Take Care of Your Heart – a Note from a Friend

My friend Lilian’s life changed five years ago when she had a stroke at forty-six. One of the things it did was turn her into a runner. Her dedication and determination to live a healthier life has been an inspiration and  I wanted to share something she wrote to mark five years since she had the stroke. You can follow her running on Strava.

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Lilian and I out for a run in Central Park in 2013.

What does it take to learn a lesson?

5 years ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning, feeling a little tired.  I noticed my left leg was feeling numb and thought, maybe I slept on the side too long.  Within half an hour, I felt my left arm go numb, and then the left side of my face.  The sensation is similar to anasthesia your dentist puts on you before a major procedure.

I realized I was experiencing symptoms of what could be a stroke.  Fortunately, my husband was home, and he took me to the hospital, and spoke Emergency medical technician speak to the Emergency Room check in staff, and I was whisked into a room full of nurses and doctors who went to work fast.

I’m very fortunate.  It was a tiny clot, and getting to the hospital within an hour was critical.  They were able to push drugs in me to break up clots.  Stroke symptoms are not always easy to spot.  I was fortunate in getting the easy one.  I have no residual defects.

5 years and one day ago, I would have laughed at the thought of running a mile.  Much less running 6 miles in 1 hour.  That’s a 10 minute mile.  I was lazy, indulgent, and I often made excuses…”Oh…I’m a working mom, and some days, I’m a single mom”  “Oh, I’m so tired after working, my only days to rest are Saturday and Sunday”…”Oh…my father had a heart attack and died…I would like to have the same death so I will load up on butter, ice cream, bacon, roasted duck, lard in my char kway teow …”

I succeeded.  I got fat and didn’t want to believe my pants were tight because I was fat.  Worse than being fat…I let my body get into the most horrible shape.  I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without panting.

We all want to believe it won’t happen to us.  And I wouldn’t want to wish it upon anyone.  The thoughts which flashed through my head on the way to the hospital were “I’m not ready to be an invalid”  “I’m not ready to die” “WTF why are you messing with me You Higher Power…is it because I stopped believing you exist…dammit”

Does cursing at the Higher Power indicate an admission of it’s existence?  Whatever, I’m still not so sure it exists.

I will be writing about this every year.  I will be sharing this every year.  I want to remind my friends…don’t let it happen to you.

Last week I ran 6 miles in under an hour.  It took 5 years to get to this point.  I used to be afraid to run to the beach 3 miles away, because it meant I’d have to slog it back.  It took me over 2 hours the first time I tried.  Now it takes a little over an hour.

I have lost 20 pounds of weight.  My pants fit now, and actually, I have to pin them in, so they don’t fall off.

I have given up my favorite foods and learned to like new and different tastes.  I do it because I am not ready to die yet.  Of course, tomorrow, I could get hit by a truck and die, I could be on a flight and the plane disappears…but I won’t die because I made it happen.

I used to tell my children…don’t play with fire…you could get burnt.  But they didn’t listen.  When they did play with fire, and got burnt…they learned their lesson.

You don’t have to learn this lesson.  Take it from me.  It’s not a fun lesson to learn.

Till next year, cardio exercises for at least 30 minutes a day, and take care of your hearts.

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