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Name: Cathy L.

Age: 61

Location: WVU Ruby Memorial (Legacy Site)

Health Challenge: Failed quadruple bypass. 19 stents. Heart attack. Angina.

Greatest Motivation: I feel better and have more energy than I did before.

In 2002, I had a heart attack at 49 years old. Shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with a genetic predisposition to Lipoprotein A, which causes premature plaque buildup in my arteries. Over the course of the next several years, my condition continued to get worse. I had 19 stents, a failed open-heart surgery, and unrelenting chest pain. By August of 2013, the doctors told me that there wasn’t anything else they could do except to manage my condition with medicine—no more surgery and no more stents. So they started me on a program of 16 medications each day. It was a burdensome way to live. I did my best to remain positive throughout—an outlook, which I attribute to my amazing mother—but I knew that my lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. I knew that I had to make a change.

“I wish more people would recognize they have choices, other than medication and surgery, to manage their diseases.”

Motivated by my faith and my family, I sought out alternative solutions to help with my condition. Eventually, I came across the Ornish program and was immediately interested, but I was disappointed to see that there were no ‘Undo It With Ornish’ sites in Wisconsin. I was able to find a site in West Virginia that looked great, but I knew that I couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel for 3 months. Nonetheless, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to reach out, so I contacted the program coordinator to see if there was anything that she could do to help. The coordinator immediately sprang into action, sending out a message to Ornish participants and alumni that asked for help.

Amazingly, one former participant named Laura came forward. She took me into her home and let me stay with her for 8 weeks. Then, for the final month of the program, I stayed with Kirstene, another participant from my cohort. I was and continue to be so grateful to both of them. Without their selflessness, I never would have been able to join the program—I never would have been able to improve my health so dramatically. They are representative of the amazing people that go through the Ornish program, and our relationships are indicative of the bonds that the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) creates. I am so thankful.

Once I moved in with Laura and started with the program, I began to experience health benefits very quickly. I stopped taking half of my medicines, I lowered my blood pressure, and I began to feel generally healthy. I no longer experience the chest pain and discomfort that used to be endless, and my blood work has improved drastically. Simply put, I feel better and have more energy than I did before; the Ornish program has changed my life.

I enjoyed every aspect of the program. The exercise and stress management elements have been particularly useful for me, but I feel that each of the four elements (nutrition, stress management, group support, and exercise) are equally important. In fact, I loved the program and what it did for me so much that I wanted to be closer to my cohort and to the whole team; my family is packing up and moving from Wisconsin to West Virginia so I can be closer to the group and volunteer for the program. I’m so excited to be with my friends and help out in any way that I can.

Lastly, I wish that more people would recognize that they have choices, other than medication and surgery, to manage their diseases. The Ornish program is an example of one of those choices, and it really is so simple. It has worked wonders for me and it can do the same for you.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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