Wife and mom are my two most important titles. I’m a Dietitian by training and like to call myself a Battle Strategist because I firmly believe that we are all warriors! I want us to be empowered warriors with the good energy and health needed to fight our daily battles. We can do this Warrior Moms! We have an important job to do!
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Thinking back to the days when I was driving to Dallas frequently to be by my friend’s side. Manda Maxwell was going through the toughest cancer journey. The doctor visits, chemo infusions, radiation treatments and hospital stays. I was by her side. As her cancer advocate, this is how I could use my past experience to guide her down this difficult road.
But I was truly part of a team. My role was specific cancer support. There were other needs as well. Manda’s friends formed a Fight Club. These friends met very practical needs.
That’s what we will be chatting about today! Last week, we covered
“what to say when your friend has cancer.” This week, we will cover “what to do when you friend has cancer.”
It is a question that I get often….”My friend has cancer, what can I do to help?” Most of us want to do something but we don’t know what to do.
Let me start by telling you that there are many specific needs and many ways for you to be supportive. I’ll tell you some wonderful advice that I was given years ago by a chaplain who was training our cancer ministry team. He stated to NEVER say…..”If there is anything I can do to help, let me know!” He explained that this vague statement was never helpful and most people would never reach out with what they needed. So I will remind you that if you want to help, it is always better to reach out with very specific examples. Remember that your friend is dealing with a state of overwhelm with this diagnosis!!
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind while offering help……..
Going back to my experience with Manda Maxwell, I was so very impressed with how her friends banded together and formed a Fight Club to help with all of her practical and specific needs. Shay, Karla, Sheaffer, Erika, Andrea, Narci, Jeni, Lisa, Meagan and Lori took beautiful care of their friend!!! Here is a highlight list of how they provided specific support…….
As stated, this is just the highlights of what Manda’s Fight Club did for her. Just the highlights!! Her Fight Club communicated with each other over group text to stay organized. They were able to do all this because it wasn’t one person. It was a group!! A group of friends who cared and loved well!! They took care of practical and specific needs for a long time. I always loved hearing Manda talk about her Fight Club.
This beautiful picture breaks me down every time I see it. It is Manda’s Fight Club at her funeral.
The needs are many and the list is long. It is too much for one person to take care of everything for their friend who is facing a cancer journey. However, when a team, a fight club is formed. That makes a difference! There is power in numbers! We all have different gifts, talents and abilities. Can I encourage you to form a Fight Club for your friend?? It is an amazing means of support and a great way to extend our circle of friends while meeting the practical and specific needs of our mutual friend.
So now we have talked about what to say and what to do for our friends that have cancer. I’ve been asked by a reader to write about how to pray for a friend facing a cancer journey. So stay tuned next week for that. Until then, let’s keep loving and encouraging each other well!
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As I have worked alongside cancer patients in my career, I have gotten this question over and over. “My friend was diagnosed with cancer. I want to do something, I want to help! What should I do?” It is such a common question and one that I want to address today!
People have the best of intentions, they really do. But in their earnestness to say something, they typically end up saying the wrong thing!! Here’s some guidelines to consider on what not to say to a friend with cancer.
We have covered what to say and what not to say. Next blog post, we will cover what you can do and practical support that you can give.
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“It’s just not fair! I don’t understand this, God!” My frustrated prayers that I would utter while fighting traffic to make it to Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor Dallas. My sweet friend, Manda Maxwell, was fighting her third cancer battle. Third!!
It all started when she was just 5 years old with a diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma. With her sweet parents by her side, they begged God for her life and she underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy as a child. It worked and prayers were answered! God healed little Manda of Rhabdomyosarcoma! That little girl grew up to be a beautiful woman. She became a teacher and got married. Everything was okay until. Until she fell and broke her leg just a couple of weeks after delivering her first child. This was no ordinary break. It was caused by extreme circumstances. Those circumstances? She had a different sarcoma in the same leg that had received radiation therapy as a child. This is called a radiation induced sarcoma. Medical experts would tell you that this is a possibility but not very common; for cancer treatment to give rise to another cancer. But it had happened. Oncologists determined that in order to save her life, they needed to amputate her leg.
