Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Just what the doctor ordered!  Two weeks of glorious this:

It is fablous! A fabulous chance to truly check out of work (which research says is the highest stress on my heart) and check out of Kansas (which after record lows will be over 100 degrees today--so for those of you that ask why Florida in July, it is not 100 degrees!).  When I check out of Kansas, I try to check out of heart patient.

I TRY to check out of  heart patient.  Even though I say to myself I am going to step out of it, eat what I want and not worry about my salt, cholesterol or such, the truth is that it is never far from my mind.  In everything I do, every day in life, it is never far.  I blame myself for some of this because I have chosen to educate other women and I have chosen to advocate for funds for research so some day other women do not have to worry about heart disease and stroke .  Some days when I am reading the grim statistics on my chances for a second heart attack, cardiac arrest or stroke because I have already suffered and survived the widowmaker, I wonder if it is worth my personal stress to be so outspoken. With all I know about the signs and symptoms, would I recognize and survive again?

On days when I wonder if it is worth my personal stress, I think of all of the amazing women I have met that are survivors too and I know that despite it all, I would not want to be without these ladies in my life--each one beautiful and amazing and with an equally intriguing story.  Each one of them knows my struggle---although you can pretend for two weeks, you will never be well and will always be a heart or stroke patient. 

My friend Jen, my heart sister (who I have never met other than online but hope to someday!) wrote a fabulous piece on finding well.  For those of you that read this that are sick, in someway chronically ill, I know you will appreciate this so I wanted to share!  From Jen --  Be Well.

Happy summer to you and I hope each and everyone of you find your two weeks of peace whatever that is to you!  Cheers!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Heart Disease and Stroke Do Not Discriminate

What is the first symptom of heart disease? For many, it's death. 50% of men and 64% of women who have a fatal heart attack had no knowledge they had heart disease. 

I write this blog and  Tweet (@skinnybitchchro) and Facebook heart disease related information a lot for a reason.  It is so those of you reading this, those of you following me on Twitter and my friends on Facebook think of me when you feel symptoms.  So that I am the voice in the back of your head when you have chest pain that repeats "call an ambulance, call an ambulance, call an ambulance."  So that you are not part of the statistic above.  I did not know I had heart disease and lived because I called an ambulance.

Every time someone my age (45-50 age range) dies that my friends (also in this age range) know, I get a flood of messages about it.  It always makes me glad I survived and sad that person didn't-- sad for their families and sad for all the things that will never be. I always hope that peace finds the ones left behind.  More than that, I am glad that I am the person that always pops into the heads of those I know when they find out someone died of a heart attack.  The fact that so many will sit down and take the time to write me a note means that my purpose is clear.  I am most certainly here to educate and make some difference for those I know when (not if) they face heart disease.  To educate and turn it instead to if (not when) they face heart disease.

An acquaintance from my younger years just lost her husband who was 50 to a sudden massive heart attack.  I was not close to her and have not seen her in 30 years.  I have heard from many of our mutual friends today.  I have heard from many of them because he "looked healthy".  You do not have to look unhealthy to have heart disease.  You do not have to look unhealthy to have cancer, diabetes, lupus, MS or a whole host of other diseases.  Not everyone who is sick looks sick and not everyone knows they are sick. They think the same thing about themselves when they look in the mirror--"I don't look sick." This equates to "I am not at risk."  Just as they settle into that medical comfort zone, they are dead of a massive heart attack that leaves everyone else who thinks the same thing in a state of shock. Well, I didn't look sick either when I had a sudden massive heart attack. Now I have heart disease and I still don't look sick.

The fact that I did not look sick did not keep heart disease at bay--if it worked that way, we would have too many doctors.  The fact is, heart disease and stroke do not discriminate.  They don't care if you are young or old, fat or thin, marathon runner or couch potato.  They don't care if you are black, white, Latino, gay, straight, purple or green.  They don't care if you have a MD, PhD, JD, BS, MBA or not.  They don't care if you are married or single, have children or don't.

