Friday, February 6, 2015

Go Red!

I am wearing red today because I have early stage heart disease. There, I said it. It has taken me a long time to say it out loud. I am finally ready to own my own diagnosis.

Five years ago, within weeks of giving birth to Molly, my OBGYN called me and told me she was concerned about me. I was overweight, over stressed and was having trouble regulating my blood pressure. I had Gestational Diabetes with both pregnancies and was actually insulin dependent with Molly. My dad had suffered a heart attack at 48 years old and is a Diabetic and his mother - my grandmother, passed away after a massive heart attack in her 70’s. I let the doctor refer me to the Berkeley Heart Clinic and reluctantly made an appointment.

After an exam, bloodwork and an extensive x-ray of my neck, I was diagnosed with early stage heart disease. I was 36 years old. The diagnosis was in black and white – right on the x-ray. I could see the plague building in my carotid artery. Changes needed to happen and soon. Change is hard and denial is stronger. I made some tweaks in my diet, but kept up with the excuses around exercise – I don’t have time, I have a new baby and a 3 year-old, I have to go back to work, etc. I am certainly not proud of this.

I continued to put everyone else's needs before mine. I made that choice.

Around this time three years ago, I started feeling yucky. Something wasn’t right. I was tired, sluggish and irritable. Then I started having chest pains. I went to Urgent Care and was immediately hooked up to a heart monitor. The good news was that I wasn’t having a heart attack and wasn’t in immediate danger. I was sent for a follow-up stress test. I was 38 years old. I was out of breath and scared, walking on a treadmill, hooked up to more wires than I could count. I was very lucky that my tests came back okay on the heart front. However, I was put on high blood pressure medication. 

I continued to put everyone else’s needs before mine. I made that choice.

Last year, I was diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes. Again, tests don’t lie. My average blood sugars were too high and I was put on another medication. I was 40 years old.  A good friend than stepped in and invited me to do Burn BootCamp with her at 5:30 am in the mornings – Monday through Friday (that friend saved my life). I reluctantly went and thought I was going to die after the first class, but I kept going back. I lost a little weight, felt a little more confident, learned how to do a burpee, held a 5 minute plank and gave up soda. But, what I didn’t do was change my diet. Needless to say, my results were not what they should have been. Then I hurt my foot and stopped going to camp on a regular basis. I started to feel bad again, especially about myself.

I continued to put everyone else's needs before mine. I made that choice.

Change needed to happen. I had been a walking time bomb for too long and was out of excuses. That is when I found Healthy Huntersville. I was accepted into the Healthy Huntersville program, an eight-week wellness program run by my town. I was placed into a group with some amazing women (two of whom were already friends of mine) and coaches. Our group works out at Burn BootCamp (I’m back there and actually enjoying it this time). Over the past four weeks I have lost 8.8 lbs. I have tried new foods, completed a 7-day detox water challenge, walked over 10,000 steps in a day and have relied on the support of my group.

What is different this time? My mindset has changed. I am no longer trying out a program or a recipe because I have to. Now I am doing it because I want to. I want to change and I want to be healthy. I am finally okay with eating a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. I am no longer afraid of chickpeas or eggbeaters. The verdict is still out on Vegenaise and cashew butter. I know I will eat chocolate and pizza again because I am not perfect. I don’t want to be perfect. I just want to be healthy, happy and here.

I may not be able to change my family medical history, but I can acknowledge it and work to prevent it from taking my life. So this is a journey – a long overdue journey. I am not going to beat myself up over what I should have or could have done five years ago, three years ago or one year ago. I am 41 years old. I am here now and am celebrating the fact that I got up this morning at 5:00 am to go to Burn BootCamp and that I had a salad for lunch.

I am wearing red today because I have early stage heart disease. What I no longer have is excuses.

True confession of the day: I am wearing a red shirt today that I haven’t worn in three years. Why? It hasn’t fit until today.

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