By Ann Leach

“Use it or lose it” has become the battle cry for runner Terra Oxendine after a serious diagnosis in 2019.

“I became ill with pancreatitis due to a few mutations of cystic fibrosis that progressed into the chronic state in 2020,” Oxendine said. “I was limited in what I could do but was free to walk and jog, so I made sure to do that as often as possible.”

She began rapidly losing weight, required a feeding tube and regular pain medication and had regular hospital stays, but was determined to keep moving so she could maintain her strength. She found herself undergoing surgery December 9, 2020, for a total pancreatomy auto islet cell transplant and just a few days afterward took her first walk around the nurse’s station and didn’t stop moving from that point on.

“The doctors kept reiterating how movement would help my body heal,” Oxendine said. “At just three months post-op, I was released to start working out again, when most patients aren’t released for six months to a year, if ever.”

Just 10 months post-surgery, Oxendine ran the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. She ran it again the following year and placed first in her age group. “It may not sound like much to most, but to me, it was such an accomplishment,” she said. “I have come so far in the last two years, and fitness had been a big part of my recovery. I’m so thankful to God for giving me this body and the ability to move.”

And while she was moving physically, Oxendine was also moving her mindset from frustration and fear over her diagnosis to determination in her recovery. “I was determined to find answers, do my research and lean on God. I will say, I never prayed so much in my life.”

Today Oxendine works out three to five times a week. “I work for Arvest Bank as a commercial lender, so I sit all day long,” she said. “It’s important that I spend time after work doing something physical to keep my body moving, as physical activity keeps my blood sugar levels in check and allows for less insulin use. It all really goes hand in hand when you think about it.”

Oxendine also watches her nutrition and admits a weakness for sour candies. She said, “I try my best to eat healthy but after being on a feeding tube for so long, I take the time to enjoy the foods I eat.” 

She keeps an eye on her water intake and eats more protein than carbs. “I do have to watch my carbs now since I don’t have a pancreas,” she explained. “I use insulin when needed but my last checkup showed that my A1C is that of a non-diabetic. The diet and exercise really help me feel better and keep my health in check.”

As for the future, Oxendine’s goals include getting back to some old times for running a mile and bench-pressing weights. She also seeks to grow closer to God. 

“Just like the physical focus that I have in the gym, I feel I need that same kind of mental focus in church to strengthen me.”