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Candace Duling’s Story

Atrial Fibrillation Survivor

Gives and receives support

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Candace's Story

A CREATIVE HEART BEAT

My name is Candace Duling and I went into my first cardiac episode at the age of 20! (Feb 3, 2006). I was living in my first apartment with a girfriend working as a Massage Therapist at my first Spa gig, fresh out of school. I was active and healthy! Three months before my first episode, which turned into now well over 50 episodes, I began to feel funny. As a woman and Massage Therapist, I was proud to say I AM intune with the beat of my body. I knew something wasn’t right. I felt dizzy, had ALMOST fainting spells, my heart would come up into my throat where I couldn’t breathe and my eyes would dialate in and out. I felt crazy and uneasy. I remember going to the ER a few times with my parents b/c we all were worried.  I was told I had the bug and needed to get some rest, maybe a little dehydrated and to drink my Gatorade. Well, I did all those things and new I didn’t have the flu. After 3 visits to the ER in a course of a few months ALL my friends thought I was turning into a hypochondriac. I felt sick and very alone.

After watching my brother one day (Feb. 6, 2006) I was driving home and got onto the Highway. I remember feeling my symptoms again (faint, heart in throat, gasping for breathe) and I put my hand on my face…. Next thing I know my car is riding on the concrete median. My arm was through my steering wheel, flip flops in the back seat, keys in the seat next to me, radio blaring. Such confusion and chaos. I had no time to think and I grabbed the wheel, took myself off the barrier and guided myself on the side of the 3 lane highway.  A few cars pulled in behind me. One man by the name of, Tim came to my door. He thought I fell asleep at the wheel; I told him “I think I fainted!” He followed me the whole time to make sure nobody hit me. What an Angel he is! I still keep his business card in my wallet. As he flagged the EMT down not a moment later (which hadn’t even gotten the call!) I knew this was the beginning of a journey that will change my life forever. As they hook me up and ask me questions about my heart they notice I had an extremely abnormal and irregular beat. I go to one hospital just to be transferred to another. St. Lukes on the Plaza. Almost immediately after a couple days of observation I was in the operating room getting my first implantable defibrillator. (just for monitoring purposes, Feb. 6, 2006). Boy am I glad they did! About 3 weeks after the defibrillator was placed I had another episode where I blacked out and the defibrillator revived me. This happened monthly until they got my meds stabilized.  During this time they diagnosed me with Long QT Syndrome, but I was a “different” Long QT patient. I had some of the symptoms, but not all. This was a battle for about 6 months. I finally got a grasp of what meds I was on; 13 different kinds! I slowly took MYSELF off most of them, then gradually took myself off all of them about a year later with no episodes! All good right?

I had about a good year with no meds, no episodes. I then meet a boy, get engaged and get pregnant! (2008) Talk about STRESS! Being pregnant, planning a wedding and having a heart condition. I went in total relapse. The pregnancy was tough and I went into episodes monthly. I lost the baby going into our 2nd trimester. I was then put back on meds (beta blocker/antiarrythmia/potassium/magnesium). I swelled up like a balloon. I gained over 40 lbs! Good thing I’m tall, 5’11… I carried 185 lbs just OK. I then went into a deep depression. Could’t even hold a job b/c I would go into attacks and had to be stabilized in the hospital for days. I was completely unreliable in the work force. This was the time I met my Best Friend Crystal. She is a jeweler and I started to apprentice her. I’ve always been creative, painting murals, drawing in my journals etc. To have something to do like making jewelry kept me from going completely nuts.

There is a LIGHT however! I found something that REALLY saved me. I welcome my savior…. The HULA HOOP! I started to really hoop in 2007 because it was just the popular thing to learn at the time . But after losing the baby I then got addicted. Hooping everyday.(Now to back track just a moment. The beginning 2008 was a year of hell. My episodes were consistent,  I couldn’t even hold my head up b/c I was dizzy 24/7. Anytime I would get in the car I felt the syncope take me over. I couldn’t even walk a block with out feeling fatigued.) Back to hooping… I hooped everyday. You can even learn tricks! I would spend HOURS out on the lawn practicing new tricks and moves. 5 lbs, 15 lbs, 30 lbs was lost! FROM HOOPING! It was low impact ACTIVITY my body could handle yet what success!  I didn’t start hooping to lose weight, I started hooping because something inside drew me to it. I eventually got married in 2009 with some hiccups here and there. We then changed locations to Eureka Springs, AR where my wings have spread!

Eureka with it’s healing waters and laid back lifestyle full of creativity and love is the perfect place for me. We move down here in 2010 where I score a job as a Massage Therapist. With all the hooping I was doing I was starting to feel like myself again. Nope, not so fast… Relapsed again! This time we take it to Mayo Clinic. Find out, I don’t have Long QT Syndrome. Just a serious Arrhythmia which causes me to go into Ventrical Fibrillation or even Tachycardia. All which we’ve heard before. So then I’m now put on a new cocktail of meds and plan for an Ablation procedure to help stop those PVC. Feb 2011 the procedure was a success. So we though. 2012 comes around and I have a small episode. I was working out! Doing sit ups in fact. I wasn’t happy about this. Yet we’re still on the same meds and going to brush it under the rug till another bout comes along.

Here I am 2013 with my head held high… Hula Hoop in one hand and a healing touch in the other. I’ve never allowed my dis-ease to take me over. I’ve seen too many people give up and have their illness take over their lives. I have my good days, I have my bad days. I have my good years! I have my bad years. I am not going to let this take over my life. I treat it as a gift. A gift I can share with others, inspire others, teach others. As we all learn from one another. The gift of this creative heart beat has allowed me to stand proud and tall in being WOMAN. I let nothing get in my way and I send love from my heart to yours. I’ve conquered Massage, Hoop, Reiki, Travel, Dancing, Starting a Business, Juicing, Healthy Lifestyle etc. The list goes on. I’m finding my way through Holistic therapies that I’ve come to find quite helpful. I see life as I did as a child. I would like to share with others and spread the word of Heart Health for women and begin making heart awareness jewelry. I am in love with the stones that I work with in my Massage Therapies and am excited to share with others how useful they can be for the heart.

Love and Light

Candace Duling

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Candace is interested in giving and receiving support from other women with heart disease. Contact her if you'd like to give and receive support.

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