Strengthened by Trials: The Story of Nile Scanlan

Story by: Kryssa Stevenson

It takes a lot of strength to keep up with BYUH senior Nile Scanlan. A full-time wife, mother, student, and businesswoman, Nile’s crazy schedule requires high levels of mental, physical, and emotional stamina. Parts of her daily routine include going to school, working out, watching the kids, cooking dinner, spending time with her husband, and running an activewear business out of her home. Somewhere in-between all of that she squeezes in time for homework and studying. She is also a strong advocate for women in fitness, especially women interested in weightlifting like herself. And just like how physical muscles are strengthened through pain and endurance, Nile has found she’s been strengthened by obstacles she’s faced in life.

      A Lifetime of Sports and Playing for UNLV

Growing up, Nile always loved sports. Born and raised in Laie, Nile comes from a family of athletes. Things, like attending hours of practice and eating right, were as natural as breathing to her. She especially excelled at volleyball. For years she pushed herself on and off the court, with the hope that she would earn an athletic scholarship for college. Her hard work was rewarded when UNLV made her an offer to play volleyball for them. And for two years it seemed like Nile was well on her way to making a name for herself in division one sports.

Unfortunately, shortly after her second year at UNLV, Nile’s life plan took an unexpected turn. Due to the time she spent on the wrong path, Nile’s scholarship was pulled and she was dismissed from the university. Just like that, Nile went from triumphant scholarship recipient to confused college dropout. Depression settled in as the reality hit her that her life-long dream of playing volleyball was gone.

Unsure of what else to do, Nile came back to Laie. “I still struggled with depression and felt so stuck,” she says, “But luckily I had the support of my parents, siblings, and all of my cousins. They really rallied around me to help me get through it all.” Despite the huge setback of being sent home, Nile was grateful for the blessings she received because of it.

  One unexpected blessing that came during this time was Eldon Scanlan, a handsome young man that lived with Nile’s neighbors. They dated for a while and were soon married in the Laie temple. Shortly after that, they moved to Maui, where they spent three years dancing for Tihati Productions. Nile recalls their time in Maui as a breath of fresh air. In regard to her time there she says, “I was finally turning over this new leaf where I was starting to figure out what to do with my life. I was happily married, I was temple-worthy, life was great.”

And when Nile discovered she was pregnant, the couple decided to move back to Laie. Both of them eagerly awaiting one of the biggest blessings of their lives. Little did they know that with this blessing would come one of their biggest trials.

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Photo provided by Kryssa Stevenson

Pregnancy Trials

During her pregnancy, Nile became very sick. The complications of it made it so that she needed an emergency C-Section, and her baby required immediate surgery. Instead of snuggling her brand-new baby girl and returning home a mother, Nile had to recover at Castle Medical Center while her newborn was whisked away to Kapiolani Children’s Hospital. When she was finally released from the hospital, Nile could think of nothing other than her baby girl, Hayden. For the next month, she and Eldon watched her in the NICU through glass windows. Rather than rock her as they fed her with a bottle, they watched doctors and nurses inject breastmilk through feeding tubes. Occasionally they were able to assist the doctors, but for the most part, they sat outside and waited.

By the time Hayden was released from the hospital, Nile and Eldon had missed out on much of the excitement that comes with being new parents. In place of the usual joy of bringing a baby home, Nile recalls banning everyone from visiting the house.

“I just remember having tons of hand sanitizer and telling my family that nobody was coming over,” she says. Luckily, Hayden made a full recovery and was soon fawned over by the entire family.

The Second Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression

When Nile became pregnant with their second child, new problems started popping up. Naturally, she and Eldon were excited, but once again there were complications. While their son, Shiloah, was born healthy, Nile had to undergo another emergency C-Section. This took a huge toll on her body; causing Nile to gain weight and endure a longer, more painful recovery. While she was recovering postpartum depression settled in, wracking Nile’s mind with a sadness she couldn’t understand.

