The Give Back Contest Results

When I first conceptualized the “Give-Back” contest I had no idea how emotionally charged I might be after reading each submission. I mean, due to the nature of my profession, I hear stories about weight loss struggles often. Typically, many of these stories tend to be quite similar. I’m ashamed to say that maybe I had become somewhat desensitized, but then the submissions began rolling in.

To be honest, I couldn’t believe people actually wanted to enter. Even more so, I couldn’t believe how amazing some of the stories were. People shared their challenges with weight loss, diabetes, bariatric surgery, and even cancer. After reading 2 or 3 submissions I realized that I had a big problem on my hands, how do I pick just one winner? All of the stories I received were so touching; how could I decide whose story deserved the grand prize? Then it happened…

I received the following submission on the day before I closed the contest:

“When my sister shared this opportunity, I was so excited to put together my entry essay and to have a chance at participating in something like this.  I love to write and this will force me to put my goals in ink. I’m 28 years old, lean and relatively healthy (with a few exceptions which I will share). I grew up active and had a love for athletics early on. 

My enjoyment in fitness came to a halt last year, or maybe it was earlier, really it’s hard to tell. I cannot pinpoint exactly when I lost interest and my will ended to do things I loved like hit the pavement, visit the mat, or even just go for a leisurely stroll with my husband. I was completely conflicted.  I knew exactly what was healthy and right for me, but just couldn’t seem to take the steps needed to do it – even if the step was simply to change into tennis shoes and get going. I tried a few tricks like buying all new fitness outfits (and now lululemon has a few months of my salary), joining a studio and getting certified in yoga. While I loved every bit of what I was learning and doing when I was in the moment, I had a hard time recovering and convincing myself to go back for more. 

That should have been enough of a sign to know something was wrong, but as in tuned with my body as I claimed to be, I ignored it. It would take another six months or maybe longer – we do not know the exact dates – to learn that it was one sign of many that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At the time of diagnosis when my family was devastated, I was actually relieved.  It gave me answers and provided a reason for my change in interests, emotions, and personality that I could do something about. I was going to face it head on and I knew once I beat it, I would not be dealing with this constant battle between my desires and my abilities. The disease was holding me back.

Survival rates for Hodgkin’s are very high these days, even for my advanced stage of 3B. With my health and age the odds were in my favor. So, I immediately started chemo. I responded very well to the six months of treatment and will have radiation through the beginning of the year. That’s where this contest could make a difference for me and change my life. During chemo I lost the majority of my muscle, definition, and any resemblance to my “old” body that I’d managed to keep around. As a past competitive gymnast, I had a fantastic muscular build in place.  Even when I wasn’t working out regularly, I had that to fall back on. If I maintained it, I didn’t think that would ever leave me. Chemo had other plans entirely. I knew it would take an immediate toll on me, but I didn’t expect my body to get so weak, so fast.

Chemo and radiation have a list of side effects that can stick around far after the doses have been administered. I’ve gained weight, lost muscle and now have to contend with the increased risks of secondary cancers due to exposure to the very aggressive treatments that are helping me now. I know I need to get healthy to continue on cancer-free, be able to become a mother and live an active lifestyle. I am ready to hit the ground running, but I’m clueless as to how to rebuild from the state I’m in. My doctor encourages a regular workout schedule, but I know I need guidance on how to ease in and protect my body. I need a professional. I need you.”

In light and love,

Allie Vatcher

After reading this, I knew I had my winner.

Here was a young woman who was robbed of doing something she loved so much by a disease, but she wants to fight back. I lost my Grandfather to cancer and I want to be a part of her fight. I stated very clearly that the intention of this contest was to change someone’s life, but I think the outcome is going to be much greater.

You can follow Allie’s journey here.