For Mary Celnicker, cardiac rehabilitation has been about healing her mind as much as it has been about healing her heart.
Entering rehab panic-stricken after having emergency bypass surgery at the age of 50, she was overwhelmed with emotions and had no idea what her future would hold.
"My fear level was so high that I couldn't imagine," Celnicker admits. "I was young. I thought I was going to die."
Celnicker's fears were greatly reduced by the support system she received in cardiac rehab, and she quickly gained confidence in her ability to improve her stamina and return to a normal lifestyle.
Exercise alone was not enough for Celnicker, however, as she also needed to deal with her emotions. Upon joining the mindfulness and stress reduction programs offered to cardiac patients, Celnicker learned how to lower her fears and redirect her energy in positive ways.
More than 10 years after entering the program, Celnicker continues to practice alternative medicine and instructs some of the UW Health Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes. She truly believes that dealing with emotions is essential to lifelong happiness.