Tammy Bolerjack: NEVER GIVE UP!!!

When I was asked if I wanted to do a client story, I thought I would have no idea what to say.   Not that I’m afraid or embarrassed to share my story, but more shy to write it down.  If you asked me in person, I could easily tell you why I’m here today doing CrossFit and running.  So, here it goes……… Tammy6

I was born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which is a genetic disease in which your body’s cells produce a thick, sticky mucus (think of peanut butter).  CF can affect everyone differently, for example, I was not diagnosed until the age of 18. The major issues I was experiencing were difficulty breathing and constant sinus pressure. I was in and out of the hospital annually to have fluid and mucus removed from my lungs. As I got older those hospitalizations became more frequent – until they were 2 times a month or more!

For the most part my life growing up was normal.  I’ve always been very active and involved in all kinds of sports.  Even after I was diagnosed, I was always active in running, kickboxing and working full time.

Tammy2 Fast forward to the year 2011…I was rushed to the ER via an advanced life support ambulance because I could not breathe. Once somewhat stabilized in the ER, I was sedated and placed on a ventilator for a week so my body could rest.  After recovering I was urged to be evaluated to be placed on the UNOS Lung Transplant List.  My evaluation with Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL was scheduled for late August.

The night before my evaluation once again I just could not breathe. My husband rushed me to the Emergency Room at Mayo Clinic.   Once at the ER, I was stabilized and we assumed that it would just be another hospitalization due to a lung infection. I have had numerous bronchoscopies in the past and thought this would just be another normal one. To everyone’s shock I never fully recovered from the procedure. Within 24 hours I was placed on a ventilator via trachea as well as a feeding tube. My new team of Transplant Doctors advised my husband that I could only survive for 2 weeks on life-support. Between the information my husband knew, my medical records already being on-site, and the amazing team of doctors, as much of the evaluation was completed as possible. Within 48 hours I was listed number one on the list with my specifications (age, body type, and blood type, etc.). Tammy1

On day 12 of 14, I received the gift of new lungs and life from a woman who was about my age at the time from Mississippi who passed away from a brain aneurysm.

The gift to breathe is AMAZING!  I’m honored to be the recipient of my donor’s lungs. I feel it is my duty to do my best to take care of my new lungs.  There are a lot of factors that go into a transplant of any kind, before, during, and after the surgery.  The care received from the hospital staff, doctors, friends, family and amazing husband is very difficult for me to articulate.  There are a lot of side effects from the required life-long rejection medications as well. When I reflect on the challenges I now face I realized that it is a lot easier to handle them than to face the alternative of not surviving.

I am required to do at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day.  Hahaha!  Well, I took that to the next level.  Six months after my transplant I did my first 5k and haven’t looked back.  My biggest personal passion is running. I was looking for additional outlets to perform cardio so I got back into Muay Thai (kickboxing).  After a couple of years, I felt that I needed to try something different, something more challenging and that would also help with my endurance and my bone density.  Remember when I said there are a lot of side effects to medications? One of my anti-rejection medications is Prednisone and over time it can cause bone density loss and osteoporosis. I decided to check out CrossFit Port Orange to obtain my new goals and meet new people.

I remember walking in at the end of May last year, I met Kyle and we talked for quite a while about CrossFit and he took the time to really listen to my situation, my concerns, and how well I was doing and how active I am.  He offered me a free class to see if I would be interested before signing up for the on-ramp classes.  There I was walking in on my first day nervous and not sure what to expect, but the members were welcoming and the coaches knowledgeable.  Before the class even ended, there was no doubt in my mind that this is what I was looking for and again I haven’t looked back.

Tammy4 Since then, I have met so many wonderful and caring people. I have learned different and complex movements tied to great workouts that always fit together.  I have seen a change in my body as well as in my confidence. The best part is that my running has improved and I have set personal records on my 5k and half marathon completion times. I hope someday to run a marathon too.

I am my biggest critic and always looking to learn and improve on all the movements. The coaches are excellent at making sure that happens.  I have accomplished so much with back and front squats, clean, jerks, deadlifts and even snatches!   I’ve climbed the rope and even overcame the mental game your mind plays on knowing you can do that jump, but 24”, are you crazy!?  Box jumps are my favorite so I was determined to get it and did; maybe it’s time to start working on 26”!  Tammy5

When I started running after my transplant I was doing it for me, to prove to myself that my new lungs are strong and healthy and now I’m doing the same with CrossFit.  I will always have CF, but I don’t have to let it limit me or define me as a person. I will face new issues in the future related to CF, or my anti-rejections drugs, or even side effects from CF.

After I had obtained several medals from my first races I decided that I wanted a medal hanger so that I could display them by my treadmill and feel inspired to push on when I thought that I couldn’t go any further, to go 1 more mile, or run 5 more minutes – that is when I thought of the motto for my hanger, “NEVER GIVE UP”. It seems so easy, but yet is so hard at times to do. Believe me, I may not know your exact situation, but you can believe I have been challenged. And guess what? I am now going to be designing my second medal hanger as mine is now full.