Hi this is one lady’s story and remarkable journey….
Donna Louise Armstrong was a different person 5 years ago, anxiety and depression clamped on like a crocodile taking it’s prey on a death roll.
I struggled to walk more than a mile, I never went out as I had no self -confidence and started to develop health problems. At 41 I felt my life was over, border line diabetes, high blood pressure, thrombophlebitis and a heart murmur. I am 4ft 10 weighing in at 15 1/2 stone and a size 24.
I went to see my GP after far too frequent episodes of sitting at the loch in the small hours of the morning and wondering if it would be cold and painful, I luckily managed to pull myself back at the last minute every time but it was happening more and more often.
I told the GP that the only thing that I felt was of value in my life was my charity work, he told me that if I didn’t start looking after myself my family and my charity work would lose me. He put me on antidepressant medication and told me to try to focus on my charity work but also to make some time for me.
A friend took me along to Slimming World that night, I tried to turn tail and run once I arrived as I was filled with dread and anxiety about all the people who surrounded me. My daughter spotted my escape attempt and I was made to stay. I never looked back.
I lost a steady 2 pounds a week and soon felt the confidence to start contributing in group discussions. After the 1st 3 stone I took a massive step and signed up for the 26 Mile Kiltwalk. Bearing in mind I had never exercised in my life, this was a huge deal for me, but it was for Yorkhill Children’s Hospital and I was determined to complete the hardest physical challenge of my life for them!
Donna completed her Kilt-walk, achieving what she once thought was impossible. Her remarkable strength of mind saw Donna lose 7 1/2 stone in weight in one year, that’s a truly remarkable transformation.
We had lost a family member in Afghanistan in 2009 and started fundraising for The Parachute Regiment’s Afghanistan Trust in his honour. I also became Area Co-ordinator for Poppy Scotland as well as doing events for Blesma, Forces Support Charity and Erskine Hospital.
What started out as a tribute to my nephew became a huge part of my life, as the Para Reg lads appreciated all the hard work and became brothers to me. Every time I saw them mourning the passing of one of their brave comrades I became more and more determined to do everything I could for them.
They encouraged me, supported me, showed appreciation and were fiercely loyal and protective. I soon reached a point where everything I did, I did for them, my brothers.
I did the Kiltwalk the following year too, dressed as a Giant Poppy, for Poppy Scotland and became involved with a great charity called Soldiers of the Street Scotland, under the mentorship of ex Paratroooper Walter “Hammy” Hamilton. Hammy was a fitness enthusiast and encouraged me to keep up some form of exercise to build my confidence and self
I had put back on 3 and a half stone of the 7 and a half stone I had lost and started to feel my health decline again. I met Troy Conner in August, a Parachute Regiment Veteran who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan, despite his massive head injuries and physical challenges, Troy used fitness to sustain his mental health and to find a way through the extremely difficult rehabilitation process.
Troy suggested that I do the Paras 10 Event this year, in honour of my nephew’s 10th anniversary and donate to Support our Paras and The Pegasus Appreciation Group, an organisation that have inspired me hugely over the past couple of years with their work in the direct support of veterans in need.
I signed up and immediately had the support of Rich Greaselyfrom The Pegasus Appreciation Group and other Para Reg Veterans who pledged to do it with me. Then I was challenged by another former Para to do the double- Colchester in May and Catterick in September and he would double my sponsorship. Never one to back down from a challenge I agreed.
I had never run in my life, in fact, I despised running but with help and advice from some of my Para Reg brothers, I started training in December last year. It has been gruelling. I have always had a very focused attitude with regards to mental challenges- the sponsored Firewalk and Skydive I did were easy, all I had to do was tell myself I could do it.
This was different. I was overweight and extremely unfit, it wasn’t just a matter of mental attitude, I needed to physically adapt to the challenge. I soon began to realise that this would take a lot of hard work and that I could gradually achieve this through mental attitude.
Getting up at 4.30 am to jog on the snowy cycle track, making myself go out every single day despite the weather or struggling to get my pace or breathing right- this was the challenge, not the actual event.
With time closing in on me I started to panic a little that I wouldn’t be ready in time. I couldn’t let my brothers down. Failure was not an option.
I organised myself some sessions with Personal Trainer Mark Butler and a few weeks ago entered a gym for the first time in my life. I’m absolutely hooked and feel a massive improvement in my strength, stamina and self confidence. Today I did the longest TAB so far, 9 miles with 20lbs in my Bergen, it took me 2 hours.
It was gruelling however I found my stamina had improved massively. I went a little further and a little further bridge by bridge, thinking of those brave Paratroopers at Pegasus Bridge in Arnhem 75 years ago and their courage, stamina and superhuman efforts.
I am hoping to do the full 10 mile event with 35lbs in just over 2 hours on 20 May – I still have a way to go but I’m getting there, bridge by bridge because if its for my Para Reg Brothers, there’s NO BRIDGE TOO FAR.
Donna’s journey with weight loss and now fitness, is paying off remarkably as Donna is now medication free and proud of it too..
Donna’s courage and determination to overcome so many obstacles is a testament to her strength of mind, furthermore her selfless charity work is very humbling…
The Team of hero’s for both Paras10 as follows below :
Donna Louise Armstrong, Anthony Stephen Malone, Vincent Maxwell, Christopher Ford, Terry Marler Gage, Stu Pearson, William Monaghan, Richard Salmon, Rich Greasely..
Troy Conner will be doing Catterick too I have now just been told.
Personally for me it will be privilege and honour to meet our Country’s hero’s, let alone do the hard yards on the same ground…