In the summer of 2018 one of our clients, Jacquelyn Gill a University of Maine professor of climate science and ecology, was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to be one of four scientists to take part in filming a documentary, “Lost Beasts of the Ice Age”. Little did she know that after spending 10 days in the Siberian wilderness filming the documentary, that she would end up fighting for her life thousands of miles away from home, alone for 6 weeks.
Due to the long travel days and intense stationary nature of her job there, Jacquelyn was sitting for long periods of time which put her at risk for getting blood clots. By the time she was trying to board a plane home, she knew something was seriously wrong since she couldn’t catch her breath and she had tunnel vision. A trip to the hospital confirmed that she had deep vein thrombosis in both legs and pulmonary embolisms in both lungs.
After weeks in the hospital, Jacquelyn was finally well enough to travel and made the long journey home to Bangor. Upon returning home, her doctors commented that they couldn’t believe how she was doing so well after that ordeal given the severity of her embolisms. They believed that since she started training with WILCOX in May 2018, her training and lifestyle change months before the trip likely played a role in helping her survive her pulmonary embolisms.
We had a conversation with Jacquelyn to hear more about her story and how training at Wilcox Wellness & Fitness helped her survive this life-threatening ordeal.
Wilcox Wellness & Fitness: Jacquelyn, we are so happy that you are here today and able to share your story and experience with us! Do you agree with your doctors that training at Wilcox Wellness & Fitness helped save your life? In what way?
Jacquelyn Gill: Definitely, and in more ways than one! Firstly, before I started training, I was the least fit I'd ever been. I was in pain all the time, constantly tired, depressed and anxious. I'd had problems with my IT band for months, and rest wasn't helping. Then, just weeks after I started training, my mom passed away unexpectedly. It was a really difficult summer for me, and training was one of the bright lights during a really hard time. I found that I was looking forward to having that space where I could process my emotions in a healthy way, with a supportive community. When I walked into WILCOX, it was like I left the world behind, checked in with myself and my body, and focused on the progress I was making. I had more energy, I felt great all the time, my pain went away, and even though I was going through a tough time, my overall mood was so much better than it had been going in. After just a few months, my blood work showed a big drop in cholesterol and a huge improvement in my overall health!
WILCOX: That’s amazing! Your commitment to the program and enthusiasm helped lead you to success! We love that you saw that kind of progress after only a short time! Months after starting with us, you said you were going overseas for work; can you tell us more about that?
JG: Last September, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Siberia to conduct research and film a documentary on ice age ecosystems preserved in the permafrost. On the last day of shooting, we were hiking to a remote location along a river in really rough terrain -- slippery mud, tiny log bridges over big chasms -- it really felt like an obstacle course. I was beating myself up because I was having a hard time. I was getting winded, needed a lot of breaks, and I thought it would be easier since I'd been training all summer. Then the next day, when we were getting ready to fly home, I found myself getting winded just getting up to go to the bathroom. I knew something was seriously wrong when I was walking across the tarmac and I felt like my vision was closing in and I couldn't get enough air. I went straight to the hospital in Yakutsk, and I had DVT in both legs and pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. The doctors told me it was amazing I'd survived- my lungs were so obstructed! They told me that improving my condition through training all summer probably saved my life.
WILCOX: That is so scary! Do you feel like your training program helped you to know your body well enough to know something was wrong?
JG: Absolutely, for two reasons: First, before I started training, I just felt gross all the time -- tired, run-down, in pain. I didn't even realize how bad it was until I started going to WILCOX and I started feeling better. So the first thing training did for me was clear away all the pain and tiredness I was feeling. I stopped expecting to feel like crap, which meant I was able to notice when something was wrong. Secondly, the approach at WILCOX really emphasizes getting in touch with yourself, and paying attention to your form -- it's not about powering through the pain, or pushing yourself to unhealthy extremes. Rather, it's about listening to your body -- where can I push a little more? When should I stop? What's my heart doing? How are my lungs? This gave me the confidence to know that what I was feeling wasn't normal, and it was okay to ask for help, rather than try to muscle through and pretend like everything was going to be fine.
WILCOX: Checking in with yourself is huge and we are so glad you were able to put those techniques you learned here to use in your daily life. What other benefits have you seen since starting your training program?
JG: There have been so many benefits I wasn't expecting! I knew that training could give you increased energy, help with general pain, and be a mood booster (though to be honest, I didn't really believe it until it happened!). But I've also found that it's given me a lot of confidence in my approach to other areas of my life. Going into a scary surgery or a challenging meeting, I hear my trainers' voices in my head cheering me on. I find that I'm moving in a more mindful way, whether I'm picking up a gallon of milk or hiking my favorite trail. And most importantly, I've gained a lot of confidence in myself -- after so many false starts and bad experiences with diets and gyms, I was always beating myself up for thinking the problem was me: I didn't have enough willpower, I wasn't good enough. Now, even after having to be out for a few months after my Siberian adventure, I'm not beating myself up for "backsliding" or losing some of my conditioning; I know it's going to be fine, and I'll get back to where I was. My internal voice is a cheerleader now, and not a bully.
WILCOX: That makes us so happy to hear your internal voice is cheering you on and the trainers’ voices resonate with you throughout the day! There are so many people who have started and stopped training programs or nutrition programs in the past, just like you have, and may be at the point where they are done with trying. What would you say to those people to encourage them to keep trying?
JG: Don't give up on yourself. It's never too late to make a positive shift, and that decision can change your life. Forget the scale, and focus on how you feel. If you've hated every other gym or diet, the problem isn't you-- it's that so much of the culture of fitness and weight loss is about shame, guilt, and blame. What makes a place like WILCOX stand out is the positive approach to wellness: there's a team of people who are invested in your success, as you define it. Not how you look, or your numbers. There are no mirrors, weigh-ins, or judgments; you'll see bodies of every shape, size, age, and ability. When all that other stuff is stripped away, and training becomes a matter of focusing on healthy movements (and healthy eating, if you want to follow optional food guidelines) you end up having a lot of fun. And I never, ever thought I'd say that!
WILCOX: That is great advice!! Anything else you want to share about your experience at Wilcox Wellness & Fitness?
JG: I started training because I was fed up with being sore and out of shape, and I needed the accountability and encouragement I wasn't getting when left to my own devices. And I needed that extra attention, because of my IT band syndrome. Training with an injury was a really positive experience, because my trainers got to know me and they're paying attention, so I knew that I could trust them not to put me in a situation where I'd aggravate my injury. That let me focus on my workout, and not miss anything, because they were always ready to step in with a modification.
WILCOX: Jacquelyn, thank you so much for sharing your experience with me! Your BDN article had me in tears and I know that it has already inspired so many people to commit to healthy living just like you have. We are so glad to have you back training with us and we can’t wait to see where your next adventure will take you!
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