Seven years ago, when Angela Mimms was 46 years old, she was diagnosed with lymphedema, a condition causing swelling in a limb. For Mimms, it was her right leg.
Although Mayo Clinic says the condition is most commonly caused by impact on the lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment, Mimms was fortunate not to have had cancer.
"It's when your lymphatic system doesn't function properly in moving bodily fluids," she explains.
After her diagnosis, the Oak Hill resident had surgery to remove blood clots in her leg, repair a vein, and implant a stent.
A doctor also directed her to wear compression pants at all times, except when showering, to help mimic the body's natural blood flow.
"I was disheartened," she says. "It changed my outward appearance. I couldn't wear open-toed shoes because of the full-foot compression hose.
"I felt like everyone was looking at me. I couldn't walk up and down stairs without it hurting."
She remembers not even being able to get up or down from the floor without help.
"I couldn't do normal things without hurting. I couldn't walk for more than 15 minutes."
But as the new year began, Mimms decided she was going to do everything she could to turn her life around.
She applied Jan. 1 to the LA East Fitness "Emergency Plan," a free, 60-day program including facility access, workout plans, meal plans and coaching for women weighing more than 200 pounds and men weighing more than 280 pounds.
"I said to myself, 'You've got to get to a point you can do normal things.'"
Three days later, LA East owners David and Cyndie Chinn welcomed Mimms to the program.
"They said, 'You'll be able to do a burpee and a squat.' I said, 'What the heck is a burpee?'" Mimms says with a laugh. "I had never seen a rower (rowing machine) until I came in here, and it was the first time I experienced one."
Armed with a nutrition plan and a three-day-per-week workout schedule, Mimms began her journey. The first 60 days were not easy, she says, but the Chinns encouraged her to keep going.
Admittedly, her eating habits were horrible. She says she was "a Dr. Pepper addict," and hooked on sugars and carbs.
"If you want to be healthy, it's not a diet. It's a lifestyle change," she recites. "That's what David and Cyndie have drilled in our heads."
As she's learned from the Chinns, being healthy comes primarily (90 percent) from what you eat, secondarily (10 percent) from activity.
Six months later, Mimms is 50 pounds lighter and a whole lot happier.
"Exercise has helped tremendously," she shares. "It's called functional fitness. I can bend down and get in the floor now. When I realized I could, I was so excited. I can change the light bulb on the motion sensor outside."
She asks, "Is it challenging? Yes, it is. But this program has given me hope."
She finds herself not only meeting but exceeding her goals. She's now up to a 350-meter row; 10-pound weight balls; 125-pound bench press; and a 275-pound dead lift.
David says Mimms is a new person now — mentally and physically.
"She actually motivates the trainers and coaches due to her success," he shares.
He invites Mimms to speak to new group participants, to share her story.
"He put me on the spot one day," she recalls. "He said, 'Angela, share your story.' Well, I'm a single mom trying to make it through.
"When I look at what I have to deal with, and see what other women have to deal with ... when I hear them say, 'I can't do it,' yes. Yes, you can.
"If I can do it, anybody can do it."
For more information, visit laeastfitness.net and click "Emergency Plan."
— Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren