Heart Attack Stories – Chad Miller- We All Bleed Red.

 

Today I introduce you to Chad Miller.  Survivor at age 39.

 

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had my heart attack on August 3rd, 2012 at the age of 39.  I am a runner who has completed many half and full marathons in my lifetime and was on a 7 mile run at the YMCA after work on a Friday night.  The run was an easy pace one and I was not pushing myself very hard at all.  About half way through my run, I noticed I was sweating more than normal and had pain in my right shoulder.  I am very in tune to my own body and thought both of those were odd. However, I dismissed them as nothing very important and continued running another mile or so.  About a mile later I noticed my pain was increasing greatly in my shoulder and I was short on breath.  I still did not think much of this, but realized that was “just one of those days” where my body was not in the mood for a run and decided to hit the showers.  I was planning on meeting a friend of mine to go see a movie and would get a longer run in later in the weekend instead.   During my shower I realized a few things:  1. I was still sweating heavily 2. I could not catch my breath 3.  My shoulder hurt like hell and was starting to move slightly into the right side of my chest.  Now I was concerned.  My pain was increasing, but I was far from miserable.  I hopped in my car and decided to head toward the theater for the movie. Along the way my pain vastly started to increase.  Something was wrong. Very wrong.  My mind started running the words heart attack in it.  Surely that was not what was happening.  I was a fit, healthy young runner who ate a pretty clean diet.  I stopped at a convenience store and bought a four pack of Bayer aspirin. I chewed them up and drove myself to the ER.

 

Something was wrong, but I was not sure what it was.  When I got the ER I was in pretty bad shape.  I was light headed, sweating and my pain was very uncomfortable. It was6:30 on a Friday and for some reason the waiting room was already packed full with people needing to see a doctor.  The gal told me to take a seat and wait for my name to be called.  I firmly said “No!”.  I am in pain, something is very wrong, the pain is now in my chest and I need to be seen now.  The gal just stared at me clueless. However, another nurse was walking by, heard what I said and immediately took me into the ER.  I was hooked up to an EKG, was told I was having a heart attack and wheeled into another room to be prepped for surgery.  All hell broke loose in the prep room. I had 15+ doctors, nurses and others giving me their full attention. I was stripped naked, needles were inserted my arms, was given pills to swallow, pills to chew up and one gal even began shaving my groin area.  I was asked endless questions mostly dealing with when did I first notice the symptoms.  I can’t say my memory of all of this was the best. I was in shock.  How on earth was this happening to me?  I have friends that eat buckets of friend chicken nightly that have never had a heart attack.  Why is this happening to me?  Surgery was almost a complete blur. I was lucky that a heart doctor was on duty and free within 10 minutes of getting to the ER.  I remember being packed with ice up and down my body.  The surgery was very brief, or at least that’s how I remember it. One stent was put into my left ventricle.  I had just survived the widow maker (with a 93% death rate within the first hour) I was told.

 

I was in the hospital the next several days and there was nothing very remarkable about this time.  My story is probably no different than anybody elses while in the hospital. I was sad, mad, confused, happy to be alive, embarrassed and about any other emotion I could have.   The time between my first symptom while running to surgery was right at one hour we later calculated.  The doctor on call that weekend was a real downer of a guy. He told me I likely had extensive damage and my entire life would now be different. He also said I would never run again.   Needless to say, I was absolutely terrified of everything he told me.

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I spent my days surfing the internet on heart attacks and eventually found the Heart Attack Survivors group that weekend.  I am one of the originals in there. I believe I was like the 55th person to join in the group that is now over 1500 people.  Back in those days, the group was small and we all really got to know each other very well.  My story of being a young athlete with a heart attack was new to the group.  I asked dozens and was also asked dozens of questions.  The group was awesome and I lived on that message board group for several months to follow. 

 

I met with the surgeon who put the stent in a week after my heart attack.  I had spent the last week of my life being convinced I was greatly damaged based on conversations with the doctor on call that weekend.  My surgeon (a true heart doctor cardiologist) assured me that was all incorrect.  He said my heart attack had been a mild one.  I had very minimal plaque in my heart and my heart attack was caused by a small fatty deposit rupture. His exact words were “your heart was kind of a fluke”,  He said I would need testing to confirm it, but he expected no permanent damage.  He also said it was his opinion that it would be unlikely I would have another heart attack until I was much older.  I later did a number of tests EKG, Echocardiogram, stress test etc to confirm that was all correct.  I have an ejection fraction rate of 60 and ended up with no damage at all from my heart attack. 

 

All the news I received after my heart attack was good news. However, for the next 2-3 months I went into true depression.  I cried almost constantly and convinced myself I was going to die soon and would never see my daughters grow up.  Every minor twinge of pain in my body had me convinced I was going to have another heart attack.  I went to cardio rehab and I was the youngest person there by 30+ years. It was not uncommon for me to cry while walking on the treadmill at rehab.  Physically I was fine, but mentally I was crumbling.  Looking back, I should have been on antidepressants during this stretch probably.  Then one night I watched my favorite movie of all time Shawshank Redemption for like the 50th time again.  The phrase “get busy living or get busy dying” stuck in my head the next few days. What the hell was wrong with me?  I was wasting my life away and had been given a second chance at life. To put it simply,  I was wasting my second chance God had given me.  