At the time, I was leading a cancer ministry at First Baptist McKinney. God had guided this ministry and led me to this place where I had been able to help many families as they walked the impossible cancer journey. Because Manda Maxwell and her parents were also church members at First Baptist, I started receiving many calls about this tragic situation. I knew Manda but certainly not well. I did what I could by calling her, offering help and letting her know that I would pray. Honestly the situation seemed overwhelming to say the least. The family did not know me so I figured the phone call would be the extent of my involvement. God had very different plans.
On the morning of Manda’s amputation surgery, I felt God really prompting me to go to the hospital in Dallas. Of course, I did like any other rational human. I argued with God stating that I did not know the family well and it would be an invasion of privacy. The prompting to GO was strong. I resisted and then finally relented thinking I would just sit in the waiting room and pray and maybe that would count as obedience to this crazy prompting.
After securing a friend to take care of my little ones, I headed to Dallas. Upon my arrival, it became apparent how much I was needed. Navigating the health care system is something I am used to. That day is the day that I became Manda’s advocate. I sat with her, encouraged her and communicated with her nurses prior to surgery. At this point, she was only 2-3 weeks postpartum!! And here she is facing a major amputation surgery. Overwhelming would be an understatement! After surgery, I listened as the Oncology surgeon gave the details that would define her upcoming treatment options.
There is no way to describe how difficult and challenging Manda’s case was. We embarked on a journey to determine the best course of action to treat this aggressive cancer. Numerous medical opinions and consults, frantic prayers, considerations of the past treatment she had received certainly complicated matters. And all the while, Manda is coping with the stress and the joy of being a brand new mommy!! I have never seen such a young woman just lean into God like Manda did. It was such a crazy, all consuming, chaotic time. Time was of the essence and treatment decisions needed to be made quickly.
Having a front row seat like this. You see how God just shows up. He truly took care of details and a fight plan was developed. Manda received extensive treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her oncologist was blunt and to the the point. The aggressive treatment was necessary to save her life. This sweet young mom turned into a determined warrior. Because now it was not just herself she was fighting for. She had a little baby boy and she was fighting for her life so she could be a mommy to him.
I saw her sweet parents, Ed and Cindy Davis, with a focus and determination that was unmatched. The love between this family was so evident. And I saw her church family embrace and empower her by providing practical support. It was an awe inspiring sight to see how everyone worked together to help Manda fight.
The treatment was rough and was made more complicated by the fact that it was in Houston and not Dallas. Not to mention the fact that she had an infant. But it worked!! Her cancer went into remission. Many prayers answered!! Manda continued to teach all of us how to have Faith over fear.
I would love to say this is where the story ends; answered prayers, renewed faith, cancer remission. However, the story continued several years later when Manda started experiencing back pain. A trip to the doctor revealed everyone’s worst fears. Scans and biopsy’s confirmed a third sarcoma diagnosis. Such devastating and frustrating news! God how can you allow this to happen?? Hasn’t this family suffered enough?
Facing a third battle with cancer and trying to make treatment decisions based on previous treatment already received. Well, there just aren’t adequate words to describe the feelings, thoughts, emotions and fears. At this point, Manda was a mommy for the second time to a sweet little girl only months old. More chemotherapy, radiation therapy, natural remedies, experimental treatments and clinical trials. This short list doesn’t even come close to what I saw my sweet friend suffer through to fight her cancer. Time and time again, I saw her cling to her Faith with a steadfastness that was unreal. The challenges she faced would weaken even the strongest human. Yet, she decided to put her Faith in her heavenly Father and move forward on His strength. She demonstrated Faith over fear over and over again.
We had a different friendship. I had extensive oncology experience and she had a very difficult and challenging cancer diagnosis. Our bond was formed over doctors visits and hospital stays. I was her advocate. She was my inspiration. Somehow, God granted me a front row seat to witness prayers answered and evidence of the cancer retreating. And to provide comfort as it seemed all earthly hope was lost.
