Get Inspired: WOW! Superheroes
You don’t need a lot of superpowers to be be a superhero.
The Superhero campaign began in 2009 as a way to share how employees across the MaineHealth system are reaching their health and fitness goals.
We are asking all of you to become Superheroes by getting regular preventive care and participating in our health and wellbeing programs. Prevention is easy, inexpensive, and can save your life. You’ll feel better, take fewer sick days, have more spring in your step, and lots more.
Kimberly Strachan’s Journey to Health
Kimberly Strachan had been heavy all her life. She’d tried dieting but knew what she needed to do was change her lifestyle.
“My biggest obstacle was making time for myself. As a mom of three, it was easy to make time for them or my husband. It felt selfish to put my needs ahead of theirs,” she said.
But with her kids now grown, she decided it was time. The accounts payable specialist started down the path to good health after learning about a year-long, group-based diabetes prevention program.
“I thought about joining the program for a while—six months to be exact,” she said. “I thought, ‘a year?’ and ‘in a group?.’ But I went to an intake appointment, and I had a really good feeling about it.”
Kimberly attended her first meeting on January 23, 2018. There were 10 people in her class, and though their reasons for being there varied, they all shared the goal of finding better health.
She started by tracking her food and exercise.
“I watched as the number on the scale went down and continued to go down. Some weeks were better than others—and it was usually easy to see the reason when I looked in my journals.”
In April, Kimberly joined a “Couch to 5K” class, and on June 30, 2018 she ran her first 5K.
“I am certainly not a fast runner, but as I crossed the finish line, I had such a great feeling of accomplishment.”
In addition to running, Kimberly also enjoys the elliptical, wears a Fitbit, and meets up with friends to stay motivated.
Her hard work is paying off. Just six months after starting the diabetes prevention program, Kimberly had lost 35 pounds.
“I am so grateful for the support of my diabetes prevention program coach, my running coach who wouldn’t let me give up, my classmates, running partners, and of course, my family,” she said. “My husband has been amazing and, since he loves to cook, he met the challenge of changing the menu at our house very early on in the program and has continued to be my biggest supporter.”
Superhero Megan Day Reaches Lifelong Dreams: Pen Bay Medical Center
As a community health communications specialist, Megan Day’s job is to empower people to get healthy. But she also knew she needed to take control of her own health. And at age 33, she reached a goal she made at age 16: To run a 5k.
Now she runs any chance she gets.
Megan was nominated to be a WOW! Superhero by her colleague, Hester Kohl. She recently completed the “Get 5k Ready” program, which she attributes to her ability to reach her goal.
“I started and stopped training programs many times,” Megan said, explaining how she now runs even during the winter, something she never thought she would do.
“I sneak in runs whenever I can!”
Megan has participated in all of the local WOW! activities, including the step and movement challenges. During the first challenge, she started taking walks over her lunch break. And she continues to walk on her lunch break nearly every day, years later.
She’s also reached another lifelong dream by taking a ballroom dance class.
“I learned to dance the Foxtrot, and I even performed one with Hester at the ‘Healthy Holiday Dance’ our team held last December,” she said.
Though she’s encountered obstacles along the way, Megan's friends and relatives keep her accountable. But nothing compares to how exercising makes her feel.
“Really, my biggest motivator is how working out makes me feel—if I skip a few days, I have less energy, I’m cranky and just don’t feel great. It’s amazing how good a quick workout can make you feel!”
Megan suggests that anyone looking to improve their health get started now.
“It’s never too late to achieve your goals! The sense of accomplishment I felt when I crossed that finish line was unbelievable. Making a healthy change, whether starting a new exercise routine or overhauling your eating habits, isn’t easy. Knowing how difficult it felt when I first started, and how much I enjoy it now, I can say with confidence that it’s so worth it to keep going.”
Meet More WOW! Superheroes
When the journey to better health started for this patient registration representative from LincolnHealth-Miles Campus, she didn't feel healthy or like how she looked. So when her dad expressed his fear of losing her, April committed, making an appointment with a nutritionist and a wellness coach at Maine Medical Center.
April wasn't just dealing with the physical effects of an unhealthy lifestyle. She's also a proud survivor of mental illness, and she's showing us all how to overcome life's challenges. Though she never thought she would, she's trying things like Zumba and aerobics, and eating more fruits and veggies. She's even challenging herself to run to participate in charity events.
April stays on track because of the support she gets from her coworkers and family.
"My support network checks in with me about my eating. They remind me of how hard I've worked, " she said.
April also uses a food journal and arranges to exercise with friends and family. "You're more apt to exercise when you don't want to let someone else down."
She's even inspiring her coworkers.
"When I started in patient registration we often had potlucks where people would bring in mostly unhealthy foods," she said. "Now we have healthy potlucks."
April knows she still has work to do. But she's convinced her goal of losing 100 more pounds is obtainable. She's encouraged by sharing her story, and knows if a brief relapse occurs, it's important to keep going.
