One look at me and you might surmise the following: tan, happy, healthy California girl – which is mostly true. I try really hard to put up a positive front to the world, but I’ve been struggling to be healthy my entire life.

I’ve never been a very active person. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I get winded easily and have been forced to develop passions of a more relaxing nature – reading, writing and enjoying the beach like any good Cali girl! I hardly participated in sports during school, but I sure made up for it with my 4.6 GPA! Regardless, I’ve always had a nagging desire to be in physical shape like all of my friends and peers – but have never had the energy to do so. A 22 year-old female like myself should be bouncing off the walls with energy! It’s not that I am lazy or lacking motivation, but it’s not normal to dread the 15 minute walk home from class.

I just knew something was wrong with me, physically speaking. Sure enough, after 22 years of suffering with chronic fatigue, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder – Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD for short). Of course it was heartbreaking to be told there was something wrong with me, but at the same time a little part of me felt relieved (I’m not lazy after all!). After a month-long pity party I forced myself to be positive and vowed to take control of my life to the best of my ability. I’ve never had the energy to take part in a consistent workout regimen, but my desperate desire to be a part of something won out – I discovered CrossFit.

I was immediately sold after my first baseline workout. Unfortunately, life threw me another curveball… just days after my baseline I went in for a routine echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) which came out abnormal. The doctors told me my right ventricle is “severely dilated,” which means my heart is having to work extra hard to pump blood into my lungs – and another reason why I must be getting tired so easily. However, after wearing a heart monitor for 10 days and several other tests (X-Ray, EKG, CT Scan, MRI), the doctors still don’t know what exactly is causing the extra stress to my heart. Now I need a more invasive procedure called a Right Heart Catheterization. All of the doctors tell me this procedure is routine, but I’m still afraid – afraid that something might go wrong and afraid of what else they might find…

If there is something I’ve learned from my brief experience with CrossFit, it’s to never lose sight of your goals, no matter how grand or small they may be. I can’t worry about my heart – that’s out of my control – but there are other things I can do to improve my health. Just because I’ve yet to get the “all-clear” from my cardiologist to workout, doesn’t mean I can’t embrace other aspects of the CrossFit lifestyle, specifically the Paleo diet.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about “going caveman.” The first diet related goal I set was to give up drinking soda for three months (I doubt the caffeine was helping my heart).  I am happy to report it has been exactly one month since I’ve touched one. I sure miss my Coca-Cola but I sure don’t miss the 3 lbs I’ve lost!

Once I do get my heart-health issues under control, I hope to start doing (modified) workouts at CrossFit 2X per week and eventually work up to 3X per week. I worked with my coach to come up with a modified baseline workout that challenged me without being too strenuous. I think there are a lot of people out there like myself who are suffering from similar chronic illnesses and would love to sign up for CrossFit, but are too intimidated to do so. In fact, I would love to see CrossFit boxes offering at least one or two weekly modified workouts geared directly towards people dealing with injuries or special conditions. I hope to help spread awareness for others like me and be a positive role model for all (potential) CrossFitters. If I can do (modified) CrossFit with a dilated heart, anyone can!

For now, I’m making a conscious effort to not worry about my heart issues until the doctors give me a real reason too… after all, guys cause me enough heartache as is! :-) I honestly can’t wait to restart CrossFit workouts. I want to be healthy, feel better and of course looking great is an added bonus! You better believe that as soon as I get the “all-clear” from my cardiologist I will be back at CrossFit Long Beach faster than you can say WOD.

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Over the next 14 weeks, Chandler is competing to become the face of the new BIZ brand “Raise Your Game.”

Will Chandler overcome her health challenges and reach her goal of reducing her BMI from 22 to 18 with modified CrossFit workouts and a paleo diet?

To find out, follower her @MsChandlerJade.

You can help Chandler win the $25,000 prize by watching her videos at youtube/thebizryg (your views count as votes!) and buying CrossFit tee shirts from her personal page (coming soon…).

Sign up now to receive notification as soon as your favorite tee shirts become available to order at marivschandler.com.