When someone is facing the very end of their life, I think it is pretty safe to say that their true colors come out. Obviously she was frustrated but I never saw anger or bitterness for what she was going through. For Manda, her faith in her Almighty God remained firm. She clung to the promises in His word that He would never leave her or forsake her. (Deut 31:6) And she continued to fight! She desperately wanted to remain here on this earth for her husband and kids. I have many beautiful memories of Manda clutching her phone so that could listen to the song, “You make me Brave” by Bethel Music. She would close her eyes and pray and draw strength from above.
The last few days of Manda’s life were spent in the hospital. Desperate searches for additional clinical trials and experimental treatments were not fruitful. Her body was weak and so tired. An oncologist gently told the family that although she had fought hard, the end was near and it was time to simply keep her comfortable. Our focus quickly shifted to pain management and palliative care. Compassionate nurses tended to her as we shifted our prayers to begging God to be merciful and now allowing her to suffer any longer. Witnessing a little boy come up to tell his mama good-bye is something that will be forever etched in my memory.
I was in the room as Manda took her very last breath. I had actually just returned to the room and had my back turned as the nurses checked her vitals. They said my name and told me she was gone. It was very quick and peaceful. We had prayed for exactly this. That her passing would be merciful. As we stood there surrounding her bedside, we noticed how the corners of her mouth had turned up into a small smile. Manda was finally at peace and fully restored in her heavenly home.
On this side of heaven, we will never understand why God took Manda Maxwell at such a young age. She left behind a husband, a son, a daughter, a mom, a dad, brothers, grandparents, family members and many many friends. She impacted thousands of people with her story, her faith and her life. I know that when she was received in Heaven, she heard the words, “well done, my good and faithful servant!”
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You know, sometimes as a mom; you have some good moments. Some moments where you are like, “hey I’m doing alright!” I had one of those moments when my son, JD was about 5 years old. I have always tried to talk to my kids about nutrition and eating healthy. They were beginning to understand the powerful components in fruits and vegetables. So I was a pretty proud mama and dietitian when I was quizzing JD one day and he remembered that blueberries contained antioxidants!!! I mean! That’s a big word for a little kid! He remembered!! Yay!! It’s a mama win!! We went on to discuss the importance of picking colorful foods and how much nutritional value you get from those colorful, real foods!
So you can imagine one day my dismay as I discovered that my son decided to fix his own breakfast. His choice?? A small bowl filled with green sprinkles! Green sprinkles ya’ll!!!! Lord have mercy! His response to my burning question WHY??? Well you said color is important! All I could do is shake my head!! Can anyone say #mamafail ??
The life of a mom is NOT for the weak hearted. I mean there is so much that we need to teach them to prepare them for life. And honestly, when it comes to nutrition; that just takes a back seat. It just feels overwhelming and complicated. On one hand, we know that it is vitally important for them to be healthy and learn healthy living habits early in life. On the other hand, we don't want to be this extremist mom that makes good nutrition seem like it’s no fun!!!
AHHHHHHH!!!!! Anyone else feel me?? As a Dietitian and Wellness Coach, I feel especially guilty! Lol! So obviously I have thought about this A LOT! Here is my family nutrition plan and what I am focusing on.
And I’m going to embrace the mama fail moments and laugh. Life is too short after all! I’m curious, what are some strategies that you have tried to get your family healthier??
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Does God care about our health? Well there’s a question for you! This is a very sensitive and unique topic and one that isn’t discussed very much.
A topic that I’m afraid to even bring up for fear of what others will think. So I address this topic cautiously with a great deal of consideration and prayer. It is too big to fully flesh out in one simple blog post. But I think we can lay a framework here for this huge question.
Does God care about our health?
Honestly, my gut reaction to this question is…of course He does!! Why wouldn’t he care about every detail of His creation. We are His creation. You are no accident. Your life started as a single cell. A single, solitary cell with 46 chromosomes. One cell with enough genetic code to multiply into trillions of cells. One estimate is approximately 37.2 trillion cells! And it all started with one single God ordained cell.
Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart….
We are beautiful, unique creations of God. How often do we take this for granted? The very miracle of life. So the question must be answered in the proper context. Does God care about every detail of our body? Of course. Our body is His creation. So first, we need to recognize our Creator. The One who gave us life. The One who cares about every detail, every aspect of that life including our health.
I think it is interesting that in the Bible, He refers to the body as a temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
There is so much in this verse. But for the purpose of our primary question, I’m going to only focus on one of the aspects. Our Creator is reminding us that our body is a temple and it is not our own. He is encouraging us to honor God with that body!
So a way to honor God is to take care of the body that he is loaning to you. Don’t misunderstand. God doesn’t love you less if you are struggling with being unhealthy. Nothing changes His love for you! NOTHING!!
Being healthy is simply a means to an end. God wants us to be healthy so that we can “go & do” and “love & serve!” We are called to love and serve others! We are called to be focused on others. It is so difficult to “go & do” and “love & serve” when poor health is holding us back! Disease and disastrous health conditions have a tendency to make us focus on self, not on others.
God doesn’t want us to be healthy so we can call attention to ourselves and say “look at me” or “look at what I have accomplished.” He wants us to protect our health so we can simply live out our purpose and do what He has called us to do!
In another blog post, we can further discuss the full implications of disease and how it impacts all aspects of our health including our spiritual health.
My main hesitation in even writing about this subject is because I understand the complexity of the human body and disease. Even more importantly, after working in health care for over two decades; I have noticed the guilt and the shame that often accompanies said disease.
So allow me to end with this. You were created by an all mighty, loving God. He designed this beautifully complex, intricate body. Yes, he does care about your health because He cares about you!
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Sitting in the chemotherapy infusion room of a cancer center. A dear friend beside me getting a chemo treatment. I’ve been here before. For some reason, God has orchestrated my steps to have knowledge and experience in oncology. I’ve worked in Oncology and I’ve volunteered in Oncology. I’ve walked with many friends on their cancer journey. I walked with my mama on her cancer journey.
I’ve seen friends beat cancer and celebrated with them. I’ve been at the beside of many others as they lost their battle but received the gift of eternal life.
I was with my dear friend Manda Maxwell, a young mom of 35 as her body succumbed to her 3rd battle with cancer. And I was there when my sweet mama took her last breath.
But now I find myself tired. A cancer center is a depressing place to be. Looking around, I see fear, anxiety and sadness. Complete honesty…. If there is any place that I question the goodness of God, it is at a cancer center. It is such a horrific and devastating disease. Why does a good, loving God allow this? It is such a huge question. And one that I’m not sure that I’m equipped to adequately answer. But I wanted to give you a brief view of my oncology experiences and how I’ve seen God move in the most difficult of circumstances.
The Bible doesn’t promise us that there will not be suffering in life. John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” His word reminds us that trouble and sufferings are a part of this life on earth and often serve a powerful purpose.
Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
What I cling to are the promises that although we go through difficult times, He never leaves our side. As I went through the horrible experience of losing my mom. I really clung to the verse found in Deuteronomy 31:6……”Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them; for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Now, that is a promise!!! A promise that He will never leave us!! Ever!!
And I will tell you that is exactly what I have seen and experienced in these awful cancer situations. A peace that just doesn’t make human sense. God provided peace. That is why it is a peace that passes understanding. I’ve seen God answer prayers and provide discernment. I’ve seen faith in God grow as friends suffered an incurable disease. A demonstration of faith over fear.
Honestly, the oncology experience and how God has sustained and provided through difficult situations is enough to write a book. I feel inadequate trying to simply sum it up in a short blog post. Cancer just stinks. It doesn’t make sense. All we can do is depend on our Savior to provide His strength and cling to the promise that He never leaves us or forsakes us. And finally, hold firm to the grace that has been given to us. The grace that provides eternal life.
