Iris Welch is living the dream. She has five healthy grandchildren. She spends holidays serving her family extravagant meals. (“We’re Southern, so we do every dish,” she said.) She still sees her mother almost every day. She spends her spare time tending to her immaculate garden in the backyard of her Houston home. She enjoys frequent movie nights with her husband of more than four decades. She’s spending her retirement traveling the world. Every Mother’s Day, she invites everyone over — usually 40 to 50 people — and makes a massive brunch complete with a mimosa station, buffet table and blooming flowers in her garden. “Not everybody has their mom. I’m blessed to have mine with me. I thought, ‘Why have everyone sit at home all day feeling sad when we can all just be together?’ I’ll cook and we’ll have fun,” she said. Right now, “life is good. Seriously, life is good.” But she’ll be the first to tell you that for much of the past decade, the dream she’s living in couldn’t have felt more out of reach. In 2010, Iris was diagnosed with breast cancer. “So much uncertainty was out there,” but she had a solid support system and sought treatment through chemotherapy. She was determined to beat it. Sure enough, after completing chemo in 2011, her “cancer free” declaration was the light at the end of that tunnel. She expected that it would take time for her body to return to normal. Still, two years later, Iris was shocked by how quickly and easily she’d get winded at work: “Walking up one floor of stairs felt like walking up a monument. I went and got a gym membership and thought, ‘Why am I feeling worse the longer I’m on the treadmill?’” Iris’s mom recommended she see her cardiologist. She took mom’s advice. Her cardiologist wasn’t particularly concerned about the results from her echocardiogram and EKG. He discussed the impact of her diet on her heart’s health and sent her on her way. Much like her experience on the treadmill, Iris knew she was getting worse, running in place and getting nowhere. She wanted answers. Iris remembers the day she couldn’t avoid it any longer. Just a few weeks later, she couldn’t breathe. She immediately went back to her cardiologist’s office minutes before they were set to close for the weekend, and received another echocardiogram and EKG. Her results showed that only 19% of blood was being ejected from her left ventricle per heartbeat — more than 30% below average — leaving her vulnerable to severe heart episodes. The culprit: Her chemotherapy to combat breast cancer had damaged her heart. As someone whose “favorite thing to do” is care for her loved ones, it was difficult to accept that at only 50, she needed some serious care herself.