Please don’t forget to take care of your health. You will thank me many years, memories, laughs and milestones from now.
Your Future Self
Please don’t forget to take care of your health. You will thank me many years, memories, laughs and milestones from now.
Your Future Self
Hi Friends! When I first began writing this blog, it was specifically aimed at other young adults who found themselves in the scary position of having a cardiac event, but having nowhere to go to find information from like individuals. In the past 4 1/2 years since I’ve been writing, I’ve come to find that my blog has had a profound effect on not just people in that category, but on a number of others. Young, old, male, female, healthy, sick, and from all corners of the world. That has been both shocking and incredibly humbling to me.
When I started, I told myself that if I helped even one person get through their struggle a little easier, that it would be worth it. I feel (I know) that I have more than accomplished that goal, but I also believe that I can do more. I haven’t written on my blog as much recently, because I began to feel that I was writing for the sake of writing, and that I wasn’t having much of an impact. But then, low and behold, I will learn of someone sharing my blog with someone else who they knew going through something similar, and sometimes those people will reach out to me thanking me for writing, or asking questions. For those that know me, I am very comfortable talking about my cardiac event and heart disease (I guess hence the blog, eh?). I’ve had conversations with co workers, family, friends and perfect strangers that I believe have led to positive changes in the way they view healthy living (and in a few cases I truly believe that I have helped others avoid cardiac events by being proactive in changing their health/diet and by proactively seeking out a cardiologist).
I don’t say these things to gloat. I say them because I believe that I have a unique perspective. One that needs to be shared to help those who haven’t had the good fortune of almost dying far too young like I had. I say that somewhat tongue in cheek of course, but in some ways I do feel lucky that I had my cardiac event and stared death in the mirror at a fairly young age. Why? It’s as simple as one word, Perspective. Perspective of the role that work plays in my life. Perspective of the role that my wife and kids and family play in my life. Perspective as we go through a global pandemic. Perspective on the importance of physical/mental/emotional health. This list could go on for pages, but I have been blessed with a perspective on every aspect of life, that prior to my cardiac event, I was largely oblivious to.
The reason that I felt compelled to write this blog today, is that I have seen a number of articles of “healthy” young adults who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 (and some that have passed). I read these articles, and they say that the individuals didn’t think that they could get the virus because they were young and healthy. Now, this post is NOT about COVID-19 or saying that those individuals weren’t necessarily healthy. It is simply to say that it made me think back to myself just prior to my cardiac event. I thought I was healthy, and wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I was on the brink of a massive heart attack. Welcome to my least favorite Facebook memory of all time. July 16th, 2013. Thanks to my brother Dave for posting this that day, I am reminded annually by Facebook of this glorious photo. I can almost see my arteries clogged through my skin in the 2013 photo (as a side note, I think the white of that solo cup is more tan than I was!). That was me about a year and a half before my cardiac event. Fast forward to July 16th, 2020, and there is quite a transformation. Transformation in my appearance that can be seen in a photo, yes, but also a transformation in who I am overall. A transformation built on perspective. I am nowhere near perfect (just ask my wife ;)), I am still not as healthy as I would like to be, I’m not as good of a dad/husband/professional as I’d like to be, but I continue to learn more about myself and strive for more each day. It takes commitment to devote time each day to your physical/mental/emotional health, but I have learned through the lens of perspective that that specific commitment is worth more than its weight in gold.
I hope that sharing my uniquely gifted perspective may help you or someone you know now or in the future. If I can help you or anyone that you know, please let me know. Stay safe and stay healthy friends!!
As Always….Dream As If You’ll Live Forever, Live As If You Only Have Today!
As I sit here 4 years removed from my cardiac event reflecting on the past year, and really the past 4 years, it feels a bit different than my last 3 HeartIversaries. Why? I’m not sure that I can fully explain it, but I thought I would do a bit of a stock up/down on my Physical, Mental and Emotional states to try and explain.
Not in the sense of my heart specifically, but more so with my overall physical health. This year has been a bit of a struggle for me. Early in the year, I herniated two discs in my back, causing intense back pain and sciatica pain down both of my legs at times. Where I used to run 35-40 miles per week on average, I’ve had to almost completely cut running out for the time being. I still manage to make it to the gym 5-6 days a week on the bike and eliptical, but my physical fitness has not been the same since injuring my back. I’m hopeful that through all of the treatments I have received (and continue to receive), that I will be back to running and my usual fitness level within the next 3-6 months. I am also fully aware that I need to be hyper focused on my diet if I’m not able to be as physically active as I’d like to be. All in all, I’m doing just fine physically. I put this as a stock down because I’m not where I want to be, but I have no doubt that I’ll be back to that level very soon.
