I Survived Heart Disease By Speaking Up And Advocating For My Health

As a longtime runner, I knew something wasn't right when climbing the stairs left me out of breath.

Dawn Angelique Roberts' Personal Essay
Photos courtesy of Dawn Angelique Roberts

As a longtime marathon runner who loves hills, I’ve always taken the stairs at the gym with my trainer. However, when I started getting out of breath during my usual routine, I became concerned. After mentioning it several times, my trainer strongly encouraged me to visit a doctor.

Approaching a milestone birthday in 2019, I scheduled a thorough health checkup as a preventative measure. I started with a visit to the cardiologist due to my good friend and sorority sister having a heart issue that went undetected at birth. 

I received a clean bill of health initially from my first cardiologist. However, three months later, I experienced sharp chest pains after short runs. I knew something wasn’t right, however, he dismissively suggested that I see a neurologist.

Refusing to accept dismissive responses from my cardiologist after telling him about my chest pain, I advocated for myself, and eventually, found a cardiologist who listened to me. After conducting thorough tests, it was revealed that I had 99% blockage in my Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery—a condition known as a “widow-maker.”

Dawn Angelique Roberts' Longtime Runner
Photos courtesy of Dawn Angelique Roberts

Thanks to prompt intervention and successful stent placement, I was able to reclaim my active lifestyle within a month. Throughout this challenging time, the unwavering support of my family, friends, and medical professionals proved invaluable.

My heart journey is a testament to the importance of self-awareness, advocating for your health, and the power of prayer. It is also a cautionary tale to listen to your body and know your family’s health history.

After my experience, I encourage everyone to know their family history. As a result of my heart event, I now understand that heart disease runs in my family. My grandfather passed away at the age of forty-five. I also have an aunt and uncle who passed away from heart disease later in life. 

Thankfully, eighty percent of heart disease is preventable, but awareness is vital. I encourage everyone I know to commit to annual checkups and screenings. I also highly suggest knowing your numbers, which include your body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose numbers.  

It’s also important to prioritize a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating nutritious foods, working out daily, and staying active. I honestly believe running saved my life, and by listening to my body and advocating for myself, I am still here to share my story. 

Named a Woman of Impact by the American Heart Association-Pennsylvania in 2021, I’m committed to spreading awareness and advocating for heart health, driven by the desire to save lives.

By supporting initiatives championed by organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), we can progress towards a future where heart disease no longer claims the lives of our loved ones in high numbers. 

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Dawn Angelique Roberts is an award-winning communicator with 25+ years in journalism, media relations, and event management. A health advocate and run coach for the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation, she’s also a Heart Champion recognized by the American Heart Association in 2021.

As the owner of Elite Access Running, a full-service race management and wellness company, she offers event management, public relations, social media, and wellness for athletes, organizations, and premier races. The Philadelphia native also offers USATF-certified coaching.

Passionate about promoting healthy and active lifestyles, Roberts enjoys running, cycling, and traveling with husband Wayne Roberts and son, Wayne Roberts, Jr.