For a year and a half, Dawn Forgione has been a picture of health. Given her life history, that would seem to be good enough, but Forgione is aiming higher: She’d like to be the picture of health.
Forgione, a Boca Raton, Fla., real estate agent, is one of five finalists in a contest to anoint "America’s healthiest person." Not that she’s always been so healthy — but that’s exactly the point.
One day last February, Forgione was home watching the CBS talk show "The Doctors" as she recovered from her second hip-replacement surgery. The show was promoting a contest, held in conjunction with Prevention magazine. The goal was to find someone who lives a healthy life, has overcome personal challenges, and is inspirational to others — or, as the contest organizers put it, is "the picture of health."
She was riveted.
"This could be the story of my life," Forgione remembers telling her 24-year-old daughter, who decided to put together a video about her mother and submit it to the contest.
"This woman lives for life," daughter Brittany explained in the video voiceover. There was her mom in the video’s photo montage — snuggling with her kids, dining with good friends at a restaurant, phoning a client from her real estate office.
But there are plenty of other, less-ebullient images in the video: Forgione leaning against a walker, washing dishes at her sink; another photo as she lay stretched out on a hospital gurney; a close-up of her incredibly battered and bruised face.
For someone who always has thought of herself as athletic and health-conscious, Forgione has had to face down a litany of serious illnesses and once suffered horrendous injuries in a bicycle crash.
"These things would happen to me, but I’ve always bounced back real fast," says Forgione, 51 — she’s lost remarkably little time at work because of her history of health problems. It’s a long list.
"Let’s see," she begins. "When I was 22, I had my first bout with cervical dysplasia, a precancerous condition. I had two bouts of that. I had severe endometriosis and had a hysterectomy in my 40s.
"I had ankle surgery, I had knee surgery, I had breast cancer, an early stage of skin cancer and two hip replacements," she explains. "And the bicycle accident."
The bike spill in 2006 was no mere tumble. Forgione ended up with 40 stitches in her face and knocked out some teeth as she was training for a 150-mile fundraising ride for multiple sclerosis.
"I looked like a monster, but I went to work a few days after," she says. "I had this tooth that was knocked loose, and I had to walk around showing a house and holding the tooth in place."
She sold houses throughout her breast-cancer treatments, she says.
"I had to have a lumpectomy and radiation," she says. "I never missed a day of work except the day I had the surgery. Every day, I would go to the gym and I would get radiation and then go to work." …CONTINUED