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Everyday woman power

Betsy Newman Tull, an amazing woman, and her loving man, Gary Tull
Betsy Newman Tull, an amazing woman, and her loving man, Gary Tull
Lamar Paris

In this series on powerful Chicago women — whether they were born in the Chicago area then moved away and accomplished great things elsewhere, lived their entire lives in Chicago or came to Chicago and made their mark — we have covered everything from bad girls to women who set historical precedents.

Anne on stage
Anne on stage
Michael Shackleford

Yet one doesn’t need to be a celebrity to be an amazing woman. A woman who is determined and accomplished qualifies. You probably know several. Here are examples of a couple such women from Chicago.

BETSY NEWMAN TULL
Betsy decided to improve her lot in life. A big decision she made was to give up something that was doing nothing to enhance her life: alcohol. Awhile later, she quit diet soda and anything containing artificial sweeteners, replacing pop with spring water. She was on a quest to be as healthy as possible and wanting to slim down by making small changes over time. At the same time, she was trying to sell her house in a tough market and striving for a degree that would mean the start of a new career.

But it wasn’t until an almost fatal accident that she discovered what she was really made of: true grit. While riding with her husband on their motorcycle at 55 mph, a car turned in front of them and the motorcycle slammed into the car head-on. Betsy was thrown 60 feet through the air, landed on her helmet, went unconscious and tumbled another 20 feet. Injuries included a concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury, L1 and L5 fractures, two smashed hand bones, a severely injured right foot and left knee and painful road rash. That was the day Betsy quit smoking after a 36 year habit. (Luckily, her husband survived too, with his own set of serious injuries.)

Despite a prognoses of lengthy recovery, back surgery, unthinkable pain and hospital stays, Betsy was determined to do two very important things: continue working on her goals (finishing her finals a month after the accident and maintaining her 4.0 GPA so she could graduate on schedule) and having some fun she’d promised herself pre-accident (going to a Michael Buble concert -- with her walker, arm cast and back brace). After her back surgery, she gave up sugar.

Seven months post-accident, Betsy did something truly remarkable: she signed up for and walked the Northeast Georgia Run, participating in the noncompetitive one-mile walk which was outdoors and included a hilly terrain.

Not that anyone would ever want to undergo a horrible accident with their spouse and have life turned upside-down, but an unexpected bonus in all this is Betsy quickly slimmed down like she’d wanted and is now fitter and healthier than ever. It wasn't easy going through all this -- far from it: there’s been pain, frustration, tears and wanting to just give up -- but she didn’t.

ANNE LARSON
Anne Larson is a singer who was inspired to get her BA in music by father Lawrence "Lars" Larson, one of Thumbknuckle's amazing guitarists. Shortly after New Year’s Day 2012, she was chatting with an online gaming forum (WizardofVegas.com) acquaintance. He planned to visit Vegas that fall and wanted to meet up. Anne agreed, citing she will have lost 90 pounds by then. She was around 250 pounds. The trip was nine months away, necessitating she lose ten pounds a month.

Her pal insisted she could not do it. He wanted to present it to the online forum; she agreed, and her weight loss challenge became an online wager. Members of the forum could bet against her, and Anne had to agree to avoid diuretics or weight loss surgery then do an official weigh-in on October 17 witnessed by a forum member. On the slim chance she might succeed, the odds were 9:1.

Anne got busy, eating six small well-balanced meals a day. She took multivitamins and ate lots of fish and nuts. She stuck to an even course of safe and steady weight loss. A nutritionist exclaimed, "You eat healthier than I do!" Her doctor did a double-take upon noticing her lower cholesterol levels. Additionally, Anne went to the gym five days a week, sometimes twice a day. In ten weeks, she lost 40 pounds. The forum participants were stunned; the odds were changed to 2:1. After that, Anne decided to give herself a break, but what was meant to be a half-day break turned into a two week break and a 14 pound weight gain.

Then she was hit with a sciatic nerve flare-up. It was so bad, she was often at the ER. Maintaining her exercise program was out of the question. She couldn’t do much but lie in bed. The pain was so intense, dilaudid was prescribed. Members of the forum expected her to forfeit, but undaunted, she was determined to succeed. Her sciatica was due to a herniating disc which left her with foot drop. She couldn’t move her foot or toes, couldn’t walk normally and had to wear a foot and leg brace.

Her physical therapist didn't provide much hope, and upon learning about Anne's weight loss challenge, advised her to give in, citing that exercise could cause her harm. But Anne was not going to give up on herself. She decided she would exercise what she could control and focused on strengthening her core.

Anne was so determined, she lost the 90 pounds two weeks ahead of schedule. She continued on her challenging path, started using a sauna nightly and lost an extra ten pounds. So Anne lost a total of just under 100 pounds by weigh-in date.

Anne demonstrated amazing determination in the face of pain and physical setbacks that might have stopped most people. Furthermore, this accomplishment imbued her with a lasting sense of pride and a realization of her own amazing strength and resilience.

*****

Often referred to as “the weaker sex,” women have proved to be anything but. With the grit to overcome humongous personal setbacks and the determination to do what they set out to do, women are strong.

Honor the ladies in your life. If there’s one thing we could do more of in this world it is to uplift, applaud and talk others up. Tell the females in your life how much you appreciate them and all they do, and it’s a guarantee this small gesture will make her life and your life better and act like ripples on water. Share this article, add your comments and tell about the remarkable women in your life. Women power makes this world a better place, and so can you by telling their stories.