Weakness and Strength: The Duality of Being a CHD Survivor, and Athlete

Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving; Strength one minute, weakness the next.

I train in the various gyms and formats twice per day, most days. I enjoy a mostly plant-based whole foods diet, avoiding even alcohol and every form of drug, recreational, or otherwise. To most people I comes across, I am just a typical athlete.

I get told that I’m “bad ass”, “strong”, and even “Super Woman”. My instagram shows mostly workouts, outdoors adventures, and most of all, CLIMBING! What I portray on a daily basis of my fitness routine is real. It’s very real. My typical day-to-day is spending as much time in Barre and climbing as possible, while eating healthy foods that will nourish my body.

What is rarely portray are my moments of weakness. Not because I’m avoiding it, but because it’s not a daily part of my life. However, it is still a huge part of my life.

I struggle with the terms “strong” and “badass”, because I’m so fully aware of my mortality. If there are ever moments that I forget, my heart promptly and strongly reminds me.

Years ago, when my son was just 2 years old, my heart stopped 3 times and I was cardioverted. I didn’t know if I would even survive; my last moments before being cardioverted was, “Will my son even remember me if I don’t wake up from this?”. At 25 years old, it was the darkest moment of my life.

I survived multiple failed surgeries, medication changes, and PTSD after that moment. The sound and feel of my heart beating would cause a panic attack and subsequent arrhythmia. There was no solace, no escape. I was towing the line between life and death for multiple years, pushing through it all for my son. Everything I have ever done, is for my son.

Through years of fight, I made it to where I am today.

Congenital Heart Disease is something I was born with. There is NO CURE. Only treatment to make life more comfortable, and to keep me out of the hospital as much as possible.

Yesterday was another day of duality. I went to barre class in the morning, then came home, and did strict pull-ups, two finger pull-ups, and then one-finger pull-ups. (Video Attached).

I felt so strong…. and normal.

I just want to be normal.

Last night when I closed my eyes to sleep, it happened. DUB.. DUB.

I was having heart palpitations consistently every 30 seconds for about an hour. It wouldn’t stop. My body began shivering uncontrollably, teeth chattering, and my husband held my close and put his hand on my chest to help calm me; He knows the importance in me not feeling alone. In these moments, I am just weak. In these moments, I am not strong. In these moments, I NEED someone… I NEED my husband.

Being a very independant woman, I am completely dependant and broken in these moments. Is this “bad ass” and “strong” to you? It isn’t to me.

My arrhythmia would not stop, and I notified the on-call Cardiologist.

I took additional heart medications on advice from the physician, and was notified that if my rhythm was not improving after one house, I would need to check into the ER.

As I laid there, my heart randomly thumping, tears rolled from my eyes, and I just prayed.

I always have a fear that my heart will just stop again.

The medication did work, and I fell asleep without further incidents.

Upon waking up this morning, I cancelled my fitness training for the day, and decided to just “cocoon” and stay low. I feel quiet today, and a little sad. I have asked myself, “Why me?”.

With that being said, life goes on, and so will I. I am not strong today, and that is okay. I just need to rest, refocus, and be thankful for the small wins.

Tomorrow, I will fight, train, and get back to the “me” that I have worked for over the last 10 years.

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
― Maya Angelou


Molly Elizabeth

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