Esther | Scarborough, ON
“Since I moved to Canada from Trinidad and Tobago, I’ve always been on the go — working, raising my children, and spending time with family. In 2011, I moved in with my parents to help care for my mom, who had Alzheimer’s, and also my dad, who was diabetic. This went on for years. We’re a close family, and we take care of each other.
In 2013, my dad passed away. I talked to him the night he died and he said, ‘Make sure you look after your mother.’ I promised him I would. And I really tried.
In 2015, I started getting these flutters in my chest. I ignored it at first, but it was getting worse and worse. I finally went to see my family doctor and then a cardiologist, but they told me I was fine. Carry on, they said. So I did.
“As women, we tend to ignore the pain and push onward — but we should really stop and listen to what our bodies are telling us.”
I had difficulty breathing, I was tired all the time, and I had to stop taking my hour-long walk at lunch. But I ignored all the signs that something was wrong. I continued working, taking care of my mom, and spending as much time as I could with my son. ‘Mom, you need to rest,’ he would say. Even as a child, he could tell that something wasn’t right.
When my breathing trouble and fatigue got really bad, I finally reached out to my doctor again. He sent me for an echocardiogram. After the test, a cardiologist told me that the right side of my heart was enlarged, and started a barrage of other tests. In late 2016, I received a bad news Christmas present: a pulmonary hypertension diagnosis.
I’m not able to go fishing and camping with my son anymore. I had to stop going to work. My whole life has changed. Pulmonary hypertension has taken a huge toll on me. I have to do things in intervals and take frequent rests. I’m in constant pain.
Worst of all, I wasn’t able to keep the promise I made to my dad — to take care of my mom. She passed away last year, and I still feel like I let my dad down. It’s hard to come to terms with that.
As women, we tend to ignore the pain and push onward — but we should really stop and listen to what our bodies are telling us. We have to take care of ourselves first. I learned this the hard way.”