“Fitness Saved Our Lives: Two Sisters’ Journey”
Elizabeth and Morgan have two powerful fitness journeys. Elizabeth has survived cancer while simultaneously dealing with military deployments, moving cross country, graduating top ten percent from Purdue, and placing fourth place in her first NPC competition. All the while, she has used fitness as an outlet to transform her life and create a stronger mind and body to help reach her goals. Her sister, Morgan, has a powerful story as well. Morgan has overcome anorexia and decided to regain her health through proper nutrition and workout regimen, changing her life completely. Living a healthy lifestyle has transformed both their bodies and minds.
The sisters are not your typical cookie cutter success story. Most of the magazines portray motivating stories of men and women’s weight loss journeys. Through Morgan and Elizabeth we can catch a glimpse of the other side of fitness that people may be afraid to talk about.
Everyday people are diagnosed with cancer and disease. Morgan and Elizabeth are here to remind them that it is not time to quit fighting. It is the hardest times that will shape you into the stronger person who you have always wanted to be. When the sisters look back on their journeys they see pain, mistakes and even heartache but they reflect on their lives now and can see how their past has proved their strength, taught them how to live and cherish their health, and take pride in their bodies and minds while molding weakness into newfound strength.
The sisters, who are now athletes, fitness models, and motivational speakers and writers, are dedicating their lives to proving that stresses and challenges can be utilized as motivation to overcome one’s greatest fears. This is an appropriate topic for readers because everybody has to deal with stress. We all have battles each and everyday that we are forced to tackle. Some of us revert to bad habits, which can often lead to a downward spiral. Instead, the sisters are sharing their stories in hopes to teach that mental will is like a muscle. When you practice being strong it becomes a new habit. In life, it is inevitable that change and stress will enter our lives at some point or another. After all, you can’t spell challenge without “change.”
“By sharing our stories we want to inspire people. We want someone to look at us and say, ‘Because of you, we did not give up’” says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s journey began at age 20 when she married her husband who enlisted in the US Navy. Elizabeth began online classes at Purdue and moved to begin her husband’s career. During the next 3 years, she moved cross-country a total of 4 times! She was always interested in health and nutrition so she tried to make time to workout and eat healthy (so she thought). Elizabeth had always known that the gym and the workouts she had been doing were important but she didn’t really see the results she wanted.
“I thought since I had the time alone, I should really research how to better myself during that chapter of time instead of focusing on anything negative,” said Elizabeth.
Elizabeth decided to invest in a nutritionist and went from 24% body fat to 12% eating 5-6 healthy meals a day and learning the importance of nutrition. Her husband then left for his first deployment, leaving her a lot of time to focus on changing her body. So she did.
The past year she felt that she had really gained control of her life. She had learned the correct way to eat and workout and was doing exceptionally well in her classes, while her husband returned from the Middle East. It was too good to be true it seemed, as her advisor informed her that she had to return to Purdue for her last year of classes since she was running out of online classes to take. Elizabeth decided to move back home to finish her last year of college. She thought this was the last hard step she and her husband would have to overcome. They just went through multiple cross-country moves and we had gotten through his deployment, so they thought after graduation everything would start to become smooth sailing!
The week before Elizabeth was planning on moving home, she went to the doctor to get her yearly physical. Her insured doctors must be military based, so since she wouldn’t have them back at home, she thought it was important that she get a check up before leaving. That is where she found out she had melanoma. Since that August of 2012, Elizabeth has had 4 surgeries and 7 areas removed.
She moved home and began the classes like a normal student. Her professors and even her mother told her the best thing to do would be to drop the classes since she was flying to Florida to see her doctors every 3 weeks.
“I didn’t drop a single class. It was very stressful, time consuming and draining. I remember sitting in my kitchen after I got off the phone with my doctor and I was so mad at my life and at God. I looked back and saw the past years of obstacles I’d had thrown my way and I just asked, “Why can’t I ever have a break?” said Elizabeth.
Elizabeth couldn’t relate to any of her friends or anyone who had these types of problems and felt it was unfair. She really hit a low point in her life. On top of the cancer, Elizabeth was also told her husband would be sent for another deployment after she graduated in May.
“So the whole time I was home at school and having to go to all these surgeons and doctors left me no time to really be with him, and then he was leaving for another 6 months? It was a lot to take in.” says Elizabeth.
“ I was at my lowest and I decided that all I could do was pray. I prayed to just be a stronger person to get through this and I put my life in his hands. I felt everything was so out of control that the only thing I could do was my best. I went from trying to control every aspect of my life to understanding that life can and will throw anything my way,” said Elizabeth.
She never knew what is coming next but she did know that she was going to handle it the best way she could. In the end she knew her trials were going to shape every detail of her.
“Resisting the inevitable, complaining and feeling sorry for myself did absolutely nothing, so I decided to simply change my attitude. Presently, my husband just left for his deployment and my melanoma will be with me forever, but I have accepted it and how things are,” said Elizabeth.
Now, every two months she goes to the doctor for her exams, which consist of full body screenings, lymph node exams, and CAT scans to monitor everything.
“Life is too short! I really feel that my apparent obstacles are actually blessings in disguise and they have made me appreciate my loved ones, my life, and really focus on my health. I have learned to be the person I want to be.”
The two sisters believe living healthy and mentally changing how they view life, really made them both different people. You are going to be in your own skin until the day you die, so you might as well be comfortable in it.
“Just remember: you are capable of anything you put your mind to. Whether you think you can.. or you think you can’t… you are RIGHT,” explain the sisters.
Morgan’s Journey was a mental challenge as well. Morgan battled an eating disorder throughout her high school career. At the time her life seemed out of control. She was suffering from the stresses of failing relationships and a difficult family life. Morgan felt she had no control of her life other than what she put in her mouth. Unfortunately, she began to react to her problems by controlling every bite she took, causing her to lose over 30 pounds.
She went through a few years of family and friends trying to help her, and finally she decided she to ‘retrain her brain’ and create a short term goal then more short term goals and so on. These goals varied from calorie goals that she wanted to hit for the day, positive affirmations, and even researching a new nutrition fact, exercise tip, or physiological information that would help her work to become better and stronger than the average person going about their healthy lifestyle. She wanted to not only put this in her past, but also become better through it and she did.
Morgan now has more will power than one can imagine, more concern for others who are in such situations, and most importantly, she now cares for and values her body. She would not be where she was today without overcoming her problem.
“ I feel that it is of upmost importance to address this issue as you will probably encounter people with a similar struggle more often than you may think. This is something that the average person does not want to make known to the public eye. This also is definitely not something one intrinsically knows how to fix or may even be at the stage where anyone’s help is welcomed. Because of that, it is important to understand the relevancy of this issue and that there absolutely is a way to surpass it, just as there is a way to surpass any obstacle you set your mind to,” says Morgan.
Morgan now has added over 30 pounds of muscle to her frame. She has a stronger body and mind. Her passion for health has also inspired her to apply for the IU nursing program. Morgan was one of the 90 students accepted out of over 1000 applicants to the program. Morgan’s determination and passion for health has forever changed her life.
Morgan and Elizabeth are now full time fitness models, NPC competitors, I DECIDE athletes, personal trainers, motivational speakers, and even created their own website and Facebook fan page to motivate and encourage others to live a healthy lifestyle. “What seems to be bitter trials are often blessings in disguise. We are happy when God answered our prayers but we are more thankful when God is letting us answer someone else’s prayers,” said Morgan.
“We are now living a life dedicated to helping and encouraging others. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”