I do my part to try to impress this upon others.  Heart disease and stroke do not discriminate.  See your doctor (even if you are a doctor), know your numbers and educate yourselves.  You can look healthy today and be dead tomorrow.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Spelling and Kitchen Misadventures

Holy misspelled words batman!  I posted a video of the Heart Walk and misspelled stroke.  That's right, this girl that loved English class posted a blog post for hundreds to see with Teri as as stoke survivor instead of stroke survivor. Not one single person that saw it sent me a message to let me know! How awesome is that?  Next time, someone send me a message and spare me! Not one to be able to ignore that, I have taken it down and here is the new and improved Heart and Stroke Walk recap including a few more pics. Thanks to Liz, Teri, Velda, Julie and Stacy for their pics and  I bought Katy Perry's Roar and Sara Bareilles's Brave from Amazon.com:

After the walk I posted a post on Facebook because I hung around just long enough to do an interview with KCTV 5.  This is what I posted:

"There is simply no way to look good for a KCTV5 survivor interview after being up since before 5 and being sweaty with hat hair after the walk!!"

Promptly, I had two friends that I treasure very much reply: 

" I dunno- I think "alive" is a pretty good look..."  and " I read this post earlier and couldn't text while driving to KC! I also instantly thought you being alive and here to tell your story will always make you beautiful! Even with hat hair and sweat! I've had to keep reminding myself when I look at my several scars and bald head that I'm so happy to be here and alive!!!I keep telling myself I won't complain about my hair again when I just get some... But we are women! We just don't like hat hair:) looks like it was a wonderful day of celebrating!"

Both of these responses provided perspective.  Sometimes even when you are chronically ill, you lose perspective.  The perspective that not much matters other than being alive.  I love these ladies for keeping it real. This is the perspective I needed to be reminded of, especially since the second response was from my high school friend that has been battling breast cancer. I really was happy to be able to share my story!

Last weekend after the walk, I decided I am not making that progress towards skinny bitch and if I intend to get there, it would be in my best interest to stop eating out and get back in the kitchen.  If you have been along for the ride since the beginning, you know what danger this puts me in.  That domestically challenged thing indeed reared its ugly head as I was chopping veggies. It reared its ugly head in the form of the knife right through my finger.  Now, this is bad enough normally but I take blood thinners.  The result of a sharp knife coming in deep contact with your finger while you are on blood thinners is that your kitchen ends up looking like a crime scene.  All I can say is at least the fire department did not have to come as well!  If you are wondering, I was making a very yummy vegan enchilada bake.  I left the cheese off to make it vegan.

Never one to be deterred, I am back at it in the kitchen again this weekend.  Now, to avoid the crime scene look, this is my solution:

Yes, that is right, the grocery store sells them already cut!  Now that does not keep me from the possibility of needing the fire department while I cook this weekend, but at least they won't think there is a murder as well as a fire if they have to come.

I am making the enchilada bake again and cutting up fruit--watermelon and cantaloupe. I may not be totally safe from the crime scene look or the ER:

I do realize that this knife might actually take a finger off, but it really is less risk than those smaller knives.  I am going to make a brisket for the rest of my carnivore family and put it in the oven. (Note the fire department risk) They can just take it out when they are hungry because mom is going with her girlfriends to this tomorrow night:

Nothing like those 80's gems from my teenage years:)  It will be a blast.

I hope you are all having a great weekend and I wish for you a weekend free of kitchen misadventures!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I am NOT a runner!

I eluded a while back that I was going to take up running.  I went and got the shoes and started working running into my walking.  The truth is, I am not a runner.  I hate it.  There is not one single thing I enjoy about it and it makes me want to not exercise. 

I have great respect for those that enjoy running.   I have friends that love to run and enjoy the challenge of doing things like running marathons.  My friend Teri ran a marathon 26 days after her stroke.  I have immense respect for her.  (Read her story here) The thing is, if I am going 26.2 miles, I am getting in my new little Mini Cooper and driving.  By the way, I love that car!  Precisely why I would rather get in it and go 26.2 miles than run it. Jen at My Life In Red loves to run.  I love for her that she loves to run. My dad has always been a runner and now gets to run on the beach on a regular basis. My exercise on the beach?  Paddle boarding.  I just don't love to run.  I really did try to love it and I just don't.
Besides the fact that I really hate running, I have precisely 12 weeks to exercise outside in in Kansas.  I am not supposed to exercise outside when it is under 40 degrees (not an issue because I hate the cold) or over 80 degrees.  Why you ask?  Quite honestly I am not even sure because it is one of those things that was said to me when I was stunned. However, I believe it has to do with one of the medications that I take and not being able to now regulate body temperature effectively.  My coworker Donita and I walk for about four or five weeks every spring and fall over our lunch hours.  As soon as it gets close to that 80 degrees outside, I can really tell.  Walking takes a very hard toll on me the hotter it gets. We go from winter to summer and back again very quickly in Kansas!

