Welcome to my blog, all about inspirational people with amazing stories to share and who have fought their way to their goals and dreams.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cancer to Buff: Jill Tellefsen-Crean's Amazing Story

My Friend Jason Adams who also did an interview on my blog told me about Jill. She truly has an amazing story about surviving cancer.  Jill also just completed the NPC East Coast Oct 2nd and placed 2nd in Figure C open, and 5th place in Masters Figure 35+

Q. Where are you from?
I am from Bergen County NJ!  I grew up in Old Tappan...I am currently living in Pearl River, NY which is only about 10 min from where I grew up.  I guess I didn't get very far!  LOL!

Q. Do you have any children?
I do not have any children.  I have 2 cats and 2 hampsters that I call my children.
Q. How long have you been physically active for?
 I had always be physically active, from basketball in elementary school to track in high school.  I ran 100m, 200m. Did high jump and long jump.

Q. Were you always into working out?
No. Actually I wasn't.  My sister tried to rope me in a couple times, but I was more into hanging out with my friends and shopping. Working out didn't come into the picture until I turned 30!  I was out of shape, eating horribly, and overweight...I wasn't happy with myself any longer.  I decided its my 30th and its time for change...and Change I did!  I am 5'7". And when I started I was 168lbs and 32% BMI and I wore a size 10/12. I ate taco bell and boston market and mcdonalds!  UGH...thinking about it now makes me sick...I completely turned my life and physique around!  People must realiz you can't just "diet". Its about life style change. Making the proper choices and sticking with it. There is no quick easy solution..if there was everyone would be fit.  Its a journey...and a very fulfilling one if you choose to follow it!

 Q. How long have you been competing for and how many competitions have you done?

I starting competing about 5 years ago!  I was prepping for my wedding and my trainer at that time told me I looked great and should give figure a try.  I never thought I could get up there, much less belong on that stage. But I got excited. It lit something inside me, so I did one. 2 weeks before my wedding no less and I got 3rd place..and that was that :).  I have done 4 shows. My 5th one is coming up this Saturday October 2nd. I am doing the NPC East Coast. I will be in Figure Open- C class, and Masters Figure-C class.

Q. What is your favorite cheat meal?
ANYTHING chocolate!!! LOL. But I also enjoy a really good burger and french fries and my husband's homemade pizza and chocolate chip pancakes!!!

Q. What do you do for a living?
I am a 911 operator/police dispatcher for a police dept in Suffern, NY.  I have been a dispatcher for the past 23 years.

Q. How do you balance your high stress job, family and keeping a strict work out schedule?
Balance is key!!  I am very obessive compulsive, and very strict and stick to my schedule.  I work the 3x11 tour, so my workouts are done first thing, followed by food shopping and food prep. I then shower and head to work.  After work I hang with the hubby and play with my pets. On my days off I do my chores, hang with my family and friends, and just relax!

Q. You are a 2x cancer survivor. When did you have this disease?
I was 22 years old when I was first diagnosed with cancer. That time, I had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. I had a 6 inch tumor between my heart and my lungs.  I had to go through 6 months of chemo and 6 weeks of radiation..and knock wood..have been in remission from it since!

I was 39 when I was diagnosed with cancer yet again. Apparently cancer likes my genes...lol. This time Ovarian Cancer.  I had Borderline Serus Tumor.  So this time there was no chemo and no radiation..I did have to have a complete hysterectomy but my surgeon got all the cancer, and once again I am in remission.  I thank God everyday when I wake up to be here and be living a healthy active life.

Q. How did fitness help you through these tough times?
The first time I was diagnosed I was not into fitness.  I tried to join a gym, but the gym would not sign me up because my doctor said my heart rate could not get up too high and because I could go into heart failure so they kind of freaked out and turned me away.  The second time I had cancer I firmly believe if I wasn't in as good a shape as I was I never could have bounced back so quickly.  I was back at work 3 weeks after my hysterectomy, and back in the gym on the treadmill about 2 weeks after as well :)

Q. Who are the people that helped you through all of this?
My husband Michael, my family and my friends have helped me through all of this. I am grateful for everyone in my life. I am very blessed to have such a great support system.

