Boston Heart Walk Spotlight: She lost her mom to heart disease. Now she walks to help others.

The Boston Heart Walk returns to the Hatch Memorial Shell on Saturday, Sept. 17. Over the next six months, we’ll be spotlighting the stories of community members who participate in the Heart Walk. Through their efforts, we are raising funds to save lives from heart disease and stroke.

The following story was written by Anne Marie Lane, of Cambridge, who is the captain of Mary’s Team.

I participated in my first Boston Heart Walk in September 2004, and I have completed the walk every year since. I am especially excited to walk this year because we will be able to gather on the Charles River Esplanade and walk together to promote heart health, share our stories and experience the energy and commitment that each one of us has to the mission of the American Heart Association in person!

My mom, Mary Kate, died of heart disease in May of 2003. In the years before her passing, she took medication to treat long-standing high blood pressure and had undergone an angioplasty procedure. She also regularly saw her cardiologist. We all thought she was doing well. When she suffered a heart attack and underwent open-heart surgery, we expected her to be fine. After all, we thought, people have open-heart surgeries all the time these days and then life goes back to normal. Except that wasn’t the case for my mom.

Anne Marie and her mother, Mary Kate, in New York City.

She spent several days in the ICU and then succumbed to her illness. It was quite a shock, and I was left with the feeling that we should have known more, and that we could have done more to prevent it from happening. It was at this point that I began to take advantage of the American Heart Association’s website to learn more about heart disease, especially heart disease in women, because I felt strongly that my mom’s condition had been undertreated. I wanted to learn more about heart health and find a way to work toward improving education and advocacy so that what happened to my mom – and the loss that our family felt – wouldn’t happen to others.

Participating in the Heart Walk is a tremendous way to contribute to achieving this goal. Creating Mary’s Team and walking to raise funds for the AHA was a way to remember my mom while doing good – something that she would be proud of.

I have seen the results of the American Heart Association’s work in the 18 years I have been walking. There have been huge strides made in our understanding of how heart disease is different in women, and this has translated to more awareness, education and better care of women with heart disease. There has also been more emphasis placed on preventative measures and the role that environmental and behavioral factors play in heart disease.

Anne Marie and her father, Bill, at their first Boston Heart Walk in 2004.

I have seen the successes of the American Heart Association’s work, yet heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. So, I continue to walk because there is still more work to be done. I am committed to the very worthy mission of the AHA: To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.

The research, education and advocacy efforts that are necessary to accomplish this mission are made possible through the funds that are raised through the Heart Walk. I am so fortunate to be a part of a truly inspirational event, to be a member of the Community Teams Committee and the larger community of walkers, many of whom are survivors. I am looking forward to the 2022 Boston Heart Walk. It will be a chance to renew and strengthen our connections and commitment to the mission of the American Heart Association and to one another.