GORGO: Tell us about your fitness life, Katie!
Wow, I can’t believe that I can actually say that I HAVE a fitness life! Man, how things change. Growing up, I never knew what fitness was. I danced as a young child and then played sports when I was in middle school, but unfortunately I broke my ankle when I was in middle school and the doctors told me I could never play again. They told me that the way my ankle has been broken, that they could make it better, but I would always have issues and encouraged me not to do anything that would break it again. It wasn’t until I was in college, morbidly obese, and diagnosed and cured of my first cancer that I started my fitness journey. I worked for a woman, Bria, who was in the process of opening another business, a gym, and she encouraged me to come and try it out. I reluctantly agreed, because I didn’t want to be the fat girl at the gym that everyone would watch struggling and would snicker about amongst themselves. I didn’t want to see the look of pity or disgust on the faces of people who were “better” than me. I tried a few classes, though, and really tried to find where I “fit in.” As my schedule got busier and busier, I realized that the only way that I could commit to staying on a regular schedule was if I went to a 5 am class. That way I knew I could go get my workout in and be done for the rest of the day. I was so intimidated by the 5 am group. They all seemed so badass (can I say that?)! Little did I know that years later, I would have these awesome friendships that I found in this class. A few months passed and it became more of a routine for me and these awesome women kept me accountable and would ask when I wasn’t there why I wasn’t there. We ended up creating a group text and kept in touch all day, asking each other questions and opinions, keeping each other accountable with exercise and eating. During this time, Amanda Willis started transitioning from being a student in the group fitness classes, to teaching them. She would fill in for Bria and other instructors, and as time went on, she just took them over. She is awesome at what she does and it was the biggest inspiration to me because she used to be overweight like me and as time went on, she kept getting thinner and clearly more fit. I was pretty intimidated by her. I really wanted to talk to her and get to know her and have her teach me what I needed to do to be successful like her, but I was scared to talk to her. It was after a little time that we became friends on Facebook and I noticed her post pictures of this sweet little girl and she explained how much she missed her. I recognized the girl as being the granddaughter of the people that I bought my first car from, the woman that I bought the car from and her sweet granddaughter had been killed in a tragic flooding accident a few years before. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized that this was Amanda’s daughter and mother. I couldn’t believe that I never made the connection before. I finally told Amanda about how I had bought my first car from her mother and we realized that we were connected. She made me a priority to her and from then on; she has stuck by my side and helped me in my weight loss and fitness journey. Her and Jessica Rich bought out the old gym and opened a new location, that was much bigger and nicer than what we worked out in before. I am still there, working out weekly. Classes have changed, people that I’ve connected with have come and gone, but there are a few that are still around. As the business grew and Amanda and Jessica became busy with the business, I had to find my own motivation to keep going. I connected with a very special friend Amanda Adcock, a fellow GORGO girl, and she has pushed me to do things I never thought I would be able to do. I still go to the 5am classes because my life has only gotten busier and if I don’t go then, I wouldn’t be able to do classes. I do everything from AMRAP, to HIIT, to Boot camp, to lifting, and a class called “Training Day” which is a small group personal training. FwdFit has so much to offer and I am so blessed to have Amanda and Jessica who continue to push me beyond my limits and help me accomplish things I never thought I physically or mentally would be able to do.
Luckily, after a hell of a year, I am getting back into my fitness routine.
Unfortunately, during the summer of 17, I went in for an exploratory surgery that led to finding my 3rd cancer, ovarian cancer, that had spread to the lining of my stomach and my colon. The doctors were not able to remove all of the cancer that had spread to my colon without giving me a bag and they decided since I was so young to sew me up after 8 hours of surgery and call it a day. I was so upset when I woke up, not only to find out that I had to have a full hysterectomy, which nixed the chances of me ever bearing children of my own, but also that I had cancer, again and that I was going to have to start chemo. One of the first questions I asked the doctor was “when can I go back to the gym?” He said, “let’s check in 8 weeks and if you are okay, you can go back.” Well, the 8 weeks came and gone and I had just finished my first of six rounds of chemo. I asked the nurse if I could work out during chemo and she laughed and said if I felt like it to go for it.
