Aimee Rodriguez-Zepeda - Heart Failure Week: Living With Congestive Heart Failure .
Six years after battling cancer, Aimee Rodriguez-Zepeda learned in 2014 that she had congestive heart failure and an enlarged heart that was working at a quarter of its capacity. Today, she is an Ambassador for the American Heart Association’s Rise Above Heart Failure initiative and she writes in honor of HF Awareness Week, February 12-18.
Normally when I discuss congestive heart failure, everyone wants to know how I got it, what brought me to this point, and the long-term effects and results from recovering from heart failure. Being asked to discuss your personal experience is a refreshing request. It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of heart failure, but I feel it’s just as important to understand how to live with congestive heart failure (CHF).
I have been living with CHF since 2015; some days are great and others days are – well, let’s just say I could stay in bed all day. All I can do is take it in stride and maintain a positive attitude. It is important to understand that once a person is diagnosed with HF it is not a death sentence. What it will be is a major life-style change consisting of the following:
- Eating healthier
- Becoming more in tune with your body. You learn to listen to it more closely than ever before. You will also learn when your body needs to rest regardless if you want to push yourself or not.
- Managing stress. I found that I must be involved in my recovery process and that I had to be an advocate for myself. This method may vary as everyone is different, but I feel that it is important to ask questions when you have them and bring attention to things that you feel may not be getting resolved or answered.
Everyone deals with heart failure differently, but for me, it is important to help others who are going through what I am as they may not have a support system. It was also important that I bring awareness to heart failure, especially to people who fall into my age group. When many people think of someone who’s experienced heart failure, a person my age isn’t the first that comes to mind. Most people think of elderly parents, family and friends.
What helps me cope is my love for riding motorcycles and keeping myself busy by setting personal goals for things in my life. For example, last year I set several small goals such as; scheduling and conducting a local Heart Disease Motorcycle Ride with my motorcycle club, I graduated with my second Bachelor’s degree and just began pursuing my Master’s degree. I actually began my Bachelor’s prior to being diagnosed with CHF, which made me even more determined to make sure that I accomplished and earned my degree. I was also given a great opportunity to serve as an American Heart Association Heart Failure Ambassador. I am always honored to be given the opportunity to share my story and let others know that regardless of the struggle, there is hope.
I do this for my family. I want to show my children that excuses do not exist and with determination, drive and motivation you can overcome any obstacle. I have people that depend on me - my children, an elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s, and many other family and friends. They may not even realize that they are my strength, motivation and driving factor that keeps me focused on my goal, which is to spread the knowledge of CHF. The majority of my family and friends see how serious I am about educating others on CHF, thus making them take the necessary steps to be vigilant in keeping a watchful eye on their own heart health.