Looking back on it now, MaryJo Musselman laughs as she tells the story of learning she might need heart surgery. She remains remarkably warm and positive no matter what she’s talking about, from growing up in western Pennsylvania to meeting her husband of two decades in a New Jersey shore bar, or raising her children while battling leukemia.
Musselman was first diagnosed with leukemia 18 years ago, and began coming down to Johns Hopkins from her home in Toms River, New Jersey, for regular treatment while still bookkeeping for her husband’s fitness and personal training gym. In what little spare time she had left, she remained actively involved with a national group of community-service-minded fitness professionals, helping to build a community garden in Phoenix, Arizona.
A Second Opinion
Several years ago, after an electrocardiogram revealed an unknown abnormality in her heart rhythm, Musselman visited a Toms River cardiologist for a cardiac stress test to check her heart’s fitness. She was uneasy that despite a passing test and no family history of heart disease, her doctor wanted to perform surgery that would require inserting a line from her leg up to her heart and place her on heart medication regardless of the outcome. She made an appointment at the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center for a second opinion.
As soon as Musselman met Pamela Ouyang, M.D., she felt at ease. She particularly appreciated Dr. Ouyang’s clear communication. “I love her! She’s calm, she’s got a sense of humor, and I never feel rushed,” she says. After performing some non-invasive tests and a thorough assessment, Dr. Ouyang confirmed that Musselman’s heart was in good shape and did not require surgery. Musselman remembers, “When your doctor is thrilled, you’re thrilled. I feel like I’ve been gifted life.”
The Next Step
With her clean bill of heart health, Musselman was able to begin exercising again. “Eighteen years ago I didn’t know if I’d be here one year later, but now I can plan for the rest of my life. My body is ready to go, and so am I,” she says.
She and her husband plan to move to Arizona to continue their work and community outreach. Until then, she says she won’t go anywhere else for care, and makes the three-hour drive for her occasional follow-up appointments.
“You have to make the best decision you can make, and say, ‘I’m worth going to Johns Hopkins,’” she declares. “My life is worth it and I’m grateful every day I get to make that trip.”
For more information or to make an appointment at the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Center, call 410-550-5191.