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Kristina Bangma

Before I was diagnosed with heart disease, I loved my life and everything about it. But living through the struggle of having it all taken away has given my life a richness I had to learn to appreciate. This daily reminder that my life is both precious and fleeting has made me grateful for each day. I am determined to make the most of my time on this earth.

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My Story

As an endurance athlete, and coach, I had built my entire career on the belief that exercise was the key to a long and healthy life. Giving it up seemed unimaginable.

 

I was determined to find a solution for an incurable condition called Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a rare genetic heart disease known to cause sudden death in athletes. Ignoring the doctor's advice, I spent a year in denial, constantly testing my limits and tempting fate.

ARVC is often only diagnosed after death, but I was one of the fortunate ones. Living in Canada, where medical care is universal and free, meant I didn't have to make the difficult choices between financial limitations and necessary treatments. This accessibility likely saved my life.

Eventually, my failing heart forced me to accept my fate and give up training and racing competitively. Losing my identity as an athlete was a profound blow, and I questioned my abilities as a coach and my purpose in life. Every day was a painful reminder of everything I had lost.

I made a promise to myself that once I learned how to live (happily) with my diagnosis, I would share my journey to hopefully help others. My memoir, Athlete at Heart, reflects my experience of acceptance, perseverance, self-discovery, and growth, as well as the fears, misconceptions, mistakes, and false starts I encountered along the way.

 

While my story centres around endurance sports, particularly cycling, I believe anyone striving for change can relate to my journey.

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