Terri Luedtke was told that she should be happy to be alive. A former smoker and a two-time cancer survivor, she weighed over 200 pounds, had 50-inch waist, and lung capacity that had been diminished when surgeons cut out two-thirds of her right lung in 2010. She had recovered from chemotherapy and surgery after a recurrence in 2013, and surviving was the primary goal that had been set for her. She was taking medicine to control her blood pressure, and her out-of-town doctors seemed content with her limited physical capacity.
“They told me that they had saved my life, and that I should be thankful to just be a couch potato,” said Terri, who is now 52. “That didn’t sit well with me.”
In January, Terri started a new job at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. At New Employee Orientation, NHRMC Fitness Center Program Coordinator Sheri Albertson encouraged all new employees to get involved with the Jack Barto Center for Employee Fitness. She detailed the available programs that help employees work toward achieving fitness goals.
“I was sitting in Orientation, and in walks this short, spunky woman,” Terri said. “She was so pumped about fitness and the fitness center that I just had to see what all the hype was.”
Terri signed up for a fitness center tour. She was so impressed that she joined a program called 12 to Life, in which trainers introduce newcomers to the gym, demonstrate the equipment and provide step-by-step instructions for living a healthier lifestyle.
Terri signed up for the 5 a.m. class, which met on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She often got to class 15-30 minutes early, which means that the first digit on her wakeup alarm was a 3.
But Terri was determined to succeed, and she was pushed by Ryan Howard, a Certified Personal Trainer with a penchant for early-morning motivation.
“There were mornings that I woke up thinking, ‘What the heck am I doing?’” Terri said. “But I still went every day. If Ryan said to make an appointment with a nutritionist, I made the appointment. If Ryan said, ‘Do one more squat,’ I did it. And then I did one more. When Ryan said ‘Check out this web site for recipes,’ I checked it out and tried some of the recipes.”
“Terri has been a model participant,” Ryan said. “She often shows up early and starts warming up before the rest of the group arrives. She always follows instructions and pushes herself to get stronger and healthier. I wish I had a Terri in every group.”
Sometimes, Terri would reach out to Ryan after hours for nutritional advice or general advice on what to do on her off days. Ryan always answered promptly, and they developed the type of bond that forms when two people are completely invested in each other’s success.
All in her head
Everything was going great, so Ryan was shocked when Terri asked to meet with him to discuss leaving the 12 to Life group.
“She was worried that she was holding the group back,” Ryan said. “But the truth was, they were trying to keep up with her.”
Ryan convinced Terri that she should stick with the program, and her health has vastly improved.
Two weeks after she completed the initial program and started Step 2, her doctor cleared her to stop taking her blood pressure medicine. Altogether she has dropped 35 pounds, and she completed a 5K for her 12 to Life graduation.
“The whole reason I love my job,” Ryan said, “is that I get to work with people like Terri.”
Terri is grateful to have pursued a healthier lifestyle, even when others gave her permission to temper her expectations.
“The Employee Fitness Center has helped me break down the walls to being healthy,” Terri said. “Whenever you think you can’t do it, please remember my story. You can do this, too!”