After suffering a stroke in 2015, Rev. Stefanie Minatee was feeling low. She couldn’t move her left side. She couldn’t even get out of bed. Minatee, who is a minister and the artistic director and founder of the Grammy-award winning choir, Jubilation, wasn’t sure what was next.

What she did know was this: she hadn’t been taking care of herself. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1997 but ignored her doctor’s advice for more than a decade, making no changes to her life or her diet. She thought she was invincible. Lying in that hospital bed in 2015, she realized how far from the truth that was. Faced with her new reality, she became despondent.

“When I became ill I went into a state of denial, and I really didn’t want to talk to people. I just shut down, personally. I didn’t want to preach, didn’t want to share my faith with anyone. I just became an isolated person, stricken with a disease, and I had no knowledge of what was going on with me. I had many questions, but I didn’t really want the answers. I just kind of wanted to fade away,” says Minatee.

Her faith, she says, helped to bring her back. She had what she calls an epiphany and knew she had to share this experience.  “I had to share this experience with other people and help to make the world a better place through what happened to me,” she says. “I was able to draw on faith, and after that day, I began to perk up. I began to realize there was a reason for me to still be here.”

But she knew faith alone wasn’t enough. In order to spread the word, she needed to feel healthy and strong. And for that, she relied on the help of a team of health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, and therapists to improve her habits and her health. In her sessions with a psychotherapist, she talked about her challenges with food and issues from childhood that she says were holding her back. And she began participating in occupational and physical therapy.

She also began taking an active role in making her own healthy choices. She says she cut sugar, salt, and starches from her diet and started drinking only water rather than sugary beverages. Between her work and the help of her health care team, she lost 100 pounds. 

Through it all, she learned how to better manage stress, too. “Whenever I come across things that are stressful, I just take a breath, I wait, I think about what I’m dealing with, and then I think about how I’m going to handle it,” she says. “I don’t move fast anymore. I just take each day as it comes.” Singing in her choir, she says, also helps to relieve stress because it’s something that she loves to do and it connects her to her faith. 

When Minatee looks back on the last 4 years since her stroke, she’s grateful for all of the health care providers who have helped her get to where she is today. And she’s grateful for her faith, because it’s given her the strength to keep moving forward 1 day at a time.  

“We have to be happy for whatever state that we’re in, knowing that we can get better each day” she says.

For those who are struggling, she offers these words: Be thankful for every moment you have. “Every day is a gift,” she says. “That’s why they call it the present.”

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