“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.” ~ Kevin Trudeau
And agree with this quote, too many give up on themselves before even trying, so lack motivation, so lack inspiration and then there are some, who seem to have all reasons to excuse themselves and feel victimized and yet, they don’t. Instead they fight back the circumstances and show everybody else how it suppose to be done.
One of those people are Elizabeth and Morgan. Two girls, two sisters, two fighters and two winners.
Here is their story.
Elizabeth Aguilera and Morgan Wehmer are two sisters in their early twenties from Chicago, Illinois.
Elizabeth has overcome a struggle with melanoma and Morgan won her battle with an eating disorder.
Through overcoming their challenges and transforming not only their bodies, but also their minds, they have turned their lives around and are now living their dreams and helping to empower women through their experiences.
They are now fitness models, Oh Yeah! Nutrition Athletes, NPC competitors, authors, motivational speakers and personal trainers.
Elizabeth’s Fitness Journey and Transformation Through Melanoma
Fitness has been something I use to channel my stress and I really use it as an outlet.
When I look back, I feel that my love for this lifestyle began in High school.
I was bullied quite badly in middle school and my parents took me out of my local school at the time and I actually switched schools to see if that would help. It really took a toll on my confidence level now that I look back at it.
I did not have the happy four years of high school that most kids have to look back on, but I believe that is where I really found myself and learned to become a healthier person. That is when I focused on improving my life.
My husband and I met in high school too.
He joined the NAVY when I turned 20 and we were married.
It was a hard step. At 20, I moved 1000 miles away with him across the country from Chicago to Florida to begin our lives together. To be honest, I was homesick and missed my friends and family dearly. At the time, they would not let him stay with me and since he had to remain on his base, I was alone almost all the time. I tried to keep myself occupied with my college classes online.
I was just then beginning my degree at Purdue for public relations, so I began to take most of my courses that were available online during those first years so I could stay with him in Florida and still be in school through Purdue.
During the next 3 years, I moved cross-country a total of 4 times.
My life was throwing everything I owned into my car and just packing and moving.
It was hard.
I had always known that the gym and the workouts I had been doing were important but I didn’t really see the results I wanted.
I thought, since I had the time alone, I should really research how to better myself during that chapter of time, instead of focusing on anything negative.
This is where I was referred to Kim Porterfield at IEM from fitness model, Kelsey Byers.
Kim completely transformed my body! I went from 24% body fat to 12%. Eating 5-6 healthy meals a day and learning the importance of nutrition changed my body.
My husband then left for his first deployment and I had a whole lot of time to focus on changing my body, and so that’s just what I did.
This past year I felt that I had really gained control of my life.
I had learned the correct way to eat and workout. I was doing exceptionally well in my classes and my husband returned from the Middle East.
Then my advisor informed me that I had to return to Purdue for my last year of classes since my online classes were running out. I decided to move back home to finish my last year of college. I thought this was the last hard step my husband and I would have to overcome.
We just went through multiple cross-country moves and we had gotten through his deployment, so we thought after my graduation everything would start to become smooth sailing!
Boy, was I wrong.
The week before I was planning on moving home, I went to the doctor to get my yearly physical.
My insured doctors must be military based, so since I wouldn’t have them back at home, I thought it was important that I get a check up before leaving.
That is where I found out I had melanoma. They noticed a raised mole on my inner thigh that looked suspicious and sent me in for surgery the following day.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer in melanocytes or pigment-producing cells, in the skin.
There are other types of skin cancer that don’t spread, but melanoma is the type that can spread to other areas of the body, or metastasize.
If you have an early stage of melanoma you can remove it to before it spreads, the deeper into the skin the more dangerous it is.
There is no cure for melanoma and once it enters the lymph nodes it is fatal. Cutting off and area will not “cure” the body of the cancer. The body will continue to create the melanocytes, so doctors will monitor the patients every 2.5-3 months to make sure to cut off any areas before the cancer can reach a higher stage.
Melanoma is one of the most fatal cancers and nothing to be taken lightly.
Melanoma Risk Factors
The following are risk factors from the highest to lowest risk.
Also, the more risk factors you have, the higher your chances are of getting melanoma. I had used tanning beds in high school and once my husband and I moved to Florida, I had two very bad blistering sunburns.
- A mole that is changing
- Atypical nevus syndrome
- Having a mole that is >15cm in diameter and has been present since birth
- White race
- A prior skin cancer
- A close family member with melanoma
- Using a tanning bed ten times a year or more before age 30
- More than 50 moles on your body
- Suppression of the immune system
The tendency to burn and freckle instead of tan
Recognizing Suspicious Moles?