Suddenly I was embarrassed with my behavior.  It was time to get my shit together again.  I was almost done with cardio rehab and went in the next day and announced I was running that day on the treadmill after they had already hooked me up to the sensors for my walk on the treadmill.  The nurses looked at my panicked and told me the hospital does not allow running for cardio rehab patients. I ignored them and started cranking up the speed. It was time to go for a one mile run.   I will admit I was freaking terrified during that run.  The nurses ran off to get a doctor and the doctor and nurses all watched a bunch of monitors feeding information from the sensors hooked up to me during that mile.  I took a relaxed pace, but I ran and they could not do a thing in the world to stop me.   At the end of my mile they said all was good and I was now graduated from rehab.  I expected them to be mad, but they laughed and said I was now the first person in the hospitals history to run while in cardio rehab. 

My doctor had already given me the all clear to run again and off I went in the weeks that followed. .  For the next week I did several 1 milers.  The following week I did 1.5 milers. I soon ran a 5k. Shortly after I ran a 10k. And then 163 days after my heart attack,  I finished a half marathon.  I have finished a pile of half marathons since my heart attack, but am not longer sure I have the desire to do a full again. Maybe someday.   

10 ways a Heart Attack at age 35 changed me.

When thinking about the last 2 plus years since my heart attack, I cannot help but run through the ways I have changed.

My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
My heart after having a Heart Attack. August 11, 2013
  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Ya, it is totally a cliché, a book has been written and many people will say they don’t sweat the small stuff.  I don’t anymore.  It is funny to think of the things that use to get to me or that I would worry about.  Now, most times my first thought is,  “ Is this worth worrying about or spending my time and energy on.”  Stress, my friends is something I try so hard to avoid.  The downside to this is that I become impatient with those who try to make small issues bigger than they are.  It does piss people off or I come across as not really caring.  In some situations, I really don’t.  Nowadays, there are things that I do procrastinate on because things can wait and it is not worth the stress and let’s be honest here, I try to have more fun.

 

  1. I prefer to be alone.

Ask anyone who’s known me a long time and they will tell you I always had to be around other people.  This use to be how I got my energy, my zest for life. Mini loves people !  Post Heart Attack, I find in many social situations I get anxious or very awkward and have to leave early.  This is why I never car pool with anyone.  I need my escape.  I spend more hours alone than I think most realize.  I use this time to read more, work on many of my projects and try to sort through my head.  I find it easier to be alone than to be in large groups.  I know I have become socially awkward and I am ok with that.  Being alone allows me to not put myself in an awkward situation or worry about upsetting someone.

 

  1. I have a new normal.

This took me a long time to accept.  I am still figuring out what certain limits are but I accept I am not who I was.  I like who I am now.  So who am I now ?  That’s for another post.  With my new normal, I have had to find new ways to do things I enjoy, accept restrictions and learn which lines I can push. Example, I will never run as fast as I use to but I can run.  I may accept the new normal but I will NEVER give up trying to succeed at what I can.

 

  1. I dream bigger.

I have many big dreams.  Most are of the humanitarian and Heart Disease awareness type.  I have so many dreams I hope to share and work towards in 2016.  Some are way out in left field but I would rather put those dreams out there and get laughed at than keep them to myself like I use to.   There is one dream I once had that I never made my move on now someone else made it famous.  Lesson Learned. So, I may never become famous for a dream I pursue but I really hope one of them leads to creating the life I desire.

 

  1. I actually like myself.

Most of this could be in another post but here is a start.  From 2010 on I actually had a strong dislike of who I was and I had almost zero confidence in myself.  I got good at putting on a show.

I like me J   I am awkward, I am social, I am fun,  I am smart in different ways, I am a good looking guy, creative, determined, flirty, playful, goofy.  I am uniquely and imperfectly ,me.  I am not for everyone but I do like who I am.  This doesn’t mean I don’t have some insecurities but I am more confident than I have ever been.

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  1. Experiences instead of Things.

I have always had a hard time buying things for myself.  Even when I bought my first DSLR Camera I was anxious.  Over the last 2 years  I have focused more on spending my money and time on experiences, dinners with friends, coffees.  My time is valuable.  I would prefer memories with my friends and family than something disposable.  It may be morbid but I want to think that when my time comes and I am 6 feet under that I leave those I care about with good, fun and maybe slightly wild memories of “Mini.”  No one will remember how many things I owned.  After my Heart Attack I questioned how people would remember me.

