Cindy Wilke, guest speaker for today’s Go Red for Women Luncheon and Fashion Show, said if she could pick one thing to achieve with her talk, it would be to touch the heart of another woman.
The purpose of the sold-out 10th annual event at the University of North Texas Gateway Center is to raise awareness of the No. 1 killer in women — heart disease. Proceeds benefit American Heart Association research and education in heart health, organizers said.
Wilke, 58, who works at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton, said she had a history of heart disease on both sides of her family and kept putting off getting checked because her mother died from the disease.
“Not to be cliche, but I really want women to really get to know their bodies,” said Wilke, who was diagnosed with heart disease in 2012.
Wilke said she noticed symptoms of what she feared was heart disease in early January 2012.
“I have an iron stomach and when I started having three to four month’s worth of really bad indigestion that wouldn’t let up, I knew something was wrong,” she said.
After multiple visits to doctors and various tests, Wilke said a stress test indicated she couldn’t go longer than four minutes on the treadmill.
“I had a hard time just walking across the sky bridge for lunch with my co-workers,” she said during a recent telephone interview.
Wilke said she woke up at 4 a.m. Dec. 2, 2012, with not only extreme pain, but cold hands and feet.
“My husband was going to take me to the hospital, but I told him to call 911,” she said. “I knew I needed help fast.”
On Dec. 3, she underwent surgery for a 99 percent blockage of the left anterior descending artery.
“They call it a widow-maker for a reason,” she said. “A stent was placed and I haven’t had any complications since.”
She has cut out sugar and fats, and with a healthier diet, exercise and medication, Wilke has been able to significantly decrease the high cholesterol levels she had before.
“I now walk the skyline at lunch and we have competitions to see how fast we can walk,” she said. “I also have been a team captain and participate in the Denton Heart Walk.”
Wilke, who has been in the health care industry for 35 years, said she should have known better.
“It was just something I didn’t want to deal with after watching my mom,” she said. “I have two kids and didn’t want to put them through that.”
Today, she said she is proud to represent the hospital and just hopes women stay in tune with their bodies.
“Don’t take life for granted,” she said.
The event, emceed by Chalese Connors, Texas Woman’s University’s director of athletics, will feature a fashion show with clothing designed all in red by students from UNT and TWU.
Luncheon guests — all encouraged to wear red — will vote for their favorite fashions, and those votes will be counted to give cash awards to the winning fashion students.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.