A New Lease

This photo was taken three days before my heart attack.

As you can see, I was feeling pretty good that crisp September day. I was celebrating the new chill in the air and even posted the photo to Instagram. Two days later, I was reaching to turn off my morning alarm clock when the pain ripped through my chest. I was flattened, laying there in bed, my mind racing, trying to figure out what was happening and what I should do. Two minutes can feel like hours when you’re scared. When the pain didn’t subside, I knew I was likely in trouble and found a way to the ER, terrified and confused and hoping the prognosis wasn’t too awful. It was. I had a 99% blockage of what they call the widowmaker artery and found myself heading into emergency heart surgery before I could blink at the news. There was apparently no time to waste.

So, yeah.

I write to you now from the other side of what could have been a tragic day. Reading the statistics back now, I had a 12% chance of surviving the kind of heart attack I had.  But somehow, I did, and that matters.

I’ve tried to focus on the takeaway: I’m meant to be here. That’s more important than the scary part. Waking up on a ventilator is an experience I hope to never repeat, but I was well taken care by my surgeons and hospital staff and back up on my feet in record time.

Not to worry. I’m doing really well. Recovery from surgery has been big but steady, and I’m returning to myself more and more with each day that passes. My doctors are a little floored at my progress, in a good way. If you saw me in Provincetown, you likely had no idea what I’d been through just two and a half weeks prior or that I was still very much in recovery. But it had been important to me to be there, doing something I loved, embracing a part of life that made me happy and getting back in the swing of things. For my mental health, coming off the bench was going to be key. (Don’t worry. I went slow and took it easy the whole time I was there. Great friends took care of me, shuttling me to and from the airport, checking in on me, even carrying my lightweight bag).

But as you can imagine, that kind of event will certainly give you new perspective. I hold my kids a lot tighter and take time to smile at the sunset— as cliché as that may sound. It makes me appreciate each little life connection I have and that extends to you, too. If you’re reading this, then we’ve connected in some way – either personally or on the page. Thank you for that and for all those exchanges of energy from nearby or far, far away. I won’t be taking one minute of it for granted. I won’t take you for granted, either.

So onward we go through life’s journeys, unpredictable and scary and beautiful and exciting. Life is most certainly a ride, and I’m excited to see what’s next.

I hope you’ll stick with me.

PS – For the purpose of helping others who might go through something similar in the future:  It wasn’t the first time I’d felt chest pain. In fact, because I’d had a few incidents of it in the weeks prior, I’d gone to see my cardiologist who’d ordered an echocardiogram and treadmill stress test. Both of which I’d passed with normal results. Puzzling. I even did a Spice Girls spin class 48 hours before this happened. Everyone is still scratching their heads about these anomalies. The moral of the story is advocate for yourself even if the tests don’t back you up. You know your body and what feels normal and what doesn’t.

PPS – If you’re ever in my situation, don’t find your own way to the hospital. Call an ambulance. Knowing what I do now, I would definitely do that part differently. It could have been a costly decision.

PPPS – I love you all.

57 Comments

N

I hope you’re doing well now. Glad to know you got help on time, before it was too late. Take care !

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Maryann

Wow, so glad you were able to get the help you needed. Stay well and thanks for reaching out.

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Melanie

I’m really glad that you got through this and feeling already better.
Something like that is not easy to overcome, it’s so nice to read that you doing fine!

A friend of mine had a severe heart attack at 27 and the attending nurse didn’t take her pain seriously, because well – she was 27 and it was a Saturday night and the nurse thought it was just too much alcohol… so now her heart is irreversible damaged…

Ok what I’ve been trying to say is: everyone can get a heart attack, at every age, in every health condition…
don’t take pain lightly – and girls, heart attack symptoms from women are different than from men…

So, take care of yourself!

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Anne Hart

Oh my goddess! I am so glad you are doing well. And you are so right, you are meant to be here for so many reasons, some you may never know. And an extra special thanks for sharing your story. You have helped others more than you know. I had an incident of sever chest pain a few years ago in the night. Got myself to the hospital expecting it was my heart. I completely agree – an ambulance would have been the way to go. It wasn’t my heart but it was a necrotic gall bladder that had to be removed immediately. I was so lucky. So grateful all went well and you are here.

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Patty Schramm

You totally had a guardian angel that day, but i admit as a retired paramedic that I was scared you didn’t call 9-1-1. You’d have had an easier time of it. Trust those folks to take care of you. And let’s hope this never happens again. Hug those babies as right as you can. Sending you love and warm hugs from the other side of the world.

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Ninakae Stanton

Glad you are doing better. Life can change so suddenly. I experienced a sudden change two years ago. It was a wake up call. Now I am just greatful I can cook dinner for us or spend a little time in my garden. One just keeps fighting forward.

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Terri DeWees

Grateful that you are on the mend.
Women experience cardiac disease differently. Listening to your body is key!

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Shannon

Stent or bypass surgery? Big fan who is a nurse who used to work in surgery and now I do cardiac cath lab. I have horrible family history and have had two stress tests. Glad you are on the mend!

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Shannon

Probably LIMA – LAD (take the artery from chest wall to beyond blockage). They typically last forever.

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Linda D. Mills

I’m so thankful you got help as quickly as you did. Continuing prayers for a good recovery. Love and Hugs too.