Stay tuned…..I’ll re-visit this difficult topic again. Until then, let’s continue to cling to His promises.
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Have you ever had a friend that just having a conversation with them refreshes your soul? We are finishing up our travels for Spring Break and I got to have dinner with my friend, Lori, last night. I love talking to her!! We were discussing how we struggle as women but how we all assume that no one else is struggling. She told me a story of taking a walk in a nice neighborhood and noticing how every single yard had weeds. No yard was exempt from weeds! The same can be said of struggles. We all have struggles just like all yards are going to have weeds!
As I have started this new venture. This prompting from God to encourage others in their health journey. I’ve thought so much about what I want this to be. I’ve prayed for God’s direction and I’m learning to trust in His timing. So here’s where I’m at……..
I want this to be for the weary and the overwhelmed. The wanna be healthy. The wanna be warrior. The tired of defeat and failure. The sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I’ve spent an entire career in this health arena. Want to know the main thing I’ve learned? We all walk around wearing masks! We allow ourselves to be defined by something that we are not supposed to be defined by!
We are searching. We are hurting. We are desperately looking for our identity. All the while, holding the mask firmly in place that we are coping! That we somehow have it all together!!
Ya’ll…….listen. No one has it all figured out. No one has it all together. We ALL have issues, struggles, fears and failures. I know I’m not the only one that has gotten depressed looking at social media. As a mom, I have struggled greatly with just feeling inadequate!! As a Dietitian and Wellness Coach, well, my goodness! Don’t even get me started. It feels like I will never measure up to this absolute ridiculous standard of perfect body and perfect health.
But you know what? That’s okay! I’m tired of wearing a mask and acting like I have it all together. That’s just plain stupid. No one has it all together. And I’m learning that more people relate to us in our struggles….NOT in our strengths. Not to mention, it is exhausting wearing a mask!!
Let’s get real with each other. Let’s recognize that we all struggle. That no one has it all together. No matter how it appears on social media!!
Let’s remember that we are worthy because HE is worthy. Our identity must be found in our Creator. We don’t have to be enough because HE is enough. This is a process. A journey. Let’s stick together and encourage each other on this journey! It’s okay to let down the mask! And warriors…..I don’t care how weary you feel right now. It’s a lot easier to fight your battles when you aren’t held back by keeping a mask in place!
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The feeling of exhaustion. Just being weary. Looking at my coffee mug that says “Warrior” and knowing I don’t feel anything like a warrior. I feel tired and defeated. Can you relate?
As women, we really want to do it all. And do it all well!! We fill our schedules and rush around. Trying to measure up. Trying to keep up with everyone else on social media who seems to have it all together.
I sit down for my quiet time feeling overwhelmed and distracted. Reading my devotion but with my mind going in a million different places. But these words I’m reading are powerful. They get my attention because it is exactly what I’m struggling with. So I decide to read the words again. And pay closer attention. The words on the page jump out at me. They pierce my weary soul.
“When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”
Is that what this weariness is? An underwhelmed soul? It becomes clearer. And these words on the devotional page speak to me……
“….so much of why my schedule gets overloaded is because I’m afraid of missing out or not measuring up.”
The author of this devotional, Lysa Terkuerst, gets it. I’m trying so hard to keep up because I want to measure up. I’m seeking the approval of others. Why do I so often fall into this trap? It so easily ensnares me that this trap becomes my norm! As I continue reading, I see the answer. It doesn’t always have to be this way. There is a reason that the Bible says…..”His mercies are new each morning.” There is a way to escape the trap!!! This is what I want. This is what I truly desire. A way out!! A solution for this feeling of weariness. I relate to these words in the devotional and they refresh me and give me hope.
“And I am discovering the source of much of the stress in my life is the constant need to keep up. But what if I’m chasing the wrong desires? Do I really want my life to look more like the others? Or to look more like God’s best for me? God’s best for me means engaging with life and the people in it.”
