Survivor Burnout

Ok this is weird…

I literally haven’t typed in this space since February. 
I swear there is a reason.
It’s not an excuse, but I’m going through something….weird.
Something I can only describe as survivor burnout.
The end of 2014 was absolutely amazing. My story was featured in Good Housekeeping, I was on the Dr Oz show, and I was emailing with survivors and their caretakers from all over the world. Every time I checked my email there was a new message from someone who had just had a heart attack or gone through a life altering event. I responded to as many as I could, sometimes late into the night. I heard the stories of survivors, mostly women, who needed someone to talk to who understood what they had been through. I couldn’t say no. Meanwhile I was still volunteering, going to the Go Red For Women luncheon, working with my local AHA Passion Committee, and guest blogging for websites. 
It hit me around March that I was sad…too sad. I had taken on the stories of others, worrying about their health and futures and rather than empathizing I had begun sympathizing. I was feeling their pain and reliving my trauma over and over again. I felt guilty when someone’s situation was worse than mine and devastated to learn of someone’s passing. I realized I needed a change. 
I want to help others, but I have to find a different way of going about it. A healthier way. 
So if I haven’t emailed you back, responded to your comment, or sent you a return message on Facebook, please forgive me. I am working through this and I will be back to me in no time.
xoxo, S

Go Red for Women Luncheon #OrlandoGoesRed

The American Heart Association has done it again. They have left an amazing impact on my life. I was asked to speak at the American Heart Association-Greater Orlando’s Go Red for Women luncheon and the experience did not disappoint.

First of all, anyone who knows me knows I am HORRIBLE at doing my hair. My usual hairstyle is a high bun on the run. So I decided to conquer this mop and get a blowout before the big event. Here’s what it looked like Thursday night.

Aaaaand here’s what happened this morning. FAIL. #EPICfail. I tried pinning it overnight but by the morning it was a hot mess. So back to the bun I went. Florida weather + my hair = frizz city. This was another challenge for another day.

I arrived at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Studios bright and early. So glad I took the day off from work. Hurrying there would have stressed me out and I was already nervous as anything. The lobby looked amazing! Ladies were bidding on fantastic silent auction items (I thought someone was going to get cut for the Tory Burch clutch), taking pictures, having their makeup done and even getting their numbers checked with Florida Hospital! I was also interviewed by Channel 6!

Check out the selfie stop! Great idea! I was a tweeting fool with #OrlandoGoesRed!

Right next to the stage, just before Orlando Ballet performed! They were amazing! What a view for this event!

Table #1 y’all! This was the media/speaker table. Check out Martie Salt (WFTV) & Leslie Gale (Magic 107.7) in the background emceeing the event. They sat at table 1 as well.

Here I am, giving my speech. Also choking back tears. I really love speaking in front of people, no matter how nerve-wracking. To see reactions to what you’re saying and to see the impact on their face is so rewarding. See below for my speech.

Sweet swag bag.

After the luncheon I was able to connect with amazing women. I even met a 28 year old stroke survivor and a 27 year old who had a quadruple bypass surgery. This is why I continue to blog, tweet, Facebook and speak. These connections. These women. Survivors.

Speech: (the picture is below)

This picture was taken in October of 2011 when I was 31. Today I stand before you at the age of 33. At the time of this picture, I had just finished my first half marathon. This picture was taken just moments after I crossed the finish line. It’s pretty obvious that I was thrilled. You can see the Daytona track in the background, since this was at the Daytona Half Marathon.

I had worked so hard to get to this point. 2011 was my year of positive change. I joined a training group, running 3-4 times a week, eating well and discovering my love for running. However, one thing I had yet to conquer was stress. At the time I was single, working on my doctorate and teaching middle school.  I was definitely living life one to-do list to the next. Running became my solace.

