By: AMFC Staff
“This is our sanctuary,” declares Maria Carver. “It’s not just children who need a village, we all do. And this is literally our ‘village’. ” She also calls AMFC her second “home” and she shares her feelings about the community of Avera McKennan Fitness Center’s members and staff with loving sincerity.
Maria joined AMFC’s Greatest Loser program in January of 2011 and lost more weight than ever before. She was feeling strong and happy with her new routine, she’d discovered Zumba – which she loved – and was happy that her then 13 year old son, Xavier, was following in her fitness footsteps.
In late fall of 2012, everything changed. An injury during football sent Xavier to the doctor and prompted more tests. The resulting diagnosis was leukemia with a 23% chance to beat it. Reeling from that news, Maria and family learned that her father also had leukemia. A spiral of stress ensued as she and her husband, Jesse, cared for their baby, two middle boys, and oldest son and father – both with leukemia. Her past lupus returned with a vengeance. She gained weight, her blood pressure and anxiety shot up and a hernia she’d been living with now required surgery.
By 2014, Maria’s father had passed away. Xavier’s leukemia had gone into remission and Maria had had her gall bladder removed which forced her into changing her diet, quite literally, to survive. Her hematologist said, “Maria, go back to the gym.” Also, Jesse, ever her motivational coach, encouraged her to go ahead and “get obsessed with it”. So she did.
They put an accountability board in the kitchen – complete with happy and sad faces to note triumphs and set-backs. They created their own little incentives including honest praise and big hugs for keeping workouts consistent and fun and for healthy food choices. The steam room is a favorite reward. True friendships have grown here with members and staff, in great part because of Maria’s commitment to reaching out and connecting, whether to ask for help or advice or to hear someone else’s story.
Maria will never forget Kenny Tomek, a past AMFC Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer. One day she was trying to workout upstairs but feeling particularly down and discouraged, and he noticed. He brought her over to the desk and pulled up her photo from the not-so-distant past which reflected a Maria carrying a great deal of weight and sadness, and said, “You are not that person anymore. You’ve already beat this and you can keep going. You can do this.” And indeed, she did.
Now free of meds for blood pressure and anxiety, free of lupus, free of fatigue and free of over 100 lbs. Maria is a passionate advocate for health and fitness and is so happy to share it. Thank you Maria.
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