February is National Heart Health Month <3 so in addition to our favorite self-love topics, I'm going to sprinkle in some tips & ideas for your physical heart.
To kick us off: We're chatting with my mom! I am so grateful that she took the time to share some of her story with us, because it has some really powerful and thought-provoking lessons to offer...
S: Could you share a little bit of how you've been feeling over the past few years?
M: Lately? I've been feeling incredibly grateful. Backing up... I haven't felt well since, I can't even remember. I think a couple of years... My blood pressure would spike high, like really, scary, high, and my energy level was incredibly low. When my BP spiked I just felt awful. I just felt awful. Simple tasks I used to do regularly like going for walks, yard work, and just going up and down the stairs now took a lot of effort. I would need to rest for long periods of time after minimal activity. I tried explaining it to my doctor my family, and I always felt like I just didn't have the words to say. The worse I felt, the harder I tried to adjust with diet and exercise, and be as healthy as I could. It was so discouraging that nothing seemed to work. Including my blood pressure medication wasn't working. My doctor was doing all kinds of tests and nothing was showing up. I was in and out of the emergency room. I saw different doctors & I was diagnosed with different things, because I think they wanted a label on how I was feeling. But, I knew there was something else. I had suggested a cardiologist to my doctor on several occasions, but due to my age he didn't think that was necessary. With encouragement from you guys (family) and insistence that we just don't let this go, I told my doctor I needed to see the cardiologist. Finally, he agreed. They got me in really quickly and based on the history of my health and blood pressure they scheduled me for a stress test and an echocardiogram. Funny, because as horrible as I was feeling, it didn't occur to me that I would actually fail. I just thought that when I pass, they were not going to find anything. It was crazy because a few years ago I was like running on the treadmill for exercise and for fun. Fast forward to the nuclear stress test and all I could think was, "what am I going to do when they don't find anything?"
Dad was with me and we were watching people come and go after getting their results and then the nurse said to me, "Sharon, I want you to wait while the doctor looks at your results" and I was thinking, "well, that doesn't sound good.."
We were told that he saw what may or may not have been a blockage and he wanted me to have an angiogram. We were stunned to say the least. And I still had in my head that they weren't going to find anything, and then what am I going to do?
I remember he told Dad and Sarah that it should only take 30 minutes and if it takes any longer than that, then they ran into something. During the procedure, he said to me "Sharon, we're gonna have to do some work on you".
He didn't explain any more than that, but he went out to fill Dad and Sarah in on what was going on. When they came in my room, the first thing your dad said to me was, "I can't wait to walk in the woods with you". It's one of our favorite things to do at the lake, that I hadn't been able to do in a long time. And then & there I knew, I was not among the 65% of patients who find nothing during an angiogram.
I had two blockages, both 89% blocked. We were all surprised. I'm 54 years old, I'm not overweight and I follow a plant-based lifestyle. What the heck? The surgeon told us it had been like this for a long time. My former life got the best of me. And genetics, apparently. Both of my parents had heart disease. I've been working so hard to make that not happen. But, here we are.
S: When I saw that text message saying, two 89% blockages... I was STUNNED. But at the same time, it also made sense because of how much you were struggling with everything. Like, raking the leaves or just walking up the stairs.
M: Well I didn't think there was anything wrong. No - I knew there was something wrong I just didn't think they were going to find it because they hadn't for so long. But, I just wasn't in the right place. So, afterward, reality set in. It was an emotional rollercoaster - trying to make sense of it all, trying to move forward. If I allowed myself to think about the possibility that I could've had a heart attack, I really freak out.
S: I think the ways our thought processes have changed since initially finding out, are really significant.
M: We were always taught, "look for the signs of a heart attack". And I always knew what those were. But I didn't know the signs of what it felt like when you hadn't yet had one. I watched my mother go through this so many times, but she was much older. I didn't know - or I guess, when it's happening, you don't wanna know.
S: What lessons do you feel like this is teaching you?
