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Name: Sonya

Age: 59-years-old

Ornish Site: Beacon Health System- Elkhart General

Health Challenges: Thyroid disease; systemic lupus; sarcoidosis; ischemic colon; sjogrens; alopecia; fibromyalgia; pancreatitis; and last but not least, heart disease.

Greatest Motivation: Overall, I feel great, and my family and friends are noticing the differences. In fact, on a recent trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, my husband and friends had trouble keeping up with me! They see a more vibrant Sonya, which means a lot to me.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had extensive health issues—including hypothyroidism, systemic lupus (SLE), Sjögren’s syndrome, sarcoidosis, and quite an extensive family history of heart disease. On August 3rd, 2015, my health issues continued when I started to feel some pain in my chest, so I went into the hospital to get checked out.

This Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program is just as real as a lifeline in the water – even more so

I had blockages and required a procedure to place a stent. The following day, Carolyn (the nurse coordinator from the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) gave me two choices for treatment: traditional cardiac rehab or the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program. She explained that the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program consisted of a complete lifestyle change. I would need to change my eating and exercise habits, and the program would also include stress management and group support. I thought that it sounded OK and figured that I’d sign up for it. Well, seven days later, before I could even sign up for the program, I ended up in the hospital again. The doctors told me I’d had a myocardial infarction (M.I.). What an unwelcome addition to my list of health problems.

sonya 2

In that moment—and for a while before the program started—I felt hopeless. With a history of heart disease in the family, I figured, “This is my reality—a bad heart.” So, when Carolyn walked through the door of my hospital room after my second heart procedure, I immediately told her that “I want in the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program – just tell me when and where and I will be there..”

About four weeks into the program, I felt a little better, and by week six, I felt a lot better. Now that I’m through the official program, I continue to exercise regularly, follow the diet, practice stress management and yoga. I feel great. This program is life-changing and life-saving. The program has enhanced my spirituality and taken my old day-to-day challenges—such as walking up the stairs—and made them a lot easier. I have a lot more energy than I did before the program, so much so that I’m still ready to go at the end of the day. Overall, I feel great, and my family and friends are noticing the differences. In fact, on a recent trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, my husband and friends had trouble keeping up with me! They see a more vibrant Sonya, which means a lot to me.

The benefits of the program have extended beyond my heart disease as well. For 33 years, I’ve had lupus—which means massive swelling, joint pain, and lots of medication. While the program’s intent wasn’t to cure my lupus, it has certainly helped; my joints don’t hurt anymore and I haven’t had a lupus attack since September. I was taught that this healthy way of living and eating helps with inflammation in our bodies. I am a firm believer that—along with controlling my heart disease and possibly reversing it—my lupus and inflammation is now under control as well.

The different elements of the program—stress management, group support, exercise, nutrition—should seem obvious to people. We all know what we should eat, that we should exercise, and how to be good to our bodies, but we rarely do any of that until we have that really serious scare. I thank God everyday that I did have a really serious scare because it saved my life – it got me into the program. I just wish my dad had known about this program; he died from heart disease fifteen years ago, and the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program could have helped him if he’d been given the opportunity. This program really is a lifesaver.

When people ask me about the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program and why I did it, I ask them, “if you were in the middle of the lake and someone threw you a life line, would you grab it?” Well, this program was my life line. It is just as real as a lifeline in the water – even more so. You take this lifeline and you get another chance at life to get it right. Other than marrying my husband and having my children, this program is the best thing that’s ever happened to me—and I know that it can do the same for others.

Only the hand of God could have placed this phenomenal program at the hospital in my small town; it is a real blessing that I live in Elkhart and that the program is available at Beacon. Everybody has been so supportive, and I couldn’t have done it without them. My husband has been there for me every step of the way, and the clinicians at Beacon are just the best—every last one of them. You can easily see how much they believe in the program and our group, and they made us feel that belief every day. I appreciate them very much.

All in all, I don’t know what I would have done without this program. What a blessing it has been to my life and my renewed health. I am so thankful!

Contributed by

Adam Farina

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