As a nurse practitioner at Tahlequah’s W.W. Hastings Hospital, Cherokee Nation citizen Lori Enlow knows the toll chronic illness can take on a person. Her work in the Internal Medicine department means she regularly cares for patients battling debilitating diseases and trying to manage conditions that diminish their quality of life and leave them physically and emotionally exhausted.
So, when Enlow was diagnosed with diabetes two-and-a-half years ago, she knew she had to take charge of her health right away.
“You feel fine with diabetes. You don’t typically feel bad unless your diabetes is severe or the damage is already done,” said Enlow, 38. “I knew I wanted to be there for my children and see my grandchildren. I don’t want my children to have to take care of me because I didn’t take care of myself.”
When she was a child, Enlow watched her father stay fit with a regular running routine. As a teenager, she laced up her sneakers to join her dad as a casual runner. It was not until her diagnosis as a diabetic that Enlow became serious about running.
“With my children as my motivation, I knew I had to make changes in my diet and lifestyle–it was no longer optional,” said Enlow.
Once she determined to make her own physical fitness a priority, Enlow created a routine that combines her desire to manage her condition with her role as a busy wife, mother of three young children and full-time health care provider. For Enlow, that meant changing her habits–and her schedule–to make more time to exercise.
“About the only time I have to devote is early morning,” said Enlow. “I get less sleep now than ever before, but I feel so much better.”
Today, Enlow rises at 4 a.m. in order to run between five and 12 miles per day, six days a week. Despite the grueling early morning regimen, Enlow insists she feels more energized than ever.
“I feel better, have more energy than I really ever have had in my life,” she says. “I have more energy and get better sleep.”
With her routine firmly established, Enlow set her sights on a new, more ambitious goal. At the urging of friend and running partner Lisa Pivic, Enlow began training for the challenging Midnight Madness Road Race, a 50-mile “ultra marathon” held in Tulsa each summer. After four months of training, Enlow completed the race in just over 10 hours.
The accomplishment of completing the 50-mile race served to motivate her to tackle an even bigger challenge. She entered in the 100-mile Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd race that took place the weekend of October 15-16 at the J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve near Tahlequah. While her health and overall well-being first spurred Enlow’s commitment to running, she has adopted an even bigger goal to help get her pass the 100-mile mark.
“I decided I needed more motivation to get across the finish line than just for myself,” Enlow says.
With the loss of her father-in-law not long ago, Enlow enlisted the support of friends and family to help raise funds in his memory.
“He suffered from liver disease, and was a transplant recipient,” she explained. “I am going to raise funds for the national foundation for transplants. [It’s] easy to quit when it’s just me I’m doing this for.”
The foundation aids transplant patients with the cost of care following surgery, particularly the expensive but essential anti-rejection medications. Enlow invites others to support the foundation and her efforts to raise awareness. She has posted more information and updates her progress on her Facebook page titled “100 miles for life.”
Enlow admits the changes she has made have not come easily, but the rewards have been immeasurable. Today, her diabetes is in remission and she attests to feeling better than ever. Her efforts demonstrate the power that each patient has to make changes in their own life.
“You have the power to control your health,” said Enlow. “It’s all about what the patient does–when it comes right down to it, it is all about diet, lifestyle. Think about why you are doing this. Look at the people around you, the people who are affected by you and do it for them too.”
Lori Enlow’s Tips for Healthy Lifestyle and Nutrition Choices:
- Make “a mental switch”—Determine what changes you must make. Make those things a priority. When the desire to quit or eat a donut creeps in your brain, tell yourself “it’s not an option” and leave it at that. Replace that thought with mental images of your children, your family, whatever it is that motivated you to change in the first place.
- Remove barriers to a healthy lifestyle—Plan ahead for healthy meals and snacks, and schedule in time for physical activity, just like an appointment. Get others on board and secure the support of your family. They may be reluctant at first, but everyone will feel better.
- Make nutrition the easy choice—Commit to healthier eating. Engage the expertise of a dietician. The Enlow’s eliminated all “junk” and sugar, including as many processed foods as possible. “I ask myself if it is good for my body before I eat it.”
- Make it a family effort—Some changes are difficult to implement without the support of the entire family. It can be hard to choose fresh fruits and veggies when processed foods are around, so make the changes universal. The Enlows believe that they are modeling healthy choices that will serve their children well for a lifetime.