So, I have chosen Zumba as my exercise of choice. My friend Jaclyn teaches it and introduced me to it. I can do this inside, it is a great time and doesn't really seem like exercise--much preferred over something I hate like running.  Exercise is good for your heart and we all need to take better care of our hearts. So whatever it is, find the thing you love and get moving!

From L to R at the Kansas City Heart and Stroke Ball
My friend Teri who loves to run, Christine, me, and Jaclyn that introduced me to Zumba!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Modern Medicine or Western Lifestyle?

I have taken a bit off from writing.  Work has been busy, kids have been busy and life has been busy.

I am fortunate enough in life to still have some very long time friends.  Grade school, junior high and high school friends.  I met up with some of them last week.  My friend Beth was in from Colorado so it was a good excuse for the rest of us still in the area to get together. Paul and I moved in across from each other when we were six--39 years we have known each other.  Beth and I met in grade school band. Stacy and Brian and I met in junior high and Scott and I met in high school. So here sit the six of us at a restaurant, when it hits me how much our lives have changed.

First of all, no longer do we meet at a bar, we now meet at nice restaurants.  Our days of drinking it up are long gone! In case you didn't know, alcohol raises your blood pressure and I certainly do not need that.  As we catch up on each others lives, our conversation turns as it normally does to how my heart is doing.  It also turns to the fact that one of the other ladies has had a heart attack and one has fibromuscular dysplasia. As we discuss this, our conversation takes a turn.  We start discussing if the marvels of modern medicine is actually diagnosing disease earlier or is it that our lifestyles are causing disease to happen at an earlier age?

Certainly there are studies to support both.  Personally, I follow the thoughts of those like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell  that say our Western diets are causing disease and killing us.  They support a no added oil plant based diet and write that we can use food as medicine. (before you wonder, I take a whole host of cardiac meds, so I do believe in mixing the two!) They support a view point that disease is happening earlier because of our lifestyles.  I happen to believe this as well.  I am certainly the poster child for this.  Now, practicing this in theory is very different than trying to do it in real life.  Even though I believe the plant based diet is the way to go, I don't eat like this.  Not because I don't want to but because I find it extremely difficult.  I rocked at it right up until I went to the cath lab the second time and then started suffering from depression.  Sugar has been my best friend through my depression.  I wrote about beating the depression and now I set out to detox from sugar.  I know if I don't, it will kill me. I struggle with it everyday.

I also think that the technology that exists in modern medicine makes it possible to diagnose disease much sooner in life and that this allows us to get the jump on treating it.  Awareness of the general public also plays a part in this.  Heart disease, once considered an old man's disease is now regularly being diagnosed in both women and men in their 40's.  People are more aware of heart disease and doctors are diagnosing it and treating it earlier.  Even though this is the case, it is still the number one killer of all Americans.  Once the exception, it is no longer surprising to hear that a woman has been  diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30's or 40's.  I have had friends fight breast cancer. The folks that fall into the camp that there is so much disease so much younger because of better detection have a point.

I think both sides have a good argument and the truth really falls somewhere between the two camps. I still fall a little more on the side of the Western lifestyle causing disease. My friends and I did not really draw any conclusions from our discussion.  We did get a good laugh out of how our lives and get togethers have changed over the years.  We also made a pact that we are not to put the length of friendship into actual years (as it is not possible any of us are old enough to have been friends for XX number of years!) rather we just say lifelong:) 