For anyone that has had a cardiac event (especially at a young age), I think most would agree that the mental component of recovery is the most difficult. As I’ve written about several times in previous posts, the shear fear of facing death head on with a wife, young children and so much life ahead of me was something that left me constantly thinking about my heart and preparing for the worst (at least for the first year or so after). I am happy to report that the mental aspect of recovery continues to get better with each passing year! I still think about my heart every single day…whether it’s when taking my meds each morning, making a choice about which food to choose, how hard I push myself at the gym, a cramping feeling that I get in my side, how emotionally charged I get when watching my kids play sports, when I just feel off at times, and on and on and on. I don’t think that those thoughts will ever go away, no matter how many heartiversaries I get to enjoy. BUT, those mental moments are mostly in the positive (being mindful of my heart and decisions I make), as opposed to mental moments of fear that I had in the first year or so. Those moments are very few and far between now…which is a great feeling of mental peace and freedom!
This past year has been a bit of a challenge emotionally, but as I’ll try to explain here, it has been mostly positive overall. A big factor in this has been my physical fitness challenges as I described above. At times, I think my wife thinks I’m crazy when I complain about gaining a few pounds. But to me, gaining a few pounds equals emotional stress, because I equate my physical fitness (and therefore weight) with my cardiac health. Weight up equals stress and concern, weight down equals stability, health and a feeling of control. The most difficult part is that for the first 3 years I was able to maintain a weight that felt great, but this year gaining 5 pounds has had an effect on my emotional state. If losing 5-8 pounds is my biggest hurdle this coming year, something tells me I’ll be just fine.
Another emotional part of this year was the fact that my father had triple bypass surgery. This of course wasn’t just emotional for me, but for my whole family. To nobody’s surprise, he came through the surgery like a champion, because that’s just who he is. But for me, it has really been cool in a way. I know, who would say that having your dad go through triple bypass surgery is cool?? I’ve always felt a very close bond to my dad, and have always felt that we’ve shared a lot of similar life events in common (I could write a whole blog post on that topic alone), but this has been different. For the first time in the last 4 years since my cardiac event, I have had my role model and hero that can truly share with me the reality of being a cardiac event survivor. I would like to think that I’ve had talks with my dad and given him tips from my experience along the way that have helped him a little. And likewise, I would like to think that he sees my experience in a slightly different way now as well. And it’s not just my dad, but my mom as well. We’ve all had some of our best talks and moments together through this experience that my dad has gone through. Again, I’m probably not explaining this too well, but what my dad has gone through this year has certainly been emotional (both up and down), but overall has been a huge net positive for me.
As always, I continue to try and use natural and healthy ways to control my emotional state. Exercise is always at the top of that list for me, along with simple meditation, laughter and family time with my wife and kids.
Family Life stock = ⇑
Every second on this earth with my wife and kids is and will always be stock UP! Watching my kids grow is my ultimate motivation. Whenever I feel like taking days off from exercise, or eating unhealthy, it’s being there for my kids that grounds me in making good decisions. This past year has been full of big accomplishments for both of them in school, in sports, in friendships, and in life in general. As any parent knows, parenting can be challenging, but I am dedicated to continuing to be a better dad to my kids, and staying healthy to be there for them for all of life’s ups, downs, laughs, cries, struggles, successes, events and accomplishments. And with my wife Abbie, this has been a great year! I am no where near the perfect husband (really, are any of us men!?!), but this year my wife has been such a strong supporter of mine and ours, in finding new ways for us to continue to strengthen our relationship together. Like parenting, marriage isn’t always easy, it’s always a work in progress. I’m so lucky to have a partner that always wants that progress to be positive together, and for that I am a better and healthier man, husband and father.
As I said near the beginning of this post, it’s a bit tough to put this year into words. I guess I would simply say that I am not living in fear anymore, I am simply living. I am alive and well and happy, and for that I am incredibly thankful and blessed!
To anyone who may find themselves going through something similar, stay positive and strong. I am here 4 years later to tell you that life can be better and healthier than ever!
