Former cancer patient conquers serious heart condition

After heart surgery, Barbara Hagan keeps running and encourages others to be tested

After aorta surgeryA year ago, Barbara Hagan, an East Lansing, Mich. substitute teacher and then 47-year-old mother of three, sat in a hospital patient room while her doctor reviewed the results of her MRI.

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A breast cancer survivor, Hagan was having a follow-up breast exam and an MRI. It was a routine screening following the mastectomy she had four years prior.

The first MRI showed a serious abnormality in her heart, but it slipped under the radar, going undiagnosed for two years. The second MRI detected the same genetic abnormality, and this time doctors — and Hagan — caught it. The diagnosis: a large ascending aortic aneurysm (an aneurysm is a bulge in the artery wall).

After a referral from her family physician to Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute, Hagan saw cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Eric Roselli who performed an aortic valve repair and a repair of her aortic aneurysm.

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A New Passion
Hagan, an avid half-marathon runner and workout enthusiast was concerned heart surgery might slow her down, but it has not. In fact, it has sparked in her a new passion: encouraging others to know their family medical history, to take routine exams and tests seriously, and to share their diagnoses with family members.

Hagan now advocates for women to get their annual mammogram, the test that led to the discovery of her breast cancer four years ago. Her parents, five siblings and three children have all had echocardiograms (an high-tech ultrasound examination of the heart) at her insistence.

When Hagan’s 44-year-old brother received the results from his echocardiogram, he learned that he also has an ascending aortic aneurysm. Thankfully, his aneurysm is not big enough to warrant surgery yet, but the doctors will now monitor his heart for changes.

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Today, Hagan looks forward to running in the 30th Annual Bay Shore Half Marathon in May. It will be her first half-marathon since heart surgery.

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