By: Denise Mayer, Survivor Ambassador, Guest Blogger
My name is Denise Mayer, and I am a survivor! I’m a proud stay-at-home mom to 3 amazing children, my Yorkshire Terrier, Rudy, and am happily married to my husband, Craig, of 16 years. I enjoy spending a lot of time with my parents since we are very close as well as my older brother. Being unemployed the last 10 years, has given me the opportunity to raise my children, assist with homework and shuffle them around to athletic events as they are all very active.
Exercising and eating healthy have been my passion since I was in high school. I even spent part of my career working as a dietitian. Playing sports, going to the gym, even while pregnant, was what I enjoyed. Choosing healthy foods just came natural to me and made me feel good. Unfortunately, I had to limit my exercise routine dramatically in 2013 due to chronic back pain.
On April 16, 2016, about 3 months after I elected to have a partial hysterectomy for chronic back pain, I had a heart attack called SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection). SCAD starts with a tear in the wall of an otherwise normal artery. The tear tunnels within the wall of the artery, and it blocks the artery and blood flow to the heart muscles.
I just felt as if I got myself back up from recovering after having the hysterectomy and was hit with a big shocker. Now a heart attack at age 40, how could it be? The week before my SCAD I wasn’t feeling well, I had some nausea, upset stomach and pain in between my shoulder blades that seemed to linger. I went to my primary doctor on Wednesday and told him my concerns. I asked, do you think it’s my heart? His response was, “No way Denise, you’re only 40, it’s not your heart.”
On Saturday morning I woke up to start my day, bent down to get my slippers and felt a burning ripping sensation across my upper back followed by arm numbness, tingling, chest pressure and pain. I told my husband, I must be having a heart attack! We went to the emergency room where I spent the next six days getting tests. The clot resolved and I didn’t need any stents but was sent home on blood thinners. I did a cardiac rehab program about six weeks after the event and then it all hit me as to what I just went through.
I had sleepless nights, panic attacks and chest tightness for 18 months due to anxiety, it felt horrible! I tried everything to help me recover emotionally and physically – you name it, I tried it. It’s almost three years later and for the first time, I am feeling better. It has been a long journey and it is a daily acceptance of what is my “New Normal” to me. If I feel a pain in my chest or back, I acknowledge it’s not my heart and to trust that I am safe, I am ok. I learned how powerful the mind is and that I am in control of my thoughts.
Life really is why. I walk around with all my Go Red/SCAD Strong shirts, hats, water bottles, flags, pins to support all survivors, their families and to spread awareness. This can happen to anyone no matter how healthy you think you are. SCAD has a lot to do with emotions and hormones which sometimes are out of our control. I live every day to the fullest for my family. I try not to sweat the small stuff because in any minute life can change. I am proud to be a SCAD survivor and to have met others who have gone through the same. Knowing that you are never alone is very comforting. Keep moving forward, stay present, and continue spending your time doing things that make you feel good with the people you love.
To learn more about how you can “Go Red” or attend the Northern New Jersey Go Red for Women luncheon, visit nnjgored.heart.org.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.
The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.