Kathryn Carpitcher, of Shawnee, OK Walmart Store 103, is this year’s Thrive Challenge Grand Champion and the winner of the Challenge’s $25,000 prize. Here is her story, in her own words.
I’ve always wanted a family
Growing up, I dreamed of being a mom. I did a lot of babysitting in high school and loved being with kids. I met Jeff when I was 20. We fell in love, and he had the same dream of having kids. When we got married I said, “Oh my goodness, I’m ready to start a family.” We started trying to get pregnant, but it didn’t happen. After a while, I felt like I was broken, like something was wrong with me. All our friends from high school and college were having kids. I was heartbroken.
My doctor advised me to eat better and move more
I went to see a gynecologist and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that means it’s very hard to get pregnant. The doctor said if Jeffery and I wanted to have kids and get approved for fertility treatment, we needed to lose weight and work out. I weighed 335 pounds. Jeff and I both lead busy lives. We’d go out for almost every meal, and we weren’t exercising. We didn’t feel good.
The turning point
A few months later, we lost my dad to a massive heart attack. He smoked, he drank, he was obese and had clogged arteries. Heart disease runs in our family and my dad didn’t take care of himself. He was only 57 when he died. Dad was one of my biggest fans. He always cheered me on and it was so hard realizing that he would never know our kids. He would have been the best grandpa ever. That was the turning point when we decided to change our lifestyle.
I downloaded the Thrive app
My friend, Candie Holland, who was my manager and a Thrive Challenge winner, encouraged me to get started. She had lost weight and she seemed so much happier and less stressed. I was excited. Jeff started as well because we both wanted to live better lives for ourselves and for the kids we hope to have.
We stopped eating fast food and began cooking
We cook together every single night now. We make soups and ground beef stew with veggies like mushrooms or broccoli. I love, love, love grilled chicken and roasted asparagus! I’d never had asparagus before I started the Thrive Challenge. We just tried a new quesadilla recipe, wrapping rotisserie chicken and low calorie alfredo sauce in a low carb tortilla; it was amazing. And it’s a whole lot better than going out for a greasy hamburger. Also, rather than eating on the go, we’re sitting down for dinner without our phones and de-stressing. We talk about how our days went. We bought a nice recliner and, after dinner, Jeff gives me foot massages.
We got moving
We’ve turned our garage into a mini-gym. We bought a punching bag and battle ropes. You take one in each hand and slap the ground as fast you can; it really gets your heart rate going. I work out listening to music. “I Am Woman” by Emmy Meli is my go-to song when I need self-confidence. I walk around the mall on my lunch break. And after work, Jeff and I go to the gym or walk around the track outside to get fresh air. I listen to music and wave my arms as we walk. I love “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara. It is so empowering and reminds me that I am perfect just the way I am. I’ll sing along at the top of my lungs.
I see a different person in the mirror
I used to be so down on myself and beat myself up, but my confidence has increased dramatically. I’ve lost 45 pounds but it’s about so much more than just the weight loss. Once you start the Thrive Challenge, it changes your whole life. I look at myself with a lot more kindness and compassion. I have a framed quote that I hung above the mirror at the end of our bed; it says: “You’re beautiful, you’re amazing, and you’re loved.” It’s a reminder when I wake up that I am cherished.
I had a miscarriage
I found out I was pregnant on May 1st this year and we were so excited. Everyone was happy for us and I cleaned out the spare bedroom to turn it into a nursery. But five days later, I got to work and had a gut feeling that something was wrong. I rushed to the ER, and Jeff met me there. I lost our baby. I was angry and I was sad — I felt like my life had come crashing down. But we found the strength to keep going. We took four days off work, spending time with our family and friends, because Jeff didn’t want me sitting at home crying. And he was right. I needed to be around people I love the most. The good news is that we know now it’s possible to get pregnant, and our doctor is super optimistic. She said, “Don’t worry, keep trying, you’re doing everything right.”
The Thrive Challenge community
I’ve realized many other people are struggling in life and I’m inspired by their stories. I love the Thrive Microstep about connecting with someone in a meaningful way, and that’s what I did right after the miscarriage. I shared what happened with people I love and it was very healing. I hope my story can inspire others.
Jeff and I are partners
Having Jeff as my accountability partner is wonderful. We encourage each other along the way to make better choices so we don’t go back to our old habits, and our relationship’s grown tremendously. He’s the love of my life and I’m so happy I get to spend the rest of my life with him.
