Real Life

Real life: Our weight loss journey to save our son's life

Our boy was dying and there was only one way we could help!

By As told to Take 5

Anna, 58, and Vince Condello, 59, Melbourne, Vic share their incredible story;

Anna said:
My hands shook and I glanced over at my husband, Vince, as we sped down the highway.
"You reckon he's okay?" I said, my voice trembling.
Our son Vince Jr., eight, who we called Vinnie, was spending New Year's Eve with his cousins at their farm, but he'd suddenly developed a rash and they'd rushed him to hospital. My mind was in a shambles!
Once we arrived, doctors had already done blood tests.
"Afraid it's not good news," one said grimly. "Vince has Burkitt's lymphoma and we'll need to start treatment immediately."
What?! I had to focus just to stay upright. How could a rash be cancer?
After that, nothing seemed real.
Days became a blur and our beautiful son was hooked up to so many machines, he looked like a pincushion.
"Mum, I'm scared," Vinnie murmured.
"Everything's gonna be fine, darlin'," I said, although I wasn't sure if that was true.Vinnie started chemo right away so he couldn't go back to school.
His hair fell out, and I was sure he missed his brother, Anthony, five, and sister, Tess, 11 back home.
But he never once complained. For the next nine months, Vince and I juggled being with Vinnie in hospital and looking after our two other children.
A year later, Vinnie was remarkably in remission. Doctors had given him the all-clear.
I wept with relief, but the treatment had caused permanent damage to his organs.
Vinnie needed regular dialysis to keep his kidneys functioning.
Desperate for him to have a normal life, we set up a dialysis machine at home.
But 15 years later, when he was 23, doctors said his kidneys wouldn't hold up much longer.
"We need to put you on the organ donor list," the doctor told him.
I always knew this day might come, but it was still heartbreaking.
"Can his dad or I help?" I asked desperately.
Vinnie had already been through enough.
He'd always dreamed of getting married and starting a family – he deserved it.
The doc said there was a good chance Vince and I could be a viable match to donate a kidney to Vinnie, so we immediately got tested.
Incredibly, we were both matches.
Vinnie went through so much at such a young age. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
But there was a problem – we were overweight.
"We'd need you to slim down before surgery, otherwise your life is at risk," the doc said.
We'd always been so focused on looking after Vinnie and our other kids, we'd forgotten to look after ourselves.
"I'll do it," I volunteered.
There was no greater motivation than saving my son.
So I overhauled my diet, drinking only weight-loss shakes and having one cup of broccoli for dinner.
It was extreme, and tasted terrible, but I shed 22kg in six months.
"You're my guardian angel, Mum," Vinnie said as we were both wheeled off for the transplant op. "Love ya!"
Thankfully, it was a success.
After that, our son blossomed into a pure gentleman.
He married a beautiful woman named Bianca and had a little boy, Vince the third!
Everything was perfect, until eight years after the transplant, when Vinnie contracted an infection.
I could tell he wasn't well.
His skin was pale and he was lethargic. His body had finally realised there was a foreign organ inside it and started to reject my kidney.
It was so cruel.
He'd finally built the life he'd always wanted.
Me with Vince and Vinnie. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Vince said:
"How'd it go, mate?" I asked when I answered Vinnie's phone call.
He'd been undergoing tests on his kidneys and I was trying to be optimistic, but the news wasn't good.
"They reckon my body's rejecting Mum's kidney," he said softly. "I have to go back on the donor waiting list."
My heart ached. Hadn't our boy been through enough?
Despite the endless medical complications, Vinnie had never once complained.
He worked with me at my fruit and veg shop, and really put in the hard yards to make it a success.
I wanted him to be able to watch his kids grow up, just like I'd done.
I already knew that I was a perfect match to donate a kidney to him, but I weighed 180kg – 80kg too much for the procedure.
"I'll fix this, mate," I promised Vinnie.
I looked down at my belly and vowed to get rid of it once and for all.
I knew I had to do this for Vinnie. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Long hours at the shop, from 1am to 6pm, meant I was always fuelling myself with sugary coffees and lollies.
And there was just no time for exercise.
So when I vowed to help Vinnie out with a kidney, I had no choice but to make time to get healthy.
His life depended on it.
I joined the local gym and started personal training sessions and running on the treadmill.
Then, I joined Jenny Craig, where I learnt that I needed to eat regular, nutritional meals.
I tricked my body into being awake at 1am by having a quick breakfast.
Afterwards, I'd have my proper morning meal at the shop at 7am.
At 10am, I'd have a snack, followed by lunch at 12pm, another snack at 3pm and dinner at six.
After four weeks, I couldn't believe it when at my first weigh-in at Jenny Craig, my consultant told me I'd lost 20kg.
I was bloody stoked!
"I'm so proud of you!" Anna said later, hugging me in delight.
Although her arms couldn't reach all the way around me, I was sure it wouldn't be long.
I'm still amazed that I've achieved so much. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
After that, I lost five kilos a week.
There was no better motivation than saving Vinnie's life.
My cravings for sugar disappeared and if I was peckish, I'd munch on blueberries and yoghurt, rather than a chocolate bar.
After 15 months, I'd dropped an amazing 83kg.
Despite knowing that Vinnie will benefit from this achievement, I clearly I have also.
I have so much more energy and I've never felt healthier.
Vinnie's now waiting for the all-clear from docs to have the second kidney transplant, but I'm ready to go.
I want Vinnie to enjoy being a dad, just like I always have.
And now that I'm in tip-top shape, I can't wait to help him do just that.
For more inspirational weight loss stories plus healthy meal ideas, you can download the free Jenny Craig 'Get Inspired' e-book HERE!

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