Listening to your body can help save your life

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Tessa Stotts finished last year's Rocky Point Triathlon (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Tessa Stotts finished last year's Rocky Point Triathlon (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Tessa Stotts volunteers at Banner University, sharing her story with others. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Tessa Stotts volunteers at Banner University, sharing her story with others. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Dr. Kenith Fang said many people don't talk to their doctor about family history or they simply ignore warning signs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Dr. Kenith Fang said many people don't talk to their doctor about family history or they simply ignore warning signs. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Although Tessa Stotts runs it every year, last year's Rocky Point Triathlon was a bit of a miracle. 

"The first thing that went through my mind was, 'Thank you, God,'" she said.

That's because she competed in, and finished, that race just six months after open-heart surgery to remove a tumor from inside her heart.

"So I was like, I need a goal. I need mentally to know I am OK. I can move on," Stotts remembers of the time after her surgery.

Dr. Kenith Fang with Banner University Medical Center Phoenix said Stotts would not have been able to do that race if she had not taken control of her own health.

"When you don't feel right, that is your body's way of telling you there is a problem," he warns.

Stotts recalls what first led her to suspect something was wrong.

"I kept doing the same mileage and I wasn't getting better and had pains in my chest," she said. 

Stotts could have passed that off as training too hard except for one thing: "My dad at 50 years old had a stent put in."

That prompted her to get a checkup, which led to the discovery of that tumor. But Fang said all too often people don't talk to their doctor about family history or they simply ignore warning signs.

"I think a lot of people are afraid to get it checked out because they are afraid of what it could be, but the reality is, ignoring it surely isn't going to make it go away," Fang said.

Stotts said she almost did skip her first appointment and she was also fearful open-heart surgery would take away her quality of life.

"I just felt like some of my dreams were squashed right away," she said.

That is a perception Fang and Stotts are trying to change.

Stotts now volunteers at Banner University, sharing her story and hoping it leads to healthier hearts and richer lives.

"You can recover from it and you can go back to doing all of the things you loved to do before surgery, after surgery," Fang said.

"So my advice is definitely listen to your body and if you are given a diagnosis, things will be OK, and you are given support," Stotts said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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