Wellness is the state of being healthy. This includes mental and spiritual health on top of being physically healthy. Wellness is, in fact, the goal behind all the efforts of promoting health and disease prevention. It includes fitness, optimal nutrition, and social and emotional health.

This month we want to introduce you to an example of wellness, Gaby Gutierrez. She is an example of the kind of person we should think of when we look at ourselves with the end in mind. She represents an advanced stage of wellness, one that is rarely seen in our area where health is a major issue.

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF WELLNESS?

Happiness. You are the happiest when you are the most well. It comes from a balance of health.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE?

First, as a cancer survivor, I maintain all my regular checkups, and even though I’m not at the recommended age to have regular mammograms, because of my health history, I’m starting to get them. Of course I get my yearly Pap, as every woman should do. And like any other aspect of health, I see my dentist regularly. I’m a Zumba instructor, which keeps me physically active, and the days that I don’t teach, I train with weights. And I maintain healthy diet. Of course I love junk food, but I limit that to the weekends when I go out. I don’t buy it at the store so I don’t have the temptation.

DO YOU FOLLOW A SPECIFIC DIET TO KEEP YOUR BODY IN SHAPE?

No, I just keep in mind that it’s all about balance. During the week I incorporate fruits and veggies in every meal, no sodas. I don’t eat red meat or anything fried; chicken and fish are always grilled. I love chocolate, though, so I keep my sugar-free chocolate snacks in the house. On the weekends I’ll go have  a burger with fries, small portions of course, and ice cream is in small cups. You have to enjoy life, and food is part of it, but you have to have balance. You have to be healthy. I have survived cancer and I have to do whatever I can to keep from getting sick, because I’ll need my strength if the cancer should ever return.

DO YOU HAVE ANYBODY SPECIAL IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU ESPECIALLY LOOK UP TO?

Yes, and it’s very difficult to pick just one. They all represent a special part of my life. I try to surround myself with those who help me become better. In short words, my father—what I admired is his honesty; my mom always strives to become better mentally; my sisters are my best friends; and my husband is always learning—he’s 45 and has decided to learn to play the drums! He is the one who encourages me every day to be a better person.

HOW DO YOU KEEP IN BALANCE THE SPIRITUAL, MENTAL, AND PHYSICAL ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE?

It begins with a healthy diet, exercise, and regular medical checkups. Mentally I’m surrounded by people who support positive mental health. I try not to listen to negative people because it’s very unhealthy. Instead, I try to only listen to positive people. Spiritually I believe that there is a strong divine presence influencing everything. Each day I strive to nurture my spirituality by practicing values that are very important to me, such as tolerance, love, and giving, and I appreciate each day that I am given and recognize how fortunate I am. I am very lucky that my cancer diagnosis came early; others are not so fortunate. That’s how I know how important it is to appreciate everyday life regardless of what you believe in. It’s also important to show gratitude to the people around you because they get your vibe, if it’s positive or negative. We are responsible for what we project to others.

WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER THE WORST MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?

Believe it or not, it was not when I was diagnosed with cancer. It was when my sister almost died. We were in Reynosa, where I’m from, and she developed a condition that caused her body to bleed without secession; her blood would not coagulate. Over in Mexico you have to find the blood. There is none in storage as there is here in the US. People have to donate it. We were pressed for time. It was difficult to find donors in the short period of time that we had. But we were able to find enough donors, and my sister survived. Our family is very united and it was due to that closeness that I overcame the situation.

HEALTHY ADVICE

_______________________

Because I am so aware of cancer, it really bugs me when people tell me “Why should I take care of myself if I can get cancer anyway?” I myself was not a cancer risk—good family history, healthy diet—but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to avoid things that put me at risk. I know that my chances for recovery from cancer or any other illness will be higher because I have been maintaining a high quality life. When you’re already very healthy, recovery is better should you fall victim to an ailment. Don’t take your health for granted. Don’t be negligent with your health. Not to mention that it’s cheaper when you catch it early than late.