You don't realise how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
How do you define yourself? If you could choose one adjective what would it be? Would it reflect a moment, your past or your future?
Sarah Martelli is our Inspiring Human for this month and we're very honoured for her to share her story so far with us.
Currently living in Reporoa (a rural community between Rotorua and Taupo), Sarah has become a positive force within this community. She started out life living in Mount Maunganui, but by the time 19 came around she was itching to head overseas on her big OE (Overseas Experience). Living the dream in London, travelling and making great memories. It was here that she met her now husband, Mathew, in a London pub at the age of 21. They became the best of friends, travelling and then moving to Melbourne together. 8 years later they returned to New Zealand to make the most of life here. Mathew's family farm is in Reporoa, and they decided to shift from big city living to a rural life. Sarah said making this shift was not an easy one at times, but since becoming part of this tight-knit community she wouldn't have life any other way. Not long after their wedding and move to Reporoa they started their family and now have three beautiful children (Grace, Ruby and Charlie) who just love the farming lifestyle.
One morning she was out running when abdominal pain struck, so intense that she struggled home crying and it was straight off to the hospital. Undergoing tests, the doctors confirmed her pregnancy. However, this was shocking news, as instead of a baby, her uterus was growing an extremely rare cancerous tumour.
The immediate response for the doctors was that it was very treatable, and so she began chemotherapy, hopeful that she would get better quickly and be back to her old life in almost no time at all. As time went on, rather than getting better her prognosis worsened. The chemotherapy dosage increased, resulting in multiple night stays in hospital. Sarah's hair fell out, and she lost the majority of her strength. But this is not a story of cancer, this is a story of love.
Tough times often show us how much we are loved. It was Sarah's family and community that rallied around in this stressful time in her life. They helped with her children, put food in the fridge and supported as much as they could. Sarah is so grateful to her inlaws and friends from the Reporoa Playcentre who put together a meal roster, ensuring the house was never empty of dinners and baking. She describes this as one of the most humbling experiences in her life.
Fast forward a few months past chemotherapy, and despite it all Sarah still felt exhausted. Often people assume that once chemo is completed that everything is ok now. In reality the body and mind needs more time to heal. Whether we want to agree with it or not, our appearance plays a big part in our self-identity and Sarah felt like she had lost some of hers. Overweight from the medication and still low in energy, she sought ways to rebuild herself, to be strong again.
Underlying this struggle is a fighter. Someone who will not give up. It's with this determination that Sarah started to make progress. Small at first, just a walk to the letterbox. Gradually increasing, step by step to a point where she felt like she could try running again. Over this time she started sharing her progression on her Facebook Page. Women picked up on her positivity and heartfelt 'ramblings' and were inspired to start their own wellness goals.
- I had to fight. I have never been so determined before in my life. I had to get my life back, to be the fittest, healthiest, strongest woman I could be. For myself and for my family.
This whole time the word that kept resonating in Sarah's head was STRONG. Starting out as a blog, her wellness journey was personally documented through her Facebook page Strong Woman. She shared the ups and downs of her daily life. About being a Mum, country living, fitness and nutrition. As the feedback and followers from around the world grew, so did the concept behind Strong Woman. Sarah went back to study and became a qualified Personal Trainer. She started giving back to the community that had given her so much in a time of need. Supporting other women around her to motivate themselves and achieve their goals. More recently she's now planning ways to take this inspiration from her home run gym to a wider audience.
Sarah's story is clearly rather inspiring. So when we asked her who inspires her, she said "any woman who isn't afraid to take a risk for something she truly believes in". By the sounds of things, the women she motivates, multiply that motivation back to her tenfold.
This woman is the definition of STRONG. Her strength comes from her past, but we have no doubt she will carry it into everything she does. This year brings triathlons, half Marathons and boxing lessons – plus anything else that comes her way. You can be part of Sarah’s fantastic community by checking out her Facebook Page here or following her on her Instagram @strongwomannz
Another way that Sarah decided to give back to her community was to take over the local school lunches. Working with the school's PTA, she has moved the low nutrition, below average Friday school lunches to delicious and nutritious options. Growing the lunch run from on average 10 kids ordering per week to just over half the school getting them nearly every Friday. Being the lead volunteer on this project has allowed her to work with other Mum's at the school and it gives her a huge sense of pride and satisfaction that the children are nourishing their bodies with such good food. Vege hidden nachos are a big hit - and the kids don't even know how many vegetables are going in there. They just love the taste!