Submitted by reader Tory Klementsen

The year 2003 loomed bright with anticipation. I had just lost over 100 pounds to meet my weight loss goal. I had changed from a sedentary couch potato into an active woman who infused fitness into her life in a big way. Everything looked like it couldn't be better when I got the news. I had had a bad case of kidney stones and was sent for a CT scan in December. When I came in for the reading I was feeling fine, but the doctor was grim when he told me there was something on my pancreas that bore further investigation.

It was a pancreatic tumor. Three surgeries to remove the tumor and repair a blockage later I was lying in bed. My new active lifestyle, I feared, was going to become a memory. I got winded walking 25 feet. My only respite during the almost month-long stay was my brother-in-law's laptop computer. A friend emailed me and said "We should do the Danskin Triathlon."

So there I was, ironically underweight for the first time in my life, I couldn't walk 25 feet, I had just had a surgery referred to as "The Grandaddy of all Surgeries" (a Pancreatic Duodectomy aka a Whipple Procedure). I looked and felt horrible. As I lie there I thought, "When I get out of here I want to do something amazing that I never ever dreamed I would do. I think I'll do a triathlon."

Never mind that I hadn't been on a bike in years, hadn't swum since middle school, and had that "can only walk 25 feet" thing going on. I was determined. I got out of the hospital and on my 5th day home I made my husband take me to the gym where I walked 10 minutes on the lowest speed, and then sat down on a bench and cried. I had lost so much fitness during my hospital stay, but I was determined I would not regain my weight or lose my new lust for life.

I continued to slowly rebuild my fitness and the following summer, I completed two sprint triathlons. I have gone on to complete two more, and have run in five marathons.

I have heard people say that some giant health scare was the "best thing that ever happened to them" and I always thought that was odd. Not now. I truly understand. While what I refer to as "Whipplefest 2003" was one of the worst periods of my life, the gift of renewed lust for health, fitness, and life was the greatest gift ever. The best thing I have ever done for myself was to lose weight, but the gift of understanding how precious good health is can't be conveyed with mere words. It is simply amazing.

I am now the woman I always wanted to be, but never thought I could be.

Thanks, Tory! Your Women's Adventure t-shirt is on it's way to you.
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