wore them the friday before the race and felt like I was on air. I'm choosing the old dudds! I'm doing the run portion with old sneakers. This may not be a good thing, but I'm doing it! Done!  I run no "walk with purpose" as Kellie tells me, to the transition area where I put my towel down, lay everything out and put what I don't need back in the bucket.  I run to my swim, bike, mom friends to take some pictures and meet everyone. Lindsay has become one of my greatest friends. Had it not been her smiling face during swims, I'm not sure I would have felt comfortable enough to do this. Her strength is beyond anything I've seen and I really love hearing how much she loves this sport and her many stories about Meredith and swim, bike mom folks.  The first thing I ever asked in the local Tri forum, was if there was anyone "like me".  Not only did I find out there were PLENTY of men and women "like me", but there were a whole lot of people with their own journeys. What an AMAZING community of athletes to be among!  Before I ran off, Lindsay handed me a package with Meredith's autographed book and ran off to prepare for HER race.

Beautiful Sunrise At Iron Girl Syracuse 2014. Thank you Deanna <3

Swim bike Mom Army courtesy of Lindsay

 Me, Beth and Lindsay

Christy & I. Thank you for adding to the journey. Love you friend! Way to go Iron Girl!

Dana, Lois and I

My Deanna!

Waiting and waiting and waiting. 

I had one more group to find. My Tri To Train girls. The women of faith who made it a point to pray before the race with each other and wish each other well before they went on their merry way.  MaryJo started this group and has a story of her own. I wonder if she imagined when she started this group that it would be this big and filled with such a diverse crowd of women?   One of those women is my friend Deanna who started this idea in my head during the worst moments of my life when we delivered and soon after lost our son. She came just to see myself and all the other women race.  After our prayer she took me by the hand, showed me the water, smiled and cried with me again.  As I looked at her and took in every aspect of Iron Girl Syracuse 2014, I remembered everything I went through that brought me here. I recalled the bitter moments and the very sweet moments. I thought of my husband and daughter and all that they sacrificed so that I could get healthy. I remembered my coaches love and commitment to helping me persevere through adversity and I thought of my son. I was carrying Jackson Jeffrey with me on this race. I carried every mother who lost a child no matter the age, every widow, every woman fighting disease, depression, anxiety, fear, ageism and body image.  I looked at the water and to spite my fear of failing, I laid it down at Gods feet forever and turned a new corner. I did it for myself, my husband, our daughter and every life that would change because I became an open book. I allowed people in to see the transformation inside and out with each dietary, training, emotional, spiritual and medical change. I did it in Jesus name and wiped that last tear to power through to victory one....more...time!

National Anthem before the swim portion. 

 The water was cool and beautiful though there was a dead fish swimming about and algae which made several pretty sick. The beach was closed the next day. 

It's time to get ready for the swim portion and I wondered how I'd do this. Coach and Steve came up and gave me their approving smiles.  Coach told me to breathe and relax so I wouldn't fatigue out there.   Lindsay and Beth from Meredith's army made it a point to find me in the beginning. They calmed every part of my being at that point. As everyone said, I trained and I was ready as I'd ever be.  I found my friends Jennifer and Christy who were in my swim wave.  Miriam, Maryjo, Lois, Katie and Dana all from the Tri To Train group found me as Deanna was massaging my back and neck (God bless her).  Just before my wave was released, another Rebecca made it a point to share some encouragement and we were off.   I felt good. The water was cool and relaxing. I got out there and tried to stay to the middle of the back left. I was swimming. That was good. I looked up several times to try and spot my target. I knew I'd fall behind some. I'm slow and while I had one REALLY good swim training where I could put my actual head in the water and breathe nicely in freestyle position, I just couldn't seem to get the position I wanted. I heard Joslyn one of my assistant coaches telling me to "just keep swimming".  I didn't feel anything at all like Dory in the movie. I swam side stroke as I kept seeing the stronger swimmers "move to your left to give them some room" come up from behind me. I saw kayaks galore and later heard people were fearful of drowning. I tried to get around the second buoy and someone was holding on for dear life and I was getting caught up under it as more stronger swimmers with different colored caps (at least I thought they were) came swimming on by. There were some dangerous swimmers out there who didn't prepare very well. One held on to my friends leg and ripped off the timer that was on her ankle. Some of the swim was scary but all that kept going on in my head was "just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming." I was a bit disappointed with my swim portion but there was no time for that! I kept swimming as someone hit the same wrist I hurt a couple weeks prior to the open water swim. "OUCH!" I thought as I finally started to see I was getting to the end.  I saw many women walking the rest of the way as land got closer. "Screw it!" I said as I got closer and closer. I got out and started jogging. My legs were like bricks and all I could think about was getting to the next destination. I thanked everyone who was cheering me through it and made it to T1. (little did I know that later, I and some newbies would be chastised by a small few for our swim technique and walking).  My assistant coach Joslyn later says, "Don't let Anyone or Anything change how you feel about YOUR experience! Your day was your day and theirs was theirs. You are on a journey and so are they let this path diverge from theirs and keep moving forward! Onward and upward! "

