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Name: Rebecca P.

Age: 46

Ornish Site: Charleston Area Medical Center

Health Challenges: Family history of heart disease, overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol

Greatest Motivation: My 15-year-old son, who is wise beyond his years, is a huge motivator. He’s a wonderful kid and he has been so supportive; it’s made a really big difference.

About a year ago, I was at my lowest point of well-being. I was at my highest weight ever, I was on all kinds of medicine for blood pressure and cholesterol, I was extremely anxious and depressed, and I could hardly walk comfortably because I was having a lot of arthritic pain in my hip. Around that same time, my cousin died. She was 56 and she had heart failure – that’s pretty significant in our family. She also had end-stage renal failure. At the funeral, my aunt – her mother – grabbed onto me and said, “Oh my gosh, you look just like Kathy.” And that right there did it; that hit me. I thought, “I’m not going to be passing away at 56 years old and leaving my son alone.” That possibility is what motivated me and really made me determined to enroll in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation).

My weight loss was significant – I lost 22 pounds during the nine weeks

I was pretty anxious about participating in the program. Working in the cardiac rehabilitation department for 21 years, I had grown up around Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, so I was very familiar with the program. I had always seen the success of other people, but when it finally got to a point where I was ready to make those changes too, I didn’t think that I could handle staying motivated. I was concerned about adhering to the stress management element and really opening myself up in group support – those were my biggest challenges and my biggest fears. I think that’s what kept me from participating in the program for a very long time. But I knew that all four components (exercise, stress management, group support, and nutrition) were necessary; I couldn’t just do one or two of them – all four are needed for the program to work.

Allowing myself to be open and share my feelings with others is personal and can be really difficult to do, but I ended up feeling very safe with the group in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine. The group facilitator made it so easy to be open and honest about how I was feeling; communicating my feelings made a real difference. The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine clinical team and the other cohort participants are wonderful people. We still get together regularly to keep each other motivated. My 15-year-old son, who is wise beyond his years, is also a huge motivator. He’s a wonderful kid and he has been so supportive; it’s made a really big difference.

I started achieving results almost immediately. I actually went off all of my blood pressure and cholesterol medications during the program. My weight loss was significant also – I lost 22 pounds during the nine weeks. I was surprised! And my fitness level improved too. I was even able to do my job more efficiently and more effectively – I just felt so much better.

The program is a huge preventive tool. My doctor is thrilled about my success and that I’ve stuck with the program guidelines. She was even more excited to take me off all of my medications, which was fine with me. I was happy about that. But my most rewarding moment since completing the program was inspiring a couple in our long-term cardiac rehab maintenance program to enroll in Ornish Lifestyle Medicine. Both participants had multiple interventions and were struggling. They saw me making the changes and got so excited that they enrolled in the next cohort! Now, I notice the changes in them, both mentally and physically; it’s like they’re new people. It’s a satisfying feeling because I know I made a difference in somebody else’s life. That’s why I want to share my success story, because it’s a good program and it does work; people just have to allow themselves to do it.

Overall, the program has changed my outlook on life – I feel like I have a lot of life left. I want to enjoy that life and be there for my son. Going through the program helps with the stress and the anxiety of work, especially for me, having a job in healthcare. When you care about the patients, you put your whole heart into your work and that can take a lot out of you. Participating in the program has helped me to better handle situations; I don’t get stressed as easily as I used to, and I’m better able to handle tough patient situations or tough staff situations without having a hair trigger reaction. All in all, Ornish Lifestyle Medicine has changed me quite a bit.

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