Mary Leah Coco - Telling My Heart Story Helps Me Cope
Mary Leah Coco, Ph.D., is a dedicated employee of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development where she is the Associate Director of the Technology Transfer and Training section. She is also a survivor of heart disease, wife to Jeremy, and proud mom to Annie. Mary Leah and her family live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
After the shock of being diagnosed with heart failure at age 30 settled in, I picked myself back up and made an active decision to move forward. I wasn’t the first woman to be diagnosed with heart disease and sadly I wouldn’t be the last. One thing I did not expect was how much healing would come by sharing my story with others.
At first, I thought no one would care about what I had to say. I quickly began to recognize I was not who people “expected” to have heart disease. Each time someone said, “You don’t look like you have heart problems,” I would take this opportunity to talk about the real facts; what people really need to know about heart disease and how it will impact them directly at some point in their life either through loved ones or a personal experience. What began as a tragedy in my life has turned into the greatest gift: saving lives through one conversation at a time.
Being a young survivor of heart disease has often felt lonely. However, the American Heart Association has opened up a world of opportunities for me to make a difference in the lives of others by sharing my experiences and connecting with others who have been on a similar journey. Being able to change what people think heart disease should “look like” has been nothing short of powerful in my life. I want to leave a legacy of survival by helping others defeat the odds.
I have learned to not be ashamed of my diagnosis but to embrace it while being part of the change. I know for certain that we only get one shot at this life, and I plan on taking any opportunity I can to share the importance of how heart disease can and will impact all of us in some form or fashion. I proudly wear the badge of survivor, but with this badge comes a large responsibility to educate others. We should never underestimate the power of how our story will impact others. You never know, you just might save a life of someone you’ve never met because you took the time to share your journey with others.