Run Bek Run!

I named my bike Betty after my Gram. I miss her but she would be proud!

Next was my ride. This was the portion I felt was my strength. I love the bike! I dried off, put my bike shoes and helmet on and walked again with purpose. "It's time!"I said.  I got on the bike and rode off. Though it was my strength, I was not mentally alert. I can barely remember portions of the course as I rode it before. This time it was different. I was trying to get from point A to point B and do it fast! "on your left!" someone said. I must have heard it what felt like thousands of times.  I noticed I was being passed a few times without anyone telling me they were passing on my left. I got to the halfway points and I started hearing people pass but they were telling me "great job...keep going you've got this!" Thank you for the kind souls who did this! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I got past one of the bridges where I started to panic. I was tearing up because I knew I was falling behind. It was THEN that I heard "how are you doing?!" It was my sweet friend Miriam!!! "not good!" I tell her. "I'm way behind the rest of them." I was worrying about failing my husband, our daughter, my coach and especially myself.  "No! Don't you DARE!! Get up here" she demands with love and grace.  "You are not racing against others but against yourself! Let's pray!" she says again as she starts dishing out what I now call the love of Christ banter".  She prayed with me and kept herself behind a few short minutes to encourage and then went on her way.   It gave me the fuel I needed to get through the rest of the course and  "just keep moving forward" as Meredith would say.  I made it back and almost fell off my seat!  I heard later racers were moving so fast down the newly paved portion that there were plenty of accidents at dismounting.

Loving encouragement through prayer. My bike angel!

Coming in

This is just about where I find ...

I got to my bike rack..."wait a minute!  How did the rack move 3 feet and my stuff end up here?"  I noticed the rack was off it's legs and my portion was on the ground. It took me several minutes to lift the rack and place Betty there so the rest of the bikes wouldn't get damaged. Then I ran BACK to my stuff and tried to put my sneakers on with my legs feeling like jello.  I tried to put the braces on my knees since I have patella ulta in both of them. It would help the pain but there was NO WAY they were staying on. I threw those suckers to the wind and just started jogging.

"I hate this portion!" As I smiled for everyone who came out to cheer the racers.  "just keep jogging Bek and shut up already!" It was again at this moment I thought people must think I'm nuttier than squirrel chasing it's tail.  Ah man, not grass!  Oh no sand! Ah !@#$, not gravel!  Just then I notice this woman to my right cheering me on.  She says, you don't know me, I'm Joslyn's friend.  I saw your post and I'd like to run with you would that be okay?  "Oh look, there's Mary Ryan! Hi Mary!" Oh look again! It's Ellen". Sure, I'd like that I said to the woman who introduced herself as Maria. I was tired, I was frustrated thinking about how far behind I was getting but I refused to quit!   2 months prior I couldn't jog 1/4 of a mile without stopping to gasp for air. Friday before the race, I managed to jog 1 whole mile in my old sneakers without getting winded.  "you can do this Rebekah! You got this!" said my angel in running.   There's Lindsay again "Wooooo, Rebekah your AWESOME!" God bless her spirit! Then came Katie from one of my Tri Training Groups who had biked with me. "Way to go Rebekah!"  SHE had her own amazing journey and continues to inspire others.  "are you okay Rebekah?  Do you need to walk? " Nope! I said  "Okay, lets keep moving".  

