My name is Linda Feingold, MEd, MS, RDN and during my twentieth year as a registered dietitian and personal trainer teaching others how to eat and exercise properly in order to prevent heart disease, I ended up becoming a cardiac patient myself.
Being in the health education business for so long, I literally forgot that in some people, a family history of heart disease can override healthy habits. So when I started developing back pain that would sometimes radiate into my chest during my long runs while training for the NYC Marathon in 2018, I didn’t assume I had a heart problem. Especially since only a few weeks prior I had my annual physical and was told my “ten year risk factor for heart disease was .5-percent”. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that my dad had a massive heart attack and went into cardiac arrest when he was around my age. So I asked my primary doctor if she could order me a stress test and she referred me to a cardiologist.
Nine days after my 18-mile training run I was in a cardiologist’s office learning for the first time that I had something very wrong with my heart. I underwent a slew of tests and exactly one month after that first appointment I learned I had coronary artery disease (CAD). One week later I was in the cath lab undergoing my first stent placement for my “widow maker” artery which was 99% blocked. I was too sick to undergo the second stent placement I needed for another significantly blocked artery and had to wait an additional five weeks for that procedure.
I could have let all this beat me up emotionally but I refused to do so. I was weak from four months of being completely inactive but I picked myself up, wiped the tears of fear and frustration, and powered through. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who has ever signed up for a half-marathon in the middle of a cardiac rehab class (If you don’t sign up immediately for the Brooklyn Half you’re not getting in!).
I ran that half-marathon six weeks after graduating from cardiac rehab only 41 seconds slower than I did the year before. And my dream of running the NYC Marathon finally came true on November 3rd, 2019 at 4:28:05 (my seventh NYC attempt and second marathon ever in 23 years!). In addition, in 2019 I earned a personal best in my 1M, 5K, 4M, 10K and marathon times. I guess it’s true what they say — the comeback is always greater than the setback.
In 2020 and beyond, I plan to continue to educate others in eating healthfully and exercising, with an additional emphasis on being in tune with the body and knowing when something isn’t right. I plan on being as active if not more so than before. Most importantly, I look forward to more sunrises and sunsets, and more time with friends and family.