“Life happens when you’re making plans”.
That’s a motto Fit Factor finalist Stephanie Raine knows only too well.
The 40-year-old said: “That sort of sums up the last few decades for me.
“I am a very optimistic and energetic person and I must admit this has waned significantly since having my daughter when I was in my 20s.
“That was when I was thrown a massive curve-ball in life.
“My daughter, Lucy, was born with Aperts Syndrome, which is a severe craniofacial condition that affects every aspect of her health and development.
“I am not one for excuses and do not believe that one should use other people or circumstance to influence how you make your decisions in life. You are ultimately responsible for your choices.
“This said, the constant and often life-threatening nature of her condition has resulted in 24/7 care for 17 years.
“Nearly two decades of persistent sleep deprivation, many major operations and a complete lack of time to regain my own life has resulted in resorting to food as an easy - yet detrimental - pick-me-up.”
That was when Stephanie, of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, decided the time was right to apply for this year’s Fit Factor competition.
Now, more than halfway through the competition, she has finally brought about the change in her life she had been searching for.
She said: “Life has now radically changed thanks to David Fairlamb and the Fit Factor 2015.
“Ultimately as a carer, you are someone’s lifeline to independence. Therefore, it’s imperative that you look after yourself as best you can.
“However, this can be really difficult when you are faced with life-threatening situations and major operations on a yearly basis.
“Fit Factor has given me the knowledge and passion to achieve whatever I set my mind to and I’m determined to maintain this renewed level of emotional resilience and inner strength.
“I’m still the same positive person, but now I’m much more emotionally resilient and able to cope when my daughter was seriously ill recently. With resilience comes an inner strength and I am able to support my family with renewed vitality.
“It is said with a twinge of guilt, but I really enjoy the time spent just on myself - even if it is often bright red-faced and out of breath. “It is often impossible to just have five minutes to myself with working as a lecturer at Durham University, completing my PhD and as a carer. “Fit Factor enables me to achieve this time and through group exercise I’m glad to say I am more confident and proud of my achievements.
“There are not any downsides to this amazing opportunity. The only spectre that looms is the fact that one day soon this support will end. “However, I believe wholeheartedly that I have not entered into a 12 week program, moreover, I have started my life again and am committed to every day as this new person, with now more than a little spring in her step.
“I can finally say that I’m looking to the future with hope and excitement as to what it might hold.
“David and the Journal team have given me more than they ever will know - I’m more than a physically fitter person after only six weeks,
“I am me again.”