There was a moment on Saturday morning–about two thirds of the way through the Phoenix Heart Walk with my husband Tom, friend Todd, son Nick and his girlfriend Anastasia by my side–when I spotted this young man holding a homemade sign.
His presence and the message along the three-mile route touched me. I stopped to take his picture, hugged him, and thanked him for being there and sharing his heartfelt message.
I don’t really consider myself a heart “hero”, though our Heart Walk 2023 team I “coached” and dubbed “Friends for Life” did raise more than $2,000 in the fight against heart disease and stroke.
Thankful “survivor” feels like a better fit. Especially when I look back on that day nearly six years ago when Tom and I endured our most difficult and frightening moments individually and as a couple.
It was July 6, 2017, our collective sixtieth birthday. After feeling breathless on a humid summer day, I found myself lying on a gurney in the bowels of Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
After suffering a mild heart attack, I waited impatiently for two teams of heart specialists–actual heart heroes–to remove a blockage in the left side of my heart and insert two stents.
Fortunately, since that tumultuous day I have been able to transform my health. With a little luck, thirty fewer pounds to carry, and a lot of hard work, support, and exercise, I’ve lived longer, written more stories, and created a whole new existence in the Valley of the Sun. You can read all about our journey in An Unobstructed View.
Certainly, I’ve come a long way since 2017. Far enough that on Saturday, March 25, 2023–after completing the Phoenix Heart Walk and crossing the finish line–I stood with family and friends on the streets of Phoenix and breathed deep.
Along with the thousands of others in attendance, we “heart heroes” celebrated and embraced a sunnier, more hopeful day.