In 11 days on October 13, 2016, I will mark the five-year anniversary of my STEMI. Five years since my reality of healthy privilege was shattered. Honestly, as I was laying in the hospital five years ago, my world as I knew it imploded and I didn’t think I’d actually live another five years. At the time, the diagnosis of STEMI and heart disease felt like a death sentence. I was only 42, how was this all possible?
The mistake I made at the time was trying to look five years out and not looking at today for today. It was the way I was used to living–always living in the future and not stopping for today. As I started to live one day at a time, heart disease became manageable. I did the things I needed to do to make sure I lived one more day each day.
As I am farther and farther away from the heart attack, it is less scary and I do less of the things that are good for me. As a result, I weigh 30 pounds more than I did when I had my heart attack. It is the last hurdle to really good health. As the five-year anniversary has approached, I have realized the importance of coming back into the mindset of doing the things I need to do day by day and not looking at it in a long-term light. What do I need to do today? When I do that, the results are immediate. I am down 5 pounds in the last two weeks. I have 68 more pounds to go which seems like a lot but not a lot when you look at each day as its own.
This last year, as you can tell by my limited number of blog posts, I have come to a point in my life where STEMI does not define me. Being a heart attack survivor defined me in the beginning and that was a good thing. I took it and spoke publicly on women and heart disease and I shared my story. I worked with the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women educating women. It is important work and I spent a lot of time doing it. I developed some friendships I will always have with other survivors of heart disease and stroke. I cherish those. I honestly can’t imagine what my life would be like without them.
I have educated my friends and family and get Facebook messages often when someone is in the ER. They were having chest pain or jaw pain and thought of me so they sought medical attention. I want my friends and family to always seek medical attention and I am happy that I am the reason. Being open about my experience and reminding people at least once a week on Facebook is still important to me. They Go Red with me on National Wear Red Day every year and it is quickly coming up again!
It is an important mission, it is just not quite as important that I am on the front line of the fight anymore. I have made changes to my life such as stepping out of the corporate world. I miss it though. I find that the five-year anniversary makes me feel like I am going to live. I find that it is time to re-asses some of the changes I have made and redirect again. I feel hopeful and feel like although this is something that is still a part of my life, it isn’t going to get me any time soon! With that feeling I can look forward to growing older and celebrating each birthday. I never feel bad about getting older, I always feel happy to have the chance to have another birthday. I get the chance to attend 30 year high school reunions for both Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission South next summer. I look forward to those things and cherish them.
My friends, take care of yourselves. Make sure you know the signs and symptoms of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Go to the doctor and know your numbers–cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. Do this in celebration of the five-year anniversary of my STEMI and do this so that I get to cherish my friendship with you for a long time to come!