M: Most importantly, the sooner you start taking care of yourself, the better you're going to be. For a long time, I thought I was being healthy. I would eat eggs and cheese for protein, I loved chips, I used to cook with unhealthy oils, and I was a product of growing up in the 70s: healthy cooking was not my mother's thing. She was feeding us the best she knew how but it was just not healthy food.
I would like to take a second to remember my mom. She passed away from heart disease 9 years ago, this month. And it is national heart health month.
Because food was always an enjoyable part of my life, I learned to evolve and cook healthier. But clearly, my previous years were not my friend. Although we will definitely never know. And both of my doctors have told me that it's genetics.
S: Something I noticed throughout all of this is that you were eating healthy and exercising as long as you could, so your body was as strong as it could be when you went through all this. And if you hadn't made those choices, you could have fared a lot worse. Or your recovery could have been a lot more difficult.
So I want to be as healthy that I can be, I want to be in control of what I can control, so when things happen outside of my control, my body is able to keep up a bit better.
M: Start making your healthy choices as soon as you possibly can, and you're going to be better off for yourself, and your loved ones, you're going to be a stronger YOU.
I absolutely want to drive this home: I cannot stress enough being an advocate for yourself. IMO doctors don't take enough time, really really listen & put the pieces together. And it's hard for them to accept sometimes that you might just know yourself better than they do. And if you feel like you're not being heard, or your needs aren't being addressed, push a little harder. Or find someone who will listen. My cardiologist was fantastic. From the moment I walked in there, what I had to say was important to him. It was exactly what I needed. You should never have to settle for less than that.
S: We talk a lot about healthy habits on here. What are some of your daily healthy habits like?
M: I am almost working on it non-stop. We started the year out by asking people for a specific word - and I just went with what worked for me, and that was "Wellness is a way of life" and that's something I think about pretty much from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed.
I keep the food in the house that I need to food prep and stay on track. WHOLE FOODS. Lot's. I make as much as I can from scratch. Simply eat a lot of vegetables and fruits and beans and whole grains and potatoes... We do eat a lot of butler soy curls :)
I eat when I'm hungry. If I'm hungry, I eat. If I'm really hungry, I eat sooner. If I'm not hungry, I eat later!
We've gotten into the habit of going to bed early and waking up early. We don't prioritize the show we're watching. We listen to our bodies.
S: What are you thinking about going forward? Anything you're hoping is going to continue to change?
M: What happens next for me right now is I remember to listen to anything that's happening. I can't ignore things in my body. I can't ignore the doctors when they don't find something but I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing right now./ I'm going to continue making sure that I'm staying on track, I don't falter, always finding different ways to nourish myself and family. I think one of the biggest things I need to do is work toward better activity because It's been so long that I've put it off.
S: Something else we talk about around here is not going from 0-100.
M: I literally have to retrain my brain because I used to walk for miles, run on the treadmill, and lifting weights and such. It's so hard to learn what my limits are now.
One of the hardest things for me is not being able to control the amount of activity I am capable of doing. I thought I was the healthiest version of myself, and between then & now the tables turned a little bit. Now here I am, turning 55, and I have to try to understand this new body. Who I am, and what I'm capable of.
"For what it’s worth... it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
M: Ladies & gentlemen, I simply could not have done this without my support system.
S: What's exciting or interesting to you these days?
M: Dad & I are planners, we like to think & plan about projects we have coming up, giving the house a new look, like now we're talking about the bathroom.
I haven't had a garden in the last couple of years so we're thinking about getting that back in. I just love the idea of growing my own food.
"Every day is an absolutely precious gift and I can't stress enough for anyone, for everyone, to just wake up in the morning and be grateful that you have this gift. And what are you going to do with it? Don't waste it. "
Psssst.. Did you know you can listen to this episode online?
We're talking about a lot of what got my mom through this heart health scare, in the 7 Days of Self-Love Challenge -- there's still time to join us.
Sign up for the 7-Days of Self-Love Challenge! (DUH) Starts tomorrow 2/7!
Have you been through anything like this in your life? Want to talk about it? I'd love to hear from you.
Find me wherever you like to hangout & let me know!
We can't wait to hear from you.
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You are worthy of living and capable of creating a healthy lifestyle you love. 🤍