Rhonda is on a mission to help others. “Looking back, there were so many red flags. But we ignored them because we thought it couldn’t happen to us. So now it’s my mission to help people change their mindset because this can happen to anyone.”

Rhonda and Peter had known each other since childhood, and had been together since his 17th birthday party. They married, had two sons, and built a life together in British Columbia. “We both led very active, healthy lifestyles – lots of exercise, eating healthy, never smoking.” In fact, she works in strength and conditioning training, so together they frequently went mountain biking and hiking. “It’s why we thought nothing bad could ever happen to Peter. He had no family history of heart disease, was always a healthy weight, and always an active and strong guy. Unfortunately, it made me think we were invincible.”

Rhonda has reviewed her memory numerous times since November of 2015. “Looking back, there were so many red flags that we ignored. I would have moments where I thought, ‘Something is wrong,’ but then I’d beat myself up for being negative. I thought, ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’” For instance, Peter had developed extreme fatigue he couldn’t seem to recover from, no matter how much he slept. He was napping during the days, falling asleep right after dinner, and was still tired. “Peter worked three long days during the week, then had four days off, but he still wasn’t recovering during his time off.”

Beyond that, even though he was extremely fatigued during the day, Peter couldn’t seem to be able to sleep at night. And he’d developed severe aches and pains in his legs he couldn’t seem to massage or stretch out; even though the pain was quite deep, and got worse as the year went on, they were both in denial about the seriousness of it. “The pain moved up into his thighs, but we thought it was muscular. At the time I thought maybe he wasn’t active enough. I thought maybe he needed more exercise. Or maybe it’s because he was experiencing significant life changes and it was the stress getting to him and causing these symptoms.”

But the most telling symptom of all was the chest pains. “We’re avid mountain bikers, and during the summer we started riding new trails. At the end Peter was not only extremely fatigued, he was complaining of chest pains. But we thought it was because it was a new, harder trail, or he was out of shape, or really anything but what it really was. We were in denial.”

Despite all of the cumulative symptoms, Peter never saw a doctor. “Peter’s previous doctor had retired, and he didn’t move forward with finding a new one. And because we were in denial about his symptoms, there was never the sense of urgency there should have been.” At the time, Rhonda didn’t realize how severe the consequences would be.

In November of 2015, Peter suffered a widowmaker heart attack in the middle of the night, at the age of 46. Rhonda recounts, “He had played hockey that day and was complaining about heartburn. Later that night, he woke me up and asked if we had Rolaids. Then two hours later I woke up and he was having a heart attack next to me.” Peter did not survive the night. “It knocked me on my butt because we both had very healthy lifestyles. We thought we were invincible.”

Since then, Rhonda has been on a mission to share Peter’s Story and help educate others. “I have two sons (aged 12 and 15) who are missing out on the things Peter could have taught them; I want to make sure other families are aware of the symptoms and what they should do, so families stay intact. Especially when there’s so much we could have done before this happened, had we known.” Rhonda’s advocacy has gotten the attention of numerous other organizations, including the Mayo Clinic, and Peter’s story has been shared on a variety of platforms. “People have reached out to me to let me know that his story saved their lives. Because of what he experienced, they went to the doctor and got the right tests to find out what was going on before it’s too late.”

Today, Rhonda and her sons are not taking anything for granted. “Peter and I had this plan to travel when the kids were older, but we didn’t get to do it. So now every year I take the boys somewhere new. I let them pick a place and we go, because life is too short not to.”

Watch Peter’s Story Here:

Related: Why You Need to Advocate For Your Own Health, A Change of Heart, How One Heart Saved Two Lives