 

  1. Now I lay me down to sleep.

It is no secret that my sleeping patterns are messed.  Sometimes I go more than 24 hours without sleep, sometimes I nap an hour here and there just to function.  I have no idea how I function most days to be honest.  The thought of not waking up consumes my brain before bed almost  nightly.  I want so bad not to think this way but living with heart disease I am aware of what could happen.  PTSD is a bitch and that is one way it gets me.  Every night I go to bed wondering if the day I had was a good one, did I do something positive?  Did I make at least one person smile ?  Did I smile ?  Did I try to make a difference in this world ?

If I ever should die and not awake when the sun rises, I just hope the day before was a good one.

 

  1. I want Love but I am Guarded.

It is no secret that I have been single for a long time.  No girlfriend in almost 5 years, yep, you read that right, 5 years.  I have dated but can’t seem to keep anyone interested long enough, combine that with the fact I keep myself busy.  Just like most everyone, I have been hurt before but that is NOT why I am guarded.  I am guarded because I want simply to be accepted for me but sharing my health issues has scared some females away.  Can’t blame them because there are always things we as people can and cannot live with when it comes to a partner.  I am an amazing man as soon as someone can see beyond both mine and their imperfections.  I know I need to be a little more open with heart but sometimes it is so damn hard.

 

  1. Random Acts of Kindness.

I give more than most people realize.  I am not one to brag nor share every little Random Act of Kindness I do because I feel that defeats the purpose.  One per week, I do something.  Whether it is buying a coffee for someone, paying for their gas, leaving a random note or simply giving a homeless person a $10 or $20 bill.  I do something.  I want to feel like I have made a difference, even if for only a moment.

 

  1. I care but it sometimes doesn’t come out that way and it sucks.

If you have read this far, then you now get  a HUGE TRUTH.  I say I Love You more than I ever did before and tell people I care as often as I can.  So what is the problem?  I have been told what I say doesn’t seem portrayed that way.  I have a hard time comprehending this.  For example:  There was a woman I liked, I tried to show her but even she said she was not sure, that it didn’t seem that way.  I tried so hard but I just couldn’t get what I was actually feeling outward by action or expression I guess.

I have PTSD, I struggle with understanding emotion and even portraying  certain emotion.  If you are emotional in front of me, like crying or upset, my brain is trying to empathize and understand but I just can’t ever seem to figure it out.  It makes me uncomfortable in the situation and I am trying to think of a way out of that moment.  It’s not that I do not care, it is that I just can’t comprehend why you are upset or even what I am suppose to do.  It is not easy to live with and it keeps me up at night.  I use to be a very empathetic and understanding human and I kinda miss that guy.

So, if you and I are in a situation like above and my face goes red or I slowly distance myself from you or I constantly look away…… please know I care, I just don’t know what to do, guide me or let me escape.

The Selfie Project- Part 2. The Bad. Narcissist.

The Selfie Project Part 2-  The Bad. Narcissist

 

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I like to end things on a good note so, I have decided to write about the bad before the good.  Which will be part 3.

When you take photos of yourself for 12 months straight you are bound to face criticism or get mocked.  Heck, nowadays anything you do consistently and publicly will have it’s trolls.  I have definitely faced this by a few individuals and one in particular felt it necessary to comment on almost every photo and then not explain why. 

I did receive messages from a few people that my photos were annoying, narcissistic. Some went as far to say they were getting sick of seeing my face daily.  Even people who I was not associated on Facebook with sent messages ( good and bad.)  That mostly has to do with the fact that I made all of my posts  public.

Was I pissed ?  No, not me.  This project further proved to me I am a long way away from fully feeling total emotion.  On the plus side I was able to think logically and not let things get to me.

What always seems to surprise me and I am not sure why, is how people can be so rude and disrespectful even to people they know.  Now, I realize of course that not everyone I know on Facebook is a friend and ya, maybe at some point in my life those people may have been friends or a part of my life but are not now.  So most of their comments don’t really matter nor do the thoughts of people I don’t know.

Because I am not a believer in public shaming I will not name on my blog the person who felt it was ok to comment on almost every photo saying “ You are a brave man.” Or giving me a generic, elaborate story as to why or why not he kept commenting.  

However, I will say this……  He crossed lines when questioned about why he did it.  He insulted a friend, a close friend who I have the utmost respect for.  A friend who decided to defend me.  In messages he said I need to get her Laid and for her to “calm her tits.”  This is something that is not acceptable in any way, shape or form.

Insult, criticize and call me all the names you want, I can take it.  I can take verbal abuse…wel,l at least right now because I feel nothing.  Insult my friends and that is where I draw the line, especially when it is behind their back.  If you don’t like being called out for your childish acts by a friend of mine defending me then shut your mouth and hold your insults.

Damn rights I am brave, I am brave to have tolerated some disrespect for almost a year.  I am brave because I do put myself out there knowing that not everyone will be pleased with my actions.

