Just shy of her 47th birthday, Sherry Stolarzyk was busy working a closing at Wisconsin Title when she noticed an odd pain in her neck. At the time, she wrote it off as stress and sleeping wrong. As the day progressed, the pain intensified and by nighttime she had no appetite and was breaking out in sweats. What Sherry had was more than a pain in her neck, it was the first signs of a heart attack.
Stolarzyk recalls that’s when her fiancé at the time said enough is enough. “I was starting to get scared at that point. He encouraged me to go in to the Emergency Room if for no other reason that to have them tell me nothing is wrong.”
But, something was wrong. Stolarzyk was suffering from a heart attack. She was immediately transported to Duluth where she had a stent put in. She was also encouraged to begin Cardiac Rehab back in Ashland, along with making some lifestyle changes. Stolarzyk took the advice to heart and began Cardiac Rehab.
The Cardiac Rehab program at MMC is primarily an exercise and education program to assist heart attack, heart surgery and other heart disease patients change their lifestyle and safely increase their activity level. To Stolarzyk, the program was much more.
“I attended 36-sessions at MMC. I can’t say enough about what they did for me. It was so much more than an exercise program. It was a sounding board—a place to vent and share what I was going through and learn about the changes I could make to be healthier,” she says.
As Stolarzyk started to make positive changes in her life, she began to notice that she felt off. She found herself more anxious than normal, along with irritable and constantly questioning when the next heart attack might happen.
Stolarzyk shared some of these feelings with the Cardiac Rehab team of MMC. Staff encouraged her to consider seeing a counselor to talk through some of the emotional trauma that comes with suffering from a heart attack. After a referral from her Cardiologist she started to see a Behavioral Health Services therapist.
Stolarzyk says was diagnosed with anxiety, among other things. While she was initially surprised with the diagnosis, she was grateful to discover why she was feeling so off.
This type of feeling isn’t uncommon among heart attack survivors. According to the American Heart Association, it isn’t uncommon for heart patients to have some degree of fear, anxiety or even PTSD. This can be difficult because many of the symptoms surrounding these illnesses mimic that of a heart attack. The American Heart Association encourages you to talk about your fears with family, friends or those you can trust, or seek professional help.
Since then, Stolarkyk has spent time working on her entire self—something she says women often struggle to do.
“So often we put ourselves on the back burner. For the first time ever, I made myself a priority and focused on the total package.”
This included rejoining her church and limiting herself to a 40-hour work week, along with label reading, eating healthier and exercise. She also ended the year with a beautiful winter wedding.
Looking ahead, Stolarzyk says she no longer seeks treatment at MMC, but she credits the entire team for helping her live a better life.
“I can’t say enough about the entire team. From the Emergency Room Doctor and nurses, to the Cardiac Rehab team and Behavioral Health. They really cared about me as a person throughout the entire process. They’ve helped me immensely—I use many of the tools they taught me everyday. I just can’t thank them enough.”