I was six years old the first time I remember visiting a hospital. It was to go see my dad after he had a triple bypass heart surgery at the age of 38.
The results of this surgery are the things that I’ll always see as a part of my father. The scars down his leg where they took veins to re-route his heart. The “railroad tracks,” as we called them, which ran down his chest as evidence of a heart that, no matter how big, was considerably unhealthy. Sadly, I don’t remember him without those scars.
Heart disease and obesity were issues he battled during much of my childhood, and all of my adult life. When I was in high school, he had a heart attack followed immediately by a double by-pass. Less than four years later, it was another triple by-pass. At that time, we were told his scar tissue was so thick, that trying to get to his heart was about as easy as digging through concrete. It took him several months to recover, and he blatantly said he never wanted to go through that again. So when his heart gave out five years ago, none of us were completely surprised. But it didn’t make it any easier.
I’m 34 years old right now, and as that magic number—38—creeps closer and closer, I’m struck by how young that is to be dealing with heart problems. The issue is genetic in my family: grandma’s side is plagued with bad hearts and high cholesterol, which is evident when you look at our history. Her brother dropped dead at 45 while running. Another brother died while getting his heart examined. My own uncle had a massive heart attack and surgery while in his 40s. Even my own brother—a collegiate athlete who runs 5 miles a day—has been on cholesterol medicine since his early 20s.
But because of these reasons, I’ve been obsessed with my health since I was little. I’ve always assumed, as dark as it may be, that I would end up having a heart attack. So while in high school, I began researching how to stay heart-healthy, and living it every day. Fortunately, all of Dad’s side is like this, so between my grandma, my aunts and myself, I learned about the benefits of olive oil, nuts, avocados, flax seed, 180 BPM heartrates… I could go on and on.
For years, I had toyed with the idea of working for a gym. I hated seeing the struggles my family was fighting with their hearts. So now, things are finally falling into place. I’m officially enrolled in courses to become a personal trainer and fitness nutritionist.
I cannot wait to see what this new chapter brings. I know I have a lot to learn, but I’m excited to get there. And after looking for guidance from personal trainers like Pamela Hernandez, Richard Grubbs (okay, okay, he’s my cousin) and my amazing friend Tony, who at one time said he was over 300 pounds before getting his health under control, I am so ready to start down this new path. Wish me luck, because right now, it’s all pretty scary. But hey, I’m also a rollergirl, which means I’m wired to kick some butt.