Guest Blogger: Elizabeth's Journey

Elizabeth is a great example of a UFO member that will #neverquit. From marathons to tough mudders, this UFOer is up for the challenge. Even though she’s had a “midlife kick in the pants” in the form of thyroid cancer, she’s used her setbacks as a way to keep continuing her journey to better health and fitness. We're pumped to see what she does in the next 10 years, and the next 10, and the next 10, and the next 10...

I just turned 40, ugh.  

There is something so mental about turning 40. I thought 40 was so old, but at a recent doctor appointment my doctor said I was the healthiest 40 year-old she had ever seen. Her reaction made me change my mind set from “Ugh” to “Wow, I’m kicking ass.”

 

I grew up as an active, healthy kid: no junk food, lots of playing outside, tennis lessons, etc. I also watched a lot of TV; I mean A LOT. I was never an “athlete “, I was too clumsy for ballet, not coordinated enough for cheerleading and never fast enough to make the varsity swim team.

 Elizabeth running the Long Island Tough Mudder...yeah, badass. 

Elizabeth running the Long Island Tough Mudder...yeah, badass. 

I totally let myself go in college: I gained the standard freshman 15 and then some. It took a very close friend to say  - “Hey, let’s start going around the lake”, then “Hey let’s join golds” to get me to pay attention. I got into what I thought was decent shape. I was doing that standard workout-- you know, 30 minutes on the elliptical, some ab work, light weights and eating low fat foods. It worked for my 20’s.

 

And then came my 30’s, a complete rollercoaster.

 

I finally got over the idea that I was not a runner and ran multiple half marathons, one full, got into triathlons and learned that I needed to, and was totally capable of, doing more. I joined Urban Fitness after I injured my shoulder and someone suggested that I go to a trainer to make myself stronger instead of wasting time with a PT.

 

I started off with semi-privates and quickly moved to team training. I learned that I LOVE kettle bells. I also started noticing that the more I went to UFO, the faster I was running. I was feeling good and getting much stronger.

 

Once in my mid-30s, I ate what I thought was healthy, worked out more than 7 times a week but slowly started to gain weight. People are so kind, and although I went from a size 27 to a 29/30 – everyone kept saying I was trim and looked great.

 

I began to wonder, was it in my head?

 

 Elizabeth with her sister (and another UFO badass), Kate, hiking the dipsea. 

Elizabeth with her sister (and another UFO badass), Kate, hiking the dipsea. 

 

All of the sudden I have 30lbs on me and I can’t understand how I got there. Is this what happens when you get older? I started cutting out carbs and for the first time start researching diets. Then a day after a routine check my doctor emails me up to ask if anyone has ever talked to me about my thyroid function. My first response – what is a thyroid?

 

So if you don’t know, your thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland in your neck. It basically influences everything: your heart rate, metabolism, skin, hair, nails, sleep. EVERYTHING.

 

Turns out, I had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (hypothyroidism) which meant mine was not working so great. I got on a medication to supplement my thyroid function and at the same time decide to clean up my diet and start eating PALEO. In just a few months I lost all the weight and felt amazing.  

 

My workouts were killer, I slept great, and my skin was clear. I think this was the healthiest I have ever been, so of course it was about time for a hiccup. While blow drying my hair one day I notice a lump in my neck, I thought little about it. In the next month the lump grew to the point I was having a hard time swallowing.

 

I had my sister check it out (If you don’t know my sister, she’s is a fellow 6AM UFOer and also a doctor) and she tells me to get a doctor appointment ASAP. Less than 3 days later I am diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.

 

Now, as someone who has had thyroid cancer I can say – thyroid cancer is no big deal. At the time though it was extremely scary. Thankfully, I was already in good shape. I had to have my thyroid removed which was a 4 hour surgery and I was back at UFO (on limited duty) within days and I was able to run 10 miles within a few weeks. I followed up from surgery with radioactive iodine treatment and again I recovered quickly.

 

A coworker described my experience as “speed bumps”. It was so true. Being in perfect health going into my treatment allowed for a very safe surgery and a quick recovery.  My doctors often remark how easy it is do my neck scan (I get that done often) since I am trim and muscular, makes finding anomalies easy.   

 

All in all, these speed bumps one after the other have not been easy--in particular, finding the right dose for thyroid replacement and suppression. For the first two years I was medicated to be “hyper”, which meant I had muscle weakness, racing heart rate and could not sleep.  

 

Yet even with these setbacks, I still feel that my experience was a blessing. I got a midlife kick in the pants that will ensure I will continue to work out every day, drink less and eat clean for the rest of my life.   

 

From giving me a specific program for getting back to speed post-surgery, or giving me at home workouts when I was confined to my house during the radiation treatment, UFO has been there for me. So my plans for my 40s, are to finally deadlift over 150lb, indulge in some chips and guacamole and do as many tough mudders as possible.

 

 Elizabeth with the UFO crew crushing the Tough Mudder in Tahoe.  

Elizabeth with the UFO crew crushing the Tough Mudder in Tahoe.