My name is Elizabeth Aguilera and I am a cancer survivor, military spouse and recent Purdue graduate. My sister and I have two powerful fitness journeys. In a three-year time span I have survived cancer while simultaneously dealing with military deployments, 4 cross country moves with the military, graduating top ten percent from Purdue and placing fourth place in my first NPC competition.
Looking back on those three years, I can honestly say they were the hardest times of my life and because of them I am not the woman I used to be. Through fighting the disease and cancer we have strived even harder to not only overcome our illnesses, but reach new goals we have always thought were out of reach. We are now motivational speakers, certified personal trainers, Oh Yeah! Athletes and Lifestyle Leaders, NPC competitors, and published fitness models with Naturally Fit.
Living a healthy lifestyle has transformed our bodies and minds. We chose to be fighters and never give up hope.
I used fitness as an outlet to transform my life and create a stronger mind and body to help me reach my goals. My sister, Morgan, has a powerful story as well. Through overcoming anorexia and deciding to regain her health through proper nutrition and workout regimen she has changed her life completely.
We are not your typical cookie cutter success story. Most of the media portray motivating stories focused upon men and women’s weight loss journeys. We chose to share our two experiences to shed light on the fact that there are people everyday who are battling cancer and disease but in this industry it’s hard for people to talk about these topics. After all, it is not an easy topic to speak of. We want to show people going through disease and illness that just like us they too can change their lives. We are here to show you that fitness is not only about weight loss. A healthy lifestyle is not just about physical health and having a “hot body.” It is about maintaining a balance with physical, mental and spiritual health.
Essentially, it is the hardest times that will shape you into the stronger person who you have always wanted to be. The road to success is full of challenges. Always. You have to be fearless. Wake up every morning and challenge yourself to fight. Be a better version of yourself everyday. When was the last time you tried something new? Everyday, every morning, give yourself the opportunity to fight for what you want and step into the unknown territory. It is going to be uncomfortable to fight when you are stressed, scared, feel alone or want to give up but that is when the magic is going to happen. The painful times molded our weaknesses into newfound strength and taught us how to live and cherish our health, and how to take pride in our bodies and minds.
We all have battles each and everyday that is forced into our presence. While trying to deal with these battles some of us revert to bad habits, which can often lead to a downward spiral. Mental will is like a muscle. When you practice being strong, it becomes a new habit. Think about it. Eventually how you live one day will end up how you live your life. By changing small habits each day we can transform our lives completely. It is inevitable that change and stress will enter our lives at some point or another. After all, you can’t spell challenge without “change.” Accept that life is full of change. Accept that you can’t plan your life. Accept the choice to be a fighter and take the hits as they come. The only aspect you are in control of is your attitude. Accept that and from there you will find peace.
By sharing our stories we want to inspire people. We want someone to look at us and say, “because of you, I did not and will not give up”. Think about how you take out the trash everyday in your home. Could you image how it would be with over a month or year of trash if you chose to not take it all out? Now vision your mind. It is no different. Take out the trash and reach for mental clarity. Know that even if you have painful experiences or trials standing in your way that you will throw away those thoughts of fear and stress and use that energy to create positive changes. That is how I have gotten through my military stresses with my husband and still to this day how I deal with my cancer.
My journey began at age 20 when I married my husband who enlisted in the US Navy. I began online classes at Purdue and moved to begin my husband’s career. During the next 3 years, I moved cross-country a total of 4 times! During this time I was doing endless cardio and eating low calories. I was not finding the results I wanted and I decided to invest in a nutritionist. From there I went 24% body fat to 12% eating 5-6 healthy meals a day and learning the importance of nutrition. My husband then left for his first deployment, and I felt I had reached my nutrition and fitness goals.
I felt that I had really gained control of my life. I had learned the correct way to eat and workout and was doing exceptionally well in my classes while my husband returned from the Middle East. It was too good to be true it seemed, as my advisor informed me that I had to return to Purdue for my last year of classes since the 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 graduation everything would start to become smooth sailing!
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 and I thought it was important that I get a check up before leaving. That is where I found out I had melanoma. Since that August of 2012, I had 4 surgeries and 7 areas removed.
