CLEVELAND — "My perspective on life has just completely changed," said heart transplant survivor Candice Monroe. "You wake up each day and you're just truly grateful for another day."
She has grown to have a deep appreciation for her life. She knows what it's like to not have the next day guaranteed.
"I just keep thinking my life has a purpose because I am still here."
When she was just 15 years old, she was conditioning to run track as a high school sophomore when she had shortness of breath and flu-like symptoms that wouldn't go away.
"We went to the doctor. I was misdiagnosed twice. My feet were so swollen from retaining water they were the size of footballs."
She was brought to Cleveland Clinic where she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and was told she needed a new heart in order to live.
"One day you can be a normal sophomore, and the next you're told you could not make it," she said.
Devastating news for anybody to hear, but it's news the Monroe family has heard before.
Back in 1993, when Candice was 7, her older sister, Patrice, was given the same news at 13. Both received heart transplants before they were the age of 16. Their father, Kevin, had the same condition.
Three heart transplants in one family.
Both Patrice and Kevin passed from their heart conditions. Patrice in 2017 and Kevin last October. While their lives were cut short due to heart disease, Candice continues to be thankful for the time they did share together.
"It's two-fold," she said. "I would do anything to have my sister and my father back, but I was able to have 27 years with them."
Time that was prolonged due to medical advancements made by the American Heart Association. It's an organization that Candice has dedicated her life to supporting.
Initially, doctors told Candice her heart transplant would last about 10 years. Today, she's going on 20 years with that very same heart. It's a heart that continues to beat with gratitude every day.
"Going on 20 years, I can't believe it. I continue to say I have a purpose, and maybe that purpose is sharing my story. Whatever it is, I'm so thankful to be here."
Candice is currently participating in the Leaders For Life campaign through the American Heart Association raising money and awareness. CLICK HERE for more.