Susan Lucci Says She's 'Doing Really Well' After Her 2 Heart Procedures
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Writers Guild of America East
Susan Lucci is safely recovering from her second heart surgery in four years.
The All My Children star, 76, attended the 75th Annual Writers Guild Awards on Sunday and gave PEOPLE an exclusive update on how she's feeling after her latest procedure.
"I'm doing really well," Lucci told PEOPLE on the carpet of New York City's Edison Ballroom. "I always keep an eye on myself, what's going on."
As for how she's recovered since doctors fitted a stent in her artery in January, the daytime TV legend added that "It is so far so good."
In February, Lucci spoke exclusively to PEOPLE about her health issues and the reaction she hoped that sharing her story would get — especially from other women.
"I would hear that heart disease is the number one killer of women, but that went in one ear and out the other," said Lucci, who's now an ambassador for the American Heart Association. "But now I get it."
RELATED: Susan Lucci on Her 2 Heart Procedures: 'I Didn't Realize How Close I Came to a Fatal Heart Attack'
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Lucci added that in Oct. 2018 she started feeling intense chest pressure "like an elephant pressing down" and pain around her rib cage — which she ignored. With a daily routine of pilates and a mostly Mediterranean diet, it didn't seem possible to her that she could be having heart trouble.
"Like most women, I thought, 'I have too much to do. It will go away.' I didn't want to bother the cardiologist," she said. "We take care of our children, we are advocates for our loved ones, but we're not at the top of our own to-do list."
A scan revealed a 90% blockage in the main artery to her heart: "I didn't realize how close I came to a fatal heart attack," she said of needing emergency surgery and a stent inserted in her heart, which is a tube that helps keep the passageway open. Her condition turned out to be genetic ("hereditary from my dad's side") and doctors put in two stents.
"It's important for everyone to know their family history," Lucci urged. "I don't think that I ever mentioned my dad's family history to a doctor."
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RELATED: Susan Lucci Honors 'Larger-Than-Life' Late Husband Helmut Huber with Heartfelt Speech at Daytime Emmys
Then last January, after indulging in lots of "comfort food" during the pandemic — "not my normal way of eating," she said, Lucci had another major scare. She began feeling short of breath and experienced chest and then jaw pain. Despite her previous procedure, she was again reluctant to call a doctor. "I couldn't believe it," she said. "And after telling women for three years to not be afraid to call the doctor and to put themselves on their to-do list, I reverted back to all those things."
The medical team subsequently discovered an 80 percent artery blockage — this time caused by cholesterol — and inserted another stent in her heart to open the blockage after she was rushed to the cardiac catheterization lab.
"I almost wasn't going to speak about it, I was so ashamed of myself. But it's a reminder to be vigilant," Lucci told PEOPLE.
Steve Zak Photography/Getty Susan Lucci and husband Helmut Huber in 2017.
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Two months after her last operation, Lucci lost her husband of 53 years, Helmut Huber, at 84 years old. "After that, nothing seemed important, my health or anything else," Lucci admitted. "I didn't care about anything else."
Healing has been "a process, a journey," she shared. But today, "I feel good. I lost the love of my life and that's been awful, but I have friends who make me laugh and keep me out and about, and I'm determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other."