There is no denying the statistics. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. But the news isn’t all grim. It’s estimated that 80 percent of cases are preventable and/or treatable. Cue The WomenHeart Support Network at Parkview Heart Institute. For the last four years, this program – a division of a national WomenHeart initiative – has served as an impressive vehicle for education and encouragement, facilitated by a group of trained and compassionate Champions.
Last year, we introduced two new Champions to carry on the mission. These women were selected based on criteria including the timeframe related to diagnosis and their heart “event”. They completed a lengthy application, a doctor’s release, a reference letter and an interview. They will take on the torch for attending public events, leading support group meetings and visiting patients to spread the word about prevention and heart health. Let’s learn more about these two brave Champions.
“In 2014, I was working in home healthcare, and I was always feeling stressed and exhausted. I monitored my patients’ blood pressures all the time, so I began to monitor mine as well, and noticed it was going up. I shrugged it off at first because I thought it was just due to the stress in my life, but eventually I brought it up to my physician, who ordered an EKG. The EKG was abnormal and that led to further testing and an eventual diagnoses of congestive heart failure.
I was put on medication, but my condition didn’t improve. Eventually, I was given a pacemaker, and since then I’ve seen my energy level and overall health greatly improve. Through lifestyle changes, like eating healthier, exercising more, and reducing stress, I’m learning to manage my condition and feel better than I’ve felt in years.
I attended the Love Your Heart Expo in February of last year, and that’s how I got involved in the WomenHeart support group. Being with other women experiencing the same thing has really helped my frame of mind. I’m not as depressed, and I feel like I’m not alone. The support group, my providers, and my friends, family and church have all been so encouraging and full of positive energy, I think that has just as much impact as medication!
I wanted to become a WomenHeart Champion because of the support I’d received from others. If I can pay it forward and help other women understand that this isn’t a death sentence, then that gives me another reason to keep working hard! For me, this journey has been a blessing in disguise. It forced me to make changes to improve my health, and it broke up my routine. I want to encourage others to trust the process and keep moving forward, wherever the journey takes them. I also want additional accountability for myself. This is such a great way to stay motivated to continue the healthy lifestyle, and to be an example for others.”
“I was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 14. Back then, the medication was experimental, and they told me that it could eventually lead to heart problems. When I was 46, I experienced a pretty devastating heart attack, and since then I’ve been learning to manage my heart condition. Recently, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment will be a little more difficult because of my heart condition, but I’m not going to let that scare me or keep me from being positive. When I was 14 and going through treatment for leukemia, I wasn’t afraid of the challenge — I was the oldest one in the clinic, and I would always show the younger kids how to get their shots and hold them on my lap through their treatments. I’m not going to be afraid now. I’m starting a new fight, but I will keep going. I’m a fighter.
I’m going to continue to be a WomenHeart Champion throughout this new journey because I believe strength comes from helping other people, and sharing our stories gives others the courage to carry on. Taking this journey with other people gives me purpose. We help each other through the hard parts, and together we can’t be defeated. I know my sisters at WomenHeart will hang in there with me, they’re all on my team now.”
The WomenHeart Support Network of Parkview Heart Institute meets on the second Thursday each month, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Conference Room 2, fifth floor, Parkview Heart Institute, located on the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus. For questions about monthly meetings, call (260) 266-2444.