“Dream as if You’ll Live Forever, Live as if You Only Have Today!”
Dear Family, Friends, and Anyone Else Who Will Listen,
Today marks 3 years to the day when I almost:
I could literally go on with this list for thousands of lines, but these are some of the most impactful to me as I sit here thinking about the last three years. What I ask of you, is to think about these things in the context of your life. If you’re anything like me, just the thought of not being able to experience these things makes me emotional. For me, it’s extra emotional because I was on the cusp of having all of this taken away from me in literally the blink of an eye three years ago today, at the age of 33.
Beyond just thinking of these things in the context of your personal life, what I’m really asking you is to make sure that you don’t ever have to think about these “Never Agains” every day as I do (at least not until you’ve lived a full life). I have made many life changes over the past three years, including exercise, diet and mental health. I’ve had people ask me how I’ve been able to maintain the changes that I’ve made, and my answer is simple… it’s because I’ve been given another chance to live life (see list above), and given the choice between a Coke & a McDonalds hamburger or kissing my wife and kids each day is the most simple decision I will ever make.
I am much more in tune to other people and their decisions as I go through life now. I don’t look down on them, or you, or anyone else, but I am very aware because of my experiences. For example, I was at the gym the other day when two middle aged men were talking next to me. One of them said that he was trying to get back to his diet and exercise routine (sound familiar?), but that he has struggled ever since having kids 8 years ago (sound even more familiar??). It’s a typical story, right? But what I wanted to say to that gentleman was that the exact reason that he WASN’T working out and dieting properly, is exactly the reason that he SHOULD be….HIS KIDS! He went on talking about how it was due to their sports and activities that he just couldn’t find time to get to the gym, or how he would eat fast food because he was rushing from one kids event to the next. What he is missing is that he may not have the opportunity to do those things if he doesn’t take care of his own health first.
To some extent, I was that guy before. I made excuses regularly why I couldn’t eat healthy, couldn’t exercise regularly, couldn’t manage my stress and the demands of work. I ate fast food regularly, drank soda (or Pop for my Michigan peeps) multiple times per week, laid on the couch instead of going for a run, and let my blood pressure rise over the smallest of things. I did all of that, until I woke up one day with the reality that I had heart disease and that I had to change.
A very wise man (my Dad) taught me from a very young age that “everything in life is a choice.” When he would tell me that as I was making a bad decision as a child I hated it, but I truly believe that it’s true, even more so today than ever. I choose a salad over a burger, because I want to tuck my kids in for bed each night. I choose to find time to exercise even when work is busy, because I want to be there with and for my wife as we continue to build our beautiful family and life. I choose to meditate and work on reducing my stress, because I want to play soccer and softball with my brothers and friends. I choose water over soda, because I want to watch my daughter walk down the aisle one day and watch my son become a man.
Are the healthy choices that I make today easy…you’re damn right they are! And they would be for you too if you were faced with your own “Never Agains.” Am I perfect, absolutely not!!!! But as I sit here today three years removed from my heart event, I can think of no better way to celebrate this heart-iversary than to share my experience with YOU. I want my experience, pain and knowledge to be the reason that you never have to think of your personal “Never Agains” in the way that I have had to.
I am very grateful for you taking the time to read this letter. If you ever want to talk about my experience, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
And as always…
“Dream as if You’ll Live Forever, Live as if You Only Have Today!”
Hey folks, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here, but today is a special day. Today marks two years since my stent was placed. Yesterday marks two years since my most difficult moment in life…kissing my wife and kids goodbye not knowing if I would be seeing them again. I won’t rehash that moment, because for those that read my blog you have read that part multiple times before.