Q. How do you think fitness and a healthy lifestyle changed your life?
I think it changed my life style for the better.  I am in the best shape of my life. Both physically and mentally I am better at 42 then I was at 22!! 

Q. How important do you think physical activity and healthy eating is for everyone out there?
I think its very important.  Too many people are sedentary as are children now a days. Sitting in front of the tv or computer rather then outside playing ball or riding bikes with their friends.  Everyone looks at the size of things and they supersize everything instead of eating a normal portion of food.  Most people don't even realize what it is they are putting in their mouths!  They should read labels and eat healthy meals. Make smarter choices.  We are an obese nation and if you look around at all the fast foods and processed foods and gigantic portions you will see what I am talking about. And not just with foods but drinks as well! All those sugary coffee drinks, or smoothies.  And certain protein bars, people are eating these thinking they are healthy but a snickers bar would be a better choice then to certain bars out there. Ok...I will stop with my food rant for now :)

Q. Does your story help inspire people in your life?
You know that's a good question..I'm not quite sure! LOL. Though my sister Lynn tells me she is inspired by me, as does my husband Michael, and my girlfriend Grace and Beth, and Jillian....so I guess I would have to say yes!!

Q. What advice do you have for our readers who give up when something horrible happens?
That life is unpredictable and ANYTHING can happen. Both good and bad.  Just think about your goals and how badly you want something.  Gripe. Complain get it out. Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get right back up!!  Its sounds easy but its not. But from someone who has been there numerous times, believe me. If you want it bad enough you can and will do it!  The human spirit and will is amazing!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Alli G's Amazing Story

Alli's story is truly amazing. Going from back problems to near death and coming back stronger and healthier than ever before. If this is not inspirational, I don't know what is! Read on.

Q. Where are you from?

G'day mate! You should have a good idea by now. Haha. I was born in N.S.W., Australia and have lived here all my life. Aussie through and through.

Q. How many kids do you have?

I have two children. A boy who has just turned 7 and a girl (an indoor tornado) who is 3 and a half years old. Busy times.

Q. When did you get into fitness and working out?

I grew up being encouraged to play and exercise outside as a youngster. I was Swimming Age Champion 6 years running in high school, played soccer during my teens to early 20's and first began using a gym during high school sport activities one year. I enjoyed the challenge of lifting weights and was so interested in the science behind human movement, that I decided to go to University to study Exercise Science.

Q. You went through hard times with your health, tell us about it.

I began developing lower back pain during repetitive bending and twisting movements at work with heavy loads. Over the years, the pain gradually worsened and acute bouts of back pain became more frequent and would last for weeks, leaving me in agony. I was unable to function. It got so bad, that I had to ask my Husband to help me wipe myself on the toilet, dress me, help me into and out of bed and even feed me. Ongoing tests finally revealed I had ruptured 2 discs, which required surgery. In the next couple of years, I also developed severe, ongoing episodes of neck pain. Tests showed that I had ruptured 3 discs in my neck, one of which also required surgical removal and replacement. So I now sport 3 titanium discs in my spine. I also suffered a brain haemorrhage, 3 months prior to the lower back surgery. An aneurysm ruptured suddenly which required emergency brain surgery. I'll never forget the excruciating pain, the feeling of dread and wanting to die to escape the pain. I'm very lucky. Not only to survive it, but to be left with no long-term complications. And grateful, for such amazing Neurosurgeons.

Q. How did fitness help you through all of the hard times?

I have no doubt that my fitness level helped my ability to recover from such traumatic events. I think that exercise can also teach you a lot about yourself. You learn how to push yourself. You learn self-discipline. And willpower. You learn how to find motivation and feel inspired. You need all of these things to help you through the hard times.

Q. Who are the people in your life that helped you through this?

I am very fortunate to have had such amazing support from my husband. Not only physical assistance, but emotional support. These times were most difficult and often overwhelming, not only for me, but for him too. Challenging. My emotional state suffered. He was always there, to pick me up when I was down, to lift my chin up and help me see the sunshine. To know that life moved on. That I would move on. And that things would get better. He was right. Things did get better.

