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The Heart of the Matter

What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over…

Image of a heart drawn with crayon
February is National Heart Healthy Month

The heart may not grieve over what the eye doesn’t see but I’m about to tell you a tell you a tale of courage in the face of danger, heartbreak, and love against all odds, that will give new meaning to this idiom.

It was an ordinary day like any other, but within a matter of hours what began as a typical morning would turn into a major catastrophe of unknown proportions. As the sun peeped in through the blinds I groaned as I rolled over, blankets covering my head, and snuggled deeply into the warmth of my cocoon.

I’m once again, almost to the point of that drowsy, dreamlike state where I can continue dreaming of my new beau. We were skipping, hand-in-hand, through the flowering, butterfly saturated, meadow and I’m just to the point where…All of the sudden I feel this push against my back. I try to ignore it, to get back to my love story…there it goes again only this time it’s more insistent almost to the point of pushing me off the edge of my bed. What the?

It’s Mollie (my little psycho dog) practically shoving me off the bed with her two front paws, while sternly barking ‘get up, get out of bed, take me outside, so I can go potty, come back inside for food and drink, then playtime’ routine. “Alright already, chill” I snap, as I stretch, yawn and rub my still sleep-filled eyes thinking (not for the first time) “why did I get a dog?”

I grudgingly do my morning routine, throw on some dog walking clothes, layer up, then head out to the frozen wasteland that is my neighborhood. The snow is almost higher than Mollie but not one to be deterred, she just barrels right through.

Picture of Mollie sitting on a couch. She is  lovable rescue who is part  chihuahua and part terrier.
Mollie sitting on a couch. She is lovable rescue who is part chihuahua and part terrier.

Ice Cold Fear

She sees it before I do, stops, and emits a low growl. She hesitantly approaches the object. As we edge ever closer, a blob appears in my line of vision but I still can’t determine what it is.

I lick my dry lips, my heart is pounding so violently (I swear I can hear my blood coursing through my veins). I’m shaking and thinking “what if it’s a wolf, snow leopard or a rabid cougar?” Whatever it is, it’s so quiet and still, as if it’s sizing us up. “Think, Steph, think, what to do, what to do?” If I let go of Mollie’s leash and run I may have an extra few seconds to get to safety or if we continue to approach as if we’re unafraid maybe the creature will leave us alone. But honestly though for Mollie to sacrifice herself for the greater good (that is me) it’s the least she could do for making me come out here in the first place. “Hmmm, what should I do?”

Against my better judgment we continue onward. Mollie begins straining at the leash while alternately barking and growling. “That’s it,” I think, “we’re done.” I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and for a brief second feel like I’m going to be ill. “Oh great, I’m about to be attacked by an unknown whatever and I have to be sick.”

Olaf laughing it up with his arms in the air having a good old time.
Image found on Pinterest

I retract Mollie’s leash to regain a measure of control. As I’m retracting the leash I’m approaching the object of my fear and it’s slowly coming into focus. It’s about two feet tall, white, and I believe it’s inanimate. Inching closer, with Mollie in hand, I see sticks poking out of it. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized I was holding my breath which I now let out as a huge sigh of relief.

It’s a snowman, and not just any snowman but it sort of resembles Olaf from the movie frozen. Though the typical snowman is made of three round snowballs (gradually increasing in size from the head to the body), Olaf’s head is sort of egg-shaped and he comes complete with a couple of twigs for hair and two snowball feet (an all around cute little guy). “Good dog Mollie, thank you for warning me,” guess I have to reward her with a snack.

Heart to Heart

American Heart Month in February is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and increasing knowledge about prevention.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 3 women die of heart disease? This is about 1 woman every minute
  • Heart disease takes more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease
  • 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, while 1 in 3 dies of heart disease

Last year I did a post during the month of February on how I almost lost my best friend to a heart attack a couple of years ago. She was a smoker in her early 40s, had been recently diagnosed with diabetes, and heart disease runs in her family. Still, none of these factors prepared any of us for the diagnosis that if she weren’t in the right place at the right time, the outcome could have been tragic.

It’s true that heart attack symptoms are considerably different in women than men. Lori didn’t have a crushing pain in her chest rather, her only complaints were hot flashes and sweating. Since she was scheduled for back surgery no one considered that she might be having a coronary episode.

When Lori was being prepped for surgery the nurses discovered that she was in the midst of a heart attack and she was promptly taken to the ER. It wasn’t until she was taken to the coronary unit for a stent that the doctor found there was 99% blockage in one of her major heart valves. After Lori’s recovery and follow-up she was deemed healthy and hasn’t had further issues.

I mentioned Lori and heart statistics on women because as a group, we’ve been conditioned to think that heart disease doesn’t affect us. Since we hear so much about the devastating effects of breast cancer,we generally tend to think that heart disease is not a major issue for women.

For my friends Gracie and 2 months later, Richard, the circumstances and outcome of their heart attacks were drastically different from Lori’s situation. However the similarity of Gracie and Richard’s massive heart attacks was how rapidly their lives were claimed when each fell to the ground.

I believe Gracie was on a ladder or step stool painting when her mother heard a loud crash as Gracie hit the floor. Similarly, Richard had just stood up to go into another room when he fell. In both situations by the time paramedics arrived there were no signs of life.

How Can You Prevent a Heart Attack?

You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk:

  • Watch your weight.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get active and eat healthy.

Following are resources with additional information on heart health and heart attack prevention:

“A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.” ~Mother Teresa

4 thoughts on “The Heart of the Matter

  1. […] I did a post on heart disease and how it’s the number one killer of women (you can view the post HERE). On Thursday when my cousin and I got our hair done she told me about a mutual female friend who […]

  2. Great informative post! People need to know the facts about heart disease. I am so sorry about Gracie and Richard but I’m so glad that Lori is doing well.

    1. Thank you Jaanethough. Yeah, I found out additional information that I didn’t know from last years’ post. Since so many people (men and women are affected by heart disease) just about everyone knows someone who either has or had heart problems. I really get distressed over hearing about these issues in young people.

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