08/05/2011 02:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

We Choose to Climb Series 3

Many of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook may have heard of a unique event this September. A group of amazing women have take on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilamanjaro in celebration of life and survival. I, myself, have so much to celebrate and be gracious of. I want to share with you their amazing stories of hope, passion, and appreciation for life beyond the barriers that have been presented to them.

Profile: Debra Sanders

Why are you climbing?
The opportunity to go on the adventure of a lifetime with a couple of good friends and for the three of us to celebrate Becky's being cancer-free at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.

What has your training regimen been?
I realized I wasn't going to get anywhere with my exercise program unless I became more consistent with my workouts and eating habits. I was in Iraq with the FBI in 2008. There wasn't anything to do other than work and work out. I managed to lose 35 pounds and shaped up but gained all the weight I'd lost back once I returned home within a year.

I got lazy, treated myself too often and didn't stick with the healthy habits I'd had in Iraq. A year ago June, I talked with Shana (the group's leading fitness guru) about my goals. She encouraged me and told me she'd help me but also said I had to make the decision to be committed to changing my lifestyle and I wouldn't get anywhere with lasting results unless I was willing to do that along with working out. I've lost the pounds I gained back after Iraq as well as increasing my lean muscle mass.

What has been the best part of this experience to date?
Getting to know an incredible group of women and making new friends. I knew Becky, Pam, Shana and Mary Beth before but I didn't know any of the other women. We're working as a team and getting to know each other during our training and will help each other during the climb so we can all surmount our own personal mountains and challenges on our way to the summit.
I plan to be a cheerleader and group spark plug to help my friends keep going. We're a headstrong, tough, opinionated, never-say-die group of gals who will drag each other up the hill if need be.

I myself have been training and graciously thank Fitness Formula Clubs of Chicago for extending a training area and their expertise.