HEARTbroken

i’m supposed to be BLOGGING MY HEART OUT right now to spread awareness around heart disease. and i can’t.  not right now. (but i will) right now my lil’ heart hurts because of another nasty disease. heart disease may be the #1 killer of women, above all cancers combined, but cancer has hit way too close to home and right now has consumed my focus. broken my heart.

on my way to the gym monday night i called my momma to check in on her. and i knew immediately that something was very wrong. i pulled my car over and sobbed as she and dad told me that she had just been diagnosed with leukemia.

my mom. cancer.  i have felt pain in my life and nothing could compare to hearing that heartbreaking news – it terrified me to my core. and still does. she is my best friend. how can this be happening? it shook me. something that always seemed sad but so foreign to me had just invaded my life in a whole new way.  being 1700 miles away, i felt so helpless and panicky, anxious and alone. and through the outpouring of support and endless stories of survival, the only thing that calms me is hearing her sweet voice and praying over her. she’s such a trooper.  with sense of humor well in tact and still her same stubborn self,  this whole experience has put life in perspective in one quick moment. it has deepened my faith and walk with God and has already strengthened our family. see i don’t think God did this, but i know He has the power to heal her and use this for good. and so i shall try to share parts of my momma’s story in hopes that it can help others. and just in this short time, here’s what i’m learning through all of this.

what really matters
calling my dear friend marcia for support, i reached out to her because she knows cancer all too well.  overcoming ovarian cancer at a young age, she went on to create mylifeline.org, which is a free resource for cancer patients and caregivers.  through the tears, i had to laugh as she told me that: “people who’s biggest problem in life is those last five pounds really have it good.” and that hit home. while being healthy is important, in one instant it put everything and everyone in my life in perspective. i get cranky when i miss a workout or when my pants get a tad bit snug. i stress about my business and gripe about traffic. it clicked for me that nothing really matters in this life except our loved ones who are here today and could be gone tomorrow.  what would it look like to live a life around what truly matters?
RED tip: love your family? then be there for them. because all they really want and need is you. heart disease IS the #1 killer of women so if you don’t make the choice to get healthy for yourself, do it for them. trust me. all i want is my momma healthy and well. instead of dreading workouts, fit in 3 30-minute walks per week with a loved one and you lower your risk of heart disease by 30%.   do it for the one’s  you love.

lose control
God bless my momma, all my life she’s been a worrier. a class stress case, and she knows it. not one to ever give up control, i am a perfect example that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. but now, she (and we) are faced with something that leaves her no option. and it’s a beautiful thing. the woman who always has everything under control has gracefully given it to God. we don’t know why she got this nasty disease – she’s very healthy for the most part. but if i had to guess the one thing that could’ve done it – it would be stress.  and what was my response to this very dire news? like momma, like daughter, i panicked. anxiety set in. and then the same woman who i learned that response from was the one to calm me. told me to give it to God. and pray. it’s not in our control.
RED tip: relax. stress is the leading cause of so many diseases, including cancers and heart disease, because it weakens your bodies immune system through elevated cortisol levels. it stressed me out (ha!) to learn that you have a 40% higher risk of having a heart attack just by having a high stress job. you may not be able to control your work or every stressful situation you’re facing, but you can control your response to it. personally, the primary reason i workout is to handle stress. my latest find: yoga. studies show that people who regularly practice yoga have significantly lower blood pressure which is a key indicator of heart disease.

listen to your body – and act (quickly)
only time will tell how soon we caught the cancer, but luckily mom went to the hospital fairly quickly. she went in thinking she had a serious bout of the flu. i wish. she is high energy. like she can out-shop me any day of the week.  she doesn’t miss a day of work. she’s for the most part a very healthy and beautiful 50-ish (i’m not outin’ ya ma!) woman. but for about a week she had extremely low energy, was really nauseous, and after powering through a few days at work, she finally called in sick.  by the time the weekend rolled around, dad took her to the hospital. with stubbornness running rampant in our genes, luckily she knew her body well enough and responded.
RED tip: know your body and know the signs. dizzy, shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations – all signs of heart disease. but less than 1/3 of women feel chest pain as strong as men do which is why twice as many women die from heart disease.  so i’m all for being a strong woman, but don’t be stupidly stubborn. get to a doctor quick and you have a 90% chance of surviving a heart attack.

get healthy – for health’s sake
she is taking chemo like a champ.  when she checked into the hospital her white blood cell count was up around 300,000.  i learned that most leukemia patients go in around 100,000, hence the team of doctors working 24-7 to get her blood count down. after the first day of chemo they got her down to 100,000…then 60,000…down to 9000…and now, she’s at 3000 (thank God). apparently her liver is holding up to the treatments beautifully, which can be a concern with chemo.  i’m no doctor but my guess as to why she’s doing so well is because she’s overall a darn good picture of health. she’s always on the go (you can’t get that woman to sit down!)…she’s at a healthy body weight (even though she gripes about her thighs)…she gets regular check-ups…she doesn’t smoke and i don’t think she even had a glass of wine until she was well into her forties (at my coercing).  she jokingly told the nurse not to leave any marks on her when he was taking the bone marrow sample; she didn’t want him to ruin her career as a bikini model!  funny, yes.  but isn’t that so true? we worry about the physical part of being healthy – not so much the health part of being healthy.
RED tip: you may want to lose 5 or 50lbs because you want to fit in your jeans, and what ever it takes to motivate you, so be it. but aside from losing your muffin top, you’ll be gaining your health.  and that’s priceless. did you know that carrying extra belly fat increases your risk of dying from heart disease by 3 times? and stop smoking already – you increase the risk by 2-4 times.

take action
whether it’s cancer or heart disease, the truth is that they are both serious. they both take lives. cancer is the second leading cause of death, second only to heart disease which kills more than 800,000 americans every year with more than half of those being women. all i can do for my momma is love her…pray for her…and give it to God. and all i can do for heart disease is my (small) little part in helping to spread the word with BLOG YOUR HEART OUT.  if i’ve learned anything through this it’s that life is precious and i’m choosing to make some sort of difference. big or small.
RED tip:  so join me, won’t you? BLOG YOUR HEART OUT this friday- just blog about heart disease. learn how easy it can be to do one little thing that could make a BIG difference.

and my momma? she’s gonna be just fine. i’m learning that all i can do is trust God through this. lift her up in prayer every moment of the day and have amazing FAITH that she is His little girl – He’s got this.  between God and mom’s spunky, stubborn self, Cancer doesn’t know who it’s messin’ with!

with all my HEART,
angela



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