“It was around that time that I started to feel a loss of identity,” she recalls, “I was so used to being active and constantly on the go. Now all of a sudden, I was overweight and stuck at home all the time. I love being a mom, but at the same time I didn’t know how to just be a mom.”

There are no sick days, no leave of absence, and no vacations when it comes to being a mom. Children are always going to need something. As Nile did everything she could to care for her children, she found herself abandoning her own self-care in order to put her kids first. This only caused her to feel more depressed, frustrated, and even guilty for wanting more.

The Decision to Do More and Be More

In the summer of 2017, Nile decided that she needed to do something different. Her family still meant the world to her, but at the same time, she realized that she needed to start taking care of herself, too.

“I just remember thinking that I needed to do something,” she says, “I needed to do more and I needed to be more. So I told my husband ‘I’m gonna apply for school and I’m gonna start working out again.’”

And she did. At the start of January 2018, seven years after she’d left UNLV, Nile started attending BYU-Hawaii as a full-time student. It was a challenge, but her classes were enriching and she enjoyed the diversity of the school. She didn’t feel the least bit guilty about the time she spent at school instead of with her family because “it gave [her] a higher purpose doing something for [herself] that would also benefit [her] family in the long run.”

She also kept her commitment to start working out. In some ways, this was more challenging than going back to school. At the time, Nile hadn’t worked out since her first pregnancy in 2014. And before that, she had been a division one athlete.

Regarding the experience, she says, “It was so hard. I was so ashamed because I had gone from being super athletic, running miles and miles, to struggling through an hour-long workout. That first day I was like, ‘I can NOT do this.’”

Adding to her feelings of shame was the fact that Nile’s workout buddies were her own family members. The very people who had watched her qualify for an athletic scholarship could now see how much her health had declined. “There was definitely that pride factor,” Nile says, “But they were so supportive and they pushed me through it.”

Gradually, Nile felt a sense of normalcy return as her body adjusted to working out again. She wasn’t anywhere near where she had been before her two pregnancies, but slowly she was reclaiming a part of who she had once been. Eventually, this led to her starting her business.

Zyia Active Representative

One of the first things Nile realized when she started working out again was all of her cute workout clothes no longer fit. With no other options, she showed up to her first workout wearing one of her husband’s baggy t-shirts and a pair of his basketball shorts.

Nile recalls how this only added to her shame while working out, “Clothes make a huge difference, especially when you’re jumping back into that health and fitness world. When you’ve been out of it for so long, you already feel junk about yourself. You feel out of place or embarrassed. The workouts are hard, and then you have clothes that don’t fit. It just makes you think ‘I don’t want to do this. It’s not worth it.’”

But, determined to change, Nile continued to wear “husband clothes” to her workouts until her sister-in-law gave her a pair of Zyia Active leggings. Wearing the leggings made her feel cute, which was a huge boost to her confidence. It was the first time in years she had felt good about herself while working out.

Nile loved the leggings so much that, within a week of receiving them, she signed up to be a fitness representative for Zyia Active. As a representative, Nile would be responsible for finding her own customers, generating sales, and managing inventory in her home. Today her business has grown and she continues to inspire women everywhere with her story. When asked why she wanted to sell activewear, Nile explains, “I know what it feels like to go from super-fit to being out of shape, and I wanted to help women in the same situation…I want women to feel good in the gear they wear and feel good about themselves. Especially moms.”

Looking Forward with Faith

Nile is currently on track to graduate with her bachelor’s degree next April. Three years from now she’d like to retire her husband so that he can be a stay-at-home dad. In five years, she plans to have her own brand of activewear. Nile’s path to where she’s at today has been anything but conventional. There have been twists, curves, and all kinds of bumps along the way. But if there’s anything to learn from Nile’s story it’s that through pain comes power, and we never realize how strong we are until we push past the limits.

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Nile and her beautiful family (Photo provided by Kryssa Stevenson)