Photo Courtesy of Steven Buttolph Photography

I heard lots of "your almost there!" from people which were flat out blatant LIES. Whoever tells you that is a lying liar that lies!  Don't believe it ONE BIT! Those dirty buggers had me begging for mercy and the loop even had snow cones, water, and other goodies not to mention the kind soul who handed out beer and margaritas. (which I seriously had hoped most people would ingest so my time would be better) I waved off the goodies and took 4 waters. Two I drank (with serious fear I was weighing myself down) and 2 I threw over my swollen hands along the way.

Just as I get to the loop who rode in behind me but Team Moxie! My coach and friend.  "Get going! If you can talk, your not working hard enough!" Darn him! Sorry folks. A temporary loss of thought there.  "Keep pushing Rebekah, you've got this!" as my running angel says. Coach keeps moving to the next few paces ahead and tells me to focus.  I'm still jogging. Slow, but I haven't stopped since the very first portion of the run. I REFUSE to quit!  "Tell me what time your swim wave was again?" coach said. WHY?! Did I not make the cutoff?  I didn't make the cutoff did I?!  "You made your bike portion before I expected!" coach said. "Your doing AWESOME in the run time. Keep going!" My angel to my right kept jogging with me and whenever someone wanted to take a picture or talk to me she insisted she get out of the way.  When coach was talking, she'd remind me what he was saying and encourage me to keep going.  "Your almost there!" coach says.   "Do me a favor and hand me your goggles!"  What?! I said, "They're hanging from your shirt!"  Ah hell! I've had those goggles hanging out from the start of the bike portion!  "turn your bib around! You've worked hard. They need to know who you are!"

My mother, husband and daughter. I love them so much!

The only picture I found of my "running angel" to my right.  I'm  jogging and she's STILL right there next to me. God bless her! 

I'm almost there. Over that blasted gravel again then the sand and now the pavement. I see my husband, my daughter and mother cheering me on. I hear cheering from everyone and the little angel on my right had disappeared.  Rebekah...YOU ARE AN IRON GIRL!  WOOOSH! There in front of me is the coach who lovingly reached out to someone very sick and in despair to greet her as the Iron Girl he conditioned from January.  Thoughts raced through my head as I heard cheering but it was all a whirlwind. My health.  My son, Oh the loss,! OHhhh the pain. The debilitating fear that wreaked havoc on my day to day life. Thousands of dollars of medications that were no longer looming over me. Friends, Family...I see a future! Finally I'm becoming...ME! The girl God created me to be.  Coach grabbed me for a hug and I fell to tears. I did it! Over 40 pounds down, I'm off the insulin pump and most all my medications. I'm no longer afraid to drive, no longer a recluse.  I miss my son terribly but I know life continues on. I can either live it or I can choose to die without purpose. Without living for those who are in my life today!

Photo courtesy of Steven Buttolph Photography

Coach grabs me and asks where my family is. I talk with friends. Hug with them and run to my husband who supported me from the beginning. Who also encouraged this with his OWN journey. I see my little girl. I know now that I'm ready to LIVE. I'm ready to be a part of HER life. To encourage a healthier lifestyle for her and watch her grow up.

My Friend Kathy who swam, biked and ran with me when I needed it most. Love her!

Talking with friends and waiting for my family.

The two men in my life who supported my health & wellness journey. Coach and the husband God-handpicked to be my own! I'm a lucky girl. Blessed beyond measure.

My mom, husband and daughter

My journey hasn't ended here. Tomorrow starts a new chapter. Coach hasn't dropped me like a fly. I'm continuing my adventure and am hopeful to lose more weight and get off more medication. I'm hopeful for another race and to meet more sweet friends. Those who will encourage me and those whom I can encourage!

If your out there and hoping to change something in your life. You don't need a tragic story or weight loss to get started. The unique part about accomplishing goals is that you write your OWN story! Don't wait, your ready NOW!

Love, hugs and congratulations to all the Iron Girls.