"Keep on keeping on, and never give up," she said.
Nancy Chaves and Hannah Williams have a saying for when times in the endoscopy center get tough: “Exercise and fresh air will make it better.”
According to their co-worker Elizabeth (Liz) DeFeo, RN, the two are constantly encouraging each other to run or walk after work and coordinating runs on the weekends. And they are always asking everyone in their department to join them, admittedly to mixed results.
“I’ve made it clear to them on many occasions that the only time I run is if the cops are chasing me,” teases Liz.
It doesn’t stop Nancy and Hannah from trying, however. Liz says that the duo is always positive and never overbearing with their encouragement. So much so, that Liz admits, “I have no doubt that they’ll eventually convince me to go— cops or not.”
Jenny loves horseback riding. Marsha loves to garden. But as these two RNs from the Pen Bay Medical Center Anticoagulation Clinic faced the realities of getting older, they realized how much their extra weight impacted their jobs and the activities they love.
So in February 2016, the duo committed to changing their lifestyles. And together, they've lost more than 40 pounds.
Through WOW!, they joined Weight Watchers and learned how the small steps you take every day add up. That's why their best advice to anyone considering changing their health is to take it one day at a time.
Of course their journey hasn't been without obstacles. Learning how to control binge eating particularly with sweets and around the holidays- is an ongoing concern. But having your coworkers notice and support your weight loss is gratifying. Hiking and walking longer distances (without avoiding the hills!) also serve as great motivators.
If there's one thing these partners know for sure about their journey to better health, it's this: Having a friend committed to the same goals is extremely helpful.
"We're not sure if we would have had the results without each other!"
When Kimberly LaChance won a Beach to Beacon bib from MaineHealth, she was ecstatic.
"Oh my, was I excited!" she said. "But I also knew I had only a few weeks to train for the difficult course."
Kimberly was determined not to just run and finish this race, but also to help others and honor the memory of her husband.
During her first training run, Kimberly decided to raise money for the Grahamtastic Connection, an organization that gives children battling cancer the technology to stay connected with their classrooms and families with laptops, iPads, and robots. It was a cause near and dear to her heart, and she was looking for a way to honor the 10th anniversary of her husband’s death from mesothelioma (a type of cancer caused by asbestos).
“I decided that running to raise money for seriously ill children would be such a positive way to remember my husband.”
Kimberly trained hard all summer, adding miles and hills and running in every condition to further strengthen her mind and body. Her goal was to run every step of the race. As people learned of her determination, she received more donations and encouragement than she ever could have anticipated.
Kimberly joined the 7,000 other runners on race day, ready to face whatever came her way. The course was tough, and the last couple of miles were really challenging. But she reached her goal of running every step, finishing in one hour, eight minutes, and 15 seconds.
“When it was really tough, I thought of the children I was running for, and of how proud my late husband must be.”
Kimberly presented the Grahamtastic Connection with a check for more than $500.
“I am so happy to have challenged my body and myself with this task, and completed it in such a positive way. It made me feel stronger and want to continue new challenges to keep myself healthy.”
Mia lost weight by joining Weight Watchers and a gym. At first she was inspired by her test results. But today, it’s all about how she feels.
“I have more energy than I have in years,” she said. “I never thought I could feel this good.”
Mia admits that before she lost weight, she had a hard time getting off the couch after work. And as someone who struggled with her weight for years, it can still be easy to slip back into old patterns.
“I always remind myself that I can do it.”
Mia’s friends and family motivate her and give her support when she needs it. They tell her how great she looks physically, and Mia credits her new lifestyle with positive emotional changes, too.
Mia believes anyone can live a healthier life.
“We are all in control of our choices,” she said. “And we all deserve to choose better health!”
If your employer encourages and incentivizes you to be fit and healthy, how can you say no? This question helps WOW! Superhero Donna McGrew stay on course with her healthy lifestyle. And being diligent with exercise has never been more important, considering she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010.
“You have to move, move, move to be your healthiest,” she said. “Exercise is very good for MS patients. Both my primary care physician and neurologist support my wellness activities.”
This long-time athlete has taken part in the WOW! program since it started. She credits the Maine Medical Center Impressions Café with helping her make good choices. “The calorie counts on the menu make it easy,” she said.
Donna walks at least three times a day during her shifts. “There are so many places to walk at the medical center. You never have to take the same route,” she said. “Our walks are brisk and short, but we at least get up from our desks and move.”
Besides walking, Donna also bikes—an activity she picked up after turning 50. Her daily routines help prepare her for two events that raise money for MS research.
“Since 2009, I have raised over $100,000.”
Although Donna makes her health a priority, she still faces challenges. She occasionally skips meals while she’s busy at work, which makes keeping healthy snacks nearby a necessity. “The other obstacle is finding the energy to exercise as much as I would like,” she said. “MS fatigue can be a barrier but I work through it. It’s all about determination!”
