The Doctors and Prevention magazine conducted a coast-to-coast search for a person who inspires others to take control of their health. The five finalists showed a commitment to healthy living against all odds and a passion for helping others. Watch their submission videos below!
Paula Bruchhaus, 43, Lake Charles, LA
An elementary school teacher and mother of two, Paula spent more than 35 years trying to shake off her childhood nickname of Stump, which she says she got "because I was short and round." In 2002, she watched her husband slim down by eating better and exercising more and decided it was also time to change. By ditching fast food and running, Paula lost 80 pounds and developed a love of exercise that she's passed along to her students. Paula also started Prien Lake Elementary School's first Running Club. Students are awarded prizes for logging miles, and they have raised $25,000 for charity. Paula has involved the community to support her students and continues to be an inspiration, completing eight marathons and an Ironman triathlon since her incredible weight loss.
Dawn Forgione, 51, Delray Beach, FL
Dawn has suffered multiple health challenges. She had a bad bicycle accident in 2006 while training for a 150-mile charity ride for multiple sclerosis and suffered serious injuries, including 40 stitches to her face. Dawn has also overcome bouts of cervical dysplasia that began in her early 20s; endometriosis that led to multiple surgeries and ultimately a radical hysterectomy at age 41; knee surgery; two recent hip replacements; skin cancer; and breast cancer followed by a lumpectomy and radiation. She credits her resiliency to her healthy lifestyle. Dawn has overcome every obstacle she's faced with strength and grace, while participating in various community and charity events and organizations. Along with co-workers and her local church, Dawn launched an initiative to provide school supplies and other vital items to families in need.
Linda Goff, 42, Rolla, MO
In early 2007, Linda weighed 300-pounds. The working mom of two thought gastric-bypass surgery would be her quick fix. When her insurance company refused to pay for the surgery, she decided to get even heavier to prove the need, until she realized this behavior was destroying her marriage. That realization kicked off an entirely different set of habits. She began hiking and tracking her calories and lost nearly 160 pounds, going from a size 26 to 6. Today, Linda speaks with the weight-loss support group at her local hospital, and she feels better, happier and more energized than she did at age 25 — with her husband by her side.
Kristi Marsh, 39, North Easton, MA
At age 35, Kristi's life suddenly changed when she felt a lump in her breast and learned she had breast cancer. After undergoing nine surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, Kristi emphatically embraced life with her three children. She skated with her daughter after chemotherapy, kayaked with her family just weeks after surgery and camped by the ocean over the summer after she received radiation therapy. She organized a fundraising gala with friends that raised more than $40,000 for charity. Kristi also became amazed with the body's ability to heal itself and started living a chemical-free life. She's joined a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm and started raising hens in her backyard for organic eggs. Kristi also founded an educational organization called Choose Wiser, which empowers women to nurture a fresh, healthy, non-toxic lifestyle through interactive, uplifting workshops.
Chris Word, 52, Los Angeles, CA
Chris was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2005 after he and his doctors overlooked symptoms for years. By the time the cancer was detected, treatment called for major surgery that required removing his sphincter muscle, and lead to a lifetime attached to a colonoscopy bag. Chris, a father of six, kept hope of finding a doctor who would save his quality of life. He went to the best hospital he could find and walked the halls until he found a surgeon who would reconsider his case. After surgery, which removed 18 inches of his colon but kept his sphincter intact, Chris started living a healthy lifestyle. While in the hospital, Chris met numerous pediatric cancer patients who inspired him to start the Lifedriven Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that supports cancer research and treat children battling the disease with trips to Disneyland.