Today is a day to focus on the good, to celebrate, to reflect, to be thankful and to look forward to all of the good things to come. Two years ago today I was faced with a scary realization, that I had heart disease. In the two years that have passed, I have learned so much about myself, the disease, other survivors (and my fellow cardiac athletes), the importance of family and friends, the relative unimportance of money and material items, and about a genuine appreciation for life itself. But above all, the most beautiful thing that has come out of the last two years is how it has made me appreciate and cherish my wife and children, and every second that I get to spend with them. I know that some people may look at me and wonder why I make such a big deal out of all of this. After all, I just had one stent placed, and according to everyone I am healthy. My answers to why I take it so seriously are my wife and my two kids. I truly view every day that I get to spend with them as a blessing, and each day these past two years has been exactly that. During these past two years I have had many moments of happy tears as I watched my children accomplish things and enjoy special life moments with them: playing hockey/soccer/baseball/snowboard/wrestle/golf/fish, participate in a school play for the first time, face and beat their fears, learn to read/write, have their first sleepover, take long walks and play on the beach with them, go to LegoLand, cheer on the Rockies/Tigers/Lions/Red Wings/Orioles/Steelers (never the Penguins), go to their first ever concert (Kidz Bop rocks!), family trips, camping in the backyard, snuggle time before bed and in the mornings, birthdays and holidays. As those moments happen I am overcome with joy, because I am so thankful to be there for those precious moments that I so easily could have missed. THOSE are the reasons that I take this so seriously. Because I don’t just want two years of those moments, I want to share a full lifetime of them with my wife and kids.
So, today, to celebrate two amazing years and many many more to come, I made sure that no matter where I go, Abbie, Mollie & Owen are always with me and right by my heart.
Cheers to Two Years!
All My Best,
As the photo above suggests, this photo was taken 3 years ago today. I’m sure most reading this know immediately what this photo represents. It was the day that I completed the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to support awareness for ALS disease. It was an incredible challenge that spread like wildfire across the nation and globe through social media and traditional media outlets. As I did the ice bucket challenge 3 years ago, I did it specifically for my Uncle who was battling ALS at that time. I felt that it was a simple gesture that I could send in support of him and his battle. Little did I know at the time that less than 16 months later, I would learn that I too had a disease, and that I too would need simple and unexpected gestures of support.
In the 3 years since this photo was taken, I have lost family, neighbors and friends to a variety of health diseases/illnesses. I have also witnessed a large number of other family and friends go through difficult times. Maybe not death or disease, but challenges like sudden work loss, financial strife, family issues, tough times raising children, depression, anxiety, or something as simple as having a really crappy day/week/month.
My purpose for writing this blog today is to gently remind us all that Everyone is Going Through Something. For me and my recovery, some of the moments that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life are the most simple and unexpected gestures from friends, neighbors and family. It may have been a get well card from a cousin that I haven’t talked to in a while, a text message from old friends, a meal from a neighbor to help my wife and my kids, a call from a college roommate, or a simple hug from those that are closest to me. When you’re going through something challenging, it doesn’t take much to make a positive difference.
With all of the hate and divisive rhetoric going on throughout our country these days, I think it would be wise for us all to be reminded of how so many people banded together 3 years ago to make a positive message go viral for those battling ALS. Our gestures don’t have to go viral and reach millions of people at every corner of the earth to make a difference. A simple gesture can make someone’s day, and that is enough. And because you never know what someone is going through, your simple gesture may just change or even save their life.
It’s impossible to put into words what the simple gestures meant to me as I went through my most challenging moments, but I am beyond grateful. I’m not suggesting any crazy viral challenge, but I simply challenge anyone reading this message to extend a simple and unexpected positive gesture to one (or many) friends, family, neighbors or strangers.
I find this statement to be more true than ever to me these days, so I thought I would share a few thoughts on this topic with whoever wants to listen (or read). Whether you have a heart condition or not, I think that this is good food for thought.
Prior to my heart event, I was a sucker for temptation. I would run in the morning, and go to a party and eat cheese burgers, chips and drink 6 IPAs that same night. I was always grabbing a soda or a candy bar at Lowes or Home Depot (those damn coolers full of ice cold soda at the checkout got me every time!). I would take weeks off of exercising “because I was just too busy.” I would get extra queso on my burrito, knowing that it was a bad choice but it just made the burrito better, right!?! Does any of this sound familiar??
Since my heart event, I am rarely ruled by temptation. In fact, my temptation is more centered around exercise and making healthy choices. You see, that day as I laid there in the hospital bed not knowing if I was ever going to kiss my wife or kids again, I made a conscious decision and promise to myself that if I made it through this that I would do everything in my power to be there for my wife and kids for as long as possible. I am going on a year and a half since that day, and I can honestly look myself in the mirror and say that I have done good on that promise to myself thus far. But, I didn’t do it completely alone. Inspiration from people with like minds, and the support of amazing friends and family have truly been my recipe for success.
