My cousin Ryan sent me a message the other day saying he was doing a project on obesity for school. He asked if he could interview me for the paper. I was really touched that he thought of me and said I would help out with whatever I could. Yesterday he sent me the questions and one of them really stuck out for me. It required a lot of thought and honesty. He asked what motivated me to get healthier. I didn’t have an “aha moment” like so many other people do. My pants didn’t rip out in public. No one pointed and laughed at me when I was trying to sit in a small chair. I wasn’t disgusted by pictures of me or the size of clothes I wore. I didn’t have a single huge moment where reality slapped me in the face and made me decide to change my life. To be honest, I never realized just how fat or unhappy I was. I know that probably sounds weird since it was obvious to anyone that looked at me but Denial is a wonderful city of which I could be mayor. What motivated me was a mixture of things. First, there is the Underbakke curse of 36. My Dad’s family has all had heart problems around that age. Fit or not, it’s in our genes and it cannot be escaped. It’s a scary thought to know that heart disease plagues my family and I was closing in on the age of 36 at a rapid pace. I didn’t want to go through quadruple bypass like my Dad. I didn’t want my family to have to worry or feel that pain. I remember when we walked into the room in Rochester after my dad came out of surgery. It was the scariest thing I have ever encountered. I remember wanting to jump into bed with him and hold him with all my might because I was so afraid he was going to die. Seeing the toughest guy you know white as the sheets he was laying on with tubes of blood pumping from his body was terrible. He looked like he was almost dead and that was terrifying. But for some reason, it was not powerful enough for me to take control of my life at that point. Sure, I started being a little more active and more conscious of what I ate but it wasn’t enough.
Then I had to have part of my cervix removed because I had pre-cancerous cells. The procedure sucked because they didn’t numb me appropriately, I was there alone and they ended up taking more than they thought they would have to. The doctor told me, because of the procedure, if I stayed as heavy as I was, that I would have problems carrying a child full-term. This broke my heart. I so desperately want to have a child and knowing that I was too fat just crushed me. Not to mention the other complications my weight would present during pregnancy. Or that I wouldn’t be able to be an active or healthy mother if I was ever blessed with a baby. Again, I became a little more serious about getting healthy but nothing had really clicked yet. I would lose five pounds and gain back seven. Lose four and gain back two. I was trying but I wasn’t dedicated or motivated enough…yet.
On August 13th, 2009 I received a phone call from my mom that would change my life forever. I remember hitting my knees and gasping for air and wondering if I would ever be able to stand up again. It was like being sucker punched by a 700 pound man. I heard the words “Kirk is dead” and the rest of the conversation escapes me. My cousin, a few months shy of his 26th birthday, had killed himself. Life would never be the same for our family again. The pain and heartache was unfathomable. I still think about him every single day and it’s been 2 ½ years. I cry for him all the time. I hurt because our family is missing a piece of what made them complete. It was while trying to mourn the loss of Kirk that I realized I was wasting my life. That I had so many blessings around me that I was taking for granted. That I had so much inside me that I could offer the world and I needed to stop hiding behind a few hundred pounds and enjoy my life to the fullest. Most importantly, I never wanted to put my family through the torture and pain of burying me from an early and preventable death. I refused to do that to them and I knew I had to change. I had spent years going through the motions of life and feeling empty inside. This was my chance to find myself and make a better life. This was my chance to let Kirk know that I was paying attention every time the butterfly landed near me. I know he is always watching and that I am finally doing something that makes him proud. Because I’m a Hagebakke forever and we kick ass. Yes, that’s what we do. And that's what I've been doing for the last two years and will continue to do until I hit my goal weight. Some days are easier than others but I never stop trying...that's the Hagebakke in me.