Zena Awesome

ABOUT ME – My Origin Story

I’m 49 years old, and I walk through the emergency room doors in my nightgown and curl up in a ball on the lobby floor. A nurse runs up to me and says, “You can’t do that! The floor is filthy!” I think, “Lady, you are so wrong because I am doing it!”

Zena Awesome 11 years old

I’m 11 years old, and I live in West Virginia. I’m sitting in a classroom with just me and my teacher. I’m sobbing. My teacher asks, “What’s wrong?” I’m filled with so much shame and grief I’m afraid to tell her. And then I whisper, “My mom and dad are getting a divorce.” I felt so horrible, so ashamed, so different from everybody. None of my friends had divorced parents. I know the teacher spoke to my mom about this incident. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the surprising solution my mother came up with.

My mom and dad are already separated. My mom tells me, “You can choose whether or not I get the divorce.” So we go to Canada for Christmas to see my dad, and I could tell things just weren’t right between them. When we came back home, my mom asks nicely, “What do you think?” I say, “Yes, we’ll be happier without Dad.” Somehow, my mom understood I had to be part of the decision to be happy and accept it and I learned that change can be good.

Zena & Vandar 1988

Vandar and I got married on 8-8-88. No witnesses. In our everyday clothes. No wedding rings. I didn’t even change my name. But we were happy. It was the day we decided to pick our last name.

Zena working on an TACAN antenna

Then the Air Force sent me to England for 5 years. That is when we came up with “Awesome” as a last name. It was easy to spell, at the beginning of the alphabet, and not too long to write. When we got back to the US in 1995, we legally changed our names. But as I looked at the paperwork, I realized it was easy to change our first names too. We went from John & Bonnie to Vandar & Zena, and the last name Awesome. We loved it. We always had an awesome day. We had awesome businesses. Even our dogs were awesome.

Vandar & Zena at their peak weights

By 2010, we were overweight and had gone to many weight loss classes and tried numerous diets. We decided to go under the knife and had weight loss surgery.

Zena with her solemate Vandar

And then, in 2012, I am lying on the floor of the emergency room. I am dry heaving repeatedly which causes me to start throwing up blood because I had ripped my esophagus. The last image I have before surgery is a blood track on the floor left by the gurney wheels.

I woke up 9 days later from a coma with a 13 inch cut in my abdomen being held closed with tape. The doctors didn’t want to sew it closed because of a possible infection. I can barely move, and my fingers are swollen like sausages. My voice is raspy from having the ventilation airway recently removed. Looking at me are the two most important people in my life, my husband and my mom.

Zena's mom Esther

expected to heal and for my life to go back to normal. But the food I ate was passing right through me, and my body was not digesting it. So I got weaker and weaker. Five months later, eating 3000 calories a day, my weight dropped to 95 pounds. I was put on IV nutrition for 11 months.

Zena & her mom during hospice

I came off the IV nutrition just in time to go to Las Vegas and take care of my mom until she passed in July 2014 from stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Vandar and Zena after first round of radiation

Then in May of 2016, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer (GBM). No cure. My focus shifted from me to him. All literature pointed to less than 12 months to live. I told him that I wanted to make lots and lots of memories before he left. And we did. We didn’t fight cancer; We celebrated life. We started a VLOG to share our experiences. We focused on what we did have, not on what we didn’t. Almost 4 years after his diagnosis, he passed quietly, at home, in his sleep 2-2-2020.

Now I am alone. We pulled back from the world and business when Vandar was sick, so I was years out of date. 2020 was a year of self-discovery and growth for me. I looked at my past to choose a future. I realized that my positive attitude inspires people. I have always coached people. It was in my blood, and now I am doing it, sharing and helping others.