Leanne Sklavenitis Memoir Explores Resilience and the Power of Choice

In 2016, Leanne Sklavenitis was operating a personal training and coaching business, teaching 11 group exercise classes and running about thirty kilometres each week. The 53-year-old sought medical advice after a fall that left a strange sensation in her knee, and after several referrals and expert opinions, in 2017, she was handed the diagnosis that nobody wanted to hear – Motor Neurone Disease, also known as MND, ALS, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Leanne, a fitness industry veteran, has since become a beacon of inspiration for both the people in her life and those who have never met her but are watching on as she faces adversity as most of us have never experienced, with determination, resilience, and almost always, a smile. This week, Leanne has proudly released her memoir, written with the assistance of eye-tracking technology, to tell her story.

Who is Leanne Sklavenitis?

Initially from Melbourne, Leanne developed a passion for fitness as a young adult and became qualified as a group exercise instructor by 21. She travelled to the US, gaining further fitness qualifications and on returning to Australia, she started her own business based on corporate wellness programs. With more than 32 years of experience in the fitness industry as an award-winning personal trainer and group exercise instructor, Leanne has established herself as a leader among her peers.

Since her diagnosis, Leanne has continued to work with clients through her online wellness programs that incorporate mindset, nutrition, and exercise to help women over age forty achieve their health goals. Despite losing the use of her legs, then arms, and eventually, her ability to talk, Leanne has delivered motivational speeches through the assistance of synthetic voice assistive technology and continues to defy the odds and squeeze every drop out of life, every single day. Through sharing her experience of living an awesome life, whilst also living with MND, Leanne has inspired thousands of people to realise that they can achieve great things despite the obstacles they face.

“In a world where we can be anything, let’s be the reason someone believes in the power of compassion and support”, says Leanne.

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Finding Awesomeness Through Adversity

Leanne has been documenting her journey since diagnosis on her personal blog, sharing both the good and the painful milestones as they unfold. “I decided to tell my story at the insistence of my awesome family and close friends, and in the hope that it may provide inspiration through sharing the challenges I’ve faced on my journey,” she said.

From the hope that comes with being accepted onto a new medical trial, to the difficult acceptance of losing another aspect of independence, Leanne tells her story with vulnerability and honesty that allows her followers into her life. Even through the hardest days, however, Leanne’s updates maintain her unwavering sense of dignity and optimism.

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A Journey in Resilience and the Power of Choice

Since being diagnosed in 2017, Leanne has already quashed the two to five year life expectancy she was given by doctors. At every stage of the disease, she has pushed on to make do with whatever bodily functions she has available to get the most out of life. Her life spent focusing on mindset and setting realistic goals with her clients has paved the way for how she has tackled MND.

Leanne’s memoir, Finding Awesomeness Through Adversity, takes readers back to how her life changed when she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease;

“It hit me. There is no cure,” said Leanne. “For me, it all started in the leg muscles – a double whammy because I loved running, burpees, cycling, and basically anything that kept me on the move. Symptoms soon developed in my hands, impacting my grip. My left was the first to go which was a pain as it’s my dominant hand. It left my writing looking like I was back in kindergarten. Simple things like brushing teeth, opening water bottles, and lifting basic objects soon became too difficult.”

Her book details how she took ownership of her life, learned through perseverance, and developed a growth mindset to overcome the adversity of living with a terminal illness. It’s a must-read for anyone, whether you’re facing challenges of your own and need some wise words to help you forge ahead, or if you simply want to bask in the infectious zest for life that Leanne brings.

“Choosing to write about my life and open up about my journey of living with Motor Neurone Disease has proven to be an incredibly powerful and deeply moving experience. It has given me an amazing opportunity to reflect on the lessons I have learned along the way. This work holds a special place in my heart, and it has been an absolute privilege to share my triumphs, struggles, and moments of self-discovery with all of you,” says Leanne.

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Book Launch events were held in Brisbane on Saturday 24th February, and will take place in Melbourne on Saturday 23rd March 2024. 10% of proceeds from the sale of Finding Awesomeness Through Adversity will be donated to FightMND, to help with the ongoing search for effective treatment methods and hopefully, one day, a cure.

You can order your copy by visiting Leanne’s website here.

Dr Fiona McIntosh, CEO of Fight MND says, “Leanne’s story is relevant to us all. Her search for purpose and her relentless drive to be “awesome every day” is both humbling and inspiring. Leanne continues to be a role model for how to create light from darkness – a lesson we all need to learn.”

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