I moved home and began the classes like a normal student. My professors and even my mother told me the best thing to do would be to drop the classes since I was flying to Florida to see my doctors every 3 weeks.
I didn’t drop a single class. It was very stressful, time consuming and draining. I remember sitting in my kitchen after I got off the phone with my doctor and I was so mad at my life and at God. I looked back and saw the past years of obstacles I’d had thrown my way and I just asked, “why can’t I ever have a break?”
I couldn’t relate to my friends or anyone who had these types of problems and felt it was unfair. I really hit a low point in my life. On top of the cancer I was also told my husband would be sent for another deployment after I graduated in May. So the whole time I was home at school and having to go to all these surgeons and doctors left me no time to really be with him and then he was leaving for another 6 months? It was a lot to take in.
I was at my lowest and I decided that all I could do was pray. I prayed to just be a stronger person to get through this and I put my life in his hands. I felt everything was so out of control that the only thing I could do was my best. I went from trying to control every aspect of my life to understanding that life can and will throw anything my way.
I never knew what was coming next but I did know that I was going to handle it the best way I could. In the end I knew my trials were going to shape every detail of me.
Resisting the inevitable, complaining and feeling sorry for myself did absolutely nothing, so I decided to simply change my attitude. Presently, my husband just left for his deployment and my melanoma will be with me forever, but I have accepted it and how things are.
Now, every two months I go to the doctor for my exams, which consist of full body screenings, lymph node exams and cat scans to monitor everything. This past September of 2013 I will also be having another melanoma area removed for the second time. This illness will be something I have to live with everyday and watch carefully, but with maintaining a positive attitude I will get through it.
Life is too short! I really feel that my apparent obstacles are actually blessings in disguise and they have made me appreciate my loved ones, my life, and really focus on my health.
You are capable of anything you put your mind to. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are RIGHT.
Looking at me now, I stands at 145 pounds. So if you can imagine me at about 115 pounds, you may be able to picture the severity.
My personal fitness journey was a mental challenge as well as a psychological and physical challenge. This is never an easy topic to discuss but the relevancy of such an issue is unbelievable as many men and women suffer from related issues but are too fearful to seek help. Let alone make vast and crucial changes. I had battled a severe eating disorder throughout my entire high school career. At the time, my life seemed completely out of my own control. I was suffering from the stresses of failing relationships and a very difficult family life. I felt that I, myself, had no control of my own life or the events taking place in it. In my mind, the only thing I felt that I could control, however, was every morsel I put into my mouth. I soon began to react to my problems by controlling every bite I took, causing me to lose over 30 pounds.
I went through a few years where family and friends tried to reach out and help me in what ways they knew how, but finally I decided to ‘retrain my brain’ and create a short term goal then more short term goals 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 or exercise facts or physiological information that would help myself work to become better and stronger than the average person going about their healthy lifestyle. I wanted to not only put this disease in my past, but through it, to become better, healthier and more fit than I ever thought possible.. And I did.
I now have more willpower than one can imagine, more concern for others who are in such situations, and most importantly I now care and value my body as the temple it truly is. I have been able to reach out to so many women who have experienced similar fights and I make my absolute best effort to spread my knowledge and power of will to any neighbor in need of it. I can safely state that I would not be where I am today, helping, inspiring, teaching, and cherishing my body and health.. WITHOUT having overcome such a disease. These is yet another example of how you must take your past and use it to better your future. And do this with no regrets.
I feel that it is of utmost 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 to.
Since this battle, I have gained over 30 pounds of muscle to my frame. I have a stronger body and mind, and am lucky enough to be able to help others see that they can, indeed, achieve just that as well. My passion for health has also inspired me to apply for the IU nursing program where I was one of the 60 students accepted out of over 1000 applicants to the program. My determination and passion for health has forever changed my life. And fortunately I have now even been able to change others’ lives through this.
We have also created our own website and social media sites to motivate and encourage others to live a healthy lifestyle. On our sites we post daily workouts, nutrition tips, motivational posts and recipes. Everyday we motivate our followers to never give up and to fight for their goals. What seem to be bitter trials are often blessings in disguise. We are happy when God answered our prayers but we are more thankful when God is letting us answer to someone else’s prayers.