A blog about fun, fashion, and fitness
February was Heart month. Appropriate to the month that celebrates loooove.
More women die of cardiovascular disease than of any other condition, including breast cancer. We forget that in the over-hype of breast cancer funding. Breast cancer, is indeed, a major cause for concern for women and we should be vigilant in monitoring our breasts for changes etc. But the heart’s a little different; we can’t perform a self-test to check for plaque build-up, and hidden as it is deep inside our chests, we sometimes forget all about it. Unless it’s broken. Women must educate themselves to the risks of heart disease and adjust their lives accordingly, if they want to live to see their grandchildren get married.
My mother died of heart disease. She was 75 years old. That might seem old, I know, but she wasn’t. 75 is the new 65, I think. However she lived a good life and got to see the births of all her grandchildren, but not their weddings. She had habits that weren’t healthy for her, and she knew it too. She was a nurse.
My mother was a beautiful woman. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her terribly. She went in for an aorta repair 5 years ago and she never talked to us again. It was supposed to fix her leaky valve and the surgeon, myopic as they can be, termed the surgery successful. But my mother died in intensive care a month later from cascading complications directly resulting from the surgery. So, no, I would say the surgery wasn’t a success.
She was an active woman for most of her life. We didn’t have a car growing up so we walked everywhere if we could. If we couldn’t, we took the bus. I think she would have liked to have a car as she was always telling her children drive how to drive theirs, but my father wouldn’t have one. He witnessed a horrific car accident when he first arrived in Canada from Europe after the war and he believed he didn’t survive all that chaos and turmoil to die behind the wheel of a car on a city road going nowhere important. We were an anomaly in our neighbourhood.
She was a fast walker, my mother was. I remember as a little kid having to run most of the time to keep up with her. I know my legs were shorter but she sure could move. In her latter years, she was much slower. As her heart condition worsened she found herself out of breath easily and it was me slowing down to wait for her when we went out. Sometimes I was impatient because I’m always in a hurry. Today I wish I could take just one more walk with her. I would take my time. She went to the YWCA and did line dancing, swam in the pool. She tried to keep moving.
She was a smoker for a good part of her life, as was I. It was the thing to do when we were young. But she quit in her mid-fifties. Just like that. Then she gained weight. From that time on, she always seemed to be struggling with her weight, she was probably a good (or bad as the case may be) 60 lbs overweight when she died. She liked her bread and butter, bread fried in bacon fat, potatoes and butter, cheese, butter, more butter. No, she didn’t have the healthiest eating habits. But she loved us with every fiber of her being and took care of us, fed us, and taught us, my brother, sister and me, to love each other. And we do. Still. I think they love me. I love them.
When my father started to exhibit early signs of dementia, my mother was all over it. While we, her children, and me especially, didn’t recognize the signs of his decline as dementia; we thought he was just being him, only more so. I didn’t have much patience for my father’s behaviour and insisted she didn’t have to put up with it, she could come live with me. But she was much wiser than I and took “in sickness and in health” seriously. She loved my dad and could see he was sick while the rest of us couldn’t.
She agreed to the surgery because she wanted to be around for my dad. She didn’t want to drop dead on the street or in the supermarket with my dad not knowing where he was or what to do. It was a gamble that didn’t pay off. It wasn’t until she died that the extent of my father’s illness was made evident to the rest of us; she had covered up for him for years. He had Alzheimer’s and it would eventually take his life two years later.
I think about my mother and heart health every day I’m at the gym. I look to my mother for a picture of my future health, for we are our parents genes after all and they have taught us how to live. I know that I am at risk because she died of heart disease so I pay more attention to what I do. I love bread fried in bacon grease, but I never eat it anymore. I love butter on bread, popcorn, potatoes, anything. I love sweets and cookies and cake and candy. But I rarely indulge.
It’s what her life has taught me. I paid close attention.