"In December of 1999, I was diagnosed with focal myocarditis. You might say that saved my life."
— Elaine McCracken, Oakwood, Ga.
You might say that focal myocarditis saved my life. It was not only my wake-up call, but it got me into cardiac rehab. All the doctors and nurses said I had to lose weight. I realized that it wasn't optional. And it was up to me to accomplish. That wasn't easy. I'm a binge eater and have been all my life. Sweets are my particular weakness — ice cream, cheesecake, cookie dough, whipped cream — so it was no surprise that I was 80 pounds overweight when I started rehab.
I have to exercise, which I hate. Even knowing all the benefits, I still hate exercising. I have to talk to myself the whole time — just 10 more minutes, nine, eight, etc. It never seems to get any easier, and that's why I've continued to go to cardiac rehab at my own expense. There are people there who help me stay motivated, watch my heart rate and monitor my health. I couldn't do it without them. The cost is probably less than a gym membership would be, and having all the support is the only way I'm going to continue to do this as a lifestyle change. But I know that if I want to be around my kids for years to come, I've got to stick to it. My main focus now is staying healthy.
There are times when I go back to my old ways — I always say that my evil twin has taken over. I'll go days, even weeks, with the old lifestyle. Then one morning I'll get up and the new size 14 (I used to be a 22) clothes are tight and I feel fat — and I hate that. When I feel fat, I think people are making fun of me — that's a pretty good motivator. I'm back at rehab the next day. So there's a huge emotional benefit to having lost 70 pounds and looking so much better. But the health benefits are the really important part. Even my arthritis is better. When I'm exercising and eating right, that doesn't bother me nearly as much. My cholesterol numbers have also improved significantly — without taking medication. I may have to go on medication in the future for maintenance, but the results from simply starting to eat right and exercise have been good enough up to this point.
I am hoping that I can now set a better example for my family. They are all big eaters and haven't changed their habits yet. My daughter is beginning to have weight problems, and I actually apologized to her for teaching her bad eating habits. She's not ready to commit yet, but maybe I will be a positive influence. I can't make her do it. I know that you have to do it yourself. A switch has to flip in your brain that says I can and will do this. Nothing is a substitute for regular physical activity and good eating habits. Fad diets don't work. You just have to figure out the right way to eat and then just do it. If you need help, get it. I couldn't do this without the folks at the cardiac rehab. They keep me going. I'm determined to keep this up and I know that it's a lifelong commitment. Even though I slide back sometimes, I finally get back on track. And that's a really great feeling.
Patients who have been diagnosed with myocarditis or other coronary conditions may need medication. If your doctor has prescribed medication, it's important to take it just as it was prescribed and to let your doctor know about any over-the-counter drugs or nutritional supplements you are taking.