Shelley's Story

February 18, 2016

Shelley recently gave this speech outlining her experiences as a Heart Attack survivor at a Nanaimo Zonta Red Gala event:

"Good Evening Everyone…it is my pleasure to be here speaking to you this evening. I have decided to focus on the Blessings I have discovered as a Heart Attack Survivor, living with Heart Disease. Was having a heart attack the most horrible thing that could have happened to me…or was it the greatest opportunity for me? Let me explain.

On January 19th, 2009, what began as an ordinary trip to the pool for some exercise, changed dramatically within the next two hours. Literally between 6:30 and 8:15 that evening, I went from participating in my weekly aquatics class to laying on a bed in the ER, being told that I had just had a heart attack. “A Heart Attack?!What does that mean?!” I said to my husband.

I was, of course, in total shock and disbelief.

After having three stents put into my right coronary artery I began my road to recovery. First, I realized that I knew almost nothing about the heart and heart disease. I knew I had a heart in there somewhere, but other than that, VERY little. No one in my life has heart disease so I realized that until you are forced to, you just don’t pay attention.

I am hoping that will change for women such as yourselves. I had a lot to learn and that is what I did. I studied and read all the latest and greatest on Heart Health. What I read about women and heart disease was more than shocking, it was horrific!! How could we not know that Heart Disease, including Heart Attacks and Strokes, is the number one killer of Canadian women. And, most Canadian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease. It became my goal to learn and to make others more aware.

As they say, “With knowledge comes power”.

Doctors refer to me as an “anamoly”, “the woman who had a Heart Attack at only 49 years old”, “the woman who was in the pool exercising when it happened”, “the woman who had none of the traditional risk factors”. But wait, could HIGH STRESS, over many years, actually cause me to have a heart attack? I now believe that is exactly what caused my heart disease and the resulting heart attack I had seven years ago.

My heart attack was an awakening and my body was telling me I was out of balance.

My mission since then has been to do something about that.

I began by redefining who I am and then reintroduced myself to the world as the “new” Shelley Wallace.

I returned to teaching but now teach part-time, and I no longer “hit the ground running”. No more “energizer bunny” for me!!

I learned how to say “No” to anyone I need to.

I redefined words such as “selfish” and “perfect”.

I studied stress management, learning how to use meditation, proper breathing and music to relax.

I took Cognitive Behavior Therapy to change the way I think about things and to worry less.

I started walking more and taking Pilates classes to relieve stress and feel stronger.

But most importantly I learned how to build pleasure into each day. Whether it is enjoying a BIG hug, a walk in the fresh air, an extra cup of coffee, a pajama day with a good book, a chat on the phone with an old friend…anything that makes me feel good.

I have been Blessed…I had a heart attack and survived.

I was forced out of “the fast lane”, and I love moving my own speed in “the slow lane”.

I was given a second chance to do better. And that is exactly what I am doing. I would encourage all of you to do the same.

I’d like to share this quote by Joseph Campbell...

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting.”

In ending, I’d like to say a Special Thanks to a unique group of friends we call our “Heart Sisters”. These women have survived and live with the challenges of heart disease, and they can relate in ways no one else in our lives can. We meet for lunch once a month to lend a special kind of support to each other. If the “Heart Sisters” who are here tonight would please stand so they can be acknowledged.

We’d like to invite you to stop by our table this evening so we can meet you, answer any questions and invite you to join us on our Heart Truth journeys.

My sincere Thanks to the Zonta women and to the Heart and Stroke Foundation for all the work they do, their support, and for giving me this opportunity to share my story with all of you wonderful women!"

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