Six years ago, I sat on my bed, alone in my room and prayed to not be sick someday. I grasped onto the possibility that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, which was unseen. After cardioversion, failed heart procedures, pulmonic valve replacement looming in the future, and PTSD, I didn’t know for sure if today would ever come.
As I walked into my cardiology appointment yesterday morning, my heart rate spiked from fear that I was just another year closer to a heart valve replacement. I spoke with my cardiologist about my climbing, strenuous hiking trails, running, and desire to visit high altitude locations. For a heart patient, this is unheard of. My cardiologist stopped what he was doing when I asked about new limits, and he simply stated, “Hmm… you would think I’d be prepared to answer this. Molly, you don’t have any limits now”. I was kind of stunned, questioned him by bringing up altitude training and what my heart could tolerate. He simply said, “You’re just going to have to test it out. What I mean by that is you are free to continue living life the way you want”. Still surprised and bewildered, I asked, “What about the need to replace my pulmonic valve?” He had a puzzled look on his face, smiled and said, “Well, that would be worst-case scenario now. No need to do a pre-emptive strike. I don’t think you will ever need that.” For the first time since my CHD diagnosis, I was being told that not only was I given a second chance to live a life without limits, but heart surgery is in no way part of my foreseeable future, if ever. I was told that if I continue climbing in 10 years, there is a possibility I will be stronger than I am today. Stronger! Can you believe that? Maybe older age at that point will get to me, but possibly not. Rather than my heart deteriorating in 10 years, there is a likely chance I will be stronger and healthier than I am today.
As I’m writing this, I keep thinking about what a life without limits looks like to me. I get the opportunity to ride roller coasters with my son in Disneyland this year. I can visit locations at higher elevations, without fear that hypoxia will occur every time. I get to trail run, hike anywhere in the world, and attempt climbing routes of any difficulty grade. No limits! I still have CHD, my heart is still abnormal, but the right side of my heart is doing what it is supposed to do without failing. So today, just two weeks shy of my 32nd birthday, I’m being given the gift of a life without limits.
It took years of healthy eating, slowly increasing physical activity, and rock climbing as hard as my body would allow to get to this point. In total, six years to reclaim my life, and be given a second chance. I truly believe in the power of prayer, determination, stubbornness to push through the pain, and the heart to never give up. I made it here because I cleared every impossible hurdle and refused to allow fear win. There is a life without limits shining through the darkness, we just need to believe we can reach it, and fight every day to get there. As heart patients, we could all accept a sedentary lifestyle, and never push ourselves to our potential. That would be easy. It would be easy to watch life pass in front of us, not caring if we were part of it. However, that simply means we stop giving ourselves the chance to live life without limits. I promise it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Push yourself every day to get out of bed, eat heart healthy, and maybe even get in a short walk. Make the decision to invest in yourself today and push for your version of “someday”. You can get there. As Mahatma Ghandi once quoted, “Where there is love, there is life”. The trick is to find what you love, heal through that experience, and enjoy the gift of life being given back to you.
What will I do with my second chance? I’m going to do what I love; climb, travel, and experience life in moments with the two loves of my life. All along the way, I’m going to attempt inspiring you amazing heart warriors to give yourself a chance. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
2 Comments Add yours
Thank you for sharing your story. I live with CHD. Four years ago I started pushing back to my cardiologist to allow more physical activity. This has made my heart stronger and my valve defect stronger to the point where they can no longer hear the murmur even though the structural defect is still present. I still have an aneurysm but it has stabilized for the past 3 years. I will never reach your level of sport, however this encourages me to continue to my fight back to being fit and getting back to the things I love, even at 53. Keep going strong!!!!
Renee – Never say never! I think there is so much more that we can obtain, even in the face of heart disease. Keep doing the things you love, because a happy heart is a healthy heart! Remember to have fun with life, celebrate each moment, and find some time to appreciate an epic sunset!