Today is a bit different than my normal blog post. As an entrepreneur, it is essential to listen to your body and take care of yourself. This is my journey through 2015, and saving my heart. It is my biggest wish that it helps you learn to listen to yourself. I am dedicating today’s post to the Rewired Life Blog Tour, where we are all exploring and digging deeper in the concepts of Loving yourself, Healing your body and mind, and Celebrating life. To participate and check out the other bloggers, visit Rewired Life Blog Tour.
Outside of my bedroom window, there is a side yard for our house. I don’t pay it much attention. I never go out there; I do nothing to tend to the azaleas and other flowers that grow out there.
They simply exist. Without me. In spite of me.
The man that mows our lawn trims them for us once or twice a year. That pruning the only attention that they receive.
It has been awhile since he has trimmed them. I need to remember to call him and ask him to come by to look at them.
Is This How I Show Myself Love?
As I looked out my window this morning, I started to think about those flowers. Blooming out there, in the sunshine. Just doing their thing. Surviving. Living.
I realized that I treat my body most days the same way I treat that patch of land.
Like it doesn’t matter. Like it can survive and bloom without me. In spite of me.
There is one problem with this plan — I need my body. Even if I feel like no one will notice if I neglect it, that is not the case.
Just like the plants outside, if I neglect it? I will hurt it. It needs to be nurtured. Loved. Tended to, and taken care of.
I Need to Take the Time to Love Myself.
2015 was a hard year, and I have not talked about it much here. It is time though – over and over again, I am realizing that I need to share my story. The story of neglecting the garden of myself.
It all started on my birthday in 2014, actually. I was walking at a conference with my husband, walking quickly down the hall, and I made him stop suddenly. I felt as though I could not breathe, like my breath was only filling the very top of my lungs. I had to stop and catch it. I was winded, and struggling to walk.
I blamed it on asthma, which I was just diagnosed with a few years ago, and once I recovered, we continued on.
I traveled from Texas to Maine a week later. Visiting Acadia National Park, climbing up the hills made me winded again. Houston is flat though, I’m not used to having to climb.
Justifications. Every time, justifications.
I started 2015 off with pneumonia. My blood pressure was elevated, but the doctors were not too concerned. After all, when you can’t breathe and you’re running a fever of 103, some other symptoms are to be expected. Antibiotics, lots of rest, and I recovered. I was tired, but again – easy to justify. Pneumonia.
In February, my friend Audrey Michel visited Houston. She invited me to do a Soul Awakening session with her. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience to listen to my body, guided by her. I did another session with her a few weeks later.
We kept coming back to my heart. Talking about the issues weighing heavily on my heart. My heart was where we kept returning.
In hindsight? My heart was crying out for me to pay attention.
The Heart Journey
In March, I called my cardiologist to make an appointment. My blood pressure was still high. The earliest they could get me in was the end of July. So I waited.
In July, I finally saw her. Tests were ordered. Take it easy. Slow. We will figure this out. Scans, X-Rays, checking my lungs, blood work. I was told to return in November.
It was the equivalent of looking out the window today at the yard. I saw it, but was I actually taking care of it? No, not really.
I didn’t travel as much in 2015, and there were no long road trips. In September, I took off for Canada, and over the next 6 weeks I attended 4 different conferences. I flew from Houston to Calgary, from Edmonton to Kelowna, back to Calgary, to San Francisco, to Houston, to Toronto, and home again. Seven flights in six weeks.
The impact on my body was most evident whenever there was any type of incline. Stairs were out. It did not need to be a steep incline though – just walking off of the plane, the ramp up to the gate, pulling my carry-on suitcase on the carpet was impossible. I decided to stop being a martyr and I requested wheelchair assistance at the airports.
It was the only way I could make it through the airports, yet I felt so much dread each time. I felt shame. Here I was, looking perfectly normal and healthy, being pushed through the airport. Often by an attendee who did not look as young and healthy as me.
I felt lazy. I felt guilty. The lady at the gate in Kelowna thought I was asking for a wheelchair because my bag was too heavy. I was embarrassed.
The Heart is the Center of Love
This is what heart disease looks like for women. A journey of guilt, and of shame. One that we try to hide. We don’t want to be seen as weak, or as whining.
I believe this is even worse among people that are running their own business. If we take time off, who will get things done? What will happen to our clients?!? (This is the wrong way to think, by the way.)
I returned to my cardiologist after my trip. My blood work was good, my lungs seemed to be ok. In the banter back and forth with her, I mentioned that I had decided not to be a martyr and ask for the wheelchairs.
It stopped her in her tracks. She made me explain to her why I needed the wheelchairs.
That Tuesday afternoon, she told me that she wanted me in the heart cath lab by Friday. That same week. Her associate rearranged his schedule to get me in that Friday.
We expected that I would be in there for 45 minutes, tops. He was going to check both the left & right ventricle of my heart, since I had had shortness of breath issues. The right ventricle supplies the blood to your lungs.
I was in there for two & a half hours. I had a complete 100% blockage of one artery. An 80% blockage of a second artery. On the right side, I still have a 55-60% blockage of a third artery.
They placed multiple stents in my heart to save my life.
This is what heart disease looks like for women. It isn’t the way that Hollywood portrays it. It shows up in completely different ways – back pain. Shortness of breath. Pain in the jaw or neck. What you think is heartburn. Elevated blood pressure. Swelling in your feet & ankles.
This is what heart disease looks like for women. We dismiss it. We ignore it. We don’t think it can happen to us. Not at age 45. We don’t have time to stop. To be inconvenienced. No time to be sick, or to complain. We have too much to do.
This is what heart disease looks like for women. Shame. Guilt. Pain. Silence.
This is what I want heart disease to look like for women: LOVE. Self-Care. Listening to our bodies. Treatment, both traditional medicine and holistic practices. Life-saving.
Listening to my Heart and my Body
Eventually, your heart can’t just live in spite of you. It isn’t like the azaleas.
I listen to my heart all the time now. I check on it almost daily with blood pressure readings, but I also listen to how my body feels. What it is trying to tell me.
Lessons that I’ve learned over the past year from Audrey have helped more than she knows. I am able to tune in to myself with ease now.
While my journey has been so different than hers, reading her book – which I’ve had the honor of knowing about since she first started to write it – moved me beyond words. You can rewire your life. You can listen to your body. You can do what you need to do to save yourself.
She has helped me to heal a part of me – the part of my spirit – that was shattered during the medical ordeal that I went through in November. Her book has helped me to come to peace in a way with the fact that I have a chronic illness that will always be a part of me – yet it does not have to define me.
If you have had to deal with an illness, or if you know someone who has – you must read this book. It will change you. I can not recommend it enough, and it is such an honor to be a part of the Rewired Life Book Tour.
Love yourself. You know what you need more than anyone else. Honor what your body is telling you.
I will not only survive this medical drama, I have been thriving. I feel so much better now. Even days after my procedure, I could walk at a normal speed.
Last week, I took my first flight to Washington, D.C. I was scared – how would I deal with the airports? I felt that dread return, but it was unfounded. I was perfectly ok, and had no issues at all. No more wheelchairs.
I will always have to watch my heart. There will be stress tests and other tests in my future to keep an eye on it. I have come to terms with that.
I can’t neglect my heart and my body any more.
Maybe it is time I pay more attention to those flowers too. Each time I look out the window, I think about that. I want them to represent how I feel going forward, with my Rewired Life.
Do you have Heart Disease too? Let’s talk. This is a conversation we NEED to be having as women.
Facts on Women and Heart Disease
If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you breast cancer or another cancer was the #1 killer of women. It isn’t. It is heart disease. Matter of fact, heart disease kills more women annually than all the cancers combined. Here are just some of the facts from the CDC on women & heart disease.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 292,188 women in 2009—that’s 1 in every 4 female deaths.
- Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a “man’s disease,” around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States. Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer.
- About 5.8% of all white women, 7.6% of black women, and 5.6% of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.
- Almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.
Learn the symptoms. Stop the shame. Take care of yourself.
To read the previous post from the Rewired Life Book Tour, visit Jenna Hillier to read about Body Love Habits to Start Today. The next post in the book tour is Amy Zellmer’s Faces of TBI on Healing after Trauma. Want to download a sample of Rewired Life? Visit Audrey Michel’s website here.