Maggie Reid, Features Editor
On Monday, Oct. 15, Kate Mihevc Edwards spoke about her memoir, “Racing Heart: A Runner’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Perseverance.”
The book chronicles her experience as an avid runner who competed in over a dozen marathons, including the famed Boston Marathon, until being diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), which is one of the leading causes of sudden death in young athletes. Now, Edwards is a doctor of physical therapy, a board-certified orthopedic specialist, founder/CEO of Precision Performance & Physical Therapy and host of “The Whole You” on the lightersidenetwork.com.
ARVC is a rare, genetic disease that primarily affects the right ventricle of the heart.
“The desmosomes (the structure that attaches two adjacent cells) in the cardiac cells break and die, causing scarring in the heart,” Edwards said. “The scarring then makes it difficult for the electrical signals to correctly move through the heart, causing life-threatening arrhythmias like ventricular tachycardia (a dangerously high heart rate). Then it can progress to heart failure when or if more and more of the heart cells die.”
After she nearly died while training for a half IronMan, Edwards found out she had this condition.
Edwards considered running to be part of her identity. When she could no longer do it, she was forced to reevaluate everything, which has been a difficult journey.
“I miss running everyday,” Edwards said. “But I sought help and talked to a psychologist about what was going on and dealt with it head-on. I don’t believe I could have gotten through this without the help of a mental health professional. I also found other outlets for my passion like building a new business, writing a book and yoga.”
Besides running, Edwards had to make other changes in her life to remain healthy.
“I have had to decrease stress in my life significantly; I sleep more, my diet has changed and I am not able to do most athletic things,” Edwards said. “I can’t take a lot of stairs or chase my son around anymore, a far cry from running 50 miles a week, swimming two-plus hours and riding 60 miles on your bike.”
Although running was a healthy way for Edwards to stay in shape, learn about discipline and meet friends, she admitted that she also used it in an unhealthy way.
“I also used running to run away from all my emotions,” Edwards said. “I never faced anything, I only ran from it. When I was diagnosed with ARVC I could no longer run away, I was forced to face who I was and decide if that was really who I wanted to be.”
Finding out she had ARVC was difficult, but not as difficult as finding out that her son might have it given the hereditary nature of the disease.
“Hearing your child may end up with the same disease is more devastating than having it yourself,” Edwards said.
Now, Edwards looks at life differently since she was diagnosed and is more grateful for the little things.
“I have realized that you get to choose how you live,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t matter what other people think or do; all that matters is that you are doing what you believe is right for yourself. I am much more grateful for the everyday things in life like spending time with my family or snuggling up on the couch on a rainy day. I no longer feel the need to be busy all the time and ‘do.’ I am more mindful about the choices I make and the opportunities I pursue in life and at work.”
You can purchase “Racing Heart: A Runner’s Journey of Love, Loss, and Perseverance” on Amazon. To learn more about Kate, visit her website katemihevcedwards.com.