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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

February is fast approaching.  The ‘red’ month… and I don’t mean Valentine’s Day. 

It’s a fantastic thing that a whole month is dedicated to raising heart disease awareness.  Anytime attention is focused on an issue that affects millions of people, it is a worthy cause. 

Overall, much is being done to spotlight what can be done to prevent heart disease.  Heard this one before?  ‘Check your numbers’; ‘Exercise regularly’; blah blah blah.  It would seem that the only awareness being raised is on how best to avoid it.

Since we don’t have that option, what we need now is information on how best to live with heart disease. 

Come To Terms

There.  I said it.  It’s like anything in life; you win some, you lose some.  So what if I have heart disease.  Everybody has something to contend with.  What’s important is how you view it.  Does it define you?  Or, by living your life the best you can, do you conquer it?

 Challenge Yourself

Mentally, not physically.  That’s a given.  Truth be told, I spent the better half of the day in bed.  However, the other half of the day was spent doing the things I love most.  What is it that you love to do most?  Stop to think before you answer.  Sometimes the more profound realizations come when you are quiet enough to hear them.

 Continue To Learn

The beauty of the Internet is that it continues to evolve.  Six years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find anything on the Internet regarding Microvascular Heart Disease.  That is beginning to change.  So, we need to change.  We need to continue to read and to research and to learn all we can about our condition.  You never know… perhaps we can, in some small way, dictate the direction of our care.

 Stretch Forward

Like a cat waking up from a nap.  Your condition might be static, but you don’t need to be.  Expand your horizons.  Volunteer.  Take a course.  Read that book you’ve been meaning to.  Remember, its the small victories that add to the richness of your life. 

Make this a February to remember.  Join the most important cause imaginable… yours.

 

 

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For women, the symptoms of a heart attack are very different from men.  Dr. Smolens, Director of the Women’s Heart Center at Banner Heart Hospital explains:

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‘Heart Disease’.  With these two words, the lives of millions of women are changed in an instant.

While there is a sense of relief in knowing why your heart hurts, it is impossible to predict how this knowledge will affect your life.

Beyond the questions lie the reality that your life has taken a dramatic turn.  Although chronic by nature, your viewpoint of your condition doesn’t have to be.  It would seem, though, that this is a lesson best learned in retrospect.

20/20

As in ‘hindsight is’.  I’ve always thought this to be a strange saying.  It suggests that looking back is the only way to see if your chosen path was correct.  It makes sense, I guess.  Looking behind is the best vantage point from where to view the road ahead.  Only from this perspective can we know if we’ve made the best use of our knowledge and time.  This is the place where changes can be made and attitudes can be adjusted. 

Panoramic View

If you’ve seen ‘Pride and Prejudice’, you’ll recognize this scene:  She stands on a precipice, wind blowing in her face, clouds float by intermittently shading her closed eyes.  When she opens them, she has made a decision; one that she sees only now; now that she’s found time to stop and see where life has taken her.  Though probably not the best time to mediate as she is standing on a cliff. 

 Stepping Back From The Edge

Taking a moment to meditate on the past year has brought me to some astounding conclusions.  First and most importantly, I’m not alone.  While the numbers already suggest that, it’s the stories we share with one another that count most.  Secondly, the decisions we now make matter absolutely.  Will be chose to learn and share and live our lives or will we waste the time we’ve been given. 

While heart disease may be in your future, how you get there is your choice.

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What’s worse; suspecting you have heart disease or knowing for certain that you do?

If you answered that fear lies more in suspicion, you’d have research to back you up.  But do we really need research to tell us what we already know?

Stating the Obvious

Congratulations, Science!  Another fine example of useless information disguised as ‘research’.  It’s ridiculous to think that good money was spent researching what we already know to be true.  Of course we fear the unknown; especially when it comes to our health.  When something goes wrong, we turn to a doctor.  We ask questions.  When answers don’t come, our minds run wild.  Then we question ourselves.  “What is causing this?  Can they operate?  Am I going to die?”   

Deliver Answers; Not Sound Bites

Anymore it seems that we, Joe Patient, need to rely more on ourselves than our doctor.  While it is true that no doctor can be completely versed in all-things heart disease, one would hope that they could recognize their own limitations. 

We read so much about heart disease; how stress contributes to it, how blood pressure affects it.  But it’s what we do with the information that defines us.  Do we allow what we read to embolden us or lull us into quiet complacency?  Do we rely too heavily on the ‘professionals’ out there or do we take a more proactive approach to our health?  Are we waiting for them to make it right?

Stop Waiting

So much of our time is spent waiting.  We wait for appointments.  We wait for test results.  We wait for answers.  Waiting takes your power away and places it in the hands of someone who doesn’t have chest pain like you do.

An ancient proverb states that ‘Expectation postponed is making the heart sick’. 

Waiting is a luxury your heart doesn’t have.

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If asked if the current state of your heart disease is acceptable, how would you answer?

It’s a tough one; I know.  Just yesterday I was asked this very question.  “If, when we first met, your chest pain and quality of life was terrible, 10 being terrible, what number would you assign your quality of life now?” asked my super-hero of a doctor, Dr. Bairey-Merz.

