“I didn’t want to worry my family so I didn’t make a fuss.”

When people find out I have heart disease, they are often surprised.

I have a very active life. I was an aerobics instructor, I’m involved in yoga, and one of my favorite things to do is jump rope. I always made an effort to eat right and take care of myself.

I do have a family history of heart disease, but I thought because I didn’t look like the type of person who gets heart disease, I was fine. I wanted to avoid the many health problems my mother faced.

As my mother got older, her health began to decline, and I became her caregiver. She has undergone multiple surgeries for her heart disease, but it continues to progress. I became determined to live a different, healthier lifestyle.

I thought I was doing everything right, but as many women do, I put off getting a physical. Too often women tend to everyone else’s needs and ignore their own.

Even with all the exercise and healthy eating, I was leaving out an important step towards truly taking care of myself – seeing my doctor on a regular basis.

I started to find I was tired a lot of the time. I was getting headaches and having neck pain. I brushed all of these aside as symptoms of something else – menopause, previous injuries flaring up, or just stress.

I didn’t want to worry my family so I didn’t make a fuss. I was taking four medications for my headaches and trying to fit in time for weekly massages to deal with the pain I was experiencing. I never thought these could be signs my heart was struggling.

I never make New Year’s resolutions, but last year I decided I would finally get that physical I had been putting off for so long. I’m rarely sick, and it had been so long since I’d seen my doctor, that when I went to book the appointment, she was no longer working at the clinic.

I had to go through the process of finding a new doctor. It was such a hassle I almost gave up several times.

I told myself I was healthy, and there was nothing to worry about. But I’d made this New Year’s resolution so I felt like I should see it through to the end.

When I finally saw a new doctor and had the physical examination, she noticed on my paper work there was a family history of heart disease. She decided to run some additional tests and found some abnormalities.

I told myself it was nothing. I truly believed there was no way anything could be wrong with my heart.

The doctor did an angiogram and saw I had a 90 percent blockage on the left side of my heart and a 20 percent blockage on the other.

So, even though it was something I never saw coming, I’m so glad I invested the time to complete that resolution and to get a check up.

If I had given up, who knows what could have happened or how much time I had left.

– Debbie, 57