We’re spending more time together
We go fishing at the Canadian River. It’s beautiful and peaceful and an amazing way to relax. It makes me feel closer to my dad, too, because he used to take me and my sisters fishing when we were kids before he and my mom divorced. I love being by the river early in the morning, watching nature come to life when the crickets and frogs are waking up and making noises. I love hearing the fish slap the water, and there’s the thrill of getting that first bite, knowing, “Hey, I caught a big fish.”
I’m taking time for me
Sewing is my passion and I just made a baby blanket for my sister Ashlee’s baby, Chance. It’s a patchwork quilt with baby elephants and bears and it took me two months to hand sew. I also made one for my baby whenever he or she arrives. It’s blue with an animal print of little foxes all over it. Making the blankets gives me a lot of hope.
Winning the Thrive Challenge
Jeff won the Thrive Challenge, which was amazing. We couldn’t believe it. And then this year I won, which was a total shock. I was at work in the office, talking with one of our managers, Taylor Jordan, when I got the call saying: “Congratulations, you won the Thrive Challenge.” I was like, “What? Are you serious?” I turned around in my chair and said to Taylor, “Oh my God, I just won five grand. She said, “Stop! Really?” It was just the most exciting thing ever. Jeff and I spent some of the money on a giant bathtub, which I’ve always wanted.
Before I started this journey, I felt like I was just getting by. But now I’m thriving rather than surviving. Jeffery and I are intentional with our lives and intentional with our choices.
I’m staying positive
I’m journaling and writing about our fertility journey. Some days you just feel down and it helps to write about it. I’m also saying affirmations out loud like: “I’m worthy of having all the love and amazing experiences that I want.” It helps because sometimes you just don’t feel like you deserve anything. Another one I like: “I’m becoming the best version of myself that I can be.”
We’re saving money and bought a house
Money used to be just like paper to us. We didn’t watch what we were spending and we were eating out for almost every single meal. But then we started budgeting. And saving money by cooking at home. I put $200 from every paycheck straight into my savings account. Eventually we‘d saved enough to buy our first house. We have three bedrooms, a big old backyard, and a front yard. It’s not just a house, it’s our own home, and there’s so much love in it.
A special vacation
We saved enough money to go on a vacation to Florida for our fifth wedding anniversary. I’d never been to the ocean before so it was very special. I loved the white, sandy beaches, and getting to see dolphins and sharks was incredible. We also went to New Orleans and took a jazz boat cruise. I’m a very picky eater, but I tried jambalaya — and alligator. It was really chewy!
I’m a better leader
I’m a people lead in HR and I’ve learned so much about how to handle stress. I’m happier, and as a leader that means I’m more patient and compassionate. If an associate comes in who is having a bad day, I’ll say, “Hey, let’s shut the door and have a conversation.” I was there to listen when someone on my team was upset because her dad was really sick. I told her about my own experience and said, “Take whatever time you need.” And when her dad passed, I partnered up with another manager to send her flowers and told her, “We’re here for you.”
Why I love Walmart
I want to be a coach (an assistant store manager) and I see myself having a long career with Walmart. They care about their associates and managers — they care about our well-being. We get ample training and opportunities for promotion and the benefits are phenomenal. We get 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, I use the Even app as a budgeting tool, and I love the Walton Life Fitness Pass — there are really good deals on gym memberships. I used our Resources for Living hotline multiple times after my dad passed and talked with a counselor. Most exciting for me and Jeff, Walmart is now covering fertility treatments like IVF. And they help pay for adoption or surrogacy. Oh my goodness, I cried when I found out. It means that if we don’t get pregnant, we have options!
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s that what you have could be gone in the blink of an eye. So enjoy the moment. I’m so thankful for my life. And another thing I’ve learned is patience — just keep chasing your dreams because they’re going to come true.
I’m hopeful about having a baby
I’ve finally been approved for fertility treatment and we are so excited. I’ve started taking a medication called Femara which will dramatically increase my odds of getting pregnant. My doctor said that she wouldn’t be surprised if I’m pregnant by Christmas. We’re hopeful about having a baby naturally, but if that doesn’t happen, there are other options. No matter what, we’ll have our family. I feel optimistic now, I’m so much happier and everything is falling perfectly into place. Jeff and I tell each other all the time, “Our time is coming.” We just need to be patient and trust God, and we will have our miracle baby!
Every year, the Thrive Challenge awards inspiring individuals with cash prizes from a pool of $1 million. Join the Thrive Challenge here and submit your story for a chance to win.