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Name: Karen F.

Age: 59

Location: Hamot (Legacy Site)

Location: Pittsburgh

Health Problems: Diabetes since age 9. 6 stents in 2001. Cardiac bypass in 2002.

Greatest Motivation: Incorporating the stress relief and yoga into my life has also been tremendously beneficial. I even notice it when I’m sitting in traffic, I’ll take deep breaths, relax my mind, get my mind and body to work better together—it’s helped my personality calm down a lot.  In the beginning, our Ornish group developed a camaraderie by simply experiencing the program together, but ultimately the group members grew to become some of my closest friends in the world. Any of us would do anything for one another. Our bond has made us healthier and stronger.

Her Story: In 2001, we moved to Georgia, and I didn’t feel terrible at the time, but I definitely couldn’t walk around the block without the dog pulling me home. At first, I dismissed it as a consequence of the heat, but eventually I ended up going to the hospital to do a heart catheter and get a stress test—each showed that I had heart disease. Shortly thereafter I had to get 6 stents in two waves, each of which ended up failing. Ultimately, I had cardiac bypass surgery.

“If you pick a program that you’re…more apt to make permanent and sustainable changes with, you will have success.”

Since joining the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) I haven’t had any heart problems. None. It’s been really, really good. The aspect of the program that has had the largest impact on me is the group support. We have something within our group that not everyone has—not everyone understands—and the cohesiveness of the group has been very important to all of us. In the beginning, we developed a camaraderie by simply experiencing the program together, but ultimately the group members grew to become some of my closest friends in the world. Any of us would do anything for one another. Our bond has made us healthier and stronger.

We all became so close during the program that we developed an alumni community, which still functions today. Our relationship is a mixture of support and accountability. Nobody is afraid to call you if you aren’t at the meetings and ask “Why aren’t you here? What’s going on? What’s happening with you?” We want to make sure that there isn’t a serious issue, so we get on the phone to see if there’s anything we can do to help. The group also motivates me; it’s been very inspiring to see the high powered business men in our group doing yoga, letting down their shields a bit for the sake of the group’s cohesive well-being. We interact socially as well; after our meetings we usually meet at an Ornish-friendly restaurant for lunch and just stay there for an hour or two—visiting, commiserating, just being together.

We also meet relatively often at a winery or at each other’s houses. We have speakers come in and we make food for each other. We are very close. Incorporating the stress relief and yoga into my life has also been tremendously beneficial. I even notice it when I’m sitting in traffic. I’ll take deep breaths, relax my mind, get my mind and body to work better together—it’s helped my personality calm down a lot. Even 5 to 10 minutes of stretching and deep breathing, which I do daily, helps me relax and think “Okay, I can face the day and get on with things.” It even helps my blood sugar. My blood sugar reacts to stress very acutely in both directions, and it definitely stays better than average if I do my yoga exercises.

Overall, the stress management really helps me feel that no matter what is happening, everything is going to be alright. I also love that the program is a spectrum; it allows you to be successful because, quite frankly, not many people can say no to themselves all the time in all aspects of life—it’s just too much change. You know, I told my doctor years ago that if I’m craving a Snickers bar, I may as well buy the smallest one I can find, enjoy it, pay my dues, take a walk—do whatever it takes to be able to enjoy the treat, and then be done with it. Because if you tell yourself “no” all the time, you’ll eat 20 times the calories trying to get satisfied, and you’re still not going to be happy. So if you pick a program that you’re more apt to stick with—more apt to make permanent and sustainable changes with, you will have success. And the Spectrum program allows for that.

If I could say one thing to someone considering joining the program, I would say that “you have the opportunity to improve your health—improve your well-being. Why not try to make lifestyle chances and see what it can do for you?” You know, we all wish that we could be thinner and taller and all of those things, but ultimately we have to deal with what god gave us. All you can do is be your best and live healthily. And everyone can do that.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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