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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • 'I want to live'

  • Tammy Van Dyne's motto is “I Want to Live.”
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  • Tammy Van Dyne's motto is "I Want to Live."
    She is a woman from McLouth, Kan., who wants to lose 200 pounds and change her life. She wants to inspire others by sharing her past, living in the present, and working towards her future.
    Tammy has lived in McLouth for 30 years and has worked as a para educator in the special education department in the McLouth elementary school for the past seven years. She is married to her second husband and has a blended family with six children between both of them. Tammy often visits Leavenworth because her husband has worked in town for 12 years.
    "My community is very important to me," said Tammy. "I have been on the library board, the PTO, and recently sang our National Anthem at Patriot's Day. I am also a Lifetime member of the Church of the Nazarene in McLouth. God is a very big part of my life and my journey!"
    Tammy is a very busy woman, but beginning this weight loss journey is a decision she is making top priority.
    Growing up in a family of seven, her family practiced portion control to ensure everyone would have a good meal. She decided that when she started making her own money, she would eat wherever she wanted and whenever she wanted.
    "I did just that," said Tammy.
    Later, she was married and divorced and became a single mom for a few years. "I just struggled with trying to make ends meet so we ate a lot of ramen noodles, Long John Silvers (my second job), and pasta," said Tammy. "We ate anything that would stretch and feed myself and my daughter."
    Tammy had a wake-up call when she lost a friend due to complications from obesity in 2011. She joined Weight Watchers in October 2012. At that time, she weighed 417 pounds. She started to learn the basics of controlling her food instead of letting the food control her – an important first step in her journey.
    In February 2013, she ended up in the hospital with an enlarged appendix. Tammy was scared and surgery was not an option for her since eight years earlier, her heart stopped during surgery.
    "Knowing that if the surgeon said I had to have surgery at 10 a.m. that I would die at 10 a.m. put a huge perspective on my life," said Tammy. "I started thinking of my children. They haven't all graduated from high school yet. I worried about my grandchildren and never having the chance to see them and pass on my advice to them.
    This weighed heavy on Tammy's mind while waiting for the surgeon in the hospital bed. Tammy knew that if she had to go into surgery, she would not make it out.
    Page 2 of 3 - "I knew my friends and family were not ready for me to leave. I wasn't either," said Tammy. "When the surgeon told me the antibiotics worked, I thanked God for giving me another chance and I haven't looked back."
    After leaving the hospital with a second chance, Tammy started walking outside despite the cold weather. She decided to sign up for the Queen's 5K Romp in April – her first solid 3.1 mile walk – to prove to herself that she could finish.
    "My goal was to cross that finish line and not be on a stretcher!" said Tammy.
    She wore a shirt with her motto – I Want to Live –printed on it at the race. Tammy crossed the finish line and was met by her husband and children, crowds of women, and other finishers who took notice.
    Stacy McCowen, owner of Candle Queen Candles and one of the women behind the Queen's 5K Romp, has become a strong advocate and supporter of Tammy's goal after meeting her at the race.
    "Tammy envelops what the Queen's 5K Romp stands for - women uplifting women and inspiring others," said Stacy.
    With a crowd of 800 racers and other supporters, Stacy truly saw that women want to have fun and connect with others.
    "It was so neat to have such a wonderful, inspiring woman like Tammy cross the Romp finish line and be surrounded with women cheering for her and crying with her," said Stacy. "She has taken all that love
    and positive energy and held onto it!"
    New friends from the race suggested that Tammy start her own Facebook community to share her journey and Stacy helped her get started. Little did Tammy know that proving to herself that she could
    finish the 5K would grow into a massive support system on Facebook.
    Her Facebook community "I WANT to LIVE" has exploded to over 1,000 "likes" in two weeks. She posts about her progress and provides motivation to those who read her posts. She also motivates and
    challenges her followers to eat healthier and stay active while she does the same.
    She has fun with fitness by doing squats between classes at her job or lifting light weights during the television show – not the commercials – when she watches television. She shares with her followers and
    encourages them to do the same.
    Even though Tammy's support system is growing by the day, she won't forget the original reason she decided to take this step – because she wants to live.
    "This time, I am losing weight for myself," said Tammy. "I want to live and I am the only one responsible for what goes in my body and how much sweat that goes out. This is my time to get healthy and no one
    Page 3 of 3 - is going to stop me from achieving that goal."
    She has a goal is to be on the show "The Biggest Loser" and plans to audition for the show in May. This will be the third time, but she feels like she is mentally ready. Her friends and supporters have been
    posting to "The Biggest Loser" Facebook page on Tammy's behalf in hopes they will consider her during the audition.
    Tammy said that even if she doesn't make the show, it is not a deal breaker. She is focused and will continue on this journey to lose 200 pounds. She has already lost 31.2. The Facebook community has
    been an opportunity for her to share her thoughts and feelings during this journey and continues to motivate and inspire her as well.
    "I don't know everyone on my page so my accountability has been fabulous," said Tammy. "My husband Dennis and I went to Applebee's on Saturday and a lady recognized me. I had planned out what I wanted to eat and drink but after meeting her, it snapped me back into making healthier choices."
    She continues to walk and have fun with fitness. When she goes for a walk, she never looks down. She picks an obstacle, looks up, and walks right towards it. That is exactly what she is doing on this journey.
    "I have looked down my entire life; it's time to look up and look at my obstacles," said Tammy. "I keep putting one foot in front of the other."
    With a positive attitude and strong desire to change her life, Tammy's results are sure to follow!
    Follow Tammy's journey on Facebook by "liking" her page at www.facebook.com/TammyWantsToLive
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