Nancy Filby, 44, is a caregiver and athlete today, but not so long ago she struggled to even face herself in a mirror, step on a scale or find meaning in her life.
She says until around five years ago she had no idea she was trapped in a downward spiral nearly her whole adult life and needed a fresh start.
Back before she started going to the gym regularly she says her typical day started with hitting the snooze button several times, rushing out the door without a proper breakfast or lunch, consuming large amounts of coffee through the day to stay awake and binging on junk food at night.
“When I was training to be a nurse years ago we were actually taught to put ourselves last,” said Filby.
“Looking back now I see I pretty much set myself up for a bad situation,” said Filby.
To this day she refuses to tell anyone her before weight including her personal trainer. However, she says it was well above 200 lbs. and kept her from doing her job and loving her life.
“It was horrible. I wasn’t healthy, I wasn’t living life, I was existing,” said Filby.
“I always think if you keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome that’s the definition of insanity and I think that’s where I was stuck at the beginning of my journey.”
Filby had an important decision to make: continue living in depression and obesity or start losing weight.
“Like a lot of people I had gym membership I never used but one day I decided go and it was brutal,” said Filby.
“I had no idea how out of shape I was and I told my trainer [many times], ‘I’m not doing that,’ and I left that first session feeling really bad, really sore and I didn’t go back for at least a couple weeks.”
Her personal trainer from Lasalle Fitness, Nathan Astbury, says he remembers how much Filby struggled in the beginning and how amazed he was when she came back.
“Before the first time I ever met Nancy [my coworkers] warned me she was going to be a horrible client and right off the bat it was a struggle, she was kind of miserable, she wasn’t happy where she was in her life but now she’s one of the best clients I’ve ever had,” said Astbury.
Astbury admits he tried to push Filby into an advanced workout routine before she was ready that nearly scared her off, but being the determined woman she is it was not long before she returned with a completely new outlook and was ready to get to work.
In the first few months they discovered they worked well together and it wasn’t long before she met her first weight loss goal: to weigh in under 200 pounds. She says she finally allowed Astbury to weigh her, at that point but still her old life threatened to hold her back.
“It was going great, she was losing lots of weight. Then one day she came up to me and told me she had to redo her ankle surgery, which was another little setback for her, but I told her, ‘Okay, that’s not gonna set you back, we’re still going to reach your goals,’ and soon she came back stronger, more motivated than ever and she kept coming back because she already made that decision to change her life.”
After taking a few short breaks from working out to correct old foot and knee injuries she found herself once again battling her weight. This is when she decided it was less about the number and more about how she felt.
“For me it’s not about the number any more. It’s about how you feel, it’s about how you look but not by society’s standards and it’s about how happy you are with how you feel and how comfortable you are in your body,” said Filby.
Soon she felt like a new woman and was even starting to run again but that’s when she nearly lost it all.
On a rainy spring day three years ago, Filby sustained a serious spinal injury between patients that left her unable to walk, sit or stand. Within and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance where within a week she saw a neurosurgeon who gave her a very grim diagnosis.
“His words to me were, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to walk again.’ He gave me a 70 per cent chance I could walk again and told me his wait-list for surgery from the point in April that I saw him there was a very good chance my surgery would not be until October.”
Without any warning her dreams of finally living as a happy and healthy adult were shattered and today she says it was the darkest moment of her life.
“When they tell you there’s only a 70 per cent chance you’re ever going to walk again that’s pretty bad,” said Filby.
“When your odds are stacked against you like that it’s really tempting to make excuses and just throw it all away.”
But she never did. With endless support from family and friends Filby overcame her difficult recovery and it wasn’t long before she returned to the gym better and stronger. To this day she never forgets the percentage she overcame and credits her full recovery to her speedy surgery date and the weight she lost before her back injury.
“It’s unfortunate and I can’t say for certainty but I truly think if I was still an unfit, unwell person I probably would’ve waited a lot longer for my surgery,” says Filby.
“I do know I had a good foundation to keep me focused, keep me motivated to keep my eye on the prize at the end because I wanted to come back a lot stronger, a lot healthier.”
BEATING THE ODDS
Now losing nearly 100 pounds in five years Filby is inspiring hundreds of people around her to make a change
including her nursing students.
“I tell them, ‘Life is a gift, don’t ever take it for granted,’ and when we’re treating a patient in a building where there’s less than four flights of stairs I say, ‘I’m taking the stairs. You can take the elevator if you want but I’m taking the
stairs,’” said Filby.
Filby also said it is not uncommon to come across patients with serious weight and back issues that remind her of her own. She says when this happens she often tries to inspire them with her story.
“Whenever I treat someone with a back injury or a weight problem and they don’t want to get up and they don’t want to walk around I just tell them a bit of my story and they’re shocked,” said Filby.
“They can’t believe how healthy I am now and I just tell them, ‘That can be you too, just tell that voice in your head that tells you you can’t do it where to go and go live your life.”
Filby says she has time looking at pictures of her before-self now because she doesn’t feel like the same person any more. Today she is excited to get out of bed, eat healthy and live each day to the fullest, but never forgets or takes for granted where she came from.
“When I look back at the girl I was before I feel sorry for her, I feel bad she missed out a good part of her life and I’m also really I’m so glad I’m not her anymore. I feel like I got another chance at life again. The doctors told me I would never run again, I would never weight lift again but look at me, I’m doing it and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Filby.
Filby says she has learned a great deal from her struggles and plans to keep sharing her story with more people to help them learn from her mistakes.
“So far I’ve learned that I’m tough, a lot tougher than I ever thought I could be and you can’t let limitations define who you are as a person,” said Filby.
“You just have to push through things, stay accountable to yourself and remember there’s no excuses for being lazy, it’s a choice.”
Today she training to run a 10k marathon, completes Olympic-style workout routines with her trainer and one day wants to run a marathon.
“I do really want to run a half marathon which is something the surgeons said I would probably never do and they
really know their craft, so since I overcame those odds already by running a 5k last year I feel like I can do just about
anything,” said Filby.
“Today I know if you challenge me to do something I’m going to at least step up to the plate and attempt it.”
Filby will participate in Windsor’s third annual Le Chocolat fundraiser marathon on May 1 starting at the Walkerville
Brewery at 9 a.m.
Interested participants can still sign up and register for the race at www.raceroster.com.