PS. I finished the swim in 23 minutes, the bike in 1hr and 29 minutes and the run portion in 44 minutes. Considering I couldn't breathe doing ANY of those last year and the fact that I've never done them before EVER is BEYOND phenomenal! If I can do it, you can do it. Now get out there!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Journey That Led Me Here Part II

I entered CNN FitNation's video contest and hoped for the best. The night before they were to be chosen I prayed to God for help. If I didn't get in, how could I move forward? If I didn't change my life around, my daughter and husband would be left without a wife and mother. Did I REALLY want to accept that? Was that REALLY the role of a wife and mother to accept what I had the capability to change? "Lord? Can you help me I cried?" and he did...

 I did some research the night before which led me to a local Triathlon Club. I decided to stick my head out there and find out what kind of gear I would need and just how pricey things were going to get. Since it wasn't going to be cheap, I needed to find a way to complete my goals not just with a triathlon in mind but realistically looking at overall health & wellness.

If I was going to change my life, it was going to take balance. Mind, Body, Heart, Soul and Spirit. If one was out of balance, nothing would work. Without proper nutrition, my body wouldn't get what it needed and I would not lose any weight. However, if I didn't move I wouldn't lose the weight either. Add to that attitude (which I am STILL working on) and faith in the very same God that helped me through every other aspect of my life, without His mighty strength love and guidance NOTHING would work. There has to be a balance. I absolutely HAD to make time for God, myself, my overall health and emotional wellness.  THAT is when I prayed for answers. How was I to move forward if I didn't get chosen for CNN FitNation's 2014 Triathlon Challenge?

I woke up and went to the computer where I found several responses waiting for me. One of those responses came from someone who said he saw my video and wanted to talk to me about coaching me and helping me get to my goals. I called him and he told me I would be the bike shops health & wellness ambassador and that he would cover the cost 100% along with the bike shop owners. I had never heard of such a thing! Who would do that? I waited for the catch but there was none.

Working hard in the basement. I believe this is January.

I started training in January. Coach put me through the ringer and never treated me any different from his other athletes which meant that I received no slack.  He accepted no excuses and expected me to put the work in. That I had no problem with! I walked shyly into the store several days a week afraid of being judged by the guys in the store only to find out later that these men had hearts of gold! I was encouraged every time I walked in and even hugged by Steve when I broke down in tears.

As I started to focus on numbers. Time became my enemy and I kept comparing myself to seasoned athletes who were FAR above my capabilities.  If you learn anything, please DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF WITH OTHERS!  These seasoned athletes spent many years perfecting their craft. In their own right, they deserve credit for the hard work and dedication they've put into the speed and accuracy they have earned.  As I've heard plenty of times from all these folks, it's that we are racing against ourselves! I am racing against death, fear, anxiety, depression, age, and my own negative attitudes.

Because I spent many months focusing on numbers, I was put in corner after corner with my bike on a trainer so that I could concentrate on what was important.  Coach praised me for my strengths but took my weaknesses and built them up.   I started with a basic bike and a pretty big seat. My stomach was in the way and I felt self conscious every time I got on the bike or stepped in a gym to swim.  What I found completely dumbfounding was that not one person pointed their finger at me or had the same attitude about me as I had about myself.

My assistant coaches Kellie, myself and Joslyn. Oh I don't know what I'd do without these two!

Soon I started seeing results and some of the seasoned athletes were taking me out to help me perfect my own craft. I went out running, (and I say this extremely lightly as I could barely jog a quarter mile without gasping for air) with the two girls I call my assistant coaches. They've earned that respect from me! Not only have my coach and assistant coaches worked with me but they, along with countless others including the bike store owners have given tirelessly physical, emotional and financial resources without asking for one single thing.  They reached out in love and encouragement to someone who needed help.

First time out on the course. Thank you Joslyn & Kelly MANY times over!

By the time spring came around I started seeing more weight come off and my goal to get off the insulin pump had come to fruition.  Shortly after that more weight slowly started coming off and more medication.  My Hemoglobin A1C went from 9.0 when I was pregnant with Jackson, to 7.0 for years after that and NOW to 6.3 which is 3/10ths of a point of above normal.  My cholesterol went down and my GOOD cholesterol went up in just 3 months time 3 points above what my Dr. suggested at 40.  He couldn't believe it! He said he'd never seen anyone lower their good cholesterol that fast before.

