My Story: Cheryl Nagengast

I had been suffering from IBS for 30+ years. Then Colitis/Ulcerative Colitis for the last 15 years. I was morbidly obese, with a BMI of 43. In August through December, 2013, I had 3 separate hospital admissions for 5-7 days each for bowel abscess. I was very sick with chronic colon infections, eventually resulting in surgery to remove part of my colon. My CRP (C-Reactive Protein) was elevated, indicating severe systemic inflammation.

Lying in that hospital bed, thinking that I might not survive, I made a promise to God and myself that if I survived, I would take responsibility for all my medical conditions: high blood pressure, pre diabetes (HgbA1C was 6.3), Coronary Heart Disease, gastric ulcers, GERD, to name a few. I was determined that only I could make these changes—I was 58 years old at the time.

I was fortunate to get referred to Dr. Dangovian for my heart and blood pressure problems. He helped me think about the direction I should take. I started reading all I could about anti-inflammatory diets. Initially, in August of 2013, I stopped eating Gluten. A lab test in early 2014 showed Celiac Disease. In December 2013, I stopped eating red meat and fowl. As my gastrointestinal system improved, I felt more energy than I’ve had since I was in my 20’s (40 years ago!) The chronic fatigue improved, and, most importantly, my Colitis went into remission. In January 2016, after an exacerbation of my Colitis, I went full on Vegan, giving up dairy and fish. The Colitis lasted only a couple weeks before it was, and is to this day, in full remission. Since early 2016, I have been educating myself about plant-based nutrition with the assistance of Kelly, Paul Chatlin, and Shannon Farrell. Today I am 90% whole food plant based, maybe 10% processed Vegan.

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Something else has happened in the years since I started this new lifestyle. As my energy increased and my health improved, I started to get involved in activities I loved as a youth. I joined 2 swim teams: a senior swim team and a Masters swim team. We compete about every 2 months. I qualified for Nationals in 2015, and it was a great experience, with some of my personal best times. I started a weekly cycling group in the summer of 2014, and now cycle at least 50 miles a week, and I try to do 2 triathlons every year. In between my competitions and teams—I’m in the gym. I do some type of workout every day.

From January 2014 to March 2015, I lost 120lbs. Today I am off all my prescription medications. I’ve maintained my weight without counting calories or worrying about portion control. My last Echo stress test, my METS score was 14---4 yrs ago it was 7! In 2013, I had a 70% occluded left carotid artery that a vascular surgeon was following. Last ultrasound, the occlusion was < 50%! This new life style is nothing short of a miracle! I’m living a life I never thought possible. Four years ago, I never thought I would still be alive---today I feel as though I have another 3 or 4 decades!!!

I am so fortunate to have found this support group to help me continue on this path to improve my health.