With respect to exercising, I jumped at the opportunity to begin cardiac rehab as soon as I was released from the hospital. It was there that I realized that I wasn’t alone (at that time I thought I may have been the only one my age going through it as everyone else in cardiac rehab was at least twice my age, but that too has proven to be very false). After they kicked me out of rehab for running too much and too fast, I was greeted at home by my wife and some friends that would run or walk with me whenever I wanted. Then, I started this blog which spread to thousands of people (thanks to those that have shared my blog to make that possible). From this blog, I was introduced to others going through a similar story, and my blog started to be cross-posted to the American Heart Association on occasion, leading to introductions to even more like-minded people. It was also from my blog that I was introduced and connected to two amazing and inspirational groups on Facebook, Cardiac Athletes and Ironheart Connect. Without fully realizing what I was doing, I have created a network of like-minded (and admittedly exercise and health crazy) individuals amounting to tens of thousands and reaching more than 30 countries. This network has been invaluable to me in my quest to be healthier than I have ever been in the past. As an example, the Cardiac Athletes group that I am part of is unquestionably the most inspiring group that I have ever been a part of. We come from many continents and all walks of life, but we have one common goal, which is to not let heart disease define us. Maybe my favorite part of that group is that I can post about a great run I had, and the other members don’t think that I am gloating, because they get it – they are like-minded! (As I side note, I couldn’t gloat to that group even if I wanted to. There are men and women on there running marathons, triathlons, ultra marathons and other crazy athletic feats all the time. And that’s AFTER they’ve had serious heart events. I’m in awe of these people daily, a true source of inspiration!). Nobody in the group cares if you run 5 minute miles for a marathon or 15 minute miles for a 5k. We encourage, accept and inspire each other because while we may have different fitness levels, we are all striving toward the same goal of just being healthy and taking advantage of the second chances we have all been given.
With respect to other temptations that I used to have (primarily drinking and unhealthy eating), I also want to spend a second telling a story about the importance of surrounding myself with great friends. This past weekend was little league day with the Colorado Rockies. My son and daughter got to parade around Coors Field with their little league teams (way cool experience for the kids by the way), and then we watched the game. I was surrounded by a number of friends as we watched the game. Some of the friends are close and know of my heart stuff, but some of them don’t. For those familiar with big league American Baseball games, your healthy eating and drinking options are quite limited within the stadium. And, the customary things to eat at a baseball game are hot dogs, burgers, french fries, nachos, cotton candy, ice cream…and don’t forget the beer! I said that I wasn’t often tempted by unhealthy foods anymore, but when I’m at a baseball game that goes out the window. However, I still held strong, and I walked around the stadium until I found the one teeny tiny salad bar tucked away in the corner. I got myself a nice healthy salad and headed back to my seat. It was a b
ig salad, and it took me a while to eat, so I know that all of my friends sitting around me saw me eating it. Did a single one of them (especially my close guy friends) give me shit for eating a salad at a baseball game…no. Why do I tell this story? The reason is because this is just one example of why I feel it is so important to surround yourself with people that are supportive of you, especially when you have to make “unpopular” decisions like eating a salad at a baseball game.
Whether we are trying to be better at our occupation, trying to be healthier, wanting to be a better father/mother, eliminate temptations, or any number of other things in our lives, I think that the recipe is simple. We just need to surround ourselves with like-minded and supportive people, and the sky is the limit.
And finally, a quick note to spouses who are the primary source of support for their significant others. I’ve written a lot about how great my wife has been, and this area is no exception. I know that she sometimes thinks I’ve gone exercise and healthy-eating crazy, but she never does anything but encourage me to keep at it. If you’re supporting someone going through something similar, the best thing you can do is to be positive and keep on encouraging.
In honor of American Heart Month, I thought that I would focus on the positives that have come into my life since being diagnosed with heart disease. All too often, we find ourselves grasping at the negative. Don’t get me wrong, if given the choice I would prefer to have not been diagnosed with heart disease when I was 33 years old (I would strongly encourage everyone to educate themselves through the American Heart Association or other resources on how to prevent heart disease before you have a problem…remember, 1 in 5 Americans will die from Heart Failure). But, such is life. I was dealt up a couple of lemons, so I’m going to squeeze the hell out of them and make the best damn lemonade that I can!
