Life beholds many unforgettable experiences. One of those cherished moments occurred for me on February 1, 2007 when Paul completely surprised me with his marriage proposal. I was ecstatic to say the least, and we quickly set to work on planning our August wedding. In mid-February the wedding planning came to a brief halt as I dealt with a short bout of the flu. Once I was feeling better I dove back into wedding planning mode! However, something was not right as I became more active. I was unusually short of breath during my workouts. After a few weeks of trying to "get back into shape" I decided it was time to schedule a doctor visit. The results came back fine, so once again I decided to start the workouts and push even harder. By May my breathing was continuing to get worse. Paul convinced me to set up another doctor appointment. By the time I set up this appointment I could barely walk from my car into work without having to stop and rest. At this second visit my doctor decided it was time to look at my heart. A few tests were done and an echocardiogram was scheduled for a couple days later.
On Friday, May 25, 2007 I arrived for my echo a bit apprehensive, but hoping I would receive a simple explanation for my shortness of breath. It wasn't long before I sensed something "wasn't right" during the echo, but the technician wasn't about to reveal what it was to me. I will never forget the look on my doctor's face when he came in to break the news to me that my pulmonary pressures were extremely high, there was major concern about my heart, they were going to do a few more tests, and then I would probably have to be admitted to the hospital that day (which I was).
After being admitted to the hospital the panic really set in. As I was being wheeled away for a right-heart catheterization, I remember looking into Paul's eyes and both of our eyes immediately pooled with tears...tears of fear and the unknown. After the catheterization I was sick, chilled and scared. Whatever I was given at that point knocked me out for the night. The next eight days I slowly learned more about my disease and the aggressive treatment regime I would be starting to try halt this progressive illness. It was decided that triple-therapy was in my best interest, so I began sub-q Remodulin, Tracleer and Revatio.
I spent the next three months focusing on healing and learning how to manage my medications so I would be ready to walk down the aisle. It was a summer filled with much pain and suffering, but I was determined to move on and live life to the fullest. By the grace of God, I had the most fabulous wedding day. On August 11, 2007 I was able to marry my best friend and companion for life. The challenges of the previous three months had only brought us closer together and made me all the more sure that God was taking care of me in a special way through the gift of my husband.
One of the most difficult realities of my illness was the loss of being able to bear children. Although my heart ached, I was blessed with an adorable nephew and a beautiful niece, as well as a classroom full of first grade students to enrich my life. I was thankful to be alive and thankful to be back working full-time with children. I was gifted a notepad with the saying, “keep a dream in your pocket and faith in your heart.” This immediately became my motto, as it deeply resonated with the way I wanted to live my life. So I kept on dreaming and had faith in God’s plans for my life. I trusted that my life would continue to be filled with blessings, many greater than I could imagine.
In 2011, my husband and I felt fortunate with my improved and stable health condition and felt it was time to pursue adoption. Just as we finished the paperwork to be listed as a “waiting family,” PH was brought to the forefront in our lives when my mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with PH. That’s a whole other story in itself, but it was a magnificent reminder that anything is possible with God. We witnessed a true miracle in my mother’s recovery and are blessed to have her here with us today.
In 2012 the greatest blessing of our lives came into the world. My heart sings that we were chosen to be the parents of a beautiful baby girl. I will never forget the day she was born and the love that swelled inside of me as I took my first look at her. God had a plan, and it was even better than I could have imagined. My heart that once ached with loss is now bursting with love and I feel at peace. As I watch her play, learn and grow, I am reminded everyday how beautiful and precious life truly is. I am blessed to be a mom.
Since my diagnosis, I was determined to thrive, not just survive. I have taken an active role in doing my best to lead a healthy lifestyle that has allowed me to thrive. I immediately began a low-sodium diet. It was a difficult change in the beginning, but I could sure tell a difference. Prior to my diagnosis I was active in sports that my body no longer tolerates. I have since found new activities that I enjoy and are a benefit to my health. I enjoy yoga and mediation. I love going for walks and recently got a Fitbit so I can track my daily steps and activity. I have also delved into the world of Young Living Essential Oils and am so excited to have something that helps me as I manage the side effects of all my medications and has given me a boost in my overall feeling of wellness.
I am thrilled to be involved in the study with the implantable pump for Remodulin. It is such a delight to swim and shower without worrying about an external line and pump. It’s amazing to think of all the advancements in therapy that have come about since my diagnosis 7 years ago and I trust that even better things are coming.
I am thankful for the continued support of wonderful family, friends and medical professionals. I am grateful for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association and all that has been accomplished thus far. I will continue to PHight and give my support until a cure is found!
Although the path can be bumpy at times, I am confident that God is with me every step of the way. I am keeping a dream in my pocket and faith in my heart because anything is possible with God!