By: Deneen Young, BGR! Philadelphia
So here goes BGR—this has taken me forever to put on paper and share. I’m sure someone can relate but when you have pressed past some things in your life and then to have to go back and relive or reflect on them it can be major so finally I am not putting off saying “thank you” to Ashley and Toni for their passion and vision of Black Girls Run. Never in a million years would I have thought you ALL would be part of my journey and living life “on purpose”. As I share some of my personal journal with you for me my prayer is that it will bless someone out there to keep pressing and keep pushing not to mention to educate as well towards a better and healthier you.
As I think back over my life my journey leading up to BGR, my running and me becoming a better and healthier me began about fifteen years ago working on the “inner” me mentally, emotionally and spiritually—then the ultimate came the “tough love” from my uncle, then the next was the “tool” then the next tool “running” and finally the “push” and “press” of eating healthy, working out at least four days a week and steadfast on changing my mind-set and lifestyle that must remain constant.
Here is a little of me and my story:
My journey began three years ago when I realized my weight was getting in the way of my life. I was hospitalized with pneumonia and was told the morning after being admitted to the hospital “you are one blessed woman we expected you to be on a ventilator.” I began to cry and promised myself I was going to get on track with my health and lose the weight. Well, that didn’t happen—I tried again and again and again, different tools and programs but nothing worked (I finally gave up and accepted I would just remain over weight). I was miserable and began to make everyone around me miserable. The year before last a co-worker shared she was having bariatric surgery – all I could hear was excitement in her voice. I shared my fears and she told me with such authority, “Deneen you will know when it is time for you to get on track and find a tool and you will do what you need to do for you to succeed”. I walked away thinking when will I know and how will I know? I thought you can do this on your own but maybe just maybe God has a different plan. Then it happened: in February of 2011 my uncle gave me “tough love” in a conversation—he said to me “Why are you killing yourself and what are you going to do about it? We all love you and want you here on this earth for a very long time! Don’t you want to live long enough to see your grandchildren?” My response after pondering for a moment was “I want to live long enough to see my great grandchildren!” Mind you the scary thing in his conversation with me was that I had a dream months before about the very conversation–everything he said to me over the telephone he said in the dream (no I didn’t tell anyone about the dream other than my husband… so for me that was a move of God). I finally after weeks went to my family doctor and shared my interest in bariatric surgery (just a thought)—she was thrilled and referred me to a surgeon, Dr. Tichansky at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. My consultation was in March of 2011 and after long nights of prayer and conversations with my husband and children I decided on the gastric vertical sleeve surgery. For years I was like most I have experienced on my journey, uneducated about the whys, dos and don’ts and yes very judgmental thinking “oh they only want a quick fix”. Once I educated myself (kept prayer in the forefront at all times) it seemed like each step in my process was a breeze. The most memorable step for me was attending my first support group meeting – everyone made me feel like I was part of the family and shared their experience with me (kind of like we do in BGR). I also remember the “team” my surgeon, nurse practitioner and my nutritionist share “if you do what we share with you to do you will be successful but the key is you must do the work and use the tool”. My surgery was on July 18, 2011.
Well to my surprise a month post surgery I had the urge and the motivation to begin to move. I was eating the proper meals/portions had lost 20lbs but I realized I needed to add more so I began on my own to power walk/run 2-3 miles, line dance and Zumba almost everyday without getting out of breath! I was able to walk up several flights of stairs and still breathe! For the first time in my life I actually looked forward to working-out – first thing in the morning! I’ve always been confident but now my confidence level was up so high—I felt like “ME” again.
After one of my many morning posts on FB after a walk I was invited by a friend to Black Girls Run! Philadelphia. That was the best gift ever someone gave me. I immediately got on the BGR face book page but guess what I was talking. I thought to myself OMG these women are runners I just want to get moving with someone so I can get these pounds off I can’t run I can trot but not run with them–that’s it back to my track I go. Well, He had other plans for me–one evening I remember a post on the page by our lead Ambassador, Jocelyn, she posting something about coming out even if you don’t run and she would be there waiting. When I read that post my first thought was–that post if for me then I saw another post that the other Ambassador, Dawn, would be there too, then another post from a member, Marla. I’m thinking to myself WTH okay now you don’t have any more excuses about being intimidated it is up to you–you went through all of this to give up no way no how! So I finally made it out in the cold to my first meet-up with BGR in October! WOW the Ambassador is walking and trotting with me she is actually giving-up her time to help me, then the next time I’m out I meet another member, Gina, WOW a total stranger (so I thought found out she knew my siblings small world) was talking to me and finally we decided we would do this thing together try out best to wog and set a goal to run. Next thing I know I’m at meet-ups on a regular and Marla is right there waiting for me on the weekends to train me to encourage me–between her, Jocelyn and Dawn I could not believe what was happening (okay side note: I am in tears as I am writing this reliving those moments).
Then I meet Coach Leslie (that’s what we call her–a gem) and she starts sharing all of this information with me about my body, about my work-out and the ultimate she helped me be okay with the fact that I used a tool that most African American women won’t because of being uneducated and accepting being unhealthy. Her words to me that moved me to the next level in my journey that I honor now that I took the steps to save my life and to be okay she shared: “do you realize what you have done–you have saved your life and added years to your life it doesn’t matter what “tool” you have used because if we both use a different tool but both don’t eat right and/or don’t exercise we both have the same results in the end–weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle” WOW–I thought about that and realized she is right now why are you still walking around not sharing not honoring and being proud. Well next journey for me–I honor and respect the choices that I made for me to save my life and to live longer. Because of this journey I am active with my children—running around with them, playing basketball, bowling, working-out and just moving. I made the choice to make a change and that change was and is positive–I am 47 and feel so much younger! Weight loss surgery isn’t a quick fix you will have good days and bad days and have to work hard at the choices you make but it is what you do with those days and the tool that has been given to you that make a difference. This has truly been a positive journey for me and, unlike a year ago, I am not ashamed to say I had vertical sleeve surgery and because of that I am runner–and the journey included and remains with BGR saving my life! Here are a few shortened postings from my blog (www.thatgirlneen.blogspot.com/) that have been a blessing for me and prayerfully for you–it is not just about losing the weight of the pounds but the weight that holds us bound, however, it is about running, wogging or walking–moving on so many levels (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually).
So here I am got some of it out and “whew” it wasn’t bad. I like to greet the sun each morning with a run with that smile on my face that I am “here” I am doing the darn thing, I am moving, I am pushing and pressing towards what my body can do and wants to do what it craves to run! WOW that sounds nice I am owning and honoring every part of my being that I am a runner that I am who I am suppose to be that this is the way I am suppose to be and the past is just that the past but I know there is always going to be a little residue to remind me from where I came but to also let me know I can’t and I won’t go back. Again, my story is not a “quick fix” my life is a work in progress and my journey keeps going towards staying fit and supporting this movement, BGR, and the women in it—if what ever your goal is and running is part of it know it can only take you as far as you allow it to take you. Honor each moment your foot hits the ground, feel each run and embrace all of you and without hesitation live life to the fullest like it was your last day on earth and take care of your health because tomorrow my dear is not promised. Now I would not be me if I did not leave you with this (yes in all caps) KEEP PRESSING and KEEP PUSHING you are worth it–I know I am, Luv ya!