All of our advocates are important to us, and their advocacy actions go a long way in advancing our policy. We are excited to introduce you to Gail Mates, advocate extraordinaire, who is active in Virginia and Washington, DC, and passionate about a variety of issues across the Mid-Atlantic. In her own words, Gail shares her story and why advocacy has been important to her.
I spent most of my life watching heart disease strike family members.
Both grandfathers died of heart attacks, my father suffered from several and even my mother had an enlarged heart and hypertension that made her susceptible. When my father had a stroke, I witnessed firsthand the depression and fear that he felt. It was heart wrenching to watch.
In my own life, health issues were mounting. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, diabetes, sleep apnea, esophagus surgery and a metabolic syndrome were just a few of the hurdles I faced. I was digging my grave with a knife and fork!
I knew my life was going downhill, but nurturing was something I did for others, not myself. It wasn’t until my daughter pled with me to make a change that I finally listened. My daughter told me through tears that I was killing myself and that she wanted me to be here for her children.
Diet was the first area I tackled. I began eating ‘live’ foods, shopping on the outside of the grocery store instead of the inner aisles of canned and boxed foods. Exercise came slower, but it was the pace I wanted to set because I knew that doing too much, too soon would backfire. I started with 5 minutes of exercise a week and was soon able to fulfill my dream of completing a 5k run - and the following year I completed a 10k!
65 pounds lighter, I am changing my heart every step of the way. My diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, sleep apnea, and esophagus are all great now! I don’t make excuses; I just do what I need to do. If it’s snowing outside and I can't get to the gym, I simply walk around my home. Where there is a will, you can find a way. I recently found out I have a slight blockage in my widow maker. My cardiologist said that I am saving my life everyday with my lifestyle changes.
There’s one thing that keeps me going – the smile on my daughter’s face. I plan to be here for a long, long time!
Gail has championed many issues, and is currently advocating to increase the cigarette tax in the District of Columbia. You’re the Cure is a stronger network because of her!