Today I graduated.  There was no cap and gown—no pomp and circumstance–just sheer joy and renewed hope.  Today I became a graduate of the Cardiac Heart Failure Program at Duke University Medical Center.

When I signed up back in September, I saw this as my last hope.  I was taking medication but didn’t feel I was getting any better.  When my doctor suggested the program, I knew it was something I just had to do.

For the past three months, I went to the facility for cardiotherapy and nutrition assistance, faithfully, twice a week–24 sessions in all.  

I’ll never forget how hard it was to walk a few short feet from my car to the gym without being out of breath for the first couple of weeks and how often I cried because I was so embarrassed to be the youngest patient there.

But as time went on, here’s what I learned:

Stay out of the pity pool:  It’s too easy to jump into but hard to get out of.  And some well meaning folks will keep you there if you let them.

The mind is powerful:  In order to achieve it, you must first believe it.  Getting healthy required a strong, positive attitude and a determined spirit and will.

You reap what you sow:  Bad habits of any kind will eventually catch up to you.

Be a testimony:  Use your trials and tribulations to be a testimony for someone else   so that they may be encouraged. 

Never, ever give up!

As a final requirment for graduation, I had to take a test and I’m happy to report I did a little over two miles in 39 minutes and had NO shortness of breath! 

Yes, I will live the rest of my life with congestive heart failure but how I choose to live will be totally up to me.

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan and have been ever since I can remember.  My mom went to school with one of the original Browns (Marion Motley) and my dad used to take me to some of the games.

All of you baby boomers who are true die-hard football fans will remember a quarterback named Brian Sipe.  He led the Browns to many thrilling moments and caused many of us fans to go into near cardiac arrest while watching them come back from big deficits to win games.  They became known as the “Kardiac Kids.”

Flip the script 30 years later and there’s a new group of cardiac kids.  But instead of being in Cleveland, we’re here in North Carolina.  Our thrilling moments come when we can walk a mile rather effortlessly around the track and breathe without contantly grasping for air.

We are the cardiac patients undergoing cardiotherapy at Duke Center for Living.  It’s one of the best kept secrets with state of the art equipment and real professionals who genuinely care about our health and well being. 

Maybe the fact that it costs $107 a session has something to do with that genuine concern 🙂

Knowing I have congestive heart failure and heart disease is the #1 killer of women over 40 makes me thrilled to know Duke’s Center for Living is part of the best that healthcare has to offer for this new breed of cardiac kids.