'She was so dedicated in helping me achieve my dreams'
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Olympic figure-skating medallist Joannie Rochette talks to Metro about spreading the word about heart disease during Heart Month, overcoming the loss of her mother, Therese, and inspiring the nation by winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2010.
What should Canadians know about heart health?
I just want to spread the word about heart disease, especially for women, because most women think it's a man's disease. But heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in Canada. I didn't know that two years ago when my mom passed away. I wish I did.
Any indication that there might have been a problem with your mother's health?
No one thought that she would have a heart attack. We never suspected heart disease. (But looking back) my mother was a heavy smoker, she was not so active and she had high blood pressure. I take it for granted because I'm doing sports since I'm young, but for someone who wasn't introduced to sports at a young age, it's hard to change your lifestyle by the time they're 50 or older. I hope that by telling my story that women will become conscious about it and do everything they can to make those changes in their lives. Women usually take care of their families first but they don't always take care of themselves.
Did she tell you or anybody in the family that she wasn't feeling well?
After she passed away, I found in her purse a little piece of paper where she wrote her symptoms like pain in her left shoulder, numbness in her legs, and she felt stressed out. I wish that she would've told us. I think she was afraid to tell us. Women usually keep a lot of things inside and they don't always tell people when something's going on.
When you heard the news about your mom, did you think about dropping from the competition?
I knew that she would've wanted me to compete. It wasn't easy, but I knew that I wanted to do it.... She was so dedicated in helping me achieve my dreams, so I had to do it for her.
What can people do to take care of their heart?
Be active. Eat right and monitor your blood pressure at home.