I remember every year worrying about breast cancer and whether my mammogram would be negative. None of the women I worked with ever spoke about heart disease and none of us knew it was our #1 killer.

I clearly remember my heart attack even though it happened years ago. I was lying in bed watching TV with my husband when my boss called (I had a high pressure job). As I hung up the phone, I immediately felt the most horrendous pain in my chest. I had no idea what was happening but knew something was wrong. We called our doctor and waited for him to call us back. As we waited, I felt worse; I started having trouble breathing and told my husband to take me to the hospital.

By the time we got to the hospital, I could barely walk. I was put in a wheelchair and seen immediately. My EKG was normal and I consider myself lucky that the hospital admitted me. About 5 hours later, my doctor told me I'd had a heart attack. I looked at him like he was nuts, and thought, "53-year-old women don't have heart attacks." I stayed in the Coronary Care Unit for 6 days where I was so weak that a nurse had to bathe me. My tests did not show clogged arteries, however, they did find that my arteries go into spasms.

I was scared, lonely, and depressed. There were no support groups for women and I had no one to turn to. I was terrified and could not sleep at night. I was put on antidepressants and tranquilizers, which only made me spacey. I could not find a therapist who understood what a heart attack could do to you, both mentally and physically. My doctors seemed to have no clue what to do with me. My medicines were constantly changed and I was given test after test. Food became my friend and I ate chocolate in every form. I gained 50 pounds. Now I was fat and scared! I couldn't look in the mirror. Life was not worth living.

After joining WomenHeart, the national coalition of women with heart disease, and hearing other women's stories about their heart disease, I finally found peace. I lost the 50 pounds and improved my mental health. I now have a very good doctor, and have become extremely aggressive about my healthcare. I also work as an activist in the fight for better treatment for all women with heart disease. My life has come full circle. I remember asking my daughter why this happened to me, and she said, "God has a reason for this." I now know that the reason is for me to help other women learn about the dangers of heart disease.

Filed in One Woman's Story > One Woman's Story