I truly want God’s best for me!! Clearly, I’m not doing a great job of figuring this all out on my own. And you know what?? I don’t have to figure it out on my own. God’s got this and He has got me!! I just need to learn to trust Him and take the time to truly seek Him.
And after suffering the loss of friends and loved ones, I realize so strongly that life is short!! I want to live it to the fullest. Living life to the fullest is being fully engaged, fully present and taking the time to enjoy the people that God has placed in my life. Reminding myself that I don’t have to keep up. All I have to do is keep looking up!
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“I”m craving……” These are words my mama would say when she came to visit in Texas. My mama always loved to eat and truly enjoyed food! We loved to tease her about it. So when she and my dad would travel from Alabama to Texas. I swear she would arrive hungry and looking forward to all the yummy food we would eat. She would tell us her cravings for certain restaurants that are only here and not in my home state. Of course, we paid a visit to said restaurants. And then, my husband, James, who loves to cook would listen to her cravings and requests. He would prepare exactly what she wanted. She just loved it! It made her happy! Those cravings!
It’s funny because when we talk about cravings. Our very first thought is food, right?!? As a Dietitian, I’ll have people tell me about their sugar cravings, their fast food cravings, their cravings for all things chocolate or their salty cravings. The list of food cravings goes on and on.
But as I allow God to reveal things to me in my life about my complete health. And by complete, I mean my total physical health, mental/emotional health and spiritual health. I have realized that I’ve taken such a one sided approach to my health. Do I ever consider the health of my soul and ask the question….”what does my soul crave?”
So let’s address that! What does our soul crave? Obviously we aren’t talking food anymore! Our soul, the very core of who we are. The spiritual part of us as human beings.
I started making a priority of spending time with my heavenly Father each day. Now, wouldn’t it be a great story to say that is all it took?!? This single act of quiet time each morning gave me exactly what I was looking for?? No. Oftentimes, I slip back into old habits and look to other things to fill my soul. Each time coming up empty handed or maybe I should say empty souled!
I’m learning that for my soul to be nourished, I need to constantly seek Him. Each and every day. My soul craves time with my Father! I don’t have to figure it all out right now. I don’t have to worry about next week, next month or next year. All I have to do is be willing. Be willing to make that time a priority. Be willing to put one foot in front of the other. Be willing to be open about what God reveals to me. And be willing to give control over to Him. God knows what my soul craves and He is the only one who can truly nourish my soul!!
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You may not currently feel this way but you are a Warrior! It's there. It’s who you are meant to be. The daily struggles we face are a battle. And it feels like a battle doesn’t it?!? With “bullets” whizzing by us in the form of work demands, the stress of raising kids in a scary world and all the pressure from our current society. The burden of trying to see ahead to help your family navigate and avoid the hidden bombs that blow up and destroy everything. All the while, trying to keep a smile on your face, and upbeat attitude and create beautiful family memories. It is exhausting!!
As a Warrior, we want to feel strong, courageous, in control, confident and satisfied instead of we feel exactly the opposite. Take a look at this list of how we want to feel vs. how we really feel. Which ones on this list can you relate to??
How we want to Feel vs. How we really Feel
Thriving—————Declining & barely Surviving
Relaxed & able to Enjoy the Moment—————Stressed out
Fulfilled—————Disappointed & Incomplete
These true feelings are typically hidden by a mask held firmly in place. Our feelings of inadequacy spill over to our family and every aspect of our life. We crave real friendships but feel estranged from others. We truly want to cherish the moments in life but disregard the time and wish it away.
As a fellow warrior, I will tell you that your health will either equip and empower you for the battles that you face…..Or your health will defeat and completely destroy you! I want us to be empowered warriors! With the energy and the good health needed to fight these battles! Life is short! It’s time to identify the obstacles that have been holding you back!
What you need is a battle strategist. Someone to help you identify the obstacles and navigate the minefield. I have exactly what you are looking for! As a Wellness Empowerment Coach, Dietitian and fellow Warrior Mom; I will equip you, educate you, empower you and encourage you so you can live your best health and fight the battles that you face daily!