Kurt Larios is continuing to deal with the damage that chemotherapy and radiation he had for cancer 29 years ago has done to his heart.
The East Bethel man felt no symptoms of needing cardiac care, however, a routine physical in 2005 determined that Larios had a heart murmur.
“That’s kind of when everything started,” he said.
In June 2006 he had two stents put in and had an implantable cardiovert defibrillator (ICD) put in after he collapsed shoveling snow in December 2007.
In September 2008, he had a hole in his heart repaired, a valve replaced and a double bypass.
According to Larios, doctors have not been able to determine why his heart is not functioning as it should. His cholesterol levels and blood pressure are normal.
The problems are likely from Larios’ treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma 29 years ago.
The cancer was in Larios’ chest, so that area was the focus of his chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“In the ‘80s they didn’t protect your heart from radiation,” Larios said.
They protected his lungs, but “my heart got the brunt of radiation,” he said.
Today doctors treat Larios like a typical cardiac patient, advising him to get similar tests to monitor how his heart is functioning.
Despite what he’s been through Larios is able to keep his situation in perspective.
“That’s small compared to what other people have to deal with,” he said.
Larios shares his story and encourages other cardiac patients through the Mended Hearts program at Mercy Hospital, where he began volunteering in 2009.
“We can provide a total patient prospective,” Larios said about the Mended Hearts volunteers. “We can lend that insight to patients.”
Larios also enjoys talking with the patient’s families and learning more about the patient’s story and emotional state.
“The whole range of emotions are there,” he said. “We’re really there to listen.”
Larios also offers advice to anyone with a history of heart problems and even those without.
He encourages everyone to know their history and if cardiovascular disease runs in their family.
Larios also encourages others to be cognizant of maintaining a healthy diet.
He also points to sleep apnea as a sometimes hidden component of heart problems.
“If you’re not sleeping good, it has a huge impact on your body and your heart,” Larios said.
He also wants people to pay attention to what their bodies are telling them.
“People know their own bodies best,” Larios said.
“Don’t wait too long before you make the call.”
And if cardiovascular problems are found, Larios encourages patients to keep a positive attitude.
“Your attitude is most of what helps you get through,” he said. “You want to be able to focus all your energy on the recovery process. You have to think about what the ultimate goal is.”
Kelly Johnson is at firstname.lastname@example.org