I tried…I tried to get back to the gym.
I went a couple of days and realized my body wasn’t going to let me do it. I was too weak. I beat myself up for weeks, mad at myself because I couldn’t go back. I wanted to go to camp GORGO, but it wasn’t happening. I let my body go through the hell of chemo and then I rested. Unfortunately, the chemo didn’t help, it didn’t hurt, but it didn’t help. I am now on a chemo pill and will have to take it indefinitely. The hardest part of it is dealing with the side effects because this is my new “normal”. I do go to the gym, my favorite is still lifting weights, but I still do HIIT classes, too. When I get to go to the gym and workout, it makes me feel like I have a part of the “old” me back. The me before all of this stupid cancer. I am hoping to get to feeling good enough to attend GORGO this summer! I miss my GORGO girls, who have been one of the biggest support systems I could ever imagine. I remember lying in bed, recovering from chemo and getting a video that Val made of everyone at camp saying they loved me. I truly am blessed to have such strong, amazing women as an influence and as friends.
GORGO: Tell us about your non fitness life, Katie!
I am blessed to be the wife of an amazing man who has been by my side for almost 10 years, Armando. We recently were able to bring his son, Axel into the U.S. after 13 years of my husband being separated from him because of immigration laws. Axel, who is almost 15, is our only child, one that didn’t grow in my belly, but grew in my heart. They are my world and I love them both more than words can say. I have a strong support system of my two men, my two loving parents, brother and sister in law, and a niece and nephew. I would be nothing without my family. They have been with me in the hardest times of my life. The reason I started my fitness journey was because I was so morbidly overweight and depressed from my diagnosis. I have been blessed to have beaten cancer, not once, but twice, all before the age of 25. Two weeks away from graduating to become a math teacher and two months away from getting married, at 23, I was diagnosed with Vulvar Malignant Melanoma. It was the scariest and most difficult time of my life. Hearing those words “you have cancer” is the most gut wrenching feeling in the world. I was blessed to be cured by surgery alone, although the surgery was one that took months of recovery. A year after my first diagnosis, my oncologist wanted me to do a PET scan to make sure the deadly, fast spreading Melanoma, had not gone to another part of my body. I was blessed that it had not, but unfortunately, I was told there was an irregularity around my neck and they wanted to do an ultrasound, which lead to a biopsy of my thyroid. I ended up having Papillary Thyroid Cancer, and my doctor removed my entire Thyroid. Again, I was blessed to be cured by surgery along, but unfortunately, the years of recovery that still continue from not having a thyroid have been anything but easy. Your thyroid controls so much of your other bodily functions and it has been a difficult road finding the right balance of medicine to get me back to “normal”. In this whole process, I lost my fertility, which has also been something difficult to swallow. Although this part is about “non fitness” it really ties to my fitness and weight loss journey because it gives a lot of backstory as to why, even after almost 3 years of working out at the gym and trying to eat correctly, I’m still morbidly obese. I am much more physically fit, but the weight is still something that I can’t seem to get off. My doctor recently added another medicine that has seemed to help. I also, unfortunately, have had surgery 4 times related to a lap-band. The last one to finally remove it after it ended up twisted around my stomach and began to corrode. 7 surgeries in a span of 3 years hasn’t been helpful to my system, either, but I’m not giving up. I push through each and every day and just try to make better choices that will get me closer to my goal.
My professions are a high school math teacher, a college math professor, and a professional tutor. I absolutely love my jobs because I get to spend each day doing what I love and that is to help my kiddos learn and love math. I teach high school all day, go to the university after school for “night” classes, and then I tutor kids after that. Plus, I’m now a full time “mom”. Our “free” nights are normally sitting at our kiddos soccer game, which is our favorite hobby!