In conclusion.  I dislike negative things, therefore this post is shorter than most. I take chances, not always smart ones but I would rather fail doing something that sit on my butt and do nothing.  If I succeed at a project, then great and if I fail and I show that it is ok to fail every once in a while then I am ok with that too.  This photo project in my mind was a success even with the criticism and disrespect I received which leads me to my next post…..Unexpected Inspiration .

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The Selfie Project- Part 1

For one year I took a photo of myself once per day.  I only missed 3 days.

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As a Photographer I ask people to stand in front of my lens and for brief moments show themselves as natural as possible in order to “get the best shot.”  Many times as these people are getting ready to pose for the camera I hear about their insecurities, physical insecurities.  It is my job to make them comfortable.

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That last sentence is why I did the photo a day project.  If I am to make people comfortable with their insecurities I had to become comfortable with mine.   I needed to see myself beyond my thoughts about my physical imperfections.  I have always disliked seeing myself in photos.

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I actually had larger plans with these photos.  I wanted to be super creative and do fun shots but after the first few I quickly realized that me in raw, authentic form is what was needed to make this work.  I did my best to tell a story from my day and not all the days were exciting or funny.  In fact most days were completely uneventful, some tough, some quite fun.

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In the beginning it was easy.  Smile, take photo, add the date, the story or blurb and post to Facebook.  As the weeks passed it became harder because I began to do the things I had sometimes read about.  Instead of taking one photo then posting, I began to take multiple.  I tried to find the best angle, hide the bags under my eyes maybe limit my double chin.  I would waiver back and forth and some days I would only take the single shot.

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Side note:  Before I began this project I was perfectly happy with my appearance, my smile and who I was.

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It was when I began taking multiple photos before posting the perfect shot that I began picking apart my appearance.  I smiled everyday in each shot except I think 2.  Those 2 were days I was exhausted, too exhausted to even smile.  It doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy those days, just tired. 

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What did I not like ?  My sometimes lazy eye, the bags under my eyes, my scar under my left eye, the cyst I have under my jaw or how exhausted I looked somedays. I hated when I could see how dry my skin was on certain days or the scars I have from small facial lacerations.  I hated that no one would really see what was going on behind my eyes, I hated even more that I did not have the courage to talk about it.   I started to not be comfortable with how I looked.  This is not acceptable.  We are all imperfect and yet we compare ourselves to what we think may be perfection.

 

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The smiles.  Oh the smiles.  The good and the tough days I still smiled in the photos.  Why ?  That is a simple answer.  Everyday, no matter the joys, challenges or feelings of loneliness, I had a reason to smile.  The reasons differed but each day I could smile.  The biggest reason to smile is that I was given each new day whether I deserved it or not.  I was able to smile because each day I was trying to be better a better person than the day before.  Some days I succeeded, some I failed. But I smiled.

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So what did I learn?  So, so much my friends.  Good, Bad and Ugly.  I could probably write a small novel about my lessons and leanings.

 

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I learned just how much one person can really beat themselves up for thier own perceived flaws and how outwardly we can show people how much we like ourselves, our appearance and our lives but inside we question those same things.

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I learned just how easy it is to manipulate our social media presence. 

Through photos, stories and daily posts that our friends see and read we can make our lives seem so damn amazing, meanwhile, the reality is that many of us are lost and our lives are not as amazing as they appear. 

Why would we show our real and Facebook friends anything other than perfection online ?   There were only a few who were able to notice my less authentic days through my photos.

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I learned that it is ok to be authentic. Yes at times I was criticized but who cares, I was me trying to be me.

 

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Authenticity. 

I did my best not to allow myself to create a perfect presence in these photos but I also bet very few people would really know the difference between my authentic smile and the one I forced on the harder days.  With each story that accompanied the photo I shared what I was doing, where I was ( sometimes) and a few of who I was with.  I was as authentic as I could be.

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The Likes. 

After taking time to review each photo before writing this it was clear to see it was almost the same people liking my photos each time.  I found at times I loved getting a lot of likes, it was rush and I actually felt maybe this wasn’t such a bad project.  There is a whole other piece to the likes that I will share in another post.

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Unexpected Impacts. 

Beyond the obvious likes and comments that regularly happened something else pretty awesome happened.  Something that I was unaware of until the photos stopped.  There were people who never liked a single photo, who didn’t comment once but made me aware of how much they appreciated and enjoyed seeing my photos daily.  One person going as far to say that seeing me smile each day helped them get through some of their harder days.  There is more to that story and I will be sharing in another post.  Whether you know it or not, people are watching even when you think no one is.  You can impact someone by just being you.

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People will mock you. 

People will write unpleasant messages, people will block and remove you from their online presence. People will even post almost daily, in a mocking way and not explain in a clear manner why it was important for them to take that 20 seconds to post under your photo.  They didn’t seem to see how it was disrespectful and wrong Even with the mocking posts I still saw true friends who stuck up for me.  Good from the bad right ?

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This project challenged me, made me happy and at times made me dislike myself but in the end I own every part of it and what it took to actually complete it.  It taught me that I need to keep doing odd stuff that people might find odd or intriguing because it gets me away from my comfort zone. 

