Aimee Rodriguez-Zepeda : Being Young and Living with 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 11-17.
First off let me start off by saying thank you for allowing me to share my story. My story isn’t so different from a lot of other heart disease survivors out there. I am a woman, a mother, and a business professional. I have days I wake up and feel great - I can take on the world. Then I have days I wake up and I feel not so great and if allowed I can lay in bed all day. My journey with heart failure came up a few years ago when a visit with my primary doctor would forever change my path. Learning I had Dilated Cardiomyopathy Heart Failure was a shock to me and of course my family. The heart failure diagnosis hit hard. There was a big learning curve as I was unfamiliar with heart failure. I worked with my medical team to learn more about the condition. Doctors let me know that damage sustained from my cancer treatment, along with a strong family history of heart disease and stroke, were likely to blame for mine. At this point, I knew and understood that I needed to make changes in my life. 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 lifestyle 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, I am not the typical picture that pops into your mind.
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, every year I set several small goals such as; scheduling and conducting a local Heart Disease Motorcycle Ride with my motorcycle organization, I graduated with my second Bachelor’s degree and pursuing my Master’s degree. An honored opportunity I was given as an American Heart Association Heart Failure Ambassador that allows me to share my story and let others know that regardless of the struggle, there is hope. I personally know the struggle from a mental, emotional, physical and financial standpoint, The importance of knowledge about resources, education, support, and care is so important and vital in our road to recovery.
The American Heart Association offers great resources across the globe and has a heavy hand in the community trying to get everyone out there educated as much as they can. The network support resources out there is a great tool. This network allows survivors and new patients to share stories and if they chose to build new found friendships. The tools out there also have a lot of different monitoring services there, to help you assess your risk for heart disease. The importance of early detection is a major factor when it comes to treatment. I look forward as my journey continues to allow me the opportunity to share my story with hopes of helping others.