heart health

Whistling Past the Graveyard

A Strange Place for Exercise

I walk and/or run almost every day for exercise. I’ve always loved to run, but my knees just don’t tolerate it as much these days so I alternate between running and walking. My favorite place to exercise is a nearby cemetery. I must admit, I do get some strange looks from people when the topic comes up.  I guess walking in a cemetery isn’t completely unheard of because I have actually seen a few other people walking there. A few days ago someone laughed and said I must be “whistling past the graveyard.” I just smiled, and I had to look it up later.

Apparently “whistling past the graveyard” is an old saying which indicates a form of bravery when doing something that might be dangerous or difficult. I had to think about that one for awhile because I don’t find graveyards to be scary simply because they’re the home of those who have passed away. Now I might be afraid of living people hanging out in a graveyard, but as I mentioned earlier, I rarely see many people when I walk. There are occasionally other walkers, those who are visiting gravesites of their loved ones, and, of course, the men who dig the graves. None of these create a bit of fear for me.

The Safest Place in Town

I find the cemetery to actually be the safest place in town especially for a walker. There’s no traffic, at least no speeding traffic, the roadway is in good shape, and I can wear my headphones with the volume turned up pretty loud. I listen to electronica/dance music as I walk because the beat helps me walk faster…the loud volume seems to move me along, as well. As I walk, I’m often a bit unaware of my surroundings so I feel like the cemetery is a safe place for losing one’s self in the rhythm of vigorous physical activity.

There are times when I pay more attention to my surroundings, to the gravestones, in particular. The names, the dates, the inscriptions, the stories. For me, every one there had a story and I often try to decipher their lives through their headstones. Were they from a well-to-do family? Why did they die so young? I might consider the timeframe between the deaths of a couple or wonder about the non-conformity of a headstone from the early 1900’s. What was the headstone trying to convey about the person buried there. Occasionally I see more specific messages of grief and pain etched on a headstone, indicating a depth of love and sorrow beyond the usual routine death notice. There is so much to explore while walking and sometimes the stories do capture my imagination.

What Would They Say to Me?

As a heart attack survivor, I’ve spent many nights wondering if I would wake up the next morning. Perhaps that sounds a bit melodramatic, but if you’ve been there you totally understand. As I walk in the cemetery, I always have a sense of urgency, almost as if the group is cheering me on. With perhaps a few exceptions, I imagine every one there would encourage me to get on with living because no matter what spiritual beliefs you hold about the next world, there is a sense of finality in the cemetery.

So, I imagine those who went before me might be cheering me on as I walk or run by. As strange as that sounds, I believe if they had a voice they would encourage me, and you, to live life to the fullest. So I don’t suppose I really whistle past the graveyard since I don’t consider it to be a scary place. While we will all end up there in some form some day, consider a line from Game of Thrones and say to Death—”Not today.” Today, I’m exercising for health, dreaming my dreams, making my plans, and moving forward. Yesterday slipped through my hands like sand and tomorrow isn’t promised…today, they say to me, live life today.

The Faces of Stroke

When I had a stroke in 2016, I never dreamed that these two would become the faces of stroke, as well. This post is written with much love because I was devastated by Luke Perry’s death…hearing about his death forced me to face many emotions that I had buried deep after my stroke. Emilia Clarke’s character on “Game of Thrones” is an icon of empowerment and fierceness, but her real-life battle reveals her true strength and bravery.  Please take what I’ve written to heart and remember, strokes can happen to anyone. We are all proof of that truth. Here are my thoughts:

Please look carefully at the faces of these two stroke victims. You probably even know who they are. Luke Perry, on the left, suffered an ischemic stroke in early March and did not survive. Emilia Clarke, on the right, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 2011 when she was only 24 years old. She survived and is now sharing her story.

According to the American Stroke Association, nearly 800,000 suffer a stroke every year in the US alone. Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability. While many may believe strokes are something for elderly people to worry about, these two lovely people show that stroke is NO respecter of age, gender, or financial status. Strokes can happen to anyone and they do EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I had a stroke in 2016 and it was probably the scariest event of my life.

There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Over 80 percent of strokes are ischemic and are caused by a clot blocking a blood vessel to the brain. This blockage causes a loss of oxygen-rich blood to the brain tissues and can result in the death of cells in the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes, such as Emilia Clarke suffered, are caused when a brain aneurysm bursts or a weak blood vessel leaks. The resulting blood creates swelling and pressure in the brain causing cell and tissue death in the area of the brain that is affected.

As I mentioned earlier, strokes can happen to anyone. Please memorize four letters (FAST) and three numbers (911):

F: Facial drooping or facial numbness on one side
A: Arm numbness or weakness on one side or the arm drifts down
S: Speech is slurred, absent, or the words make no sense
T: Time to call 911!

As soon as you think you or anyone is having a stroke, call 911 immediately! Be sure to tell the dispatcher that you think the person may be having a stroke and write down the exact time you FIRST noticed the symptoms because this will be important when making treatment decisions at the hospital.

