Millions of women die every year from heart disease. That's why we "Go Red" every fifth day of the month here at News 5 WCYB. It's our partnership with Wellmont Health System to raise awareness of women's heart health.
Thursday, News 5 sat down with a patient who had a rare tumor but is nearly back to her old self after following her intuition.
Gay Clark walked 5 miles a day, every day, until her body gave her a scare of a lifetime. "I began to feel like I couldn't take deep breaths and [had] a tightness across my chest," Clark told News 5 Thursday.
When that feeling didn't go away, she went to the emergency room to get checked out. But to her surprise, "They checked out my heart, my lungs, and several things, and couldn't find anything obviously wrong," Clark explained.
After her condition got even worse, she went back to the hospital for several new tests. Doctors finally found the culprit. It was a rare tumor on her heart the size of a quarter.
"It was scary, and when you hear tumor, you automatically think cancer," Clark remembered.
Dr. Keith Kramer told us Clark's tumor wasn't cancer, but it wasn't safe either.
"Sometimes they can increase in size and then dislodge, and then embolize to the brain and cause a stroke," said Dr. Kramer, a cardiologist at the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute.
Clark ended up at Holston Valley Medical Center for open heart surgery. Doctors removed her tumor, and she began her road to recovery. "I'm very relieved to know it's gone," said Clark.
We've learned it was Clark's insistence on getting help that helped to stop her tumor from becoming dangerous.
Women are all too often guilty of caring for others far more than they care for themselves.
"Being persistent when something doesn't feel quite right is important. In this situation, it probably led to an incidental finding," added Dr. Kramer.
Now, Clark is back to walking again. Even though it's three miles as opposed to her usual five, she's not complaining.
"I just feel very blessed that this was found when it was small," said Clark.
Here are some interesting facts on Clark's tumor: It's called a myxoma. Most of these tumors are found in women, but doctors tell us, they only find maybe one each year in our area.