Contact: Nicole Napoli, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-375-6523WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2014) — Brenda Keene had a history of heart disease in her family, but she still didn’t anticipate all the health problems she would face. After battling first breast cancer and then coronary artery disease beginning in her late 20s, she has made it her mission to fight for her health and encourage others to do the same.
“I have been given my share of trials, and I had two options—give up or fight on. To me it really was not an option,” Keene said. “Because of the life-threatening illness I have experienced, I have learned to enjoy every minute I have been given.”
Keene is being recognized by the American College of Cardiology’s “I am CardioSmart” contest for her inspiring lifestyle shift after being diagnosed with coronary artery disease. Keene is one of five heart disease patients being recognized during Heart Month for living well with heart disease.
“Brenda has been a mentally and physically tough lady who has endured much in the treatment of her breast cancer followed by problems related to coronary disease,” said Harrison Turner, MD, FACC, Keene’s cardiologist at Wellmont CVA Heart Institute in Kingsport, Tenn. “Her spirit in dealing with two major life-threatening problems has been an inspiration.”
Keene underwent chemotherapy, radiation and a radical mastectomy at the age of 27 after being diagnosed with breast cancer—a disease she battled for 20 years. Six years after her chemotherapy, her primary care doctor heard a loud murmur and irregular heartbeats during her normal checkup. Her electrocardiogram also came back abnormal—she had coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. It occurs when a person’s coronary arteries become damaged or diseased from a build-up of fat and cholesterol in the blood that sticks to the inner walls of the arteries. Over time the arteries become narrowed or blocked.
Two weeks after her diagnosis, Keene underwent open-heart surgery to bypass two blockages and replace her mitral valve.
“When I woke up from surgery, I was on a ventilator and was so thankful to be alive,” she said. “I wanted the tube out of my mouth so I could breathe and start finding a way I could defeat this disease.”
Keene said these days she stays as active as possible. She walks in her local park because it provides exercise and being in nature helps lower the stress in her life. She has also changed her eating habits, is vigilant about taking her medication and regularly sees both her primary care doctor and her cardiologist.
She’s become involved in several local causes as well, including volunteering at the local hospice house and elementary school and organizing walkers for Relay for Life and the National Alliance for Mental Illness walk. She’s also traveled to Capitol Hill to advocate for mental health assistance.
“I am a survivor, not a victim,” she said. “Live life to the fullest because you do not get a second chance.”
CardioSmart is the patient education and support program developed by the American College of Cardiology. Its mission is to engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them to participate in their own care. In 2013, CardioSmart established a contest to find individuals who were living well with specific heart disease conditions: high blood pressure, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, previous heart attack or coronary artery disease, and showcase their stories to inspire other patients.
David Wang of Boston was the overall winner, through voting on the CardioSmart Facebook page. Read his story on the CardioSmart website.
For more information on the symptoms and treatments for coronary artery disease, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/Coronary-Artery-Disease.
To read more about Brenda’s story, visit www.cardiosmart.org/Connect/Patient-Stories/Brenda-Keene.
The mission of the American College of Cardiology is to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health. The College is a 47,000-member medical society comprised of physicians, surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines. The ACC provides professional education, operates national registries to measure and improve quality of care, disseminates cardiovascular research, and bestows credentials upon cardiovascular specialists who meet stringent qualifications. For more information, visit www.cardiosource.org/ACC.