The common rule of thumb is to apply the ABCD’s.
- Asymmetry – Draw a line through the middle of the mole. If the halves don’t match, the mole is asymmetric and more likely to be abnormal.
- Border – The borders of atypical moles are not well defined or can look scalloped with notches between the scallops.
- Color – An uneven color throughout the mole is more likely a sign of abnormality. This is especially true if all the other moles on your body are a uniform color. On the other hand, some people normally have moles that have different colors in them. The colors red, white, and blue may be patriotic, but they also are signs of abnormality.
- Diameter – Most melanomas spread horizontally before they start to spread vertically. Therefore look for moles that are enlarging in diameter greater than 6 mm or 1/4 inch. This is about the size of a pencil eraser.
Living with Melanoma
Since that August of 2012, I have had 5 surgeries and 7 areas removed (my last one this September of 2013.)
The dangerous area was on my leg (which you can see in the pictures.) This one was re-excised three times and fortunately the doctors where finally able to remove it. I also had an area on my stomach taken out twice to extract all the cancer as well as an area on my hip.
The area on my hip was the last surgery this fall. Luckily, since the third surgery had worked, the doctors did not begin Chemotherapy but that would have been the next option.
It was ironic because I really had thought I was getting my life on track.
I had just began to create the body I wanted through proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle and I felt scared of the future and what to expect.
At first dealing with the first couple surgeries was a bit frightening. I was very scared of what to expect in the future with my health.
My husband was about to leave for his deployment and I was in the midst of graduating. I hit the lowest point in my life.
After finding the area on my leg was to be excised for the third time, I decided that the only option I had was to change my attitude.
So I did.
Cancer is not a death sentence. It is a life sentence. It taught me how to live.
I took out a journal and began to write out goals that I had always kept on the backburner.
Some of these were graduate college, begin fitness modeling, start competing with the NPC, obtain my personal training certification, begin work with one of my favorite Nutrition Companies, write a book, travel, inspire others and be a role model for my sister.
Some of these goals seemed a little out of my league but after realizing that life is fragile and precious, I decided I was going to fight for the things I had always dreamt about. I never knew what the next day would bring so I began to take advantage of living in the present.
I began to take my focus off of worrying about the melanoma, but instead using the energy to inspire and help others.
I used the gym as a way to realease my stress and turn my negative energy into something positive.
I strategically began to transform my body and mind. I wanted to take my negative experiences and use them to help empower women.
I thought of my younger sister, and how she has overcome her own trials with disease (her story is featured below mine) in her life and how I needed to be strong for her.
Over the past year in a half, I have continued to see my doctors every 2.5 months. Each visit I go in and am not sure what to expect.
The doctors will perform scans, lymph node checks and full body screenings. They also check behind my eyes, in my mouth and even throughout my hair and under my nails for the melanoma.
Once my future children reach the age of 8-9, they too will have these exams. I take these appointments very seriously and make sure to wear 80 SPF sunscreen when outdoors.
I have maintained a positive attitude towards life and accepted that I have to deal with monitoring the melanoma but instead of worry about it, I chose to focus on my goals. Over the past year and a half of living with the cancer and changing my attitude, I have achieved my entire bucket list!
My sister and I are now signed fitness models with Naturally Fit, Oh Yeah! Nutrition Athletes and Lifestyle Leaders, Personal Trainers, Authors and I just returned from a trip from Japan! It’s funny how things in life that you can’t change will end up changing you. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to your goals and refuse to give up.
I encourage all of you to go to yearly skin screenings at your dermatologists. Melanoma is the fasted growing and 8th most common cancer currently in the United States. Live each day to the fullest and don’t for a second take your health or body for granted.
Morgan’s Fitness Journey After overcoming Anorexia
Many may not realize it, but gaining weight is as much of a struggle, both mentally AND physically, as losing weight for people who may suffer from an eating disorder. About 4 or so years ago, I had a very severe eating disorder. This essentially went on all throughout my high school years.
To put things into perspective, I am currently 145lbs and look like I’m already ‘thin’. Imagine me over 30lbs lighter.
I dropped down to 113 and literally looked like a skeleton. Yet, thin was the last thing I would envision when looking in a mirror. The only food that didn’t scare me was vegetables and occasionally extra lean meat.
As impractical as that sounds, it’s a feeling you didn’t ask for and you cannot just push your thoughts to back burner.
An eating disorder is now considered a disease, though you simply cannot comprehend why unless you are indeed experiencing this awful sickness.
Disease: Impairment of normal functioning typically manifested by distinguishing characteristics and impairment of normal functioning of your brain, mind, control centers and self-esteem.
