Cascade rider embarks on personal mission to raise awareness of women's heart health
Christine (center) prepares for a ride with some riding partners
Christine Segat has always been on the move, running in her teens and 20s, cycling and mountain biking in her 30s, and competing in triathlons in her 40s. That’s why she never expected to face a heart attack in her 50s.
As a mom of two teens with a healthy family history free of heart disease and other typical risk factors, Christine’s story began a lot like many others. But hers took a life-changing turn that she now hopes will help motivate and inspire other women to persevere through similar health challenges and, more importantly, always trust their intuition.
It was July 2017, and after years of honing a love for road cycling, Christine was on a 60-mile training ride with a friend, getting ready for Cascade’s Ride from Seattle to Vancouver & Party (RSVP) that August. Despite feeling great that morning, Christine noticed about a mile into the ride that something didn’t feel quite right. She recalls the first sensation that something was wrong:
“As I was climbing the first hill about a mile in, I felt an overwhelming tiredness come over all four limbs, like they had absolutely no oxygen…they were numb and very heavy. I remember thinking to myself ‘you just aren’t warmed up enough for the hill’ and ‘this is going to be one hell of a long ride!’ A short while later I developed chest pain, which I dismissed as heartburn, as I’ve had had some minor discomfort during previous rides. I continued to ride, trying to sit up straight on the bike and adjust my position a few times, all the while still thinking it's just heartburn. In hindsight, I started to have a nagging feeling that something might be wrong, but denial is sneaky. I actually finished the ride, rode home from the ferry and climbed the Magnolia Bridge back to my house before I finally couldn't ride another minute, clocking 63 miles that day. Still in denial, I took some heartburn medication and laid down, thinking rest would help. What was I thinking?!”
Nearly 11 hours would pass from the moment of initial chest pain before Christine decided she could wait no longer and finally went to the hospital. After some tests, doctors discovered that Christine had suffered from a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD, a rare and often unexplained condition that caused a minor heart attack.
When the cardiologist stopped by Christine’s hospital room the next morning, her first words to him were “you have to get me back on my bike.” After a few months of cardiac rehab, Christine did get back on her bike for a 14-mile ride with a friend. Even though the first time back out was mentally challenging, Christine knew she had to push through. “For me, getting back on the bike was a way of proving to myself that I could do this,” she said. “It meant that I was in control, that I could trust my heart again.”
More than two years later, Christine is healthy and managing her progress well. She rode in the 2018 and 2019 RSVP, as well as the 2018 Heart & Stroke Foundation Cycle Nation Ride to raise funds for heart disease and help increase awareness of women’s heart attack symptoms. She is especially passionate about promoting awareness of SCAD, as it typically affects women of an average age of 42 with no other risk factors. By sharing her story now, Christine hopes that she can ultimately help others survive and thrive after a heart attack, adding that a new perspective helped her do the same. “This event has changed my life in many ways,” she said. “I’m grateful for the time I have with family and friends. I try not to take things for granted and I enjoy life a little deeper now.”
Now at 56, Christine doesn’t plan to get off her bike anytime soon. Her advice to others, especially women, is simply to listen to your body. “All too often, as women, mothers, wives, we put everyone else first, often neglecting our own health. But your family needs you to put yourself first, because the life you save may just very well be your own.”