congestive heart failure

My sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg became quite ill a number of years ago, and finally had to face the fact that her weight was slowly killing her. I suppose some people might think that statement is harsh, but they don’t know my sister-in-law. Those were fighting words for her, or at least a call to action. When she found out that her weight had caused sleep apnea and congestive heart failure, she decided that she was not going to let her weight win. From that day forward, the world would see a new Brenda…a determined Brenda.

The road was long, and filled with hard work. Brenda doggedly walked in the cold early morning hours, rain or shine, and even in snow. She bought a bicycle, and fought hard to master that skill again, even with knees that had to be retrained to bent enough to work the pedals. In fact, when she started, Brenda had to take the pedals off and strider the bike (basically run while seated on a bicycle). It was work, but she wanted to ride a bicycle again, and determination goes a long way toward success. These days Brenda can be found riding her bicycle most days at some point in the day. She loves the Platte River Trail, and often rides its entire length.

Not only has Brenda continued to follow her own health and fitness plan, but she has chosen to mentor others. She has made several trips to attend meetings in other towns to talk to their weight loss groups, even if they are not on Weight Watchers, like she is. She has put her name out there as someone who will buddy up with people who are struggling to lose weight to see if she can be on any encouragement or assistance. She is willing to go out and walk with them or ride bicycles with them too. She is so adamant about health, that she doesn’t want anyone to struggle with their health. I guess that since she has been on the unhealthy side of life, and the healthy side of life, and has chosen the healthy side of life, she wants others to be able to experience just how great it feels to be healthy…and she wants to help them to achieve their own health and fitness goals that have seemed so impossible to them. It is a noble calling. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has always been a tough lady, and I suppose that is why we found it so hard to believe that she would not win this final battle in her life. She bounced back so many times, when we all thought she was going for sure, but in the end, it was not the things we expected to take her life, like COPD or diabetes, that actually did so, but rather kidney failure, complicated by congestive heart failure. Through all of the many episodes of illness in her life, we were amazed at the strength she displayed while fighting her way back to where she had been before getting sick. This final battle would be different. She was tired, and she was ready to go home to Heaven. And while we were very sad and hated to let her go, we could not ask her to stay. She had suffered long enough.

Throughout the years that Joann was my mother-in-law, she was an inspiration to many people. She had the ability to do so many things…knitting, crocheting, sewing, canning, and oh, her baking!! Mom could make a “Murder Cake” that could easily destroy any diet, because it was irresistible. “Murder Cake” was a chocolate cake with so much gooey, yummy fudge that the frosting became a part of the gooey cake. Maybe it was called “Murder Cake” because it murdered your diet. It was also my mother-in-law who introduced me to Squash and Pancakes, a dish that sounds like it should be awful, but one bite, and you are hooked. My husband, Bob; daughter, Amy; and I look forward to summer just for the squash and pancakes.

Having been raised in the country or small towns, the country was where Joann felt mostly at home. It was where she raised her children, and where one of them still lives today. She felt like it was easier to keep track of all those kids, if she had them out in the country, and when the family lived in Mills while the older children were in grade school, she finally told my father-in-law, Walt, that he needed to get the family back out in the country. And so he did. For the first 23 years of my marriage into the family, that is where they lived, and then because of health issues, they made a trade for a house in Casper…right on one of the busiest intersections in town…13th and McKinley Streets. While my mother-in-law said she hated the noise of the traffic and many emergency vehicles, she sure loved to look out the window to see what was going on out there. She secretly enjoyed the flurry of activity that was always going on out on the busy streets, and while Alzheimer’s Disease might have taken her most recent memories away, she always had her favorite pastime…people watching, whether they be in traffic, walking, or on television. My mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s Disease was the kind that kept the funniest things in life in the forefront of her memory, and she could say the funniest things. While she might not remember our names, she always knew that her children and grandchildren belonged to her, and for that we are forever grateful. Rest in peace Mom, we miss you already, and we love you forever.

BR two years agoTwo years seems like such a long time in many ways, but in others, it is no time at all. Two years ago today, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg was in the midst of a medical crisis. She went into the hospital with Congestive Heart Failure, Cellulitis, and Severe Sleep Apnea. She was in a lot of trouble. Her future looked very grim. Brenda had a big decision to make, and she had to make that decision for herself, because no one could do it for her. Brenda either had to lose weight…a lot of weight, or she was not going to live much longer.