Lab Report that astonished my Dr.

I left shortly after conning him into letting me stay off oral medication and keeping to just one long-lasting insulin as specified by Dr. McDougall in his book "The Starch Diet".  He couldn't believe he was doing this but with his trust and faith that I've gotten this far along with the fact that HE too represents PREVENTION and wants the best for his other patients, he let me move forward.

Just several weeks left until Iron Girl and I cannot believe I've come so far! My coach upgraded my bike a week before the race and I was moving faster than I had before. It felt comfortable and I felt more and more like I was becoming a woman that I once knew.

January to now.

I kept working at swimming and running, though I knew I was slow and inaccurate. I made it to every training night with the club except the one I volunteered for and the ones that were rained out. Several women became family to me and I went from that recluse I spoke of earlier to constantly smiling and saying hello to others. I couldn't believe it! In just 6 months time I lost over 40 pounds, got off my medication and spoke so much that my coach would say "if your talking you aren't working hard enough!"

Lucille my first bike racked!

So much work and it seemed like time just passed right on by. NOT without a few breakdowns or hiccups with illness or injury. I met with my past out on a jog with my assistant coach Joslyn. I was sick of carrying the baggage of fear. I was afraid to live, afraid to drive, afraid of everything. A whole lot of baggage was left there that night. Only to face one fight after another with each person who happened to be on that training with me.

The run I lost my marbles on! Okay, I just had a good cry.

There are many people to thank for this journey. Without them I wouldn't have made it here. I am and will always be forever grateful to my coach Jamie, who loved me enough to reach out when he saw I was dying both inside and out. The people who lent me gear, gave me gear, shared prayers and encouragement. The ones who donated, wrote articles, took pictures, swam/ biked and ran with me. The ones who to spite me feeling out of place, walked up to me and shook my hand to introduce themselves to me.  These people have no idea how much they truly have impacted my life! The honor to hang out with seasoned athletes or watch them from afar. The fact that they educated me on technique, speed, or basic Triathlon speech. I gained a whole new life and family when Jamie took me on that day. It is an honor to be among them!

Which leads me to race day! I did say I was TRYING to make this a II part story didn't I? Well, I'm sorry to say that race day will have to wait until Monday.  There's nothing wrong with keeping you interested! At least I hope you're not bored already.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Journey That Led Me Here... Part I

I did it! I set several goals, I stuck to them and I conquered just about every one of them one by one.

Let me start by saying none of them were easy. It first started by admitting I needed to do something or my husband would be a widower and our daughter without a mother.  My heart aches just by thinking about it.

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome at the age of 16. By the time I was out of high school, I gained so much weight that I lost any hope at a career as a professional dancer which I had worked 14 years of my life for.  I married my husband in college but not without sharing the secret that I couldn't have any children. I didn't want to disappoint him but I wanted to tell the truth. It blessed my heart to know that he felt as much heart for adoption as I did. One day we would adopt.  Until then, we moved to Ohio where we became foster parents to teenage girls who have held a part of our hearts to this day.

The man God hand-picked to be my husband. 

My husband decided that he wanted to pursue nursing and make a change in our direction.  We spent 4 years of our lives away from family and working non stop. Me as a nurses aide working double shifts and he working full time, going to school full time and interning full time.   It was those years that we learned the most but had the least. The day he came home almost twice as thin as he'd ever been was the day we decided I'd come home to be a full time homemaker to spite the fact that I had no children.  I heard remarks about laziness but it was my sweet friends I call the Cyster Chicks who knew what I was going through and became a new kind of sisterhood that held me together when we didn't have much at all.  We lived paycheck to paycheck and there was no room for pride. We utilized food banks and gave away what extra we had left. I made friends with the neighbors and prayed with them daily. Even the ones who had no religious beliefs.

When we moved back home to Central New York, I was excited but things had changed a great deal. Could we make it? Could we find a new bond with new friends?

