December 20, 2019. Ashley and her family at an Edmonton Oilers Game (L to R back row): Latrell, Brittney, (middle row): Mark, Ashley, Brettney, (front row): Markus, Anferny. Ashley was an original participant of the Women Warriors program that began June 2015 at the Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre and ended March 2019 at Onion Lake Cree Nation.
My name is Ashley and Women Warriors taught me how to love myself again. A little about myself – I am a 36 year old mother of 5, and I reside on Onion Lake Cree Nation (approximately 50 km north of the City of Lloydminster). I came across Women Warriors by chance or fate depending on who you ask. The program was mentioned by my nurse and I got curious so I signed up and attended. Little did I know that the Women Warriors program was going to be the key to my successful journey of finding “ME” the healthy me. I needed to be healthy mentally, emotionally, spiritually and most of all physically.
In 2015, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which was a huge wake up call for me. I had 5 children and the youngest was 3 years old. The diagnosis scared me as diabetes comes with many complications if left untreated. In my mind it was a death sentence and I kept telling myself “I have a lot of years ahead of me and I wanted to live them.” I wanted to fight! I wasn’t ready to die. Weight loss was the major issue I had to tackle; I was pushing 290lbs the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life. I joined forces with my doctor, my nurse, and Shelley Wiart and between the 4 of us I learned ways to help myself become healthier physically.
If you ever participated in WW with me you will remember me – I was the complainer – but never wanted to be “the fat girl that quit’ (my negative self-talk was horrible). I attended the program because it gave me a sense of belonging, a place where I wasn’t a mother, a wife, an employee, or any other title other than my name Ashley. I was welcomed and greeted with so much warmth and absolutely no judgement, which for us ladies is a big deterrent when attending physical activities or facilities. I attended multiple WW sessions with success and slow progression but consistent nonetheless. It was a place where I was able to love myself even if I was swearing, huffing, puffing and sweating out any last bit of the crappy food I ate that day. I would go home with so much satisfaction and pride that I didn’t quit, I pushed even when it hurt to push, and ultimately it gave me a purpose. I was there for my health and my wellbeing, but it turned into so much more. The constant support and no judgment allowed me to become strong mentally and emotionally. I made lifelong friends from the program and many I still keep in touch with whether it’s through social media, texting, or running into each other.
When I was informed that WW was longer taking place in a group setting I went through a period of grief because that sense of belonging to a group was no longer there. I wallowed in my self-pity and sorrow. I played the old woe is me card and really kind of gave up on myself and my weight loss journey. I started drinking heavily, and eating horribly. My celiac disease hit me really hard in 2018 and wreaked havoc on my digestive system – my body was fighting itself.
Drinking beer isn’t healthy for a person with celiac, and I was drinking a 15 pack each sitting. I switched to vodka instead of beer, and rationalized that it was better for my health, which it isn’t but I wasn’t in the right state of mind. One drunken night in July 2019 almost killed me and was very traumatic for my children. That event shook me to my core, and shattered my spirit into fragmented pieces that I never thought I could get back. My family and are still healing from the event and are getting closer and we are learning to reconnect. I started looking back to when I was in Women Warriors and could hear and see past participants, remember the sense of belonging, and the feeling of no judgment. I tried to put myself in that mindset again, it took me a little while but I got there. With my family’s support I have been able to do some self-assessment and see where I need help and where I kick butt. I am proud to say that I am no longer drinking; I am focusing on my family and health. We smudge our home daily and I spend quality time with my family on the daily. Spiritually I have been broken, but my family and a few friends have nurtured and loved my soul to bring “Ashley” back.
Today I am proud to be writing that I am now 223lbs of pure Ashley and I love every single pound of me. It hasn’t been an easy fight but it is a fight I never want to give up on. I wouldn’t have learned how to fight for my health if not for Shelley and Woman Warriors. I am living proof that the program works, and everything I learned from it has played a major role in my healing journey.
IF I CAN DO IT SO CAN YOU! THANK YOU FOR READING!
* On a personal note from me, I want to thank Ashley for sharing her story. I know how much courage it takes to write about our health struggles and the judgement that we may incur from others. I am incredibly proud of Ashley and grateful for our connection.
Postponing the Women in Research Conference Spring 2021
After consulting with my academic collaborators and funders, I have decided to postpone our Women in Research conference taking place in Yellowknife because of a personal opportunity. I am excited and honoured to announce that I have been chosen as one of 250 Canadian emerging leaders to attend the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC) May-June 2020. The dates of our Women in Research conference, June 4th to 6th, 2020 interfered with my ability to attend the GGCLC conference, which occurs once every four years. I will share updates of our new Women in Research conference dates in the Women Warriors newsletter.