So here goes my list of The 3 Best Things About Living with Hearth Disease:
#1 – I’M ALIVE!!! It almost seems silly to have anything after this, because this far outweighs any other item I could write about. As I said, I was dealt a couple of lemons (ie heart disease). But the way that I look at it is at least I have the opportunity to go forward and make some of the best lemonade you have ever tasted. Living with heart disease has made me so much more self aware of how I conduct myself as a father, husband, friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc. I may not be the most excitable person you have ever met, but inside I am exploding with joy and life because I was given a second chance at the greatest gift of all…Life! I think it was in a blog that my heart disease bloggin buddy Jeff Breece wrote, when he was talking about running and said that he doesn’t need any reason to do it other than “because he can.” I think that I look at every aspect of my life in that way now. Whether it’s running, playing with my kids, going to dinner with my wife, talking to my parents, snowboarding with my brothers, grabbing a drink with my buddies or sitting quietly on my deck on a spring day and listening to the birds sing, I try to remember to keep that thought in mind: Just enjoy it Mark, because you’re ALIVE and because you CAN.
#2 – I’m healthier than I’ve been in many many years. I’ve wrote whole other blogs on how I have become an avid runner and gym-rat since my diagnosis, so I won’t go into too much detail there. Simply put, I would have never imagined that I would run races in one of the healthiest counties in the nation/world (shout out to Boulder, CO), and actually win them! Well, or at least win for my age group. Living with heart disease has opened my eyes to a much healthier and better way of living. I’ve talked about exercise, but diet and mental health are just as important to our overall health as humans. If I hadn’t been diagnosed, I would still be eating way too much sugar, sodium, saturated fats and processed foods. Instead, I try to eliminate all of those things as much as possible, and it has resulted in me losing more than 30 pounds and looking & feeling better than I have since high school. And mentally, I am in a much better place because I no longer stress over the small stuff, and when I do I now know how to utilize meditation and other techniques that I have learned since my diagnosis. The last thing I’ll say about the health benefits of living with heart disease (oh the irony in that sentence) is that in the 14 months since my diagnosis, the worst that I have had in terms of being sick is a simple runny nose. I attribute that to leading a healthy diet, mental and exercise lifestyle.
#3 – The chance to help others. I may not have millions of dollars to donate to heart research and I may not be a doctor or scientist that can create a new way to save lives for heart patients. However, I do believe that I can make a difference in other people’s lives by telling my story and raising awareness about heart disease and heart health. I think that most of us want to have purpose to our lives. Without heart disease, I had plenty of purpose. My beautiful wife and two amazing kids gave me plenty of purpose in life to be sure. But, there is something important, something exciting, something cool about the ability to positively impact the lives of others through my story. That is exactly why I started this blog, and why I continue to work with the American Heart Association on ways to further volunteer. I have been contacted by other survivors who have told me that I have made a difference. I have had friends and family become more aware of diet and exercise because of my story. And likewise, I have learned so much from other survivors and their stories of strength and resiliency. I have always said that if I affect just one person, and help them avoid heart disease or help another as they recover from a heart event, that I would feel fulfilled. I believe that I have helped a few so far, but my hope is to help many more for many healthy years to come. There is just something special about that that I can’t fully put into words, but it’s definitely worthy of a top 3 spot :).
A few other fun “benefits”
Yes, that’s right, I said it! A Year to Remember! Not one to forget. One year ago today, I woke up in a hospital room not knowing exactly what had just happened. I was in a haze coming from the Cath Lab. Before I went in, the doctors told me that they weren’t expecting to find much (if anything). As the drugs wore off, the doctors revealed to me that they did in fact find something, to the tune of 99% blockage in my Left Anterior Descending Artery. My heart was potentially seconds away from a massive heart attack known as the “widow maker.” Thanks to an amazing set of doctors and modern medicine, they were able to place a stent in my artery, and I am able to sit here and write this blog today. That, my friends, is why this is a year to remember, and not one to forget.
I’m writing this blog as I sit on a plane at 5:30am headed to Phoenix for work. When I first got the call asking me to make this trip I was a bit upset. First, it was on short notice, I was only requested to make the trip a week ago. But, more importantly, I was going to take today off to celebrate my one year anniversary of my heart event. But now that I sit here on this plane, I realize that it’s really NBD (that stands for no big deal for you non millennialsJ). It’s NBD because I’m alive, happy and healthy. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to continue to work for my family. And since I live in Denver and I’m just headed to Phoenix, I’m able to travel back this afternoon and still take my lovely wife out for a celebratory dinner this evening, and to cap the night off I will be able to kiss my sweet kids goodnight.