Looking her straight in the face, I responded, “That’s a tough thing to quantify”.

How do you assign a number to the quality of your life?  Of course, I understood the question.  I realized that she needed a figure to determine where I am on my journey.  How else is she to know what to try next. 

Leaning back in my chair, I looked down at my hands and fiddled with my ring.  Slowly raising my eyes, I assigned a number to my life. 

“I estimate my quality of life currently to be a 3”.  Her face relaxed a bit, but I saw no smile.  “About 75% better than when we first met; would you agree?” she asked. 

That’s when it occurred to me.  Her face gave her away.  This was the best it would ever be.

The Best Compared To What?

Every six weeks I visit my wonderful doctors.  With each passing week, however, something very interesting has happened.   My visits with both Dr. Bairey-Merz and the fabulous Dr. Margo Minissian focus more on managing my condition and less on curing me.  ‘Curing me’….  Only now am I beginning to realize how stupid I was to think that I would be cured.  After all, I have Microvascular heart disease.  You can’t operate on the tiny vessels around your heart. 

Why Compare?

I know my life will not be returning to the old ‘normal’.  To be sure, 75% better is better than 0% better.  Even still, the problem isn’t so much in the number assigned to my quality of life as in having to assign a number. 

It’s hard not to compare.  But remember; comparisons do one of two things; they either make you feel bad because others have it better than you or make you feel better because others have it worse than you.  Either way you lose.

So, I will stop comparing my current self to my old self.  I will stop comparing what I could do then to what I can do now.  I’ll stop comparing — period. 

Call it a compromise if you will.  But life is worth living.  Nothing compares to that.

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Surrounded by amazing people everywhere I looked, it was one woman I met while at the Women’s Conference that affected me deeply.

I was milling around the EmpowHER booth as I was to be interviewed by the lovely Michelle King-Robson, CEO of EmpowHER.  As I was standing there, watching the crew arrange the set, a woman approached the booth.

She must have mistaken me for an employee of EmpowHER because she asked, “What an interesting idea for a booth!  What does this company do?”

Feeling like part of the family, I responded, “Well, let me tell you!” With that I began to tell her of all the wonderful things EmpowHER has done, and will continue to do, for people on it’s website.

I detailed the ‘Ask A Health Question’ aspect of the site and told her how it helped me.  We talked about the interesting concept of hosting a live Health and Wellness TV Program and I told her of the professionals being interviewed.  I then mentioned that I was to be interviewed shortly in their segment about heart health.  She was intrigued.  That’s when the conversation turned personal.

What Brings You Here?

“Heart disease!”  The look of shock could be seen a mile away.  Although she didn’t say it, I could see it in her eyes.  Somehow, she understood.  And then she began to say; “I lost two close friends of mine to heart disease.  It’s a terrible thing.” 

Standing maybe five feet tall, a rolling bag behind her, I was amazed to learn that this vibrant woman had lupus.   I was shocked!  She seemed so healthy.  I asked her about her condition, as I was unaware as to what it all meant.  Slowly she explained, “I have a difficult time breathing.  Most days I have to use oxygen”.  She told me of how she has good days and bad.  How family members almost get it and of the incredulous looks she gets from onlookers when she uses her disability placard. 

A Universal Truth

I tried to prepare myself for any contingency at this conference.  The idea of being interviewed in front of a live audience, being star-struck by meeting Michelle King-Robson and the sheer size of the conference.  In all of that, I found myself completely taken with this wonderful lady who happened to be passing by.

Her story is my story.  No matter what the condition, we all face the same challenges.  Although I can’t remember her name (thanks, stupid Lipitor), I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to meet such a courageous person. 

It’s a big world out there.  Don’t forget to focus on who’s right in front of you.  It might change your life.

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When I was diagnosed with heart disease in 2007, it took me a while before I could wrap my head around it.  While I was glad to finally know what was wrong, I was completely overwhelmed as to what it all meant.

Overcome by feelings of worry and fear, I started to panic.  With these thoughts swirling through my head, my darling husband suggested that I write them all down.  I’ll never forget what he said that day in December, “Perhaps your story could help other women who suffer from heart disease”.

On December 6, 2009, I began Rebecca’s Heart.

It surprised me to learn how many women are in the dark about heart disease.  I’ve heard from dozens of women who were thrilled to learn that they weren’t alone.  So many with strange symptoms that doctors passed over for stress; so many survivors of bypass or multiple heart attacks; some at a very young age.

Apparently my little blog with just over 3000 hits is making a difference.

Now, I need your help.

I am proud to say that I am involved with EmpowHER’s 1000Women Campaign.  Through the 1000Women campaign, EmpowHER is recruiting 1,000 women who will then each tell 1,000 women about this campaign. The goal is to create the biggest movement for women’s health and wellness in recent history!

Please support this fantastic event by clicking here.  My story can be found under ‘Rebeccaheart’.  If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me.  If you think others would benefit from it, please pass it on.

When the goal of contacting 1,000,000 women is reached, EmpowHER will donate $50,000 towards women’s health research, and YOU will have had everything to do with that!

Thank you for adding your voice to a very worthy cause.

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