imageWhen illness strikes, and overcoming it seems impossible, many people just give up and give in. Their lives go from being mostly self sufficient, to disabled. They look at the problem, and see it as being far too big to conquer…so why even bother. Eventually they are on oxygen and in a wheelchair. It is a bleak future, and one no one really wants to live. Nevertheless, it is how most people handle a situation where their daily habits have lead them down a path of self destruction. I know that the situation I have described sounds like I am speaking ill of someone who is disabled, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

That is the situation my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg found herself in one year ago today. Years of stress, too many working hours, helping in the care of her aging parents, and finally the passing of her dad, my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg, had lead to unhealthy eating and weight gain, complicated by depression, sleep apnea, congestive heart failure and cellulitis. It was a recipe for a downward depression spiral, but for my sister-in-law it was the beginning of a journey that would find her one half of herself just one short year later.

When this journey began, Brenda was worried that she would never make it. Her goals felt like the impossible dream. She felt like she had so far to go, and she knew that she was exhausted before she even took that first step. But somewhere…deep inside, she discovered a strength she never knew that she had. A determination to beat this thing against all the odds. Brenda didn’t know how she was going to get this done, or how long it would take, but she knew that she did not want to spend the rest of her life on the sidelines.

Brenda’s journey began with a hospital stay at Wyoming Medical Center, and was followed by a stay at Elkhorn Rehab Hospital. She checked into the hospital on October 18, 2013, and checked out of Elkhorn Rehab Hospital on November 11, 2013. The girl who went into the hospital seemed defeated and scared, but the girl who came out of the hospital was determined and excited about the future. There were still things to worry about, because lets face it, Congestive Heart Failure sounds scary, but throughout this last year, she has had so much good news. She has found that her condition is completely reversible, if she loses weight and exercises. For her, the good news is that she was already planning to do just that, and she is very determined. She watches shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Weight Loss” and listened to “Half Size Me” to keep herself inspired, and she has had steady success. She still feels like she has a long way to go, but she knows that she will make it…because she has decided that failure is not an option. She is taking her life back, not giving up or giving in.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of Brenda’s journey, and what a year it has been! Brenda has seen her heath improve by leaps and bounds, and she has been told that her health issues can be imagecompletely reversed. She has stuck with her diet and exercise programs, adding classes and hiking to her list of likes, and now she is feeling so much better, that she is doing things with friends, like a painting class, the movies, and dinner out. I have never seen her so happy. And as to her goal for this first year. Yes, she has achieved that too. Brenda is truly half the girl she used to be…she weighs half of what she did when this journey started. I am so proud of her. Today we will take a Victory Hike on the Garden Creek Trail, to celebrate a year of multiple successes. It isn’t the end of a journey, but rather the start of the next leg of that journey. I firmly believe that Brenda’s life can take her wherever she wants to go. Your future is yours to decide. You can do whatever you want to do. Here’s to the future, Brenda, and here’s to you!!

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