Updated: Oct 17, 2019
Everyone has a story. Whether it is a tragic story about him/herself, or about someone close to them, there is always something that happened to inspire someone down the path they are on. Here's my story.
I remember when I was 3 years old, my mother was on the phone. She was hysterical and in tears. I don't remember the content of the conversation, but she hung up and said "he's not going to make it." The next thing I know, we were in the car. We arrived at a hospital and walked into a room where I saw my father laying in ICU hooked up to every machine possible. "Go tell him good-bye," my mom told us. We hopped up on the bed and gave him big hugs. I wasn't sure what was going on, and I don't even remember if he was awake, or remembers us being there. I don't remember anything after that, but in a few days, my daddy was home. He lived!
My dad was in his early forties. He had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in his early twenties. At this point, he had already undergone 2 pancreatic surgeries (this most recent hospital visit being the 2nd). He had been a Houston police officer since his early twenties. He was burning the candle from both ends. He was working 3 jobs to put my mom through college. He was also an alcoholic. He already had neuropathy in his legs by the time I was 5 years old. He would drink a pint of Vodka and chase it with a pint of water, every night before bed. It was his way of numbing the pain in his legs so he could sleep. The day he ended up in the hospital, he thought he had just fallen asleep at the wheel. The truth is, his sugar dropped so low that he went into a diabetic coma on his way home from work and never made it. We were lucky to get him back that day.
Several years later, my mother was murdered. This is another tragic story in itself, but this isn't what we're talking about, today. She was only thirty-three years old, and I was only eleven. My dad loved my mom. I mean, I remember when he would come home from work and she would run out of the front door, hop on him, and kiss him to greet him. He would hold her up, carrying her into the house, kissing her the whole way. I remember seeing them so in-love. I also remember seeing them not so in-love (also a different story). But, when my mother died, I think a part of him died, too.
He quit drinking for a little while after my mom died. When my little sister and I became young, teenage mothers, he started drinking again. We used to steal his vodka. He always used to tell us he was only going to live long enough to see both of us turn 18, then he was "outta here." We would laugh, roll our eyes, and say 'Whatever, Papa.'" That eight years without my mother, we watched him quickly deteriorate. His life slowly faded away from him. He refused to take his insulin. He was sedentary- never moving out from in front of the TV. When my sister and I started driving, he would just have us make ice-cream runs for him. He would go through a gallon of ice-cream a night. He lived off of diet coke and ice-cream... with the occasional fried frog legs. Eight years of depression. Eight years of sadness. He had no will to live... at all.
Before his suffering ended, he started going into diabetic comas, regularly. His neuropathy was uncontrollable. He was falling asleep with lit cigarettes in his hand. They would fall and leave burn marks on his arms and hands. He never felt it. His eye sight started to deteriorate. He couldn't even drive anymore because he couldn't feel his legs. He couldn't even control his bladder.
Fast forward. My younger sister and I were visiting my grandmother on my mother's side in Chicago when we got a call that my dad had been life-flighted to a hospital in Houston. We took the next flight out. They started him on dialysis. He had lost so much weight, the doctor said we were going to lose him under the sheets in his hospital bed. Right before he passed, he weighed 95 lbs. He and I officially weighed the same... except he was 6'1" and I was 5'0". Again, we said our good-byes. This time was different. We wanted his suffering to end.
It was two weeks after my little sister's 18th birthday when he went into multiple organ failure. This time, he didn't come home. My sister and I cried, held each other, then turned to each other in hysterical laughter, “He said he was only going to live long enough to see us hit 18, and he sure did! That mother-fucker.” We never believed him!
I was 19 years old. Sure, legally we were adults, but in reality, we were still kids. And, at that very moment, I decided that wasn't the way I wanted to go. I never wanted to live a miserable life in pain, dependent on subcutaneous injections, not being able to enjoy my meals, or my life.
My daughter was 9 months old when my Papa died. I never gained weight during the incredibly complicated pregnancy (because I was so sick I couldn't eat or drink anything), but I sure did gain about 30 pounds, afterward! McDonald’s never tasted so good! I was not happy with myself, nor my life. There were so many lessons I took away from that experience. More than just wanting to be healthy. So many lessons about love, loss, depression, and death. But, for starters, I was inspired to start eating healthier. To start exercising. All I knew is that diabetes ran on both sides of my family, and I did NOT want it.
Growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor. Two years after my daddy passed, I was attending junior college for Nursing when I decided to enlist in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. That meant I better prepare for bootcamp. By this time, I was divorced, going to college, and working a couple of jobs to provide for my 2 daughters. It was a rough life, but the military was always something I wanted to do. Actually, I always wanted to be a Marine Sniper, but women couldn't do that and they didn't have medical, so they directed me to the Navy office next door. I had no other support, so again, the universe pushed me in the direction I needed to go. I didn't know I could enlist divorced with kids, but they took me and I was ecstatic. But, first... I would have to learn how to do pushups.