Just 3 months after this picture I had a widow maker heart attack. They nickname it the widow maker due to the low survival rate. My LAD was 99% blocked.  I had no idea what a heart attack looked like or felt like. No family history and a clean bill of health. In fact, I knew so little I thought a cath was a catheter. But, I knew something was desperately wrong.

Call it luck, fate, a miracle, but I stand before you today as a survivor. Widow maker heart attacks get their gruesome names from the damage they cause. The sooner you get treatment the better. I survived mine after suffering for 4 days. I shouldn’t be standing before you.
To say that those 5 days in the hospital were a low point in my life isn’t doing it justice. My entire world was shattered. I wondered if I could run again, how I would date again, if I could have or even want kids anymore and how I would manage to deal with the thought of a little metal spring inside of my heart for the rest of my life.

On my way out the door to the hospital I grabbed 3 things-my glasses, my phone charger and my iPad. I’m so glad I did. Instead of lying in my hospital bed writing lesson plans, doing research or writing a paper, I began to explore the world of a heart attack survivor.  As I began googling, I found the American Heart Association. I read stories of survivors and their triumphant return to their real lives. I read articles that validated my feelings All hope was not lost. I became inspired.

After the heart attack I started my blog, Heart Attack at 31. I’ve communicated with heart attack survivors from all over the globe, hearing their stories and bonding for life. My blog, which began as my own little piece of cathartic happiness, turned into opportunities and experiences.

However, since the heart attack my most rewarding work has been working with the American Heart Association. I have been a highlighted You’re the Cure Advocate, spoken at Cocktails for a Cause and at the Go Red for Women breakfast, guest blogged, and I’ve even been on TV and radio. I will never tire of hearing women tell me their stories after these events or making connections with other survivors. The American Heart Association is the reason I move on. Although I’m not thankful for my heart attack, I’m thankful for the work I’ve done with the American Heart Association and the amazing things they are able to accomplish daily. These connections have saved my life. Let’s continue helping survivors like me *point to picture* live better and richer lives.
This pic was displayed on the screen

Victory Breakfast

This morning I met Kathleen at CW for 6 miles. Bright and early baby! Then it was time for the annual Victory Breakfast for Marathonfest. Last year’s breakfast was literally the day after I got out of the hospital. I had to be driven there (boo for no driving) and I was pretty much in a tearful daze the entire 2 hours. I remember just sobbing through most of the stories, thinking I was never going to run again. I was still shell-shocked. This year was tearful but for totally different reasons.

Last year’s breakfast. Note the red eyes.

This year, I felt a little numb (story of my life lately). I was given a “Best Comeback” award, which was extremely strange. I had this weird out of body experience as I was walking up to the front. Here were 3 other ladies in front of me. 2 of them weren’t familiar to me but the other girl was about my age and had a brain tumor last year. Now she’s running Boston for charity and awareness. So I began to feel self-conscious and wondered what everyone was thinking when they looked at me.

I was shaken out of my numbness by the story of one of our fellow runners who lost his battle with cancer last year. His wife delivered an elegant, sweet yet funny story about him which caused me an immense amount of survivor’s guilt. Not that what I went through is anywhere similar to the fight he endured but the issue of surviving…why me and not him? Why any of us? Why am I getting so darn deep in this blog entry?? Hm. As we listened to this amazing story, I glanced out of the corner of my eye at Kathleen, who had tears in her eyes too. She simply said at the end of the breakfast, “we’re lucky.”

Amanda, me, Kathleen (Leah was there too!)

Of course there is no shortage of survivors amongst Track Shack runners. Gloria is a breast cancer survivor who kicks butt on a daily basis. Talk about a tough cookie! As we are heading out to the parking lot she ushers me over to her car and gives me this amazing yoga mat bag she made herself. Brave AND talented! Of course I tell her she doesn’t need to give me anything, but she says that I’m an inspiration and she wanted to. The waterworks start again. I’m surrounded by inspiring people. Survivors. Who inspires you? ♥

Contact my girl Gloria for one–I’m in love!