Keep on Keeping!

It’s been 4 and half years since my life changed. 4 and half years since I was diagnosed with a heart condition while I was 37 weeks pregnant with my littlest baby.

That moment of my life, without a doubt, was singlehandedly the most frightening I’ve ever felt. Hearing the words mortality, rupture, open heart surgery, ICU, was like living a nightmare. I was about to become a mum for the third time and while I should have been embracing the moment, I was scared out of my wits as to how it would all end….But thankfully with the support of an amazing family, wonderful friends, the best cardiologist I could ask for and the strength that all of this provides for me to keep on keeping, I’m still here to tell my story!

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This week I had my annual heart scan. This past year has been a very busy one. Between work, the kids education and sport and the busy day to day chores of life with 3 kids, how can life not be busy. We travelled to the States where my daughter decided to split open her head – cause that’s not going to give your heart a scare! Our son was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD and a motor and vocal tic – that’s enough to raise my blood pressure most days! I trained for my first half marathon and to date have run 2 now – this was always going to be a question of is it too much?

But after lying there, feeling sick to my stomach like I always do during my scan on Wednesday, it was so delightful to hear my results hadn’t altered since my last scan. Yippee!!! I was so relieved. It’s always the fear of the unknown with my condition. You just never know. Although I look and feel fantastic on the outside, without that scan who knows what’s happening on the inside. What deteriorates my condition is high blood pressure and thankfully mine is always low but you just never know!

Last year’s scan, for the first time since diagnosis, there was some deterioration. It was only slight but it was movement. I was taken back to all the emotions I felt when I was first diagnosed – scared, overwhelmed, anxious, timid. But that was my scan after I lost my nana – that movement was clearly from a broken heart;(

My aorta is now dilated to 4.6cm. It’s still just sitting in the moderate range as severe is 5cm and I shall do everything in my power to maintain this to avoid open heart surgery. Each day I make conscious decisions on my food intake, I exercise 5-6 times a week, rest when I can, sleep as much as I can and do things for myself that make me happy!

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Next month I see my cardiologist to discuss my health and any further plans that need to be made. But for now I will keep on keeping. I will enjoy the small things in life. I will laugh out loud when I need to. I will remain as calm as I can when I really want to rip someone’s head off (lol). I will appreciate what my life consists of and I will be grateful everyday the moment our little angel baby was conceived, because without her, who knows how long I would be on this earth to tell my story!

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My First Half…

Today I achieved something I thought I never would be able to. Not only because of my heart condition, but I never thought I’d have the ability to. But I do and now I can say I have run a half marathon, without stopping and under 2 hours!!!!

I’ve been working towards this since the beginning of the year with 20k as my furthest run which I did a month ago! I’ve been running 15-17k runs each weekend and slowly increasing my pace. I had actually planned to run 20k next weekend, but with so much rain around this week and I’d only run 5k on Wednesday, I figured my legs would be as ready as they’d ever be.

I spend the last two days fuelling my body with lots of water, protein and of course fruit and veggies. I was as ready as I could be. I got everything ready as I do the night before, which included my water bottle, sachet of fruit and a charged watch and iPod! I woke to overcast conditions this morning which I was completely happy about and set off at 6.15. This is how it played out….

I really thought by not running much this week, my legs would be feeling great – not so much. They were a bit achy and when I reached my first kilometre at 5.15mins I was a bit disappointed. By my third kilometre (which was 5.38mins) I was really disappointed! I even remember saying to myself “oh well today isn’t the day – just get these 20k under your belt!” It wasn’t until I got to the eighth kilometre that I was starting to get a nice consistent pace that I felt in control of the run.

It was during this eighth kilometre that I started to make my way home to fuel my body with water and fruit. I didn’t want to at first as it meant going up two hills which made a total of three hills in the first 9k. But thankfully I kept up my pace and even with a dropped water bottle, which cracked the lid and I lost half my water and I almost dropped my iPod, I stayed on track. But after this comic of events, I started to feel sore again. I found myself thinking again “I don’t think I’ll be keeping up this pace!”

It wasn’t until I saw my time at 11k under an hour that I thought “you might just have this!” From there I kept up my pace. My next aim was to make it to 15k which is where I had the rest of my fruit sachet – and note to self – suck don’t pour in your mouth – not as easy as it seems lol! From this point the rest of the run couldn’t have gone any better.

Last week I ran 16k (more hilly) in an hour and a half and this week I hit 16k at 1 hour 26mins. I was stoked with a 17k pb of 1 hour 31mins – my previous pb was 1 hour 36 mins!! By this time I knew I was about 5 mins in front of the last 20k I had run a month ago…I was pumped!!! I was so focused I couldn’t let myself get excited! It wasn’t until I got 17k that I told myself “you are making it to 21.1!!” My goal was to run my first half marathon under 2 hours and if I knew I wouldn’t make this time I would stop at 20k just like I did last time. When I reached 20k at 1 hour 51 taking almost 5 mins off my pb, I knew that I could achieve my half marathon goal.

That last kilometre wasn’t pretty. I was sore. I was ready to stop. I kept looking at my watch every minute and counting down the metres. When I reached 21k I counted down the last 100m from 10 out loud and at 21.1k I stopped my watch and let out the loudest cheer – a couple were walking past and I think I scared them but I didn’t care – I’d just run a half marathon under 2 hours!!!!!

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I was in disbelief. I did it…I really did it!!!! And I know that I can do better!!! This week I got the confirmation from my cardiologist to run the Gold Coast half marathon. As soon as he confirmed it and after a check up with my doctor on Wednesday, who was very happy with me, I’m now all signed up!!! I’m so pumped and ready to take on the challenge again. My aim…to beat today’s time:)

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When I was diagnosed with my heart condition, no one knew how I would be effected. I have many limitations and work really hard everyday to keep it at bay. But one thing is for sure, my heart condition hasn’t made me scared, it’s made me a stronger, more determined person to achieve things I thought wouldn’t be impossible. My heart condition doesn’t control me…I control my heart condition.

To achieve anything all you have to do is believe and never give up!