Today is a gorgeous Sunday in November. The air is cool and crisp on my skin, and the bright, beautiful sun warms my face and neck. Even though it is rather brisk outside—and I am always, always cold—I am starting to feel warm with exertion and I unzip my jacket to let myself cool down. I am walking really fast now.

Here’s the thing: Walking fast (or slow, or even walking at all) is not something I will ever again take for granted. Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with a congenital degenerative hip disease. Without warning, I—who had been an avid runner, devoted to exercise—began to suffer from debilitating pain. But today, I don’t want to focus on the pain I struggled with or the lengthy journey that I began (that’s a conversation for another time); instead, I want to tell you about one of the gifts that this experience has afforded me. The past two years have afforded me countless invaluable lessons, and someday I will tell you about them all. Today, I want to tell you about my friend Maria.

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Maria Terol and Joanne Schneider

I had been referred to Maria Terol about a year before I ended up calling her. A mutual friend told me about the amazingly gifted woman who had helped her to relieve her pain and reshape her life by breaking down and correcting her posture. I remember thinking at the time, “Too late for me.” But after a year of trying too many treatments to list and becoming increasingly frustrated, I decided it was time. Nothing to lose, right? I’m so grateful that I did. And from the very moment I began working with her, it was love at first sight! Over the course of the following year, Maria taught me so much about my body and my posture. She showed me how to isolate my muscles as I moved, and this intense therapy helped me to strengthen my body, avoid atrophy, and allowed me to continue to walk, swim, and stay in shape while coping with tremendous pain.

Ultimately, it was clear, I would need surgery. It became a matter of finding the time, and—more importantly—finding a surgeon with whom I felt comfortable. Finally, the stars aligned, and I found a surgeon I trusted just as my joint collapsed and I reached a point where I could no longer bear the pain. Even then, with Maria’s guidance, I continued swimming daily as I approached the surgery—even when I could scarcely walk without support.

But here is the truly amazing part: My surgery was two months ago today! And already, I’m walking, jogging, moving, living my life, uninhibited, like I haven’t been able to for years. There are many reasons I was able to make such a miraculous recovery—my fantastic surgeon and his team, of course; my focus on clean, healthy eating and my hard-earned knowledge of how to heal my body with food; my amazing, loving family and friends, whose caring and love fed my soul; and, you guessed it, the difficult, challenging, immensely rewarding work I did with Maria for the year leading up to my surgery (which resumed not 24 hours after I left the hospital). I am now able to walk at high speed for between four and five miles every day… with no pain. And folks, this is just the beginning.

So today, I want to thank Maria. I could never have achieved the lifestyle I now have without her support, guidance, and comforting presence. Every now and then, you meet someone who you know instantly will change your life. For me, Maria was one of those people. In fact, not only did she help me become the woman I wanted to be, but a little less than a year ago Maria and I became business partners. Our company, Fresh Focus, is a platform designed to help women become their best, healthiest, and most fulfilled selves, physically and emotionally—a goal that means a tremendous amount to the both of us. This is a project born of sincerity and love, and we have had the best time developing some truly exciting ideas which we’ll be sharing with you in the coming months!

Without further ado: Here’s to all the people that make our lives better. Maria, I have so much gratitude and love for you. Thank you for all that you’ve done and for all that you are.

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