This is officially where my journey into health & fitness began. I had always been an active child. I played outside from dawn to dusk, swimming, riding my bike, playing football with the boys. But, I had never been in a gym or on a diet before. I met my first trainer just before enlisting. He made me get up at 5am to workout before classes started. He taught me how to lift weights, put me on a diet (mostly grilled boneless skinless chicken breast, rice, and broccoli), and made me do cardio (kickboxing, or other aerobic exercise) in the afternoon. It sucked, and I was exhausted, but I LOVED the results! For the first time, ever, I could see muscle definition in my legs! My flabby mommy tummy was shrinking, and I started to develop a waistline. Wow! I had no idea my body could change so much. My whole life changed!
Ever since then, I have been on a health & fitness roller coaster (because who doesn't love delicious food regardless of what's in it)? Before you know it, you're back up 10, 20, 30 pounds and can’t fit into your favorite jeans! "I have to get back in shape!" Well, it sure as hell isn't as easy in your forties as it was in your twenties, at least for me it isn't! Consistency is something we all fight with, but I promise it is possible, and healthy food can be delicious. I'm telling you this as I'm "eye-balling" some moist delicious carrot cake.
If you knew you could do better, would you?
After completing my military obligation, I went to school and obtained degrees in biochemistry and biomedical sciences, clinical lab science. I was still on track to becoming a doctor. After all, that's what I told my mom I was going to do. I found joy in being a total biochemistry nerd. I was really interested in metabolic pathways and how they pertained to health and fitness. I really wanted to know what I needed to do to lean out my gut.
When I was active duty, I served during 9/11. Shortly after we were attacked, we began deploying overseas. I always felt my job in the military served a higher purpose, for the greater good. Even after I graduated college and got my first federal civilian job at the Naval Medical Center San Diego Blood Bank. We were always busy because of all the surgeries that were performed on our wounded coming back from war. These men were legit dying for our country.
While I was attending college for my undergraduate degrees, I also began working Part-Time as civilian in a couple of the local hospitals. I was a phlebotomist, probably the best in all of Corpus Christi, TX. I would collect blood at 3am from several floors in the hospital. If someone missed their maximum number of sticks, or just didn't feel comfortable doing it, they would send me in to collect. I was the "cleaner." Most of the patients were obese and suffering from obesity-related diseases and disorders (like heart disease and diabetes). Many of them were undergoing dialysis and contained stents in their arms. You can't draw from that side, so if the previous person stuck them several times in the only arm available, I had to get creative. It was here, I also realized the difference in military medicine and civilian medicine.
I felt as though in the military, we were healing people who were dying for the greater good. In the civilian world, I had trouble empathizing because these patients were doing it to themselves. They lacked discipline- couldn't put down the donuts, or couldn't put down the bottle (because alcohol is another cause of many obesity-related diseases).
Near graduation, I applied for 3 medical schools. The only thing that my application was pending were my MCAT scores. I woke up the morning of my exam. Now, I had been studying my ass off up to this point. Even my kids were exhausted. I would go days on Aderall without sleep to study. But, on the morning of the exam, I came to sit at the table with my girls. It was a Saturday morning. They were old enough to stay home by themselves while I went to take the exam. I sat at the table, just staring at my youngest daughter while she ate her cereal (the only sugar I ever allowed my kids to eat in our home). At the last minute, I decided I didn’t want to go. I said, "I'm not going." Hannah was confused, but continued to eat her cereal. That was it- I made up my mind, I wasn't going to go to med school. There were a couple of reasons why.
I didn’t believe in the system: 1. I didn’t want to go into debt and spend the rest of my life trying to repay it; 2. I didn’t believe in giving patients pills to suppress their symptoms instead of addressing the root problem. Might as well tell them to take a pint of vodka to numb the pain. Healthcare isn’t about healthcare, it is about sick care. As a matter of fact, I even wrote my essay on the type of doctor I wanted to be. I wanted to be a wellness physician. I wanted to treat patients with nutrition and exercise, and open a wellness center. Little did I know about ND programs (I have just recently learned about them), so I just decided not to go. I was also a single mom raising two young teenage girls at this point, and they needed me. There was no way I could give 100% of my focus to them, and med school. They came first. I have absolutely no regrets making that decision.
I spent 5 years in the lab. My area of expertise was in hematology, but I also worked in chemistry, serology, and blood bank. I was a blood bank Lead shortly before promoting to Lab Manager. The hospital was sold, and I lost my job. I hit mid-life crisis at 38 years old. This drove me down the path of meditation and yoga (which I’ll have to write another book on at some other time). I am currently a consultant for hospital software, and travel for work. I’m always on the road. I have made 2 total body transformations in the last 5 years, which I am incredibly proud of.
Ultimately, I have arrived here. Although, my life as a healer began over 20 years ago, I am now in a place where I want to give back and help others more than ever. Not as a doctor, but as a holistic health coach. I believe that nutrition is where we start. What we put into our bodies matter. We are organic, so we should be more mindful of the materials we consume. If we eat shit, we will look and feel like shit. If we eat well, we will look and feel well. Food is medicine. This is how it begins for me. I have found my balance. Now, it is time to give back. I honestly feel this is what I was born to do, be a healer and servant to my community. This is where my story as a health coach begins.