I’m 52, and last year I was diagnosed with dysautonomia, a condition affecting the body’s autonomic nervous system. My symptoms were debilitating: I had chest pain, tremors, and high blood pressure. I got dizzy and walking from the kitchen to the bedroom was an ordeal — I felt like I’d run a marathon. It was hard to eat without feeling sick. It was scary for me and my whole family: my wife, Rebecca, and our three sons Elijah, Julian, and David.

After seeing multiple doctors, I was referred to the Mayo Clinic.

They did a series of tests and I was prescribed medication, which helped stabilize my condition and alleviate my symptoms; I was blessed to find the right medical team, but I was still very weak. My neurologist told me to start moving slowly and get regular exercise. I needed support and motivation, and I downloaded the Thrive app.

I started with a Microstep, moving my body every day.

I love tennis, but I knew I couldn’t just get up and suddenly play again, so I began slowly. I’d been advised that practicing gentle martial arts, specifically Tai Chi, would be great for my condition, so I found five-minute videos for beginners. At first I did very basic movements in bed, and I felt the benefits right away. 

Tai Chi helped me to relax, focus on my breathing, and relieve my anxiety. 

After a while, I started practicing Tai Chi sitting up. After a couple of weeks I was on my feet doing a 30-minute routine. I like it because I can feel the connection with my body and mind. Every breath is liberating.

Soon I was able to walk around the house as I got a little stronger.

I began doing activities like washing dishes and vacuuming, which I couldn’t do for a long time. It felt great to contribute to household chores again. And at work, I found I could walk to meetings, which felt like an accomplishment.

Once I had more stamina, it was time to get back into sports.

I rejoined my pickleball group. I have the energy to keep up now, and pickleball is great fun. For me it’s not just about the game, it’s all about the community. I look forward to playing every Wednesday and Saturday with about 20 guys. I feel a lot of gratitude towards these people; we’re a family. Tennis has always been my main sport and my passion and I feel hopeful that soon I’ll be able to play again. 

I also started eating well, which was important to improve my symptoms. 

I focus on natural food that’s low in sodium and I eliminated fast food from my diet. One of my favorite meals to cook is fresh organic chicken sautéed in olive oil with garlic and onions, and seasoned with paprika. It’s delicious. When everyone’s at home, we’ll have family dinners and play board games.

My well-being journey has given me more empathy.

I’m listening to people and focusing on compassion and connection. I often chat with a lady on the front desk at the dealership where I take my car to be serviced. She knows what I’ve been through and has always been very kind. Recently, when we were talking, she told me she has very serious cancer. So now I’m checking up on her and showing her that I care. I know how important it is to be kind and sensitive to others.

I’m focusing on gratitude. 

I’m grateful to my family. They’ve helped me become more resilient. I’m getting healthier every day and I view each day as a gift. Some days life felt so hard, but every time I wanted to throw in the towel, I kept reminding myself about my beautiful family. Rebecca and I just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. We went out for dinner and I felt blessed. Wealth isn’t to do with a lot of money for me; being rich is the ability to walk and breathe and be with my kids.

— Juan Mayo, Home Office #01-9102, Bentonville, AR; $5K Winner