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Raeann R. Rodriguez

I’m grateful to have seen you in PTown looking so well and supported by your BSB friends. Thanks for the joyfully fun and flirty wlw romance books you write and that I love to read! Blessings and best wishes!

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Katie Wheeler

So glad that you made it through this insanely scary occurrence! It’s really great to hear that you’re recovering well and staying positive. Your stories are so inspiring and I can’t express the joy all of your books bring me. Hope your recovery continues to go well and sending all the positive vibes!

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Ann Marie

So glad you are doing better. This happen to my best friend and co worker recently. She is 46. Threw me for a loop for sure. Her uncle got her to the hospital in time. 98% blockage in her
widow maker.
Hugs and prayers that you continue on your journey of a long, healthy and happy life. Peace

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Patricia House

I’m so glad you are better. It is more common for women to die from their 1st heart attack for a number of reasons. So I encourage everyone to go get an non-invasive cardiac calcium scroring done. The test is quick, actual scan time is less than a minute, but set up could be a little longer. You will be surprised at how easy it is. In most states you can self-refer- meaning you don’t have to go a doctor to get referred. It is covered by most insurance. In the month of February many hospitals do the tests for free. I personally have scored thousands of women who had no idea what their risks were. It’s never too late to know the score. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/calcium-scan-concerns

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Grace

Well WOW! I’m so sorry something so scary happened to you. I often wish I were in charge of emoji’s so I could crossfit all the feelings into one perfect emoji. Today’s would be like ‘holy shit I can’t imagine but I’ll be sending you all the best energy as you heal physically and emotionally’. Holding you up.

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Suzie Carr

Wow! I’m glad you’re okay. You certainly are meant to be here! You make the world a sunnier place! Sending you healing vibes as you continue to journey toward restored health.

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Ashleigh

It looks like you are meant to here for a long while yet. Great that you are doing well keep being positive and looking at the sunrises and the stars. Your books bring me so much joy. Heres to a healthy wonderful future.

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Beth

So glad you’re feeling better, a positive mindset is an important part of healing. Continue to take good care of yourself.

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Nancy B

I am so happy that, like your books, this story has a happy ending. Phew. I now know of three people (two of my patients and you) who have survived widowmakers. I love that my peeps have beaten the odds . Thank you for sharing your story. It just may save a life.

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Elaine M. Lynch

Wow! Just wow! Lee and I are so blown away with happiness at the outcome! So glad to see miracles happen to a great person big hugs from us! Lainie and Lee

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Catherine Paape

Oh Mellissa, I’m am so happy you are doing better!!! Such a scary experience! Prayers for strength and recovery ❤️

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Teresa

So glad you got thru this and very glad your family is there for you as well. Hug your babies every chance you get.

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Bobbie Dover

I’m so very glad you listened to your body and equally thankful you were able to get help in time. Hug your babies and keep smiling at those sunsets. The world is a way better place with you in it!!

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T.T. Thomas

WOW…quite a story. There’s so much unknown with women and heart attacks. So glad you made it through. And those two babies are very lucky!

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Cindy Tews

Thank you for sharing your story and advice – could make a difference for someone who suffers similar symptoms. I’m glad you’re doing well and are doing the carpe diem thing with vigor and verve. The world is a better place with you in it.

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Susan Hancks

Thank you for sharing. You bring so many gifts to the world—your writing and your joyous presence. Take care of yourself for your family and for your fans.

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Cathi Jonss

Melissa—we love you too! We’re so glad you came through the surgery well, and are well on the road to recovery. Cathi and Susan

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Belinda Thorp

So glad you are doing better. May God bless you and continue to help you heal and give you and your family strength.

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Louise McBain

I’m so sorry you went through this. Hooray for your medical team and positive spirit!

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Deanna

So glad your recovery is going so well and for once again sharing a very personal part of your life’s journey to help others.

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Lynne Carlson

Every time I see a post from you, I know I will learn something and see a beautiful face. Your smile always makes me return it. Your zest for life is obvious. I believe that attitude helped you weather this. Thank you for sharing. I am so glad you are doing well now.

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H Wilson

Really appreciate you sharing something so deeply personal. Hopefully it will help save another life. Thankfully you kick this heart attacks @ss and are speedily recovering! Now, you need a shit that reads “I survived a widowmaker. What’s your super power”. Best of luck!

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Betsy

I’m so glad you are healing and feeling better. Thank you for sharing your experience and for sharing your talent with us.

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Colleen

I am so glad you are ok and on the road to recovery! There are so many ups and downs in life and it’s a good way to get your true perspective back on track! Thank you for the reminder and also thank you for the joy you bring to us through your books!

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Brooke Carr

Melissa – Whoosh this was scary. I can’t imagine how you must have felt going through all this but I’m so grateful you are doing well now. Hugs to you and your family.

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Jae Coleman

I am so glad it worked out so well for you and your family. How scary. Had to remind myself to breathe toward the end of your story. I may you recovery continue to be rapid and smooth.

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Lynn

Wow! So glad this had a positive ending for you and your family! Sending positive vibes for your continued physical health and a warm hug for your mental health. All of us want you to love those babies for a good long time. ❤️

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Peter DeWolf

I was shocked to learn this. You are so young! I am very thankful you are recovering so well.

Be well! ❤️

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Deb Smith

I’ve read every one of your books and eagerly await the next so you have a pretty large presence in my life. So glad you are okay and recovering from this. I pray for your continued recovery.

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