We’re all warriors.

The baby born with a heart condition, the woman battling obesity, the mother who beats cancer. And these are also the people we train with and love, whether we’re aware of one another’s struggles or not. Here at Hers, we know that fitness is not just for the fit, and that a healthy lifestyle can change lives.

As the deputy editor of M&F Hers, I know this personally, and it’s why I interviewed women who have used a healthy lifestyle to get through tough times.

My story, in brief: With a maternal and paternal history of autoimmune disease, I was only a little shocked by my Hashimoto’s diagnosis in early 2017 at age 36. It’d actually started with an initial misdiagnosis of lupus but landed at Hashimoto’s after additional testing by a functional-medicine doctor whom I’d reached out to for a second opinion. In Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland until it’s useless, if left unchecked. It can (and did) zero out my energy and create heart palpitations, cold sensitivity, muscle weakness, joint pain, “brain fog,” and anemia that was unexplained for months, probably years; it can also lead to miscarriages and worse. All I knew, I was losing myself by the day.

From a dark place of unresolved doctor visits to my own deep dive into nutrition with the autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet, I’ve greatly improved my symptoms by diet, fitness, and lifestyle alone. It’s an amazing feat considering that the first doctor’s misdiagnosis was accompanied by a prescription of an anti-malaria drug that can cause partial, permanent blindness. Being my own advocate, listening to my body, and staying active have been my lifelines, the open channels I don’t ever want to close.

Here, other fit women share their stories of triumph over tragedy. When the going gets tough, they dig deep despite the odds. Read about their journeys, be uplifted, and share your story at asktheed@hers-mag.com.