‘The past 23 years have shown me how strong I am.’

Dawn Meador, of Suffolk, Virginia, enjoys making crafts and spending time with family. She lives with her husband, two daughters and three dogs and has a son in Tennessee. Dawn shares her long-time pulmonary hypertension (PH) journey for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA)’s 30th anniversary.

By Dawn Meador

I was diagnosed with idiopathic PH in March 1998 through a right heart catheterization. I lived in Marion, Illinois, at the time. I always had breathing problems, and I was told I had asthma.

When my daughter was 9 months old, I walked into a store with her, and my heart started racing and beating extremely hard. I couldn’t catch my breath. The next day during my daughter’s well-check visit, I asked our family physician about it.

When I was diagnosed, I was told I had three to five years to live. I had a 5-year-old and 9-month-old. I was beside myself. I kept asking myself, “What would happen to my kids?” Not being able to watch them grow up and become adults was hard to swallow. Keeping up with them was a challenge. I wasn’t a normal mom, so I couldn’t do whatever they wanted to do.

I started on 360 mg a day of Procardia XL. I’m currently on subcutaneous Remodulin, Lataris and several other medications.

PH proved to be too much for my husband, and we divorced shortly after my diagnosis. After a second failed marriage, I decided that nobody could handle being married to someone as sick as I was. But a man came into my life and proved me wrong. He was a Navy recruiter on duty in the area, and we met through a mutual friend.

When I explained my illness to him, he asked, “Does your disease define who you are as a person?” I have kept those words in my head to remind myself that no matter how hard it gets, PH will never define who I am. We’ve been together ever since.

I learned about the PH community from a nurse at my doctor’s office. My doctor told me about PHA and referred me to its website to get in touch with others. I have learned so much about PH and its advancements through this community. We aren’t just a community, though. We’re more like a big PHamily.

The past 23 years have shown me how strong I am. I’ve learned so much about myself and how to appreciate the little things. My faith in God is the biggest thing that has kept me going. My hopes and prayers are that I can continue watching my three children grow into parents themselves.

Dawn shares her story as part of PHA’s 30th anniversary celebrations. If you’re a long-term PH patient or caregiver, submit your story to PHA’s Right Heart Blog.

Read more first-person stories from people with PH, caregivers, families and friends, here.