My husband found a job at Crouse hospital and I continued to stay at home as his wife and support. Out of every job I've ever had, this one felt like I fit. The only thing missing was a child. My heart grew sad with each passing year and each time I had to cross a name off my list because someone's child was born. They were joyful moments but they also stung. They stung terribly bad.  What made it worse was I lost my best friend, my grandmother, the year before we moved back. I couldn't ask her for advice or cry on her shoulders. I found myself deeper and deeper in sadness.

We found ourselves living with my husbands parents to help them out a little bit (but they were really helping US) and it was then we decided to take a trip to the Adirondacks.   The scenery was beautiful and the time my husband and I had together was a healing one. In fact, 6 weeks later after a trip to the Dr.'s office from what I thought was cancer, we found out we were having a baby. "I think you must have the wrong file" I said. "Could you please check it again? I can't have children".   She got back on and shared the joy she knew we had always hoped for.

Our beautiful Dr. who left her practice to be with her kids. God bless her!

I cannot share this story fully yet. It's too raw and my heart still hurts. there is still anger and feelings that are slowly starting to fade from a journey I never expected to walk. I WILL say however, that I felt every heartbeat and saw every beautiful image of who became our son Jackson Jeffrey.  I sang to him and remember his kicks.  I remember feeling beautiful and as I think back, was very ignorant to the fact that nothing could ever happen once I was pregnant. At 22 weeks from what I know now was a preterm labor from infection due to an incompetent cervix, I gave birth to our son after 23 hours of labor and we had the pleasure of knowing him for 25 blessed minutes. He held my finger as I spoke softly to him and daddy and I took some pictures. Then God held us all as he took our sweet baby and a piece of our hearts to heaven.   I walked in the doors a mother and I walked out of the unit without my baby.


We buried him shortly after but the kindness yet again from others overwhelmed my husband and I. Our church family helped us locate a spot and paid out of their own pockets to put Jackson to rest because I couldn't think straight enough to find a plot. My husbands hospital unit pooled their own wages to give us what is now our beautiful stone.  Every time someone spoke to me it was like I couldn't hear. The pain was so much that I felt I was being held in a straight jacket unable to breathe. I wailed at night with my pekingese Sasha lying next to me trying to console me as my husband sat quietly unable to comprehend it all. I with my deep pain and he holding his own pain deep inside.  I wanted to die! I couldn't bare to go on and I couldn't fathom anymore children even IF I could.

It took me a year to start moving again. My mind was foggy and I don't even remember much of what happened during that time. I DO remember that whatever small anxiety I had turned into debilitating fear. I lost trust in everyone and quit driving on my own. I became in a sense a recluse. At that time I used food as a crutch more and more. The medication kept piling on because the PCOS turned into hypothyroid, then insulin resistance, then diabetes, then sleeping medication, and a little xanax for anxiety to get out of the house.

Where most people saw a smile on my face, I was crying on the inside. Every family function I hated going to because nothing ever fit and I just made myself feel so out of place. "A portion of my heart was gone anyways. Why would I even care", I kept telling myself.

Slowly I started to heal though the pain never truly disappears. The absence just continues to take it's rightful place deep in my heart. Those who've lost a loved one understand this but mothers, we hold a club of our own! Nobody knows this pain unless they've walked that mile. I sometimes look at my husband and pray for him. Men become the unspoken grievers. They try to hold it together for the sake of their wives and children but they grieve. Sometimes in their own quiet hours.  I know what hurts my husband is the hours that he hears the Brahm's Lullaby that a child has just been born. It was what we heard on our way out that day without our son but my husband had to go back to work day in and day out holding it together piece by piece and constantly being reminded of the loss he was facing.  Today I'm sure it gets easier as you will see.

Pregnant, VERY sick and just off bedrest!

2 years after our sons death, we had our rainbow baby.  It was not without a fight and I certain had more medical issues which kept me on 9 months full bed rest with progesterone injections weekly.  I found myself praying day after day because after researching, I found I lost Jackson to incompetent cervix.  Nobody would listen and though I went to Rochester for a second opinion. I chose the practice where the Dr. happened to graduate and know the Dr.'s I was fighting so hard to listen to me. They agreed with my Dr. but because I was aggressively persistent (all passiveness went out the door, I already lost 1 child) they monitored me weekly.