Over the years, as an emergency department nurse, I have taken care of many stroke patients who did not come to the ER immediately. They thought they’d get better or they just weren’t sure…and that always breaks my heart! The treatments for stroke are time-based and many victims have been left with devastating disabilities because they didn’t go to the ER immediately. As a stroke survivor, I know the miraculous treatments that are available and how life-changing they can be. I received treatment within 50 minutes of the onset of my stroke symptoms and I’m fully able-bodied today because of that treatment.

Please remember a few things from this post:

• Strokes can happen to ANYONE. Don’t feel the need to talk yourself out of what’s happening or wait around to see if you get better!
• As soon as you suspect a stroke, call 911! Don’t hesitate and don’t try to drive yourself or get a driver.
• Remember the FAST acronym: face, arms, speech, and time.

Strokes are often preventable, particularly ischemic strokes. Stop smoking, control your weight, exercise, eat nutritious foods, and control diabetes and blood pressure. As a stroke and heart attack survivor, I spend my time now coaching others to health and I’m cheering for you always. ❤️

The Boho of Heart Health

A Change in Perspective

Lately, I’ve been thinking about renaming “All Things Heart Shaped,” and “The Boho Heart” really appeals to me. Don’t get me wrong—“All Things Heart Shaped” is almost like a child to me. That’s been the name of my website since I began to dream of having a website. But I’ve evolved, I’ve changed, I’ve learned SO much. Not so much about heart health…although there’s always something to learn in that black hole of knowledge. No, I’ve learned more about myself, my point of view, and how I would like to serve my clients.

My perspective originates from several wellsprings. First, I’ve been a registered nurse (RN) in the emergency department (ED) for over 30 years. Believe me, that will imprint your perspective in a million different ways, some good, some bad. One thing I recognize about my RN perspective is that it can be pretty domineering. When you work in an environment that is barely organized chaos, you seek to exert control and you are THE boss in that world. After all, at times it can be the difference between life and death. Not to say I would force treatments on anyone, that would be assault. But in the ED, I am the expert (guided by the ED physician, of course), people come to the ED for help, and there are policies and procedures that ensure the accomplishment of the necessary tasks at hand.

Grasping for Control

Long into my nursing career, I became a heart attack survivor. Believe me when I tell you I really appreciated all of those policies and procedures because they saved my life. There were specific treatment guidelines that were followed and I’m so glad they were in place. After all the emergency treatment was completed, the long haul of primary care started. This is when I began to rebel because I just could not stand the noise and overwhelm. “Do this, don’t do that, this is good, this is bad…” It was ALWAYS something and my body and brain were just worn out by it all.  One of the last times I left the hospital, after another admission for chest pain, I swore I would never return. Really, that was the only way I could turn all the noise off and get a grasp on my out-of-control life. I did go back, once or twice, but my mindset had changed forever.

Most recently, I became a certified health coach and began to offer support to others on their heart health journeys.  I wanted to be the best coach possible and sometimes I found that old RN perspective slipping into my practice. If my clients would just do what I was telling them, then things would get better for them! If only… then I began to realize that I couldn’t push them and I couldn’t pull them. In fact, I had absolutely no control over their health. Epiphany, right?!?! That’s when my overall philosophy began to evolve and that’s when I began to consider a name change to illuminate that new coaching philosophy.

Enter the Boho Vibe

Let me digress just a minute and talk about the word boho. Boho is short for bohemian and I like the Cambridge University Press’ online dictionary’s definition: “A person who lives in a very informal style that is different from the way most people live.” As a “live and let live” kind of person, I like this concept of being present in the world in a way that might be different from most people. For me, this type of freedom allows me to gather information on a topic and then apply that information to my life as I see fit. That is my wish for you, my friend. I don’t carry around many expectations any more and especially in regards to the choices you make in your life.

I do have a perspective to share, we all do. In some areas, my perspective is very experienced, educated, and expert. Such expertise springs forth from my decades of emergency nursing, but that perspective has been blended with the effects of surviving a heart attack, and my observations as a health coach. My intention now is to merely share my perspective with you. How you see that information and what you do with that information is your choice, your decision, your truth. I think I said it best in a recent Instagram post:

“It’s your life, YOU get to decide, you make the choices, you have the freedom to build your life as you see fit. I remember how, after my heart attack, I felt so out of control of my body and my life. “Do this, don’t do that, this is good, that is bad…” And on and on…as a heart attack survivor, I totally understand the overwhelm and all the noise! 

As a health coach, I’m here to support and guide my clients. In the end, the decisions are theirs. They choose the truth they will live. We walk the path together and we build fences wherever THEY decide they’re needed. 

Having a health coach is NOT a tug of war. Health is your journey and it’s based on the choices you make. YOU make the rules as you listen and learn. You’re the captain, so please consider me your #hearthealth compass.”

Shall We Begin?

All of this to say that the boho heart is more and more my truth. I take life one day at a time, and some days are way better than others! In the meantime, I’m guiding those who feel a connection with me and that gives meaning to what I’ve been through in life.  As a heart attack or heart disease survivor, you and I share much in common. Walk with me and let’s talk about our experiences. ❤️ 🧭 🗺