Barry Sullivan, Canadian PatientBarry Sullivan, Canada

When You Set Your Mind To It, Nothing Is Impossible
April 2010 | Courtesy of PHA Canada

“Well, this doesn’t appear to have anything to do with your heart… I suspect you may be in the early stages of pulmonary hypertension.” Those were the words that first brought this condition to my attention: a condition that over the next few months and years would so dominate my life, my thinking and my belief in what could and could not be done.

I had just left the office of a cardiologist, referred to me by my family physician after some abnormalities appeared in my chest x-ray and subsequent EKG after a bout with pneumonia. I wasn’t suffering from any obvious symptoms, other than the occasional shortness of breath, which I attributed to weight gain over the years and to just “getting older.” It was January 2005, and I headed home thinking “hypertension; well this can’t be that bad. Watch what I eat, my salt intake, lose some weight, take a daily pill and all will be good. Just check out this pulmonary thing on the Internet and…” POW!

That’s how I was introduced to pulmonary hypertension. Something that I had initially thought would be so harmless, yet now I was finding was so lethal, had from that day forward taken over my life, or so it seemed. The following months were filled with a multitude of tests and consults, culminating in my being referred to Dr. John Granton who oversees the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic at the Toronto General Hospital.

From that first visit to Dr. Granton and forward I have learned, although unfortunate to be a PH patient, how truly fortunate I am to be able to cope with this disease with relatively little impact to my daily life. As many of us know, our pulmonary pressures are really only an indicator that something is wrong, but the true indicator is how our body, and most specifically our heart, deals and adapts to the challenges. I am currently taking Revatio and leading a fairly normal life; certainly far more so than many of my PH peers with similar pressures.

It was about a year ago that I first began to think about riding in the Ride to Conquer Cancer – a 200 kilometre bike ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls on June 12-13, 2010, with all proceeds benefiting the Princess Margaret Hospital. Cancer has very much impacted my life, having lost both my mother and mother-in-law to the disease, along with other relatives and friends. I don’t know of any individual who can say their life has not been affected by that terrible disease.

Reflecting on how blessed I am to have a wonderful family of a healthy wife and two children, and despite having pulmonary hypertension, I realized that I have never given back to a community and the medical system that has taken care of myself and so many others. It was because of this realization that I decided to attempt to ride the 200 kilometres on behalf of not only the charity named above, but also for the Pulmonary Hypertension Community and for those that wish they could but can’t. I’ve decided to do it to inspire others suffering from PH, that if you set your mind to something and take it one step at a time, things you didn’t think you could achieve are in fact achievable.

Although this is something I’ve been thinking of for a while, I only recently have felt comfortable and confident enough in my own health to begin fundraising and preparing for the ride. Funds raised go to a worthwhile cause and can be donated “in memory of” or “in the name of” someone who has lost their battle or is currently battling cancer, PH or any other diseases that you or I may face in our lifetime. I have been training for several months now (not setting any speed records mind you) and finally feel that I can accomplish this ride. It may take me a little longer than the average person and I may have to get off my bike for a few hills but one way or another I’ll get there.


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