"The Picture of Health"
She’s not just a pretty face and a “Picture of Health” finalist. Even a full length movie couldn’t keep up with Eileen Friedman and document all of what has created her inspirational healthy appearance. Joining ten other women who were chosen by ABC and Prevention Magazine from thousands of “healthy” women, Eileen didn’t need this recent recognition to feel like a winner. “I’m in the grateful mode every day,” she reveals. But she also cautions, “What you see is not always what you get. Health is not only the outside; it’s the inside. It’s your life.”
You can most always find Eileen in action– running, climbing a pyramid in Mexico, pushing a car, playing tennis, shopping at Whole Foods. All ambitious, admirable, and indeed healthy living for anyone, but for Eileen it’s a way of empowering herself over her Multiple Sclerosis. For eight years Eileen has been beaten down and suffered the immobilizing pain of MS. But for Eileen, MS stands for “Mean Something”, and she takes each step of her life –whether running, walking, or lying down, with meaning and appreciation.
She has faced her MS head-on since being diagnosed by continuing to do healthy things for herself and, especially for others. She raised $24,000 in an email campaign for the MS society. Eileen can only move in one direction around obstacles –up. When the 2004 NY Marathon refused to train her, she found the beloved Achilles Foundation who sponsored her as they do other disabled athletes. Eileen credits Achilles Foundation Tricia Meili, the Central Park Jogger, with giving her three important words that she carries everywhere, “I did it,” said now each time she crosses a finish line. And with every small achievements, somewhere, somehow another special person comes in to her life who will lead her to the next triumph.
Eileen confides about her appearance “it’s not a pretty picture every day when MS takes me out. But I never forget the low points to know how to always appreciate the beauty of the new day, just to breathe, feel the wind, go outside.” Eileen gets there with her cheer for everyone, “Come on, let’s all go, make it mean something, healthy inside, healthy out. Don’t wait for an illness to get healthy, you have a say, you matter, and there is no greater gift to yourself than to live healthy.”
Adopting Eileen’s appreciation of life’s beauty is inspiring and empowering. Her work with the Achilles Foundation reminds us of the power and richness of helping others and of being helped. For Eileen it’s about accomplishing what you can, because you can. -DUO