Updated: Aug 19
My name is Joan. I am 66 years old. I had a heart attack on May 5th, 2020. On May 6th I was awarded 2 stents for my trouble.
Let’s start again;
My name is Joan. I am 66 years old. I have eaten healthy and exercised most of my life. Starting as a freshman in high school I was a cheerleader and a runner. ‘Running’ back in the 60’s was not a ‘thing’ and my fellow students thought I was crazy. Why would I do such a thing if I wasn’t doing the President’s Physical Fitness Test as it was called in my day? I continued running throughout high school, throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, while I was pregnant (to a point), twice. I added weight training in my 20’s - one of two women in my gym; the other, a body building champion and trainer. I trained for 3 marathons, and ran one. It was a week to race day that I incurred injuries that kept me on the side lines for the other two. Just to illustrate that running 15-20 miles in a day was not a novelty act. I was serious. I ran and weight trained up until May 4th, 2020. On May 5th, I had a heart attack.
My preferred narrative is the second one, the flushed out one, the contextualized one. How in the heck, after clean living; (never smoked, rarely consumed alcohol, no drugs) did I end up on a gurney, staring up at OR lights, bargaining for my life? There wasn’t a warning. My lab numbers were always in the normal to fantastic range. How was I to know that this was coming?
Fast forward; still in the hospital, post stent procedure. I asked a plethora of doctors and nurses why this had happened to me and what it meant regarding the quality and quantity of life going forward. The invariable response was: ‘It’s in your family, there is nothing you can do about it’. Drat! I shouldn’t have told them that my mom and younger brother had heart attacks before me. What would they have said to me if I’d kept my mouth zipped. I wonder.
I was outraged at the answer, given so casually, as though a mantra repeated multiple times a day, room after room. I insisted. “You can not tell me that there is nothing I can do to remedy this situation”. Them; “Well, you have two stents now, and as soon as the other 4 blockages, currently at 35 and 40%, reach 50% - you can have more stents, or a bypass, depending. There are options”.
I’m the first-born of 5 children, I lead the way, I get what I want, eventually, and no one tells me “sorry, out of luck”. It’s frightening how tunnel was their perspective and approach; focused on short term mitigation rather than prevention and cures. Wow. Well they clearly couldn't tell me what I wanted to hear, so I slammed that door and sought another.
My son-in-law, who struggles with an auto-immune condition, had been doing research on what particular foods help to build a solid immune system. While I was in the hospital, he suggested that I read Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD. What I read changed my life, gave me hope, and something to do!!!!
On May 7th, my discharge date, my diet changed from Mediterranean-ish, to a full-on Whole Food Plant Based plan. I followed the extreme iteration that Dr. Esselstyn recommends for those with coronary artery disease: no meat, fish, dairy, no oil, no nuts or seeds, no avocado; nothing fatty, period. I changed fully and immediately on May 7th, 2020. My friends and family asked me how I could do it. I said simply “I don’t want to die.”
Well, not wanting to die is a motivator for sure and that’s how I thought about my new food plan - at first. After a few months though, my answer morphed into an expanded one; “I don’t want to die AND I do want to do what I can to stop and reverse my heart disease (take that medical staff!). And I want the other things that come with the ‘deal’ too; more energy, more
strength and stamina, no brain fog, no feeling as though I just ate an elephant, beautiful skin.” What! Vanity items not on your list? Well, you’re going to glow, you’re going to look and feel more youthful, whether you like it or not!
A critical element for a successful transition, is to connect with someone that understands you; Jill and Joel (Rooted Green); that can validate and support you- (Jill and Joel); that can offer strategies and motivation to continue - Jill and Joel; that can teach you about food and your body - Jill and Joel; and for the cherry on top, can show you how and what foods to prepare. I’d be floundering without Rooted Green Wellness. Books about research, philosophy, recipes take you only so far. And if I dare say, not far enough.
There is a particular epistemology that is rooted in food choices.
For instance, in our family: for birthdays we do “this” , for religious celebrations we do “this”, for family gatherings we do “this”, we have this kind of pie for this holiday.
In other words, it’s complex and feels like it’s written in stone. It becomes an invisible obstacle to thinking anew.
Our communities express their identity though eating and drinking establishments, annual celebrations.
Our culture’s identity is inextricably tied to food choices. That’s why ethnic grocery stores or sections, ethnic restaurants - are a thing.
We are most comfortable eating who we are. This is a long way of saying that taking classes from Rooted Green Wellness play off our social mores. Though the particulars may vary, the universal truth is that we must eat everyday to live. Rooted Green brings to life a rich knowledge, the ‘why’s’ and the ‘how’s’ of doing it right for the body regardless of the baggage we carry. Yay Jill and Joel. Not kidding, couldn’t be doing it without you two.
Oh, one more thing. I wish someone would have given me a head’s up. I had a good case of depression; hopelessness, fear, anxiety, a sense of impending doom, for many months after my heart attack. But with time and sticking to my eating plan, confidence in my body and hope for the future returned. The sense of doom became an inner peace. One day I noticed myself happy and carefree and I thought ... hmmmm.
Today, I continue with WFPB eating. I exercise: run 5 days a week, weight train 3-5 times a week (depends on how hobbled I am from the last workout!).
I meditate 20 minutes a day. I feel great. I look rested, nourished, healthy; the best version of myself. My haunting anxiety (that 1st born thing again) has nearly disappeared. What’s left of it, keeps me wary of spiders and such.
Finally, included are two photos; one of me in Argentina with family, eating. That’s what they do in Argentina. I was at 122 lbs. The other is from last week at 100 lbs. my body’s set point.
Eating WFPB has become who I am; can’t tease us into separate entities anymore. I don’t crave, never have. I don’t lament the loss of salmon. Not temped to go back. If I have one piece of advice, it is this: go in 100% out of the gate. This is not the time for a MN goodbye.
I am grateful for Jill and Joel at Rooted Green Wellness - people need people - a word or simple action can safe a life.