As a pharmacy technician I work long hours, and everything was difficult during the pandemic. I have three children and a 2-year-old grandson. My husband, Minh, and I are a great team, but I had no goals and felt I had nothing to look forward to. Life can be challenging because my son, William, who lives with us, has spina bifida, he had a stroke and has severe disabilities. Also, I’m 66 and wasn’t taking care of myself — I weighed 152 pounds, which is a lot because I’m only five feet tall. We were eating fried food and too much meat. In the lunch room one day I was reading stories about Challenge winners who changed their lives for the better and thought: “I can do that.” 

The Challenge for me is about learning and growing.

It’s not all about losing weight, but by eating well I’ve lost seven pounds. Minh is retired and does the cooking, and he’s making stir-fries using less meat, with leafy green vegetables like snow pea leaves, broccoli, and bok choy, using just a little olive oil. We also like steamed sea bass. If I want something sweet, I make Japanese-style pound cake that’s low in sugar and very light.   

Dinner time is family time.

We talk to each other and joke a lot. I encourage William and say “Don’t give up,” because he can get depressed. I focus on thinking positive; I want to be a role model for my children. 

I walk around the neighborhood and go biking with my husband.

I ride a tricycle, which is better for my knees because I’ve had a knee replacement. I also enjoy swimming. Exercise is helping me to feel happier as well as healthier.

I look forward to going into work now — I’m more understanding and cheerful.

I don’t get upset if someone picking up medication is irritable. Maybe it’s because they’re not feeling well. One customer always seemed negative — perhaps she couldn’t understand my accent (I’m originally from Vietnam). But I went out of my way to be helpful. One day, when her diabetes medication was not fully covered by her insurance, I spent time on the phone to help her sort it out and in the end her doctor sent in a new prescription that didn’t cost her anything. She was so happy and wrote a lovely review of our pharmacy, mentioning my name.

I’m saving $400 dollars a month and putting it in an emergency fund.

I’m keeping my receipts and being careful about what we’re spending, like gas for our cars — we don’t make unnecessary trips anymore. And I don’t buy anything unnecessary. We used to buy electronic appliances just because they were on sale and ended up with three instant pots! My motto: If it’s not broken, don’t buy a new one.

The Challenge has changed me. I believe in myself.

I’m improving my life and I appreciate my family, my job, and my friends.

—Ha Le, Walmart Supercenter #4055; Universal City, TX; $5K Winner

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