In the end I have to say this.  I can’t promise I will never look at a photo of myself and be slightly insecure but I can promise that I will see beauty in my smile and what it can do, if even for a moment in mine or someone else’s life.

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HAPPY 2 YEAR HEARTAVERSARY TO ME !

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August 11, 2015.  This day,  I celebrated  me and 2 years of life post heart attack.  I wanted to be alone this day because it is my day, for me.

So how do I share a day so personal to me ? A day in which I think about the previous year and my growth.  I also begin to think about how I envision the coming year.

So what did I do ?

I started this day by visiting the beach court where I had my Heart Attack.  I sat alone for a while in thought….surrounded by kids playing at a day camp around me.  I smiled as these kids played tag, threw dodgeballs at each other and had sand fights.  Then it came to me…..sorta.  Seeing all of this around me gave me a Happy Heart 🙂

Now, before I continue…..I used the hastag #happyheart for the day but #happyheart is not my original idea.  For this, I give credit to my heart sister Sarah Klena from http://heartattackat31.blogspot.ca/.  She created T shirts this year to raise money for American Heart Association.  Ultimately that hashtag was created by her and I will give credit where it is due.  I think about #happyheart a lot since Sarah first brought it forward.

So, after I took the photo below, I posted it to Facebook and asked my friends to share with me their stories that made gave them a #happyheart.  I would read these at the end of my day when I returned to social media.

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Now, I will get back to this in a moment.

My Heataversary is like my New Years minus any drinking and kissing someone at midnight ( unless someone wants to join me in a kiss. )

The rest of my day was driving through Southern Alberta and stopping to take in the scenery.  I wanted badly to just be alone.  Alone to be with my thoughts and to go about my day with only having to worry about where or what I would do next.  There was no direct plan other than to drive and take photos.

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The photos above are from various points along the route I drove and places I stopped. Truth is, I did not think much for the first half the drive, I simply took in the scenery.  Whether it was the vast fields, mountains in the distance or the various Horses, Sheep and Cows along the way.  It was completely breathtaking and relaxing.

Then came the drive home and although earlier I had thought about the direction I hope to go in the coming year, another thoughts came to me.

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You see, I have definitely grown in the last 24 months and come so far but one thing occurred to me.  I still play things too safe and don’t take as many risks as maybe I should.  I still play it safe. So then my mind wandered as to why.

The answer is not as simple as I thought.  I thought I have been taking more chances the last 2 years and yes I have taken a couple BUT I still played it safe by not pushing myself to reach beyond what I think are my limitations and in matters of the heart.  I won’t go into too much detail as this is a little personal for now but I will say this……

I NEED TO STOP BEING SO AFRAID OF NOT BEING QUITE GOOD ENOUGH.

I NEED TO MAKE A MOVE

I NEED TO TAKE HARD STEPS

I NEED TO TRY EVEN MORE

I NEED TO BE OK WITH MAKING MISTAKES

BECAUSE ALL OF THIS MEANS……I AM BEATING MY OWN FEARS.

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The drive home passed quickly with no stops for photos and although I was deep in thought, I was actually happy.  Happy because, if you remember at the beginning of this post I said I wanted to be alone.

Somewhere along that highway I realized I wanted to be with friends, I really wanted to be around people to end my day.  Lucky for me, my team had a dodgeball game that night.  I had planned to skip the game to be alone, I honestly did not want people to see me at all.  I am thankful that I changed my mind.

That game was our first win of the season, it was a fun game and I felt completely in my element being with people I love being around, playing a sport I love.  Playing the sport in which I was playing the day my heart attack occurred.  Kinda like slaying the demon in my head.

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After the game we were invited to a our team mate Jesse’s place for a BBQ and a Beer.  I had declined this invite a few times actually but eventually decided to go.  BEST DECISION !

Ending my day with these amazing people was the perfect ending to a great day.  A day of celebration, reflection and just being one with myself, nature and in the end, my friends.

I am thankful for life, thankful for growth and I am thankful I get another shot at living every single day.

2 Years later I am thankful for my Heart Attack because it was my eye opener and my life line.

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Celebrate life and make someone happy, make them smile because as a quote I read the other day said.

“If you have the power to make someone happy, do it.  The world needs more of that. “

–Don’t know the author.-

Happy Heartaversary to me 🙂   Here is to many more !!

My First Tattoo :) 38 by 38

Fire and Ice Heart- The Heart represents the soul; who someone truly is.  The Fire represents passion, verve, emotion.  The Ice represents logic, confidence, calm. The two together fuse into a combo much stronger than their individual parts.  Synergy.

 This synergy makes up a large of the soul, hence the Heart.

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I have always wanted a tattoo and like most people ( definitely not all)  I wanted something that was “ME”.  So, 37 years of age, it finally happens.  I mean, granted it took a life changing event, recovery and thinking about my own traits.

