Sally Bee had three children by the time she was 36. She’d also had three heart attacks. Twelve years on, the TV cook appreciates every day, and always makes sure there’s something in the diary to look forward to.
I was a stay-at-home mum, going from toddler group, to swimming lessons, to exhausted end of the day, tea, bath and bed routines. The usual stuff that mums do. But in one breath, everything was about to change for me and my busy little family.
I suffered a heart attack, completely out of the blue, then a few days later another followed, and then another. Three heart attacks in one week were not on my agenda.
It transpired that I had a very rare heart condition which had previously gone undiagnosed, but it clearly didn’t want to be ignored a moment longer.
At one point, while in the operating theatre, my husband, Dogan, was sent in to say goodbye to me as it was thought I couldn’t possibly survive this third and most brutal of heart attacks. But here I am almost 12 years later, still ticking.
Life was very difficult and dark for a while. We were a family that had been traumatised by events.
Dogan and I were afraid every day was my last, but instead of being able to take the time to sit and prepare ourselves for the inevitable, we had three little chicks at home who needed our full care and attention.
They weren’t worried that mummy wasn’t going to be around tomorrow; they only worried when they were tired, hungry or bored. In a way this is what probably kept me going in the early days.
Although I was so very poorly and couldn’t physically do any of the jobs for the children, I would whisper tired instructions on what needed to be done next. My house was a hive of efficient activity with helpers, family and friends who took over my role of supermum.
“I’ve had to develop skills to stop me from worrying, to allow me to ‘live’ my life and not just ‘survive’ it. I do worry about dying, so every day that I wake up is a good day!”
Everyone was very kind to us all. And people did their best to alleviate my worry. I was told so many times that none of us knew what was around the corner and any of us could get run over by a bus tomorrow, but only people who have never really had to consider that thought are able to say that.
Believe me, when you think your bus is sitting outside your front door with its engine revving up, knowing today might be the day it gets you… it’s not a comforting thought.
Life continued and day by day I got stronger and stronger. It took me a full two years to regain my physical strength and my emotional strength probably took a little while longer.
I’ve had to develop skills to stop me from worrying, to allow me to ‘live’ my life and not just ‘survive’ it. I do worry about dying, so every day that I wake up is a good day! I have learned that by having something planned in the future, which I can imagine myself at, my determination to be there means I can’t possibly die in the meantime!
For my family, it means we fall from one happy little event to another, always planning, always inviting and always enjoying.
So my life living with a heart disease is the best that it can be. It has brought some sadness and worry, but actually it has bought more joy and happiness. I REALLY appreciate every day.
Our situation has taught our children to be kind and understanding of other people’s situations, even when any issues may not be immediately visible.
We all know not to judge a book by its cover, we know life is precious and we know not to run in the road in front of buses.
Sally Bee regularly appears as a TV cook on ITV’s morning programme, Lorraine, and promotes healthy eating and lifestyles. She is an ambassador for national charity Heart Research UK.
During the last 10 years the charity has funded over £10.2m medical research in hospitals and universities across the UK as well as £1.7m innovative community-based lifestyle projects that help people live healthier, happier and longer lives.
Uniquely for a national charity they spend money where it is given, helping hearts near you.