Dear Younger me,
I have so many things I’d like to tell you and I honestly don’t know where to start. You were born with a congenital heart defect. That much you know. Heart problems, I am sorry to say, will continue to always be a part of your life. Medications, doctors’ offices, all of it will become your norm.
About the age of thirteen life will take a big turn when you find out that a valve in your heart is not working like it should. The fear of dying will become a very real emotion as the doctors try to figure out ways to save your life. A lot of things will happen to you that you will not fully understand for quite a while. Let me encourage you with a few thoughts.
Let the problems come in their own time. Don’t worry about the hows and whys. People much smarter and more determined then you will help keep you alive. Your parents being the main ones. They love you and will advocate and fight for the best healthcare imaginable for you. God is and will always be your strength. Lean on your faith in Him in all things. He will sustain you and your family during each surgery…yes, there are more to come.
Don’t listen to what others, especially teenage girls, have to say about you. You will feel like keeping your heart issues a secret. You don’t want them to have any more to bully you about. Don’t do this! TALK about your CHD to whoever will listen. You might feel alone and weird, but you are not. 1 in 100 kids is born with a CHD. This is a fact that you will learn when you are 34 years old. Learning this is a huge turning point in your life. It is a freeing truth that you are not the abnormal weirdo you have allowed others words convinced you that you are. You are not alone, but you are unique. Embrace that. God made you the way you are on purpose for a purpose.
Know that life gets better the older you get. Even though you will go through days of questioning if you will ever even get to 35 years old. Know that birthdays are a huge deal and should always be celebrated. Don’t let fear of the unknown rule your thinking. Ever. Live for each moment as the gift it is from the Father above. You will grow up. You will get married. You will be an awesome Aunt because let’s be honest we always knew motherhood was not in the plans for us. You will have so many wonderful experiences. So don’t be afraid of a risk. Make friends wherever you go. Share the love of God and your story. Life DOES get better.
One final thought, help others. Your mess will soon become your mission. Whenever someone asks about your heart don’t be intimated to talk about it. There are people out there who need you. Yes, need you! Even though you will always feel like you don’t know what to say, say what God lays on your heart. Let Him lead your words and actions. Your life is meant to help others and give them hope. Help where you can. Love whenever you can. Be a light in the dark always.
Now, chin up and heart strong, God’s got you, kid. There’s no stopping you.
God bless and much love, Me
Tiffany Corey is a four-time open heart surgery patient, at the ages of 2, 13, 19, and 24 years. She was born with pulmonary atresia, and suffered from tricuspid regurgitation later in life. She is currently 35 years old and loving life! She is works at an insurance company and lives in Des Moines with her husband and two cats. She is a blogger and published author. Her first book is all about her heart story and is called Take Heart: The life and lessons of a four-time open heart surgery patient. It is now available on Amazon. Her blog can be found at www.TiffanyJCorey.com