‘I’ve beat the odds’: National Wear Red Day spreads awareness of heart disease

Candy Earley and her dog, Holly

UNION CITY, TN — She was told she’d be lucky to live another five years. That was seven years go. A local woman who is defying the odds shares her heart health story on National Wear Red Day.

People across the country wore red on Friday as part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, which raises awareness of heart disease.

Candy Earley of Union City, Tennessee, has been battling heart disease for about 12 years. She currently has 14 stents to treat her narrowed arteries. She says her heart disease stems from diabetes, which she was diagnosed with when she was just 3 years old.

Some of Earley’s heart medications

Earley says diabetes has also led to several other health issues — like kidney disease, nerve damage, issues with cholesterol and circulation, inflammation and depression.

Earley said diabetes is “a chronic, trying disease. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Earley’s father died from heart failure in 2009, when he was 60.

She says she began experiencing symptoms of heart disease when she was 35.

“I started having shortness of breath just walking to and from the mailbox,” she says. “I was in unfamiliar grounds, and I just didn’t know what to expect. And I looked at it like ‘Wow, what else can be put on my plate?'”

Now, at age 47, Earley has had a heart attack and needs a cabinet full of medication to treat her heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.

“If my husband and I are out at the grocery, I have to walk to go up and down the aisles, of course. But I’ll have to stop and I’ll have to breathe for a minute, and my husband will say ‘Take your time,'” Earley says.

Earley lost her father, John Bunch, to heart failure in 2009, when he was 60.

Earley’s daughter and husband

“I’m choked up, because I miss him something terrible,” said Earley. “He was just a man of life, just full of life.”

A few years ago, Earley thought the disease was going to claim her life, too.

“I was in Vanderbilt in 2012, and they told me then that I would be lucky if I lived five years — but I’ve beat the odds,” Earley says.

Earley hopes her story will inspire other women to not lose hope. She says her faith in God and support from her family keep her going.

“It doesn’t even have a money value on it. It’s a blessing. They are my blessing,” Earley says of her daughter and husband. “He’s never left my side. He’s been there 150 percent of the time.”

Go Red for Women Luncheon in Paducah

Because of how long she’s had diabetes, Earley says she has to go to her cardiologist every two months.

To mark the Go Red for Women campaign, local doctors and heart disease survivors gathered Friday morning for a luncheon at Walker Hall in Paducah.

One of the speakers, Dr. Martin Rains, an interventional and structural cardiologist at Baptist Health Paducah, told Local 6 some of the symptoms of heart disease.

“It’s an elephant sitting on my chest or it’s intense pressure, heaviness across the chest, sometimes felt as outright pain, but a lot of times less subtle symptoms like the heaviness. There are other symptoms, though that we consider atypical, but that sometimes can be a symptom of a heart attack as well — acute onset of nausea, sweating, breathlessness, things like that,” said Rains. “Women are more likely to present with atypical symptoms like nausea, upper back discomfort, sweating, shortness of breath. Because, as the symptoms are not pronounced, woman are more likely to not seek immediate treatment for their symptoms. They might think its acid reflex or stress or something else.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men. About 630,000 Americans die from it each year, amounting to about one in every four deaths.

February is American Heart Month. To learn more about symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, click here.

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