I’m sure you all can envision the distinguishing characteristics.
In short, teachers and friends called home to ask about me and that honestly just annoyed me and it most definitely did not change the way I felt in my mind.
The thing that really changed it all was that my boyfriend, being scared to address the situation, told me that his ‘friend’ asked if I am okay.
Once I knew it was affecting him as well, I realized this problem was much bigger than myself. I did not go through therapy or visit a single doctor.
I got through everything myself.
All by myself, I extensively researched information and studies about metabolism and eating disorders to prove to myself how negatively my body was being affected. I basically needed to prove to myself that I am doing more harm to my body than if I were eating the things that I had been avoiding.
What is the medical Impact of Anorexia?
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by severe weight loss, a dangerously low body weight, and a distorted body image that drives an otherwise high-functioning person—usually a young woman—to starve herself.
Adolescents with anorexia keep themselves underweight by eating sparsely, as well as purging—by induced vomiting, laxative use, etc.—and exercising intensely, often without recognizing that their actions are unhealthy or that their perceptions of their bodies are not normal.
Because people with anorexia do not get the nutrition necessary for good health, they can damage almost every organ system or body part, including the brain, liver, kidneys, heart, GI tract, bones, teeth, skin and hair. Anorexia, if left untreated, can result in serious medical conditions, such as:
- Low blood pressure
- An abnormally slow heart rate
- Reduced bone density, often resulting in osteoporosis
- Muscle loss and weakness
- Dehydration, sometimes leading to kidney failure
- Dry and brittle hair and skin
- Retarded growth
At its worst, anorexia can lead to a person’s death.
Retraining the Mind
Essentially I had to ‘retrain my brain’ and create a short-term goal, then more short term goals after I reached the previous…and so on. These goals varied from calorie goals that I wanted to hit for the day, positive affirmations and even researching a new nutrition, exercise fact or physiological information that would help me work to become better and stronger than the average person going about their healthy lifestyle. I wanted to not only put this in my past, but also become stronger through it, and I did. I know more about proper and optimal nutrition, exercise, stress reducing, hormone balances, etc. than I have seen many others even in that field of work care to learn. I would not have it any other way.
What helped fight the disease?
The work of eating disorder recovery doesn’t end once you’ve adopted healthy habits. It’s important to take steps to maintain your progress and prevent relapse.
- Develop a solid support system. I decided to surround myself with people who supported me, like my family, church and friends. I avoided people who drained my energy or focused on skinny instead of healthy.
- Stick with your eating disorder treatment plan. I wrote down daily goals of what I needed to eat to nourish my body and regain my weight and health.
- Fill your life with positive activities. I made time for activities that brought my life fulfillment. I tried to develop new hobbies and skills. I also volunteered for habitat for humanity global. I felt, the more rewarding my life was, the less desire I’ll have to focus on food and weight.
- Learn to
I learned to listen to my body, listen to my feelings, trust myself, accept myself, love myself and focus on healthy not skinny. Finally, I learned to enjoy life again.
I feel that doing this on my own made me so much stronger in essentially every category of life. I now have more will power than one can imagine and more concern for others who are in such situations, and most importantly, I now care about and value my body more than I ever would have. Having gone through what I had, I am so much more aware of the importance of proper nutrition, balanced exercise, and a healthy mindset.
Having said that, I would never change my past struggle for anything. I would not be who I am today having not gone through those trials.
Anorexia harms more people than we think
One percent of teenage girls in the U.S.
develop anorexia nervosa and up to 10 percent may die as a result. I feel that it is of upmost importance to address this issue as you are probably encountering people with like struggles more often than you may think.
This is something that the average person does not want to make known to the public eye. This also is definitely not something one intrinsically knows how to fix or may even be at the stage where anyone’s help is welcomed.
Because of that, it is important to understand the relevancy of this issue and that there absolutely is a way to surpass it, just as there is a way to surpass anything you set your mind and your heart to.
To recall how alone and scared I felt through years of dealing with this, it can bring me to tears thinking that I can be the torch or even just a twinkling light for someone to look to for help through their own struggle.
This has been my inspiration to make fitness and health one of the largest priorities in my life. You are given one body, one life, and no one has tomorrow promised to them. Make the most of your body, mind and being.. and inspire others to do Nothing less.
My sister and I have two unique stories and have faced some challenges but despite the struggle, they have taught us to really value and appreciate our bodies and lives. We hope these stories can empower you to strive to appreciate your own health and reach your personal goals. Whether you think you can’t or you can you are right.
We are the creators of our own future.
Thank you so much ladies for sharing your stories with us!