Friday, April 18, 2014

One More Time

"I must admit that I have been a little down lately. My body is overly fatigued as I begin to taper for my marathon, emotionally I am drained, and with that combo, my stroke residual is more prominent: my face a little droopier, my left arm a little weaker . Today I had the honor of meeting Joshua Sundquist, a 29 year old ParaOlympic Skier that lost his left leg to cancer at the age of 9. His words touched my heart. He always puts 1MT1MT on his ski. One More Thing, One More Time. On April 27, when I run the Oklahoma Memorial Marathon. I will run for Izzie, Sam, Amy, Denise, Rodney, Trent, Zach, Tori, Chance, Killen, Jodi, Jaclyn, Liz, Keri, Velma, Angela, Julie, Stefani, Shelly, Michelle, and all my heart sisters. Rather it be one more breathing treatment, one more rep, one more step, one more blood draw, one more surgery, one more therapy treatment. We are here, we are alive, and we are loved. We have purpose, we have a story to tell, and we are blessed. "One person can make a difference and everyone should try"JFK. I wrote 1MT on the bottom of my shoes. It is an honor."

My friend Teri posted this on Facebook yesterday.  I glanced at my phone while I was at work and read those words.  Before I knew it, I had tears and mascara streaming down my face while I was sitting at my desk.  When will I learn not to read my heart sisters words when I am at work?  They get me most every time. If you have followed along, you should remember Teri's story as she was gracious enough to share her story with my readers during American Heart Month.  If you missed her story, you can find it here.  Teri ran her first marathon just 26 days after her stroke!  I wish her love and luck on April 27 as she continues her post stroke journey in the Oklahoma Memorial Marathon.  I will write 1MT on the bottom of my shoes that day in her honor before I go run my 60 second spurts during my walk!

1MT, 1MT.  One More Thing, One More time.  This is very poignant from the young man that writes this on his ski. I know that Liz (her story here), Keri (her story here), Shelly (her story here), Monica (her story here) and I all join Teri in understanding this.  When you have a chronic illness, at some point in your life, the rest of it is spent with the "one more".  One more time I take this medicine, one more time I check my blood pressure.  One more time I stress because it is on the higher side of normal instead of the lower side.  One more time to the cardiologist. One more time getting shot up with radioactive dye to have a thallium stress test.  One more time hoping to not have to go to the OR.  Those are the one more times that we dread.

There are also one more times that we don't dread.  One more time I get to share my story.  One more time I get to see the look of shock on someone's face when they look at me like they can't absorb the story I am telling.  One more time I get to educate others about heart disease -- that heart disease is the number one killer of American's and stroke the number four killer.  One more time I get to share what I did that made me able to have these one more times.  One more time next Friday I get to hang with my heart sisters as The American Heart Association Kansas City hosts the Go Red for Women Luncheon.  What a privilege it is!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Endless Reading and Running a 5K

I endlessly read about heart disease.  The newest studies, the newest techniques and the advances that will hopefully give me a better quality of life down the line. 

Several times in my endless reading I have read that if you have 100% occlusion, there is no way to stent.  This would require them to crack your chest open and perform a coronary artery bypass graft.  I clearly remember my doc telling me that my LAD was completely blocked yet they stented the artery. The cardiac cath and the stents took a long time and I ended up with three of them. I remember him telling me that a lesser cardiac surgeon would not have been able to place the stents and would have done the CABG. At the time I was grateful to be alive and grateful not to have my chest cracked open.  They failed eight months after being placed and I had to have two more stents put inside the original three so they could reopen them--they were 70-80% blocked with scar tissue.

Sometimes when I read things as this I really question the judgement of this first doctor.  Not that I really want to have them crack my chest open, but perhaps it would have been better than continually wondering if and when my stents will fail again. Did his ego of not being a "lesser" surgeon cause him to try something that I now get to pay for?  I won't ever know.  I was in an emergency and I came out alive.  In the end, that is what matters.

Although I find things that make me question my care, I can tell you in the endless reading that I do I also find some pretty cool things.  Things like a tiny wireless pacemaker.  Things like stem cells showing promise in stroke recovery.  The research is awesome and I can't wait to read the next cool thing!  In the end even if I question my own care there are more cool things that outweigh this and keep me reading.

I have reached a huge milestone in my recovery since I wrote last.  I have actually started running.  Granted my running currently exists of 60 second time frames woven into my walk, but it counts!  I have to start somewhere:)  I was so psyched to have done this.  I have been terrified of running.  Mostly, I have been terrified my heart could not handle it.  Well, it can and that feels awesome!  I have been attending a women's training group at a local hospital leading up to the Mother's Day 5K.  My girls are walk/running it with me on Mother's Day morning. Yay for small steps!