Oh and I can’t forget… 2 missed appointments and months of sneding random messages of what I was looking for to my artist.

So ummm obviously the tattoo was going to be Heart related considering I had a little heart misfunction almost 2 years ago…..holy crap…2 years !!

The final result is a Fire and Ice Heart described meaning above.  Each part of the description describes me or traits I wish I had or had previously possessed.

She is not complete yet but I am so proud of this tattoo.  I love it more than I can express.  It is a reminder of how far I have come, how far I will go, to never give up.  I love showing it off every chance I get.

My Artist.  I cannot say enough about this woman.  She has patience like no other, I mean she had to deal with me right ?

Her name: Ashla Bee,  she works at Human Kanvas in Airdrie, Alberta.

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I have known this fantastic, talented  woman for close to 10 years. I we worked at the same place and even starred in commercials when we were younger for that company.

There was no doubt in my mind that she was the one who I would ask to take on my tattoo.  I loved seeing her artwork on Facebook and seeing how much she loves what she does.  I knew she would  listen to my craziness and add a little touch of “her” to the design.

Thank you Ashla for making this man so proud to wear your art, for making the experience a lot of fun and for being patient with me 🙂

 

MINI

 

 

1st Half Marathon Post Heart Attack- What an experience !

My First Half Marathon Post Heart Attack !

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It took me a while to write this.  I had to sort through all my thoughts on this race.

I trained hard, I was dedicated, I pushed when I wanted to give up, kept going to the gym even when I didn’t feel like it.  Every moment leading up to the race was a challenge.  I was as ready as I was going to be.  My mind, my body felt strong.

Now, before I dive into this further please understand I am very proud of finishing the race and no one can take that away from me.  The pride and the finish.

I spent time before the race meeting friends, taking photos and having my photo taken many times thanks to people loving my race shirt ! The Shirt….that is for another post.

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To say I was nervous would be the biggest understatement of the day. 

I was ready to take this race and make it mine.  In my training I had felt amazing, was running an 11:45 min/mile.  I only had a few blips while training but worked through it smartly.

Smart.  That here is the key word my friends.  I trained not for speed, I trained to be smart, healthy and to ensure I was having fun.  Trained not to think too much about my heart attack and what could go wrong.  I felt so amazing !

Then came race day.  Up at the crack of crazy ( 3am) for a start time of 7:00 am.  I never publicly stated I had a goal but in my head I wanted to finish in 2:25.  That is what I trained for.

I won’t detail every kilometre, I promise. 

The course was amazing, flat, scenic.  The weather was cool at the start and quite warm as the race progressed.  The first kilometre and a half I ran with my friend Susan but realized her 9 min per mile pace was too much for me and out of my training zone.  I let her go ahead because I did not want her to stay behind for me.  I really wanted to do the whole race with her but realized she was a lot faster than I was.  Respect the pace, respect the distance is exactly what was going through my head.

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The first 5 KM I felt amazing, was matching my 12 min/ mile pace and just before the 5 km mark I stopped to see my friend Danielle who was waiting kindly for me by the Starbucks in Bridgeland.  It was so good to see my friend Danielle on the course, it gives you a little boost to keep pushing forward.  I took a photo with her and off I went.

Danielle and I :)
Danielle and I 🙂

 

As I ran back across Memorial Drive I was loving the race having fun with other runners and was still keeping a 12 min mile but  that was not to last much longer.

It was slightly before reaching 17th avenue that a little fatigue had started to set in.  This was between kilometre 8 and 9.   

17th Avenue.  What do I say about this part of the course ? It was definitely the worst part of the entire course.  It was 2.5 km of uneven roads, pot holes and a narrowing of the course.  Pedestrians crossed at a few points from the sides of the street.  Just before Kilometre 10 is when my race started to go downhill.

I went to pass 3 runners who were running side by side by side.  As I cut to the right I hit a dip in the road hard, twisted my knee, tried to brace myself from falling right over ( BIG MISTAKE !).  It took about another KM before I started feeling immense pain.  Now in theory this could have absolutely ruined my race but something great came out of it.  The Injury?  A Sprained Knee which I am still battling the pain of a few weeks later.

I MAY JUST BE IN A LITTLE PAIN HERE :(
I MAY JUST BE IN A LITTLE PAIN HERE 🙁

 

As I went to walk to the side once the pain started, I bumped into a young woman, apologized and we laughed.  This woman would be one of 2 that I ran/ walked the rest of the race with.  Her name was Lindsay.  The other girl was Shona.

The rest of the race we paced each other, taking walk breaks and although I admitted being in pain, I downplayed it.  I remember at one point,  Shona had said I was the reason she was running and staying in it.  That was awesome to hear and yes, it motivated my ass to keep going.

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318778_199516843_XLargeMy pace slowed to between 14-16 minutes per mile.  There were far more walk breaks than I had hoped for but I knew pushing harder would have made this injury worse.  So I did what I seem to do best in hard situations.  