Q. How did you get yourself back in the gym?

I remember going back to the gym about 7 months after my brain surgery and at this stage it had also been about 4 months since my lower back operation. I felt very fragile and my confidence was at an all time low. It was daunting. I felt like I was learning to move again. I was scared I would hurt myself. The scar from my forehead to ear was still evident. I'd put on weight too.I felt like everyone was staring at me. It wasn't easy. Everything I had been able to do before seemed so distant. Those things now seemed unattainable. I didn't think I'd ever be able to do those things again. Fear was a major factor. I took a very slow and steady approach. I started swimming again. And I kept going to the gym. At first just to ride a bike & get some condition back. I eventually felt confident enough to use the machines to do my weights. It took some time before I began using free weights. But slowly, my fear subsided and my confidence returned. And now, there is no looking back!

Q. What kind of activities do you have your children participate in?

My children have both learned to swim & my daughter still participates in weekly swimming lessons. She also loves gymnastics. My son has just finished his very first year of soccer and loves to go indoor rock-climbing. Both love to ride their bikes, trampoline, throw a frisbee, play in the park and climb on equipment and run around being silly. I wish I had their energy!

Q. What is the typical eating habits your family has?

I like to think our eating habits are reasonably good. My children eat a healthy variety of foods. But like most children, they often object to fruit & vegetables, especially my son! My daughter is far better at trying and accepting new tastes and textures. I do most of the food preparation, so I try to incorporate 'hidden' veggies into most meals. So long as it's finely diced, they barely notice! Of course, we're not horribly strict parents and we allow the children to have some treats if they have eaten well throughout the day. And we have treats too! Moderation is key.

Q. How do you normally eat?

I'm not always well behaved. Like most people, I have weaknesses! I'm normal! Saying that I love my food is a massive understatement. Food glorious food. Mmmmmm ~dreaming~ again. Haha. Personally, I like to try and eat a good amount of protein throughout the day, from lean meats, egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, tuna, protein shakes & occasionally protein bars. I tend to avoid starchy carbohydrates and prefer to eat more fruit & vegetables. Summer is much easier than winter, however. Less comfort food and loads of salad instead! I still enjoy red wine when I'm not being too strict. If I'm really focused, I will only allow red wine once a week.

Q. Do you and your family have any treats you like to share together?

We generally order take-away once a week. The kids like to order a Hungry Jack's Cheeseburger (and I eat the pickles! Mmmmm). My husband and I are creatures of habit and we tend to order a gourmet thin crust pizza and wedges as our weekly treat. And we all love chocolate. I mean, who doesn't? We allow our kids to have ice-cream a few times a week if they have eaten well through the day and finished their dinner.

Q. How do you find time to stay in shape with your busy life?

Finding time can often be difficult and I'd say is probably the biggest excuse people use to avoid exercise. The associated guilt with leaving the family for purely selfish reasons is not easy either. But I have learned that it's ok for me to go and workout. That I should make that time for myself. I deserve that time away, to stay fit and have a breather from home duties. To be my own person for a short while. I'm also lucky that I can schedule in a few workouts whilst the gym child-minding facilities are open. My Daughter has a play there with other kids while I workout. And by making time to stay in shape, I'm also a happier Mum and Wife. Bonus!

Q. What is your favorite exercise?

Oh, now that's a difficult question to answer! Where do I start? There are so many things I love doing. I can safely say at the moment, that my favourite exercise is NOT pushups! I'm in the middle of a '3000 pushups in 30 days' challenge, so you may understand my dislike for them. Lol. I probably favour suitcase deadlifts, overhead presses and have recently attempted single arm snatches using a barbell and have fallen in love with them! A wickedly challenging exercise.

Q. Do you have any advice for our readers out there that think that life is over when something terrible happens?

Staying positive is never easy when you're suffering acute or chronic pain or have endured a life-threatening event. Don't bottle up the way you're feeling. Talk to someone. What you're feeling is normal. Surround yourself with positive people. People that will encourage you to keep fighting, to never give up. Read some amazing autobiographies and feel inspired! Try and keep a sense of humour. Think about people that are suffering worse than you. And don't let fear get in the way. Life will get better. Look to the future and try not dwell on the past. Practice smiling again and be happy!

Thanks very much Angelique for the opportunity to be a part of your great blog. I'm honoured that you asked me to answer some questions for you. It means a lot. And thank you very much to everyone for reading. Much appreciated.