Believe it or not, most people would have given up at that point, but Brenda isn’t most people. She decided that 50 years was not enough to call a full life. She wanted more. Nevertheless, the task of losing the weight and actually getting in shape seemed daunting. To really get into the kind of shape she needed to, Brenda would need to lose about 340+ pounds. Of course, part of that was going to be skin in the end, but it would take at least 340 pounds to get to a good weight for her 5’3″ frame. Nevertheless, losing the weight was only going to be part of the transition for Brenda.

In order to be healthy and keep the weight off, Brenda was going to have to get some activity into her life. The logical activity was one that a number of her family members love to do…hiking. For Brenda, the hike began indoors at Sunrise Shopping Center. That first hike was a short one, because it took everything she had in her to do it. Using a walker, and stopping frequently, she made that first hike. The short indoor hike using a walker is far in Brenda’s past now. These days, Brenda loves to hike Casper Mountain, with the Bridle Trail at the top of the list. Two years ago, the Bridle Trail seemed an impossible dream, but no more. The Bridle Trail is one that Brenda now hikes often.

One of the things that Brenda was told is that at some point, she will not look at activity as exercise, but as fun activity. I know that she never thought that day would come either, but these days, exercise is a thought that is far in Brenda’s past, and activity is what she does now. Brenda has become an inspiration to many people, BR after two yearswho have begun to follow in her footsteps now. She has decided to try to become a mentor to others who are in the position she was in. She wants to let people know that they can change their life, and all it really takes in the first step.

Today, as Brenda celebrates two years of really living, she will celebrate with a hike…of course. A group of her friends and family will hike the Bridle Trail. I have to wonder what Brenda is thinking about this years hike. What had seemed like an impossible dream is now a possible reality. Looking back and reflecting on all she has done, and just how far she has come, one realizes just what an amazing accomplishment this has been. For anyone who thinks they can’t do this, I recommend that you ask my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg what she thinks about that. I can tell you, without a doubt that she would tell you to focus on the finish line, and never give up. The impossible is possible, but only if you don’t quit. The only way to fail to reach your goal is to quit. Congratulations Brenda!! You have come a long way, and the future is bright now. Never quit, and you will always be strong and healthy. We love you!!

BR on May 7, 2013It isn’t very often that a person can decide one day to change their entire life…and then stick to it. Even if the change was made to save their life. Humans aren’t usually a strong willed bunch. Nevertheless, when someone makes up their mind that they want to live and that they want to live life to the fullest, it can be done. My sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg is an amazing example of such will power. When she first started this journey, she didn’t think she could do it, but now she won’t quit.

When Brenda was told that she had Cellulitis, Congestive Heart Failure, and Sleep Apnea, she didn’t sit down and cry about it, saying that her life was over, so she might just as well, give up. No, she decided that she was going to take back her life, and move forward. Her journey has been an amazing one, and it was all done is a very April 29, 2014 to April 29, 2015short time. From October 18, 2013 when she first went to the hospital to the current time, Brenda has lost over 300 pounds. She is within a pound or two of her goal weight, and then will begin weight maintenance.

Much has changed in Brenda’s life. I don’t think that she ever dreamed that she would spend so much time hiking…or that she would love to go hiking. There are several of us in the family who love to hike, and I have to wonder if Brenda used to think we were all crazy. Well, welcome to the nut house Brenda. Now, I’m sure there are people in your life who think you are just a little bit crazy too. In all reality though, hiking is so fun and relaxing. Once you get started on it, it is really hard to think about not going.

On the Platte River TrailOf course, Brenda still works full time, but her job is a little bit easier to do these days. Trying to work when you spend your entire life exhausted is no fun, but now that Brenda has lots of energy, the only time she is very tired is at bedtime, and that is normal. That in itself is a huge change, since Brenda spent most of her weekends sleeping in an effort to feel rested. It still wasn’t enough sleep. No more!! Now, Brenda is an inspiration to those around her…either that…or they just find her exhausting. It doesn’t matter which it is, because Brenda isn’t going back. She loves her new life, and all the activity in it. She loves hiking, and being outdoors, and will go even in the rain. It’s a “have raincoat, will hike” situation. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Another year better!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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