Donna also counts on her family and friends. “My family members are beyond supportive,” she said, explaining how even her parents, now nearing 90, get involved. Her daughter, Katie, pedals by her side during their two-day MS cycling event.
“Katie’s support and involvement has made such a difference,” she said. “We keep each other pedaling to the finish line.”
Donna encourages anyone interested in improving their health to think about her fundraising motto.
“Keep looking up. If you are looking down, that is where you are headed. Never give up on yourself. You are stronger than you imagined.”
Elizabeth Frechette traded cigarettes for running shoes back in 2010. Since then, the 51-year-old RN from Stephens Memorial Hospital has run more miles than many people do in a lifetime, completing three marathons and 10 half marathons.
Several of her coworkers, including her supervisor, inspired her to hit the pavement. Now she inspires others.
“I love to see and talk with other people trying to get and stay healthy,” she said. “I encourage people to try different activities to find the ones they really enjoy—it’s so much easier to keep going once you find a favorite activity.”
Frechette is thankful to have a supportive community of friends, family, and coworkers. “My husband has been my biggest supporter. He’s gone to every one of my races.”
Finding the time to run isn’t always easy, but finding an activity she loves has made all the difference.
“Running has changed my life,” she said.
Michelle decided to change her life after receiving unhealthy test results in 2016. She started by swimming, walking, and being more active outdoors. Then in May 2017, she had gastric bypass surgery to keep her health moving in the right direction.
Although it has been hard to resist her favorite treats, it’s been worth it. Plus she has the support of her network of friends, who are also taking steps toward improving their health.
“We talk about what works and what doesn’t,” she said. They talk about healthy meals and shakes, as well as what vitamins to take.
Michelle credits her doctor for being informative and supportive of her long-term goals.
“I plan to continue my healthy lifestyle for as long as I live.”
Michelle also offers this advice: “Don’t ever think you’re not worth it. It’s important to stay healthy on the inside and the outside.”
Have you ever felt like you were falling down a spiral staircase with nothing to break your fall? If so, Sallie Sidelinger knows how you feel. But to a new plan for healthy living, she’s dug herself out of this self-described “big hole.”
Her story began when she was diagnosed with a number of health problems, including diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis, and obesity. The first step she took was finding doctors she could relate to.
“Dr. C was very willing to set up referrals to any specialist or dietitian I wanted to see,” she said. “They had encouraging words and suggestions that were useful.”
Sallie also found the online coaching tools available through the WOW! Program to be helpful.
One of the hardest parts of Sallie’s journey was saying goodbye to her favorite junk foods, carbs, and sugars. But what she has gotten in return has been worth it.
“Before this journey, I wasn’t able to walk very far. When I did any activity, I would be so out of breath that I’d need to sit down every 10 or 15 minutes.”
Now this CNAM rides her bike or swims for 45 minutes to an hour a few times a week.
Sallie’s overall health has improved dramatically. Her sleep apnea has improved by 80%, and diabetes is no longer an issue.
“I can go on long walks and climb stairs without being short of breath,” she said. “It’s awesome.”
Like so many of us, Candace Mank often feels stressed. This full-time CNA/CRMA is also full-time caregiver: First to her children, the oldest of which has autism, and to her mother, who was recently diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time. But these challenges motivated Candace to get healthy.
“My kids want a mom that can keep up with them,” she said. “And I want to be that mom!”
Over the last year, Candace has lost 60 pounds—just over a pound a week. Her journey started by consulting a dietitian. She also works with her doctor, who helps her set goals related to improving her health.
Candace is thankful for all the support she receives from her friends and family.
“My husband is my rock. He’s been the best support ever. I also have fantastic friends and coworkers who I lean on daily.”
Candace recently started hiking, and it has quickly become one of her favorite activities to do with her kids. And she’s proud of herself for setting a good example.
“I want to be a positive role model for my kids, family, and friends, so I live life with a huge passion for a healthy lifestyle.”
SuperHero Mom, Joann Kaplan, Gets Healthy for Her Family: LincolnHealth
Joann Kaplan knew she needed to work long enough to put her two kids through college. So the pediatrician from Lincoln Medical Partners made better health a goal, embarking on a fitness and nutrition journey that resulted in losing 40 pounds.
Despite living with chronic knee and foot pain, Dr. Kaplan does a lot of strength training, and gets aerobic activity up to three times per week.
She also follows a healthy eating plan, finding support.through a Facebook group and a nearby friend. Though it’s tough to watch her family eat foods that aren’t on her plan, Dr. Kaplan enjoys eating fresh, local produce from a nearby CSA (community supported agriculture program).
Dr. Kaplan admits her favorite activity is still knitting in front of a movie or playing Settler of Catan with her family. But she knows it’s about balance. And her family is happy to help her out.
"My kids are great about getting themselves together for school so I can go to the gym," she said.
Dr. Kaplan also stays on track by working with her doctor, and seeing her pre-weight loss labs serves as motivation.
"Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels," she said.