Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike.
Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for four truly motivating stories by the women who experienced them firsthand.
Photography by Emily Long / Photos taken on location at Market South
Do you have a story to share? Click here to tell us how you have experienced adversity and continue to maintain a positive outlook on life.
Linda Shriver-Buckner, Chattanooga (Above)
Once upon a time, I was a princess! I was married to Rob, my knight in shining armor, and we had two beautiful children, Chase and Trevor, and a golden retriever named Noel. I was spoiled – spoiled with an extraordinary love. Rob and I met in college, married, and ended up living in Atlanta following Rob’s graduation from dental school. Following the birth of our second son, I retired and devoted myself to our family and volunteering.
For years our life was normal. Perfect even. And the next thing I know, they are asking me what I wanted to do with Rob’s body. That decision was the first of many difficult decisions I was going to have to make by myself. Even though my husband had been diagnosed with colon cancer, we thought he could beat it. Rob had the most positive disposition, was loved and respected by everyone, and I never pictured life without him. After 18 years of marriage, I suddenly became a widow. Not only did I have to grieve his loss, I now had to make familial and financial decisions alone.
My entire identity changed overnight. I lost my husband and best friend, and my children lost their father. We also lost the source of our income. I went from being a princess to being Cinderella. From that moment on, I was no longer a part of a couple, and being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t an option anymore.
I say I’m like Cinderella because, in an empowering way, I have overcome obstacles and unfortunate situations. I work hard, yet I always keep a song in my heart. That song is only possible with my constant connection with my Lord and Savior. Early in my widowhood, I drew comfort and inspiration from time spent in my Bible, in prayer, and with family and friends. I began to realize that I couldn’t change the way things were, but I could change the way I looked at things.
A quote became my mantra: “Life is good because I decided to make it that way!” Some days I want to just go home and hibernate, but instead, I’ll rally some friends and spend time outdoors. I’m not here to just survive. I intend to thrive. Rob will always have a place in my heart, and thoughts of him bring a smile to my face. I am blessed to have loved and been loved.
“Ego has no place in recovery – but perseverance does.”
Voreata Waddell , NorthShore
From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a marathoner and mountain climber one day. I began running in high school, and following college and graduate school, I continued to foster my love of running and began training with local marathoners.
I signed up for my first marathon in London, but I severed my ACL before the race even started. It took me over five hours, but I finished the marathon. After a long road of physical therapy, I was able to continue racing and have completed seven additional marathons. I was also able to continue backpacking and have conquered summits such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus, and Mt. Aconcagua.
Throughout this time, I had been training with Lisa Blevins, and even after I retired and moved further away, I continued to drive to Chattanooga several times a week to train with the people who had supported me throughout my fitness journey.
Had I not continued to train like I was, I would have likely had a very different outcome when I was diagnosed with thymoma last September. My doctor was able to remove the cancer, and he credits the success of the operation to my fitness level.
Tough times didn’t stop there, however. Shortly after my surgery, my husband had his prostate removed due to prostate cancer. My sister, sons, daughters-in-law, and friends were essential to my recovery. They provided care, emotional support, food, flowers, walks, and transportation to appointments while both my husband and I were recovering.
When I first left the hospital, I was using a walker, had two large scars, and had lost a lobe of my lung. After several months of pulmonary rehab and continued training, I am improving physically. I am getting my life back and have moved back to Chattanooga to be nearer to loved ones and health care.
Last summer, I went hiking overseas with some friends. I’ve kayaked five miles and backpacked for several days at a time. Every day it feels like I can run or walk a little farther. I am inspired by my friends, family, and trainers to never give up. Ego has no place in recovery – but perseverance does. To quote Lisa Blevins, “Strong is a choice.”
“I have discovered that being positive regardless of what life throws my way is the only way to be.”
Paula Palmer, Chattanooga
When I turned 50, I thought I had missed a bullet with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). The disease ran in my family, and only a couple of relatives on my father’s side of the family did not have the terrible disease. But I was wrong. I was diagnosed with PKD, but within four years of my diagnosis, I received a kidney that was so close to a perfect match, it could have come from a twin.
Seven years after my kidney disease diagnosis, I was diagnosed once again – but this time with stage 4 breast cancer. I took charge of my treatment with some reluctance from my doctors. I stood my ground and have been with a wonderful doctor who empowers and listens to me.
Although this has been a wild ride, striving to maintain a positive attitude has really made all the difference. Surviving hereditary kidney disease and stage 4 breast cancer (with a hip replacement thrown in) has been eye-opening in a good way. With my busy work schedule, I always thought I didn’t have time to be sick, but life does not always accommodate us in our time frame. I have discovered that being positive regardless of what life throws my way is the only way to be.
There are always others that have greater struggles than our own, and you never know how your choices in healing can affect others with the same issues. I have found that coaching others to be strong and take control of their choice in treatments has made me a better person and hopefully helped others going through the challenges of cancer and kidney disease.
I have also discovered that family and the support of co-workers is everything, and without them being there for you, the journey can be tough. Always remember that you never know who might be listening, and your words have the power to make a difference in someone else’s life regardless of what their struggles are.
“The changes I’ve made have inspired me to become more confident and outgoing.”
Diane Guffey, Signal Mountain
Throughout most of my adult life, I have struggled with the ups and downs of my weight. Exercise was never a part of my life early on, but in 2005, I decided it was time to make some changes. I started taking some exercise classes at a local gym … and so my journey began. Five years later, I started working out with my current fitness coach, Lisa Blevins. While this was a positive change, the nutritional aspect didn’t come until many years later.
In 2017, I was diagnosed with early stage COPD. I remember being devastated because I thought this meant I would have to give up my time at the gym. Working out was not only a necessity for me physically but mentally as well. My primary care doctor assured me that exercise was one of the best things I could do, which was a relief.
In late August 2018, I was invited on a trip with a group of women I work out with to hike the Dolomites in Italy. I knew if I was going to be hiking several miles a day at a higher altitude with my current lung issue, I would have to shed my excess weight and increase my fitness level. Later that year, I started an online macros-based program with a focus on eating to fuel my performance in the gym. I learned quickly what the best foods are to fuel my workouts. Over the past year, I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, but the best part of it all was that the hiking trip was a huge success!
The changes I’ve made have inspired me to become more confident and outgoing not only in my personal life, but also in my career. I am stronger and more physically fit than I have ever been. Throughout this journey, I have realized that age is just a number and that a diagnosis doesn’t have to be a deterrent from what I want to accomplish.