Don’t get me wrong. This year has been full of challenges, ups and downs, both mental and physical. As I’ve wrote in previous blogs, the days, weeks and months immediately after my heart event were full of fear and uncertainty. I don’t wish to recount all of that here. Today, I want to focus on the positive, so instead of recounting the negative I would like to thank all of those that have been by my side this past year to get me where I am today. To the doctors, thank you for literally saving my life, what else can I say!?! Thank you to all of the post-op nurses who made me feel as comfortable as possible during a time of complete worry. Thank you to the cardiac rehab team that was amazing and had me back to running sub 8-minute miles just a couple weeks after my heart event. Thank you to my co-workers and bosses who gave me the time that I needed with my family to recoup, but never had a doubt that I would return to work and perform at a high level. Thank you to my parents for their love and support, and for coming to Colorado to be with me. Thanks to my in-laws, who also came and stayed with us shortly after, and helped my wife, the kids and I. Thank you to my siblings, all 5 of them, for their love and support of their baby brother (those that live in Colorado came to the hospital as soon as possible which made me feel more comfortable as I recovered). Thank you to all of my amazing friends and neighbors. You all know who you are, and whether it was bringing us food, getting our mail, going for a walk or run with me, helping with the kids or just sending well wishes, I can’t thank you enough. Thank you to all of my friends and family across the country (and world for that matter) who reached out to me, prayed for me, etc. Thank you to all of those that I have met through this blog who have been through similar situations, the community of support has been awesome. And finally to my wife Abbie. There is NO way I would be sitting here today feeling confident, strong, healthy and full of life without you. I will leave a lot of what I have to say about Abbie’s love and support between her and I on our dinner date tonight, but the cliché about being someone’s rock during a difficult time certainly applies to my amazing wife. If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that I’m not shy about my emotions, so full disclosure: I just had to go to the bathroom on the plane to dry my eyes. One final thank you. I know that you may not read this for years, but to my kids, Mollie and Owen….you will likely never know how important you were to this first year, and every day going forward. You and Mommy are my motivation, my inspiration, my everything. Daddy Loves You SO MUCH! (Ok, I should have written that last sentence before drying my eyes).
Sorry for the lengthy thank you list, but that is so much of why this year is a year to remember and celebrate. I have so many great people in my life that I am eternally grateful for. And now, a couple of important notes and lessons from this past year that I want to share. First, I know that I have said this many times before, but if I have learned anything from this past year it’s that you literally have nothing if you don’t have your health…let that stew for a few seconds. If you have things in your life that are contributing to a decline in your health, please consider changing them. Second, if you feel like something may be wrong, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. I waited weeks after I initially felt discomfort in my chest to see my doctor. I got lucky, and made it to that appointment. Along those same lines, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation as mine, listen to your doctors, go to cardiac rehab, change your eating/exercise habits, and take your medications. Next, love your loved ones every day. I know, another cliché, but it’s so true. Life is fragile and uncertain.
What a year it has been! Truly a Year to Remember. I’m doing great and in the best shape of my life. Here’s to hoping (and believing) that I will be able to write this blog again in 30 years looking back and titling the blog, “A Look Back….30 Years to Remember!”
And finally, as always….
On this Tuesday, November 8th, 2016….otherwise known as Election Day, I thought that I would step away from the divisive rhetoric and offer a possibly unique perspective.
Today, as I ran through these Amber Waves of Grain while Staring at these Spacious Skies and Purple Mountains Majesty, I am simply thankful to be alive in this Land of the Free and Home of the Brave that WE all share. I am thankful for all of my friends and family, republican and democrat, white, black, hispanic, latino, gay, straight, religious, non religious. I am thankful for the perfect strangers that I ran past that gave me a huge smile and “Good Morning” regardless of political beliefs. I am thankful that I got to wake up this morning, kiss my wife and kids and send them off to school on this beautiful morning. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to laugh and cry this year. I’m thankful that I have had the chance many more times to tell my wife, kids, siblings, my Mom and Dad, my family and my friends that I love them. I am thankful that my heart is beating strong. I am thankful to be alive in this great nation with all of YOU!!
As Always, Dream as if You’ll Live Forever, Live as if You Only Have Today!