In 2017, I was in a bad way. I was recently divorced, didn’t have much to my name, and I had very few prospects coming my way. In May of that year, the Executive Chef at Amber Lights brought me in for an interview to be the Dining Room Manager. After a couple of interviews, I was offered the job. At the time, I had no idea how this community of people would end up saving my life.

On January 7, 2018, I became very ill. Due to a decade of poor lifestyle choices, my liver and kidneys were beginning to fail. By January 10th, I had become jaundice and very weak. However, I was still in denial of just how sick I was. Some of the management team here had reached out to Teresa, the Executive Director, and asked her to speak with me, and she finally forced me to go the hospital. At first, I ignored her, saying I was too busy to go; I would go after work. Thankfully, she told me that was not an option. “You can find a ride to the hospital, I will take you, or we can call an ambulance. Which would you prefer?” She asked.

I spent the next four months in the hospital. For the first few weeks, doctors were not quite sure how to solve my situation, and I was getting sicker by the day. In early March, it was determined the only way I was going to survive was a full liver transplant — but it was a risky procedure for me. At that point, I may have been too sick to receive a transplant. There were two doctors that put their reputations on the line and convinced the transplant team to take that risk with me. By mid-month I was on the transplant list and moved directly to the front of the line. On March 21st, a match was found — just in the nick of time. I only had hours to live at that point. (To put it into perspective, I received 27 blood transfusions prior to surgery.)

When I woke up from surgery, the wave of emotions was indescribable. Those first 10 seconds of gratitude and guilt would change me forever. I could not have one without the other. I was grateful that I made it to the other side, for the family that saved my life, and for the doctors that saved my life. But it was accompanied by guilt. I was the reason all of these people were there that day and why they went through so much emotional pain. I felt guilty that the donor’s family lost a loved one that day, and my family did not. I eventually wrote a letter to that family and promised them that I’d earn this gift they gave me every day for the rest of my life.

My wellness journey began that day. My first goal was to walk again. I needed a walker for short distances and a wheelchair for longer ones. I started by walking to the mailbox, then the neighbor’s house. Within a couple of weeks, I could walk down to the corner of the street. By end of May, I could make longer treks. Sonic Boom has also played a vital role in my wellness journey. About a year ago, I made the decision to adopt a 100% whole food / plant based diet, which was one of the best decisions for my own wellness journey. There are recipes and information provided on Sonic Boom that help support my plant-based lifestyle. It only took about two weeks for my sleep to be better, and my training recovery is quicker and more efficient. I have more energy to spend quality time with my loved ones, and my job performances improved, as well.

One day, we took our youngest to get his 8th-grade promotion pictures done. From the parking lot there was a long handicap ramp that winds down the path to where we wanted to snap a few photos. By the end of the shoot, I was pretty tired. I looked at the ramp to my left, then to the right at 17 stairs. I looked at my fiancé, Jamie, and said, “I am taking the stairs.” She tried to convince me to take the “safer” route up the ramp toward the car. After pleading with me, I said, “I am taking the stairs AND I am not going to use the hand rail.”

As I made it up those 17 steps (without the hand rail), I let out this barbaric yelp for everyone to hear. There I was, in this very quiet and serene place, hooting and hollering that I climbed those steps without any help. After that, I began hitting the trails around my house. Four months post-surgery, Jamie and I hiked 8 miles in the mountains, even though doctors said it’d take six months to feel “normal” again. Two months later, I called my sister to show her the view from where I was — at the top of a canyon. She suggested I run the half marathon with her the next month. My first response was NO WAY I could run 13 miles. But then she asked me, “How long is your hike today?” “Fourteen miles,” I answered. And the rest is history. I was hooked.

One of my favorite things about the Sonic Boom program, which has supported me along this journey, is the ability to connect with people from across the nation. I love having the capability to see how others are getting out and getting after it. Whether it is a post of someone’s exercise routine for the day, or a moment when they stopped to help someone in need, or simply a small gesture that brought a smile to someone’s face, it’s truly amazing to watch.

I’ve run 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and a full marathon. I rode 100 miles in the Tour de Tucson. I hiked rim-to-rim at the Grand Canyon, raising money for a local teen center. I competed the David Goggin’s 4x4x48 challenge, running 48 miles in 48 hours. I still follow a whole-food and plant-based diet — and I keep raising my own bar. In 2021, I will be competing in my first triathlon, then heading back down the Grand Canyon for another rim-to-rim. I’ll do another 100-mile bike ride for the Tour de Tuscon, and I’ll finish out the year with another marathon. Then, in January 2022, I’ll be running my first 50-mile ultramarathon.

There are three very basic ideas that I was shown some time ago, and I try to live by them daily: eat well, move well, and sleep well. Most importantly, begin each day with gratitude. Take time in the beginning of your day to reflect on what you’re grateful for. I like to spend 5-15 minutes when I arrive at work in the morning. I promise that if you commit to taking a few minutes each day, you will see almost immediate improvement in your day.