That persistence saved the life of our daughter.  Had I not advocated for her and I, she would have been delivered the same week as our Jackson. Since they do not intervene this early, she would have tragically gone just like he did.

During those days, weeks and months I found myself continuing to eat for me and baby without any activity whatsoever. In defense, I was on bed rest anyways but added hormones added to the pounds just as the sedentary lifestyle. We delivered a healthy baby girl!

God's Promise...A Rainbow!
It was the most precious moment to see that she was healthy and crying. Health wasn't something her father or I had at the time. Her father was having fainting spells from high blood pressure and hereditary heart disease and her mother was obese with a diabetes pump and lots of medications for side effects from other medications.

Me at 270 pounds even unable to take my little girl for a walk without feeling sick.

I couldn't walk in parks very well without feeling out of breath. I felt terribly sick and as I looked at my daughter I was accepting that she would be motherless.  Here it took us 10 years to have her and I was facing death and accepting it!  What the heck?!

My husband got sick of fainting and hearing how fat he was or how high his cholesterol had gotten.  He read a book called Forks Over Knives and then a documentary called The Last Heart Attack by Dr. Sanjay Gupta which encouraged a plant-based lifestyle to reverse or even PREVENT heart disease and other diseases. Former President Bill Clinton used Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's book Prevent And Reverse Heart Disease.

The book took several heart patients who were either close to death or had had open heart surgeries and put them all on a plant based diet with no oils, no dairy, no meat etc.  It began to reverse most patients plaque in the arteries and lower blood cholesterol while RAISING the good cholesterol. As a cardiac nurse, my husband wondered why he'd never heard of this before and why Dr.'s and medical staff didn't have this information to give to their own patients. Here HE was a cardiac nurse with an ability to try it and become the example with medical conditions of his own.   He lost 50 lbs and got off his medications. Soon he was determined to share this news and become an advocate for disease prevention and I was soon to follow.

I kept watching him change. From his body to his attitude. Here I've been talking to him about going vegetarian and he went vegan cold turkey!

A nice portobella mushroom burger with mashed-notatoes and sweet corn.

It took me a month before I could change my thought process from where meat was the center to fruits and vegetables. I cried every time I opened the cupboards. I cried because I missed certain foods and I cried because everything I was taught by diabetic educators and most dietitians was the exact OPPOSITE of what really became THE ONLY thing that worked to lose weight and actually get me off of almost EVERY medicine I was on.  The SAD  or better known as Standard American Diet. Is making people sick, fat and depressed.   OF COURSE we would be encouraged to continue eating as the status quo! Most Dr.'s aren't interested in PREVENTION. When they are, the patients aren't interested! The quick fix is a magic pill, powder or surgical intervention.  When someone (even me) hear's that it takes work and it won't be easy, what do we do? We want to find an easier route right?

As soon as I started to get the hang of things and found plant-based chefs and food bloggers who shared meals that looked and tasted appealing I was on a roll!  What lacked was stamina though. I still felt tired and weak. Something was missing.  I saw a plug from Sanjay Gupta about the 2014 CNN FitNation Triathlon. I also remembered that my friend Deanna had done triathlons. She used her own grief to get in shape and work through her own emotions and the swim, bike and run has become a part of her own story.  It was by the grace of God that we met.  You see, as I was walking through the cemetery one day, I noticed a special stone.  I knew I wanted something similar. Several months later, the mother of this beautiful little girl was the person I was told people wanted to introduce me to for months! There is no doubt our children are walking in the garden together.  I'm looking forward to the day I can meet this little girl and hold my baby boy again. As I tell other grieving folks. They are NOT dead! We are not walking AWAY from them. We are walking TOWARD our loved ones! THEY are the ones HOME alive in heaven waiting for US. Our journey here is not yet complete. Neither is yours dear reader!

I entered CNN FitNation's video contest and hoped for the best. The night before they were to be chosen I prayed to God for help. If I didn't get in, how could I move forward? If I didn't change my life around, my daughter and husband would be left without a wife and mother. Did I REALLY want to accept that? Was that REALLY the role of a wife and mother to accept what I had the capability to change? "Lord? Can you help me I cried?" and he did...