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Unstoppable despite health issues

Jenni Mathews has battled diabetes throughout her adult life, but that hasnít stopped her from having a successful career in civil service after being medically discharged from the United States Air Force. Nothing stopped her from following her Air Force husband cross country and raising two children. And a strong motivation to help others achieve good health led her to purchase Curves in Falcon.A small town girlMathews grew up in Pernell, Oklahoma, a small town 60 miles north of Oklahoma City. ìItís a spot on the road that isnít even on the map anymore,î she said. In the midst of oil country, Mathews attended school in nearby Elmore City, where all school expenses were covered by big oil companies. ìThe schools never had to worry about anything,î she said. ìThey (the oil companies) took care of everything.î Mathews, one of 12 seniors in her class, graduated in 1974. She spent a trimester at Oklahoma Christian College before joining the United States Air Force in 1975. After training in San Antonio, Texas, the Air Force assigned her to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi for tech school. In March 1976, Mathews received orders for Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, where she served as an administration specialist. In May, Mathews met her husband, Ron, who served with the security forces on the base. They married Sept. 14, 1976, in Mountain Home. Living with diabetesOn April 22, 1977, Mathews gave birth to a son, Christopher. Two months later, she was diagnosed with diabetes. ìIn one weekend, I was drinking a lot of water and had lost 20 pounds,î she said. ìAnd my blood sugar was over 800 when my husband carried me into the hospital.î The Air Force required airmen to take the Hong Kong flu shot, and Mathews later suspected the shot might have caused the diabetes. ìSo whatever it was, they know for a fact that a virus attacked my pancreas and killed it,î she said. After she became a type I diabetic, the Air Force determined that Mathews was no longer ìworldwide duty qualified.î In 1978, the Air Force medically discharged her. Mathews received disability payments and became a stay-at-home mom.A couple years later, Mathews was surprised to discover she was pregnant again — doctors had previously told her that diabetes had rendered her sterile. Doctors told her the baby would only have a 50/50 chance of survival. However, they induced Mathews two months early; and, on May 17, 1979, she gave birth to a healthy daughter, Angela.In July, the family moved to Aviano Air Force Base in Italy. Four months after arriving in Italy, Mathewsí insulin stopped working and she ended up in an Italian hospital. She went into a coma, and later the medical staff mandated that she return to the United States. Mathews returned to family in Oklahoma for the next year, while her husband remained in Italy.For more than 35 years, Mathews has faced continuous health issues because of her diabetes, but advancements in technology like insulin pumps and glucose monitoring systems eventually made the disease tolerable. ìThe CGMS is a lifesaver for me,î she said. ìAnd my husband loves being able to sleep at night and not worry if his wife will be dead in the morning from low blood sugars.îCivil serviceIn 1980, Ron Mathews received orders for Castle Air Force Base near Atwater, California. The family stayed there four years, and then went to Falcon Air Force Base (now Schriever Air Force Base) in Colorado Springs. In 1984, Mathews began working in civil service, administering badges for contractors on the base. She was eventually promoted to secretary for the director of operations. ìWe opened Falcon Air Force Base, and there was nothing out there but a tiny trailer for the cops,î Mathews said. ìAnd every time they busted someone, they kicked me out of my office so they could question them.î Meanwhile, the Air Force sent Ron Mathews to Galina Air Force Base in Alaska on a one-year remote (short-term) assignment, and the rest of the family stayed in Colorado. In 1990, Ron Mathews received orders for Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming; and, this time, the family went, too. Mathews first worked at the baseís child care center, until a secretarial position opened up. ìI went into the secretarial career field because I knew that no matter where I was they always need a secretary,î she said. ìI was either the wing commander secretary or the squadron secretary. You name it.î When her husband was deployed to Saudi Arabia to serve in Operation Desert Storm, Mathews and her children remained at Warren.Following Ron Mathews return from deployment, the familyís next move took them to Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska. Two years later, they moved back to Colorado and soon after to their home in Falcon.Mathews continued doing secretarial work as a civil servant at Air Force Space Command Headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base while her husband was stationed at Schriever Air Force Base. Mathewsí boss encouraged her to finish college and participate in an internship program. ìMy boss knew people, and he was great,î she said. ìI loved working for him. It was the best thing I ever did.î While working full time, she completed her bachelorís degree in computer information systems management from Colorado Christian University. After she finished the program in 2000, Mathews was promoted to a GS (general schedule) 11 pay scale.Learning ìCurvesîIn 2008, Mathews joined the Falcon Curves and found that exercise helped her maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage her diabetes. ìIt was the best thing I ever did,î she said. ìI lost 30 pounds and 30 inches.î When Mathews began thinking of retiring from civil service, she asked the Curves owner about job openings. Instead of a job offer, the owner encouraged Mathews to take over the business. Mathews said she wanted to help women lead active and healthy lifestyles, and she knew if she didnít jump on the opportunity, the business would close. ìI talked to my husband about it, and he said, ëYouíre at Curves all the time, you might as well buy it,íî she said. Three years after she joined, Mathews became the owner of the Falcon Curves. She worked both jobs until she retired from civil service in 2012.The Curves in Falcon currently has 200 members, and Mathews said she sees almost half of the members every day. ìI love helping those women, and I would lay my life down for any one of them,î she said. ìI would do anything I can to help them in any way possible.îDuring Falconís February blizzard, Mathews had to close Curves for three days. During the snow days, she kept her clients motivated by emailing them information on things like staying safe while shoveling (and making it count as a workout), indoor activities and easy, healthy recipes for meals and snacks suitable for a winter day.ìThis is where my heart is,î she said. ìMy heart is with the women out here. I want the women to be healthy.î

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