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Name: Liz

Age: 59

Location: Beacon Health – Elkhart General

Health Challenge: 5 heart attacks, 8 stents, extensive family history of heart disease, obesity.

Greatest Motivation: I’ve already lost fourteen pounds, and I have so much more energy than I ever did before. For example, there was a time not too long ago when I wouldn’t have even considered walking around my block. Now, I’m walking around it 3 times in a row without any problem. Also, my clothes are fitting me differently, I’m volunteering for the local animal control, and I’m not sitting around watching TV as often anymore.  It’s been a quick and unbelievable transformation.

Her Story: Nothing mattered because I was always going to die of a heart attack. For as long as I can remember, that’s how I felt. Both of my parents died of heart disease, and so did three out of my four grandparents, so—I figured—what’s the point of staying healthy? I became morbidly obese, worked 70-80 hours a week at a very stressful job, and smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. I simply did not take good care of myself, and in 2003, my lifestyle and my genetics started catching up with me.

“I’m actually planning for the future now, because I’m planning to have a future now.”

I’ve had five heart attacks and eight stents since then, and my health has deteriorated in just about every way. I was let go from my job in 2008 and had to go on disability, but still, I didn’t make any significant changes to how I was living. Mentally, I was in a dark place. I thought my fate was out of my control, so I resigned myself to dying of a heart attack. I wasn’t sad, or happy, or anything, really—just resigned. That was my life until three months ago.

In May, I had my fourth and fifth heart attacks in quick succession, and was sent to a traditional cardiac rehab program at Beacon Memorial to recover. While I was there, I heard about the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program  (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) and started looking into it. I thought about the program, and my life, and knew that if I didn’t make significant changes in my lifestyle, I’d die. Plus, I saw that the program provided the tools and the support that I needed to actually sustain lifestyle changes. I typically give up trying to change after a few days. Four weeks ago, I enrolled in the program—and that’s when everything finally clicked.

Today, after just four weeks on the program, I feel so much better physically. Honestly, I’m pretty sure my body is in shock that I’m treating it so well. I’ve already lost fourteen pounds, and I have so much more energy than I ever did before. For example, there was a time not too long ago when I wouldn’t have even considered walking around my block. (I’m in the country, so it’s a big block). Now, I’m walking around it 3 times in a row without any problem. Also, my clothes are fitting me differently, I’m volunteering for the local animal control, and I’m not sitting around watching TV as often anymore. It’s been a quick and unbelievable transformation.

Other people have been noticing my improvements, too. I used to be so angry all the time—I had road rage, I’d snap at people—I’d get set off by the littlest things. But today, things just roll off of my back, and it’s changed my relationships with everyone. Benefits like that come directly from the four components of the program. The exercise, group support, stress management, and nutrition—it all ties together in a way that really works. And it’s not hard at all! I know giving up meat sounds daunting, but I’m as stubborn as they come, so if I can make the changes, then other people definitely can too.

Most importantly, for the first time in my whole life, I feel like I’m in control. Before the program, I looked at my life with grim resignation. I never married or had kids partly because, quite frankly, I didn’t think I’d be around for them. But now, that’s all changed. You know that feeling you get when you go to an event or a football game, and you’re so happy about what might happen? You’re so excited for the future? For the possibilities? This may sound trite, but that’s how I feel every day. This program is a totally new start for me.

Moving forward, my goals are to walk a 5k for a charity, continue to lose weight, and see my nephew graduate from college. I can hardly believe that I’m including that last goal in the list because its four years away, and I normally never would plan that far ahead. But I’m actually planning for the future now, because I’m planning to have a future now—and I fully expect to make each one of those goals come true.

Lastly, to anyone who reads this and is thinking about joining the program, do it. The program lasts 72 hours, and no matter how busy you are, you’re worth 72 hours. I promise. Whoever you are, it will change your life and maybe even save it—it’s certainly saved mine.

 

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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