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Name: Marsha J

Age: Over 50

Health Challenge: Quadruple Bypass Open Heart Surgery

Greatest Motivation: I go to the gym now. I never could do that before because I always felt out of place because of my weight. But now I can actually go to the gym—do a work out, ride the bike, walk on the treadmill, and keep up with everyone else. I’m not embarrassed by my weight any more.

Her Story: In 2012, I was taking care of my husband after he had rotator cuff surgery. I was doing all of the housework, working full time, and taking a full class load in order to finish my degree. I was completely exhausted, but I just thought that was a consequence of my busy life. I had also gotten to be very out of shape—I couldn’t walk from one end of the house to the other without losing my breath. I had gotten up to about 300 pounds, and I was not happy or healthy.

“Since I lost the weight I’ve been even more social than before. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

That was when the pain in my stomach began. I never had any of the classic heart disease symptoms—pain shooting down my arm, chest pain—nothing. Instead, I felt discomfort when I walked and I had stomach pain that I thought was an ulcer. I ignored the pain as long as I could, but a couple months later I finally went to see my doctor. Although I didn’t believe that I had heart disease, the doctor insisted on checking, so I took an arteriogram. It turned out that all four arteries in my heart were almost completely blocked—three were 99 percent blocked and one was 95 percent blocked. I was immediately rushed to the hospital to have quadruple heart bypass surgery. It was traumatic. It was terrifying.

About a week after surgery I was dismissed and went home. Of course, there wasn’t much I could do except rest, so I read to pass the time. My Mother in-Law bought me Dr. Ornish’s Reversing Heart Disease. At first I wasn’t interested. I really didn’t care to look at a “diet” book—I wanted some fiction to take my mind off of everything that I was going through. But it looked a bit intriguing, so each day I would pick it up, think about it, then put it down, then pick it up, think about it and put it down. One day I finally decided to read it. While I was reading, I thought to myself, “I can’t go through this again. I need to do something to turn my life around.” I was convinced that the book was the answer. I started on the program that day.

Within the first six months I lost 50 pounds. When I went back to the doctor for my six-month check-up, he told me that all of my tests looked great and that I should keep doing whatever I was doing. One year later, I had lost 90 pounds and went for my yearly follow-up; the doctor told me that my echocardiogram was “extraordinarily normal.” Not normal, but extraordinarily normal—which he said was really, really good! He said that it was amazing how much improvement I had made since the surgery.

The impact that the weight loss has had on my happiness and my self-confidence has been extraordinary. I’m able to take long walks with my husband, I have more energy, and I can actually get up and do all the things that I used to be too embarrassed or too tired to do. I’m a spur of the moment person, but when I was carrying all the weight, it wasn’t exactly easy to be spur of the moment because I didn’t have the energy. But now I have more energy than my 30-year -old daughter. I can actually out-walk her!

Also, I go to the gym now. I never could do that before because I always felt out of place because of my weight. But now I can actually go to the gym—do a work out, ride the bike, walk on the treadmill, and keep up with everyone else. I’m not embarrassed by my weight any more. I still have 50 more pounds to lose, but now it’s not a struggle. I’m in better shape than I have been in my entire life. I feel more comfortable and more confident in myself. I used to feel like everyone was laughing at me because of my weight, but these days I feel right at home.

Now that I’ve lost the weight, I even like shopping! I never liked shopping before! I had truly become a recluse when I was overweight. I’m usually very social but back then I didn’t like to see people. I didn’t like seeing my family. I didn’t like seeing my friends. I basically stayed at home and watched TV with my husband. But since I lost the weight I’ve been even more social than before. I love going out. I love being with people. I’m happy. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

One last thing that I want anyone reading this to know is that heart disease is the silent killer. For many people, there are no warning signs of heart disease until it’s too late. So I urge everyone to go get checked and to begin to make lifestyle changes today. It can save your life. It can improve your life. I’m living proof. If I hadn’t changed my lifestyle, I wouldn’t be here today. Within two years I went from someone who was out of shape, reclusive, and in need of a quadruple bypass surgery to who I am today. And thanks to the Ornish Program, I’ll never go back.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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