I’d been a stay-at-home mom for 30 years when my husband, Robert, became disabled. We’ve raised eight children together from previous marriages and we have three grandkids. We were drowning financially and almost lost our home. Life was heavy in every way. I weighed 340 pounds and had no control over my eating. I got a job as a cashier at Walmart but I was terrified of going out to work. My co-workers, Mandy and Shelia, who work in the pharmacy, told me about the Thrive Challenge. Mandy said: “You will thank yourself for doing this later.”   

My first step was to drink water when I woke up.

I started a low carb diet. I make a great chicken vegetable soup and a delicious Philly cheese steak with onions and mushrooms. Portion control is critical — I measure and weigh everything. I cut out sugar and if I want a treat, I’ll have a chocolate keto bar. I used to be able to eat a dozen cupcakes. I bought a cupcake for my birthday, ate two bites and didn’t want any more. Instead of sweets, I’ll have clementine oranges or pineapple.

I began walking every day, and at first, I could hardly make it to the car!

I gradually built up stamina and now, I put in three to four miles a day. I’ve lost 95 pounds in nine months and feel amazing. For relaxing “me time,” I love a bath filled with Epsom salts, or I’ll read and escape into another world. Right now, I’m enjoying Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. At bedtime, I’ll say to myself: “Each day in every way you are becoming stronger.”

At work, I got two customer service awards within my first two weeks. 

Then Sheila said: “We want you in the pharmacy!” Now I’m a pharmacy technician in training. I can’t believe that at 51, I’m going to school and have a great career — I’m so proud of myself.  

I’m in love with my job.

I’m like “mama” in the pharmacy, because I’ve been a mom for so long. I feel like I’m hanging out with the cool kids! They come to me for advice. One girl had been through a bad break-up, another is a new mommy and asks me mom questions like how to treat upset tummies. My goal is to win over the patients who are crabby, maybe because they’re not feeling well. One surly gentleman used to have me in tears. Now, by being patient and kind, I’ve won him over! The first day he first smiled at me, let me tell you, I came home and cried with happiness.  

I can’t even begin to describe what a gift the Thrive Challenge has been for me.

Because I’m working, my family is financially secure; I’ve saved our house from foreclosure. I am connecting with my husband — we’re talking and going for walks. By respecting myself, I’ve shown Robert that together, we can overcome anything.

— Marla Blanshan, Supercenter #5433; Hot Springs Village, AR; $5K Winner