Life as a nurse on the front lines can be stressful. We see sickness and death, as well as desperation in people’s eyes. My husband, an engineer in the Marine Corps, is away from home a lot and we have three daughters. At the start of the pandemic, I didn’t have any time for myself and I was depressed. My only exercise was pushing beds and lifting people. 

I was working 12- or 13-hour days and eating pizza, chips, and soda. It was easier to grab and go than to cook. And when I did cook, I’d make fried chicken with plantains. I was sluggish and would go to bed late. I’d step on the scale and see my weight creeping up until I weighed 180 pounds. I had high blood pressure and got headaches. I started the Thrive Challenge for myself and to be a good role model for my daughters.

The kids help me cook and we love going to the farmer’s market for fruit and vegetables. 

We used to make pizza and now, instead of regular pizza dough, we use cassava, which is nutritious, topped with spinach and feta cheese. Another family favorite: baked salmon with lemon and paprika. 

My 8-year-old daughter, Suri, and I dance to music by the Haitian singer J. Perry. 

We make dance videos and do YouTube Zumba classes together. During breaks at work, I go for walks with my buddies, Bonnie and Alecia. It’s hilly outside the hospital and we walk up and down. It’s encouraging to have friends on this journey with me, because when one of us doesn’t feel like moving, the others will say, “Come on, let’s go!”

I’m saving money by doing DIY projects around the house.

The kitchen faucet was leaking and it would have cost over $200 dollars to repair, so my husband and I fixed it ourselves. I also restored our decaying fireplace with beautiful mosaic tiles. And I’m saving a lot of money by doing our hair myself. We’re saving $250 a month and putting the money away for college. Our daughter, Hillary, got a scholarship to Yale, but we’re paying her room and board and saving for tuition for the other two.

I know that sleep is the best medicine. I set an alert on my phone to remind me every evening, “whatever you are doing, stop now.” I put my phone away, make a relaxing cup of tea with lemon, honey, and ginger, and listen to peaceful music like Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” I close my eyes and meditate, emptying out all my emotions. And I’ve been sleeping really well.

I’ve become a certified vaccinator and I’ve vaccinated 300 people so far. 

I came to the United States from Haiti in 1999 with nothing and I was given so much. So I feel compelled to give back.

I have more self-confidence, my blood pressure’s down, and I’ve lost 11 pounds.

I am becoming a better person physically, emotionally, and mentally. And I’m not going back. 

—Fabiola Jean-Bart, Walmart Customer; Fredericksburg, VA; $5K Winner

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