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April Wellness Hero April Wellness Hero

No Excuses

“If you have a bad day, which happens a lot with chronic illness, you just keep going. If you have the right mindset, your body will follow.” – Rokenia Wells

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Rokenia Wells, CPHT: Pharmacy Infusion Technician II, Berthelsen Main Campus

April 2023

Rokenia could have used her numerous health issues as an excuse to remain sedentary, but instead she used her latest diagnosis as motivation. Refusing to become a statistic, she put her days of junk food and inactivity behind her and turned her health around through skating and other lifestyle changes.

What prompted you to make a lifestyle change?

I have a few health issues, but there’s one that made me want to do a whole lifestyle change. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The same day I decided I had to make a drastic change. I didn’t want to end up needing knee replacement or with hands that don’t work. Instead, I chose to improve my quality of life.

What changes did you make?

The day of my diagnosis, I decided to stop eating junk food. I had never eaten healthy, but after that day I only drank water and ate healthy foods. No more candy, chips, nothing like that. Nothing processed. I quit cold turkey. I cut everything out. Rheumatoid arthritis is about your joints getting inflamed, so I did my research and looked up foods that don’t cause inflammation.

Before I started working out, it took me 30 to 40 minutes to get out of bed because with rheumatoid arthritis, your whole body is just stiff. So, last year I decided to get a personal trainer.

What other health issues do you struggle with?

Other than the rheumatoid arthritis, I have antiphospholipid syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease that causes blood clots. It caused me to have a stroke at 26. I also have noncancerous lung nodules and really bad asthma. I have no padding on the bottom of my feet (scleroderma), so I have to use special support insoles. And I’m allergic to a lot of fruits, and some foods don’t interact well with my medications.

What is your diet and exercise regimen?

I wake up at 3:45 a.m. and eat a banana and drink a liter of water before I go meet my trainer at 5. I cook every morning before I work out. I’ll put some salmon in the air fryer and use my rice cooker to steam vegetables. When I get to work, I eat oatmeal with almond milk, bananas, and strawberries. Then for lunch I’ll have whatever I cooked that morning. I really don’t eat when I come home because I eat lunch so late. That’s Monday through Friday. Sometimes on my lunch break if the weather is nice, I like roller skating in the employee parking lot.

With my trainer, I mostly do HIIT and strength training. Not a lot of cardio. But my trainer and I do a 5k run at Memorial Park every month. I also do boot camp on Saturdays. Sundays are my rest day, but I might go bike riding around the neighborhood. I don’t want my joints to lock up, so I try to use them all every day.

How have your lifestyle changes helped with your health?

My diet has helped in that I basically just eat foods that don’t cause me to have a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up. I’ve lost about 30 pounds at this point, and I want to lose 10 more pounds.

I found that when I started working out that my body was still stiff, but I could achieve more mobility by using the muscles around my joints. Exercise for me is good for my mental health. It helps me take my mind off the pain for a little while, and it helps me redirect the pain into something that’s good for me. It gives endorphins to get through the day.

Also, I used to have to use my asthma pump three times a day. Now I use it maybe once a month.

What’s your advice to others?

You never know what you’re capable until you do it. Never give up. You’re never too old or too young to get healthy.

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