I thought I was home free.
I battled and beat breast cancer almost 20 years ago. Double mastectomy. Hysterectomy. I thought I was home free. Then this past spring I went to my family doctor for a medicine recheck. I was mentioning some symptoms I’d been having: some blood pressure problems, some dizziness, some chest pains. I told him it was just stress. I know my body. He literally stopped, took out a prescription pad and wrote me a prescription for Nitroglycerin. I kept saying, “It’s just stress.” The next day I was at the cardiologist and promptly failed the stress test and EKG. Within 3 days I had a stent put in one of my arteries; I had 80% blockage. Guess I was wrong about the stress thing.
Can you believe it? I survive Stage III cancer and then end up with heart disease. My dad died of heart disease when he was in his 80s. Cancer from my mother’s side, heart disease from my daddy’s side. Those are some equal opportunity diseases. But today, I’m doing great. I’m still in cardiac rehab at Texas Health Arlington Memorial three days a week. And those people are extraordinary. And I’m really looking out for myself. Cancer taught me to learn to listen to my body, and I thought I did. I guess I misread it. Now I listen even a little more closely. That’s what I tell everyone. Learn to listen to your body. You know best. Trust your instincts. And while you’re at it, see if you can get your doctor to listen to you, too.
I’ve become an advocate. I’ve got the time now. After nearly 40 years teaching 1st and 2nd grade, I’ve retired. But teaching is still the heartbeat of my life. After what I’ve been through, I feel I’ve got a lot to teach. It’s a mission for me now. And my message is simple. Take the time to deal with your heart disease. Find creative ways to prepare meals that are good, and good for you. Figure out how to make exercise part of your routine. I’m a little limited due to some issues from the cancer, so I bought these itty bitty weights and work out with them while I watch TV.
People ask me what the worst part has been. I don’t think about it that way. When I got cancer, I never asked, “Why me?” Same thing here. Can’t dwell on the negative. My philosophy on life is: God doesn’t ask you to vote, he just says, “Here it is – let’s see what you do with it.” And I always choose to do what I need to do with a positive attitude. Although at one point I realized that thanks to heart disease I can’t eat shrimp po’ boys anymore. That’s rotten.