Sydnee Kerekffy, fourth-year Christian studies major, was training for a marathon in the spring of 2022 when her body began to shut down.
“About 75% through my training I started to experience extreme fatigue. My body was rejecting food, my whole body became inflamed, I was losing hair on my head and my skin was reacting. It was really confusing because those aren’t common symptoms when training for a marathon,” said Kerekffy.
Concerned for her health, she went to the doctor where a series of tests revealed that she had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is when a woman has cysts on her ovaries that affect menstruation, emotions, weight, fertility and sensitivity to food. While in the process of running tests for this diagnosis, she received results of high prolactin, which often means there is a tumor on the brain. Later in different doctor appointments, they discovered a breast tumor.
The culmination of this news led to an emotionally draining summer full of confusion and grief.
Ashley Carlstrom, fourth-year history major, was diagnosed with PCOS a few months prior to Kerekffy in January of 2022. Carlstrom experienced mental, physical and spiritual burnout as a result of her diagnosis. She said that she felt incredibly confused and lost as she tried to navigate what this meant for her life.
The two had mutual friends at the time but were unaware of their similar struggles until a conversation brought the two together.
“Once I received my diagnosis, I slowly began to notice those around me who were also struggling with PCOS. It was no different with Sydnee. It’s almost as if our paths merged the moment God knew we would need a fellow confidant to go through life with,” said Carlstrom.
While the news of their diagnosis came with confusion and sadness, the two shared an aspiration to find the silver lining in this situation.
“We both equally had a passion and a call to share our experiences with other people who may be silently struggling with a health issue,” said Kerekffy.
Carlstrom and Kerekffy desired to create a space for conversations surrounding women’s physical and spiritual health.
Their hour-long phone calls about seeing God’s faithfulness even in the midst of illness turned into an idea to start a podcast about strengthening your spiritual health when your physical health is out of your hands. Carlstrom said the word “reclaimed” felt right for their platform.
“When I was in the middle of my health journey, I asked God how I could shift the way I viewed myself. We are so easily claimed by the measures of the world and the standards of beauty that the world sets before us that we forget that true feminine beauty comes from our confidence in God,” said Carlstrom.
Kerekffy said that while starting a podcast was something the two had no experience in, they did not want to let this stay an idea.
“If you have a vision for what God wants to do with your story or with your pain, don’t let fear stand in the way. There are so many reasons why me and Ashley shouldn’t have started a podcast. We both weren’t technologically gifted, I was going through a medical crisis, we lived in different places, but when God appoints you to something, you’ve got to do it,” said Kerekffy.
The first episode of the Reclaimed podcast was released on July 17, 2022. With over 30 episodes now released, Carlstrom and Kerekffy cover topics on body image, discerning God’s voice from your own, biblical femininity, doubting God in the midst of hardship and more.
They aim to release an episode a week that is typically an hour long. Their most recent series on the podcast is titled “testimony talk,” in which they invite guests to share their testimonies.
One of the most fruitful parts of the whole experience, according to Kerekffy, is hearing the impact that the podcast has on its listeners.
“I want people to finish an episode feeling less confused about who God is. Sometimes when you open your Bible, you go into it trying to understand who God is but you leave feeling more confused. My motivation is to guide people to scripture,” said Kerekffy.
The two agree that this podcast would not have been possible without the support they received in their lives.
“We would’ve never had the vision to be so public about our darkest insecurities. Reclaimed would not be possible without the support we received,” said Carlstrom.
Kerekffy had this to share about what this journey of health crisis has taught her.
“Our life is precious and even when you could be mad at God, he is still worth praising because we don’t know the full story and we don’t know what he’s going to do through it,” said Kerekffy.
To listen to the Reclaimed Podcast, visit https://open.spotify.com/show/3Hz5lg5BcQwC3td73WgIXU?si=0d2a75a535b048a7
Written By: Camden Painton