I laughed.  I danced.  I chatted with those around me.  I posed as I ran past cameras.  I hugged a random person.  I pretended to be Superman, only, I was missing my Lois Lane.  My Knee was my race kryptonite but it would not wreck my spirit.  I kept repeating encouragement to my run mates as they did with me. This race was still mine.

 

The final kilometre was upon us and yes I continued to run/walk right up until the final corner where I ran, in tons of frickin pain but I ran.  That finish line looked so close and yet so far away.  The three of us kinda split at the end.  I would run into Lindsay again at Bag Check and a few days later on Instragram.

Crossing the finish line.  OH. MY. GOD.  So much awesome that it is hard to put into words.

I Crossed, I Cried ( that is again  for another post), crouched to my knees after crossing, got up and walked up to… and this is where it gets really cool.

 Her name is Sarah Lynn Stephens.  The day before the race she saw me at the packet pick up and told me I would finish and do amazing. Little did I know til later that the girl I got my medal from, who’s shoulder I cried on was the same girl who had encouraged me before the race.  A Girl who’s sister is actually on one of my Dodgeball teams.  Small World.  318778_199763060_XLarge

Seriously such an awesome finish, I would not have changed a thing.

The Race was fun, tough, but fun.  My Heart felt amazing, not once was I worried about my heart. It was my heart that got me through to the finish.  My body was up to the task at hand and I had fun for the entire 21.1 km.  I made a couple new friends, experienced brief emotion ( again a different post), finished a race and became very proud of what I accomplished even if it wasn’t the goal time I had hoped. 

 

 

 

So what else is there to say?

 

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When you set out to accomplish a goal, No matter how hard you train, how prepared you are…..Sometimes things don’t go as you had hoped or planned.  Sometimes we search and try for one thing but discover another.  There is no reason to be disappointed if you don’t get your time or PR and complete your goal.  Use it to move forward but don’t beat yourself up, be proud of what you did accomplish and look for what made the experience great. 

 

For me, it was two women who made me laugh, crossing the finish line, crying on the shoulder of someone who said they were proud of me and in the end……Kicking Heart Disease’s Ass for yet another day.

-MINI-

 

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7 DAYS

7 Days from now I will run my first Half Marathon Post Heart Attack.

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7 Days from now I will put my training and hard work to the test.

7 Days from now, I will be 100% focused.

7 Days from now I will equipped and prepared.

7 Days from now I will face fear head on.

7 Days from now I will beat my fear.

7 Days from now I will take the first step to more races.

7 Days from now I will encourage others as I run.

7 Days from now I will have fun.

7 Days from now I will dance on the course.

7 Days from now I will feel physical pain.

7 Days from now I will beat that pain.

7 Days from now I will feel joy.

7 days from now I will embrace that joy.

7 days from now I will run, walk, crawl if I have to.

7 days from now I will finish the race, even if it’s in last place.

7 Days from now…..Simply….I WILL.

 

Mini.

Not Good at Being Selfish. It’s not YOU, It is ME

Not Good at Being Selfish.

Hello readers.

So, I kind of disappeared again.  I apologize, yet, I don’t all at once.  I don’t expect this to make sense.

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In January I got  lazy and was dealing with personal and job issues. I started to close off a bit.  February I focused on the Heart Attack stories of others, which was amazing and therapeutic.  The beginning of March I overloaded my calendar with appointments, outings and allowed my brain to take over.  I also gained about 12 lbs in those months which made me feel like I was letting myself down and falling into old habits of putting off working out.

What changed ?  I was becoming exhausted and not feeling well.  I realized at one point that between December and March I lost complete focus on the most important person in my life.  Me.  It was beginning to affect my health.  Mentally and Physically.

So, I sat at Denny’s late one night and started to schedule some “me” time. I actually created a calendar, cause I’m cool that way ha ha. A part of writing this blog for me is to be honest, write about what I know and learn as I go.  I didn’t start this out to become a professional writer or get published.  I started this to become a better me and get my thoughts, body and my goals in sync.  I was beginning to fail at this.

I lost sight of what I was doing and where I was going.

I do not do selfish well.  Those who know me well will, I think, agree.  Too often I put the needs and wants of others ahead of myself.  I do enjoy giving of myself but sometimes I just give too much. As an ex girlfriend once said to me….. “ your problem is your care too much.”  She was right.

If you gave me a huge bundle of money, there is a solid chance I would spend on others long before I buy myself something and even then I would analyze my purchase until I was blue in the face.

OK, back to my point. Although the last paragraph kinda states a bit of my point.

 

So me, back to me.  I have spent the last 6 weeks getting back to what was important to me.  Yes, I have written, just not posted.  I have re dedicated myself to the gym.  Focus mainly on cardio.  I have lost 6 of the 12 lbs I gained, my energy has returned…sorta.  I need to work harder on not napping after work.  I am in training for my first Half Marathon post Heart Attack, so there is that as well.

