AN INTERVIEW WITH CANCER SURVIVOR, BONNIE ARMSTRONG, FOR THE MY JOURNEY STORY SERIES.
LAC: When did you decide to start making your health a priority (what or whom inspired this decision) and what were your goals?
Bonnie: In 2006, after God had saved me from uterine cancer in 1988 and colon cancer in 2004, I began to feel guilty that I was still living the lifestyle that probably caused the cancer. I weighed almost 250 pounds at 5’1” and knew I was walking death. I decided I needed to show my appreciation to God and show more respect to this vessel (my body) that was loaned to me. My goal was to change my health profile from being pre-diabetic, pre-hypertensive, and morbidly obese.
LAC: How did you get started and what did you do to improve your health?
Bonnie: After not being selected for the Biggest Loser show in 1/ 2006 I went to a weight loss treatment facility in Durham, NC. There I had a 1,200 calorie intake as advised by the nutritionist. I exercised 90 minutes, six days a week. I attended healthy lifestyle seminars and group discussions that helped me to understand my dysfunctional relationship with food and learn strategies for controlling and restructuring my behavior patterns. I also took on the personal challenge of walking the Duke University Trail. It initially took 1 and ¾ hours to do 3 miles. On leaving 2 months later, I ran it in less than 40 minutes.
LAC: How did you stay motivated and what was the biggest challenge?
Bonnie: Wanting to attain certain physical goals like becoming good in group exercise class and being able to ride a 65 mile course for Norton Cancer helped to keep me motivated. I became more educated on just how bad the health profile of an African-American women. This also motivates me to stay on the journey to inspire someone else. My biggest challenge is that I am a food addict and will be one until I die. That’s why it’s so important for me to use the strategies and learned to work with my addiction.
LAC: What positive changes did you see in your life and what did you learn throughout this process?
Bonnie: I have dramatically changed the way I eat and cook. Eating a dish with a vegetable and fruit is a daily must. I use very little oil for cooking but I have significantly increased herbs, spices and balsamic vinegar to be sure everything tastes good. With my changed eating habits and exercising 6 days a week, which has resulted in an 80+lbs total weight loss, my health profile has turned around completely. My doctor tells me my cholesterol and blood pressure are great even though I know I can still continue to lower my weight.
LAC: Final Thoughts? Is there anything else you would like share about your story?
Bonnie: In terms of improving your health, you never reach the destination. It is a lifetime journey. With losing weight and all that I do with exercise at LAC (in Zumba, spinning, weight lifting, kickboxing, and steps). I cannot guarantee that I will not get cancer again. But I can sure guarantee that I am working on reducing my risk factors in appreciation for what God has already done for me. It also is evident that God is continuing to bless me for doing what I should have done long ago because whenever my back is x-rayed my doctor is astonished by my current pain-free level of activity. So with my advanced degenerative disease, herniated discs and spinal stenosis, I am going to keep it rallying for as long as God permits! Maybe I should also note my personal goal for 2016 is to ride 100 miles for the Norton Cancer fund raising benefit ride in September 2016.