Now here’s my story. This is reason why I am taking part in MyMarathon this month. The reason why I am so passionate about making people aware of their heart health. The reason why looking after my health always comes first.
It was in 2009 at the age of 23, when I first became aware that something was seriously ‘not right’ with my body.
What started as months of breathlessness and struggling with basic physical movement, like walking up a flight of stairs, developed into a general sense of feeling tired and being generally unwell. I also developed a niggling chest pain. Following investigations involving an x-ray and a few tests, my GP put my symptoms down to a chest infection and assured me that I’d be better soon. My mind was immediately put at ease, however my symptoms continued. Assuming that nothing serious was going on in my body, I continued with my daily routine – until the day I couldn’t! Weeks following the chest infection diagnosis, I woke with excruciating pain in my chest. Finding it difficult to move or breath, I knew at this point that something other than a chest infection was at play.
Returning to my GP, I was sent for a CT scan. What followed was a nightmare, fully lived. Within an hour, I was in hospital being treated for multiple dangerous and deadly bloods clots in my lungs – or pulmonary emboli, a circulatory system related form of cardiovascular disease.
I was put on life-saving medication in hospital and after 6 months of taking daily blood thinners, was given the all clear. Whilst there was some scarring on my lungs, the blood clots appeared to have completely dissolved.
My sense of elation however was short lived. A few months after my seemingly miraculous recovery, I started to feel unwell again.
My intuition told me that something was ‘not right’. This time, I wasted no time in having another scan. To my dismay, I discovered that my lungs were once again filled with multiple clots. Doctors also discovered that I was a carrier of multiple thrombophilic factors or “blood clotting genes” (Factor V Leiden, MTHFR, Prothrombin 20210GA). These factors, combined with taking a third generation oral contraceptive pill significantly increased my risk of developing blood clots. Whilst only on the pill for less than 6 months before the clots were found, my doctors advised that they believe the pill “activated” my underlying “blood clotting genetic factors”. I was advised that short term blood thinning medication was no longer an option and that I would need to take Warfarin for the rest of my life.
Fast forward six years and I am is still taking my medication daily and have not had any further blood clotting.
I wake every day with a feeling of gratitude and a burning desire to prevent other young women from experiencing the devastating effects of heart disease. I live with my illness under control and for that I am grateful, every day. I am healthy, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. If however I can help stop one other young woman from experiencing cardiovascular related illness, I will be eternally happy.
Image courtesy of Magnum & Co.