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I don’t do selfish well but in the coming months my goal is to learn to balance my desire to give of myself AND focus on me.  I hate saying no, I struggle with the word, always have.  So, friends if you hear me say no more often than I say yes in the coming months, it is not you, it really is me.  I have to pick and choose my time and how I spend it.

I do have projects on the go that I am excited about.  One very dear to my heart, my annual Dodgeball Tournament to raise money for the Alberta Children’s Hospital is coming up and that will consume a good chunk of my time until June.  So, it’s me, the tournament and occasional gatherings in the coming months.

I have some mental and physical goals to reach this year. Maybe once I reach them the balance can shift again.  My main goal for now is to be better than I was the day before, every day.  Please bear with me but if you can’t handle it then I get it. 

It is me, not you.

 

Mini.

HEART ATTACK STORIES- LISA URBAN DOWLING- WE ALL BLEED RED.

 

 

In the spirit of Heart Month I am sharing stories of fellow Heart Attack Survivors that I have met through The Under 55 Heart Attack Survivors Group on Facebook. Everyone has a story and I hope you will take a read and help us create awareness of the #1 Killer in North America.

 

Today Please meet Lisa Urban Dowling.

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Who are you ?  Name, current age, where are you from ?

I am Lisa Urban Dowling.  I am currently 48.  I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but have lived in St. Augustine, FL for the past 25 years

How old were you when you experienced your heart attack?

I was 46

Where were you when it happened?  Tell me your story.

I was at home, alone, while my 7 year old daughter spent the week with her dad and his girlfriend.  Since it was a holiday weekend (4th of July), I had asked if I could stop by and see her.  They decided that it would not be a good idea.  I let myself get pretty worked up about the situation.  I then decided that I would paint my great room.  While I was painting, I was talking to a friend of mine.  I all of a sudden felt as if an elephant was standing on my chest.  It was very strange and did not really go away.  I took my blood pressure (I have had high blood pressure previously during times of stress) and it was WAY high!  Like 260/150 high.  I decided that it was a faulty reading, and that I needed blood pressure medicine.  It was a Friday, so I found some old med in my medicine chest.  I had another round of pains two nights later (Sunday). I didn’t have a general practitioner, but I called one and was told that they couldn’t see me until Thursday.   I had pains again on Tuesday, but breathed through them and they seemed to lessen.  On Thursday, I went to the new doctor.  She checked me out, did an ekg in office, saw some abnormalities, called a cardiologist to see me the next day, and sent me to have blood work drawn.  That evening she called and said that I showed heart damage and needed to go straight to the hospital.  My ex grabbed my daughter, his girlfriend took me to the hospital, and I called my parents who lived out of state to come.

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The next morning, I had a heart cath with attempt to stent.  My LAD is 100% blocked and could not be removed, but my EF is still at 55 – 58.  I have had a Mayo consult, and they agree that I should be medically managed at this point.  It was something called SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) – rare, most common in perimenipausal or post partum women.

What were your signs and symptoms?  Did you have any pre existing conditions or family history ?

Not really – some slight hypertension.  I got too worked up, Elephant on chest.

How did this affect your life?  Physically/ Personally? 

I was so tired on the medication, but being a single mom, I really didn’t take much time off.  I did cardiac rehab.  My cholesterol and everything is fine.  I watch what I eat, try to eat Mediterranean and try to stay active.  I also let a lot of things go so that I don’t stress.

What lifestyle changes have you made ?  What are your struggles ?

I am a little less type A.  I also live very in the moment, especially spending time with my daughter.

Stents/ Zipper or Defib ?  What is your situation?

None for now.  Part of my heart is dead – the distal apex.  But dead is dead, so not much that can be done.  Will need defib in future if it gives off faulty signals.

What do you fear now ?

Not being here for my daughter.

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What are three things that are most important in your post heart attack life?

My daughter, spending time with my family, leaving a positive impact on others.

Did you do Cardiac Rehab?  What has been the hardest part of your recovery ?

I did and it was helpful.  The weight gain (caused by menopause or medication)

What are your new dreams ?

I want to work at becoming a life coach so that I can help others more.  (I taught high school and middle school English for 20 years, and now work as a service and sales rep for a great family owned photography company).

What do you wish you could do now that you never tried before but so wish you could?  Eg:  Skydiving.

I want to travel more! Paris, Hawaii…

Who was there for you?

My family.  The friends I told.  My ex and his girlfriend.

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Did you lose many people after ?

Several high school acquaintances have died due to heart attacks since mine.  

Have you had any detractors or people who have been hard on you?

Not really.  I seem so healthy that it is a shock to most.

If you could go back in the past how would you live your life differently?

I wouldn’t!  I have lived a great life and made a difference to many, which is how I measure.

What do you want more of in life ?

Peace, fun, time with my daughter, travel, love.

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What makes you great ?

My positive, upbeat, helpful spirit.

What advice would you give to a healthy person?

Love your kids, spend time with your loved ones.

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