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MY TURN

Heart troubles told her it was time for a new direction

Her mother hadn't listened to her body's warning signs and died too young. She wasn't going to make the same mistake.

August 24, 2009|Lauren Useda Law

I was 21 when my mother died at the age of 48 of a heart attack. I had a younger sister who was 17 and an even younger one who was 12, plus three older siblings. Needless to say, our mother's early demise shook our world apart.

My mother was a giving, loving woman who bore six children and was a doting, loving wife. My father, a pathologist, worked long, hard hours and provided well for our family. But having a good income and status in life does not ensure health and wellness.

After having six children, my mother was overweight and smoked and had a few other health issues. She did everything for her family and little for herself.

Had she taken care of her body, quit smoking and taken advantage of the remedies offered to her after a massive heart attack five months earlier, she might be alive and enjoying her grandkids.

In early January 2008, I woke up in the middle of the night with symptoms of a heart attack. I was going to be 48 that year.

I remember calling my dad from the emergency room and explaining to him that I'd been having shortness of breath at night and had to sleep with a pillow behind my back. He told me he didn't want to scare me but these were the same symptoms Mama had been having before her first massive heart attack in early 1982.

That was a wake-up call for me. I'd been in the same job for more than two decades at that time, stressed out and having regrets over working the first five years of my son's life. I was overweight and generally unhappy. At the time, I was working on a new advertising campaign, which was to launch in March.

The day the campaign broke, I left on a trip for San Diego with my family. I decided I was going to live life to the fullest, and I began to act on the things I had on my "bucket list." I swam with dolphins and visited the zoo, Legoland and the Wild Animal Park. I had dinner with friends and relaxed. And I haven't stopped since.

I left my job of 20-plus years on June 2 of that year, which was also the 26th anniversary of my mom's death. I've never looked back. My life is rich, wonderful and full of possibility. I've lost 10 pounds and feel healthy and happy. And I know that my mom is with me and led me in this new direction.

Change can be good. I highly recommend it.

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Law is a Dallas-based freelance writer who has penned more than 40 children's rhyming stories in her "If a Fish" children's series, which she is seeking to publish. Her website is www.laurenusedalaw.com and she can be reached at llaw001@tx.rr.com.

My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience related to health or fitness. Submissions should be no more than 500 words. They are subject to editing and condensation and become the property of The Times. Please e-mail health@latimes.com. Although we read every essay, we can't respond to every writer.

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