Step by step is how Maha Chehayeb achieved her goal of becoming more physically active despite health issues.
She was told by her family doctor, Dr. Rafi Husain that she needed to lose weight before considering knee surgery related to advanced arthritis. Her medical history also includes diabetes, high blood pressure and a large abdominal hernia.
“I tried to do some exercise. I was scared to lose my balance and break something. It was so hard to walk for me. It’s painful,” says Maha.
Through her primary care nurse, Janice McNeil, who is based at Heritage Lane Medical Clinic with Dr. Husain, Maha was referred to a primary care dietitian, Danielle Neumann, and exercise specialist Sandra Stabel, all members of the Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network (PCN) team.
Maha finds that the hernia and hip pain affect how she walks and often has to use a cane. But Sandra still encouraged her to walk, even if it meant taking a few steps at first.
Maha, 62, also became motivated after suffering from a painful bowel obstruction that sent her to the hospital and she discovered if she didn’t start moving, she would have more obstructions in the future. So Maha set a goal to show Sandra how much she could walk over the summer.
“The first day my youngest daughter walked with me. She would hold me on my arm because it was so hard. But I’m very independent and stubborn when I put my head into something so I will do it,” says Maha.
She adds if it was her choice, she wouldn’t walk.
“I said to myself, ‘If that’s what will help me, I will try it’.”
She started walking only one block while in pain and felt like she was walking like a duck. But she was determined not to give up. Each time she went for a walk, she added 10 more steps. She set a goal of reaching 10,000 steps a day. Now she walks to the grocery store and gets to 8,000 or 9,000 steps a day.
“I love to reach 10,000. I try my best to do it,” says Maha.
She began to notice that she was losing weight and made another lifestyle change – how she was eating. She stopped eating bread, desserts, chicken and beef and focused on seafood, beans and vegetables.
During a visit with her doctor, he found that her diabetes had improved.
“The doctor was so happy. I feel great. I have less pain. Every day I get up and look forward to walking. It’s like an addiction. It gives me this high,” she says.
Maha is very grateful for the help she received from her family doctor and other members of the PCN health team.
“I could not have done it on my own,” she adds.