Life with our teenager is still as fun (and stressful) as ever! I do not know what I would do without my husband and our sweet kiddo. They have both been the rock that I have leaned on the past few months and they have been pushing me to recovery. Even through all of the surgery and chemo, I stayed teaching. My high school kids really accepted me and my bald head and have really been extremely encouraging. Even though I will never have children of my own, my stepson Axel is the greatest gift God could have ever given me. I am also blessed enough to have an amazing husband who has never left my side through all of this mess. I also have my family, friends, coworkers, and kiddos at the high school and university that keep me going.
GORGO: What do you love about GORGO?
Being a part of GORGO was something that has changed my life for the better. I am very blessed to be a part of a “tribe” here in Texarkana and at FwdFit, but it was so refreshing to see so many different, inspiring women at GORGO. I learned that I wasn’t as “unfit” as I thought I was. It was awesome to learn more about calculating macros, which Amanda had always done for me. Most importantly I loved that I found out that I wasn’t alone. I learned that everyone has their own story of struggling and why we have ended up the way we are, but there was no judgement. Only hugs and acceptance, which is something my soul desperately needed.
Even when I was down this summer, my GORGO girls lifted my spirits. After surgery, I was not in a good place, but things like the video my GORGO girls sent me from camp really helped get me through. I really love the positive community of strong and fearless women. It is so motivating!
Any fun facts? pets? ravels? hobbies? silly stuff?
Most of my life has been pretty serious. I can really say my hobby now is to go to the gym, to talk about the gym, to push people at the gym, to give advice at the gym, I just love my gym and my FwdFit fam! My son Axel has also triggered my interest into boxing. We have a punching bag hanging from a tree out back and he is teaching me to not “fight like a girl.”
For many years we didn’t have Axel, so my husband and I have fur babies. We have a dog, Bebe, that has been with us for almost as long as we have been together. We also have two feisty cats, Lilly and Leo.
I was blessed to marry a man who is from Mexico and with that we have, what seems to be, a whole other life in Oaxaca. We have his family, our second home, and the awesome culture and beauty of Oaxaca that we are blessed to go and visit a couple times a year!
I picked up reading this summer while I was laid up not able to do much. My getaway is still going to the gym. Something about being at our gym makes me feel like a somebody… I think as women, we want to be accepted so badly, in so many different aspects, and unfortunately, my appearance has kept me out of so many places of acceptance, but the gym and Camp GORGO are a couple of the places that I do feel accepted for who I am.
GORGO: Any things else you want to say, Katie?
One thing that I have learned in my journey is that it is exactly that, a journey. Fitness and weight loss for me isn’t something that is a quick fix. It is something that I will continue to pursue and do the rest of my life. Luckily with Amanda, Jessica, and my FwdFit fam, I’m okay with that because I don’t know what I would do without them. I still have a long way to go, at 280, I’m only about 40 pounds down, with around 130 pounds to go to get to my goal weight. I hope that I can reach my goal one day, but for now, I am just trying to learn how to better myself, daily and I just take it one day at a time.
I am so very thankful for Amanda and Jessica to have the gym. Even though their lives have completely changed since they opened it, they still are going strong. I am forever thankful to them for keeping me going. Amanda Adcock, a fellow GORGO sister, has also stuck by my side these past few months. Without her, I probably would not be working out like I do. We text each other each morning trying to motivate each other to get up and go at 5am!
A comment from my teenager a few weeks ago make me realize why I get up and go to the gym, he told me that he was motivated to go to his soccer practices and workout at home because he saw me, someone who was struggling with my weight, battling cancer, working more than full time, and still getting out of bed in the morning to go to the gym. We never know what impact we are having on our kids…
GORGO: tell us about Camp GORGO!
It is an amazing, life changing experience. It was the “restart” that I needed. Again, it was so nice seeing so many different people, at all fitness levels, come together, learn from each other and about each other. It gave me confidence, too, so see how far I had come in my fitness and weight loss journey. It is such an uplifting experience and I recommend it for any woman who is looking for the boost to get themselves started or restarted, or just refreshed!
Camp GORGO was an amazing experience. I hope to get to go this summer. If anyone is looking for motivation or to go to a place to feel accepted, even for a weekend, GORGO is the place to go!