from the finish line
Middle age was sneaking up on 47-year-old Amanda Merkle. A Kindergarten teacher, wife and mother of three, Amanda’s lifestyle left little time for exercise and little thought about eating healthy. She noticed that her clothes started getting tight while other appendages started to resemble what she laughingly called “BINGO arms.”
Her daily diet of Toaster Strudel and Lipton’s latest rice concoction could have contributed to the spike in her cholesterol levels, but it was her family history of diabetes that caused her to get moving – well, that and her husband, Steve, a serious runner.
She enrolled in Wellness 101 and met with Brittany Flegel, a registered dietician and wellness coach at the Wadsworth Y. “She was 100% committed to getting healthier, totally changing her diet and coming here to use the fitness room and track several times a week,” said Flegel.
And she started running.
“Since we only live down the hill, Steve started to encourage me to run to the Wadsworth Y,” said Amanda, whose previous idea of running was walking along the inside track at the facility while her children took swimming lessons. She even registered for Medina’s Lightning Bug 5K, admitting that she finished in an “embarrassingly long time.” But, at least she could cross that off her Bucket List.
Then, everything changed.
Three mammograms, three ultra-sounds and a blood test concluded that Amanda carried the BARD1 gene, a genetic intruder that quite possibly was the cause of death in her grandmother when she was just 49.
For Amanda, a double mastectomy was the result, bringing with it extreme weakness and more than a little bit of self-consciousness about her appearance.
Until she returned to the Y.
“At first, I couldn’t even open the door to the track,” she said, adding that she started slow, with her husband, the Y staff’s encouragement, and a faith that everything was going to be okay. “I so appreciated the Y because it was where I could be myself even when I didn’t feel like myself.”
Amanda referenced the song, “Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave. It’s the first and last song on her exercise playlist, with the title initially describing her feelings about the cancer diagnosis and aftermath.
But now the song has another meaning.
And God, I run into your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed by you
Through God’s grace, great doctors,
a loving family, her support group at the Y, and (admittedly) a new distaste
for Toaster Strudel, Amanda is again hitting her stride – stronger than ever.
Akron Area YMCA
50 S. Main Street, Ste. LL 100
Akron, Ohio 44308