La La Anthony Reveals She Had Emergency Heart Surgery
By Paige Gawley
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La La Anthony is opening up about her health struggles. The 39-year-old actress covers the November issue of Self, and reveals for the first time that she had emergency heart surgery in June 2021.
Anthony's heart journey began in 2019, when she was busy shooting BH90210. At the time, her doctor spoke to her about PVCs, formally known as premature ventricular contractions, which are extra heartbeats that disrupt your heart’s normal rhythm.
While the occasional PVC isn't damaging, frequent ones can be dangerous and lead to problems like chronic heart rhythm issues or even cardiomyopathy, Self explains. When Anthony's doctor said that PVCs could feel like a pounding, jumping, or strangely noticeable heartbeat, the former MTV VJ realized she'd been feeling that for years.
"I felt my heart racing all the time, but because it’s all I ever really knew, I didn’t even know that it was necessarily something wrong," she says. "I just thought, 'Oh, you just feel your heart racing sometimes because you’re working too much, you haven’t slept, you’re stressed.'"
"You know, we, especially Black people, like to self-diagnose. We got all the answers," Anthony continues. "... We’re just not naturally people that go to doctors. We can self-diagnose. We’re gonna make some tea. We’re gonna heat up some Vicks."
Anthony opted to forego further testing until she returned home, but her symptoms worsened in the meantime.
"You know how the mind works," she says. "I started feeling it even more -- like this fluttering and this racing all the time. I was like, 'What is going on?'"
Anthony did eventually get an EKG, which showed that she was having "about 25 percent more heartbeats over the course of the day than the average person."
"They were very, very concerned," Anthony says of her doctors. "Within a 24-hour period, they said, my heart was beating 30,000 extra beats more than the average person. It was going fast constantly."
"Your heart is a muscle," she continues. "If a muscle is working so hard all the time, eventually the muscle will get weak and cause heart attack, stroke, death, whatever it is."
Though Anthony's doctors prescribed her medication, she often didn't take it, as it left her feeling "so tired and out of it," and made it difficult to work.
She decided to instead try to manage her stress, in an effort to avoid having a cardiac ablation. The procedure, in which a catheter is inserted into the heart via the groin, terrified Anthony as she counts needles as one of her biggest fears.
The surgery, though, became a necessity on June 1, 2021, when she started feeling extremely lighted, began sweating, felt her heart racing, and got very pale.
"I've never felt anything like that before," she says.
While Anthony was hesitant to call an ambulance because she wanted to maintain her privacy, her family eventually convinced her to when her 14-year-old son, Kiyan, pleaded, "Mom, please let them call because you don’t look like yourself."
Even after the ambulance arrived, Anthony wasn't so sure she wanted to go to the hospital, but was ultimately persuaded when one EMT told her, "If you were my sister, I would say you have to go right now."
When she made it to the hospital, Anthony was told that her long put off procedure would have to happen right then. The two-hour-long surgery had some "scary moments," many of which came when she was awakened part of the way through out of medical necessity.
"They would wake me up during the procedure and say, 'We’re going to speed your heart up now. Just take deep breaths," she recalls. "Those doctors were just so incredible but it was a terrifying experience."
She was in the hospital for four days after the procedure. Amid her recovery, Anthony accepted help from her friends and family, which she's not accustomed to doing.
"I’m not a person who likes everyone worried about me or doting over me. I have a lot of friends and a lot of family, and they’d be calling all day," she says, before explaining that she eventually learned that "it's OK to let people love on you and be concerned about you."
The procedure, Anthony shares, appears to have worked, and she gets check ups every two months.
"Right after I had the ablation, they put me on the EKG, and I’m looking at the monitor, and it’s just steady and regular. I don’t see a spike anywhere. It’s so crazy. Just that quick," she says. "Everything kind of evened itself out and leveled out. To see that was like, 'Wow, that’s all I had to do to get this s**t in order? It’s regular now.'"
The whole experience, Anthony says, "made me reprioritize myself because it’s always about everyone else and work and this and that. And it’s like, if I’m not good, I’m not gonna be good for anyone."
While she was initially hesitant to share her story publicly, it was her son who encouraged her to do so.
"The more I thought about it and actually talked to my son, he was just like, 'Mom, like, it can actually help people out there to become aware of listening to their bodies,'" she says. "I can turn it into something that can actually help people out there and also make people understand, I’m human. I go through s**t... it’s life."
"Life is short. We’ve learned that from the pandemic. We learned that from being in quarantine," Anthony adds. "You want to be able to live it to the fullest, and you don’t want something that can easily be corrected to be a reason why you’re not able to enjoy life or be there for your family or your friends. Use me as an example of why not to wait."
Another part of life is going through breakups, something Anthony knows about first-hand. The same month as her procedure, the actress filed for divorce from Carmelo Anthony. The pair had been married for 11 years.
Dealing with press and fan speculation about her relationship while she was trying to heal from heart surgery, made Anthony even more thankful for the people she has in her life.
"The people who know what’s going on or know the truth -- my family, my friends -- that’s who really matters to me," she says. "There was still such an outpouring of love and support, which meant so much to me. I appreciate that. I go through things. I file for divorce. Things happen. It’s life, and it’s not easy."
"When you make a choice to put yourself first and a choice to be happy and really mean that," Anthony adds, "then a lot of that stuff doesn’t even really faze you or matter anymore."
As for how she and her ex are dealing with co-parenting, Anthony says, "I can’t say how many times what an amazing partner I have in that sense."
When it comes to that, and the rest of her life, Anthony is still figuring it all out.
"I’m still trying to find that balance of a mom, you know, an actor, producer, time for myself, you know, this new chapter I’m entering in my life in general," she says. "So it’s finding that balance, but also encouraging people, especially women, to not feel guilty about it. Because at the end of the day, you just get so burnt out that you’re not good for anyone. You’re yelling at your kids, you’re arguing with your man or your woman, you’re just not good for anybody."
When ET spoke to Anthony earlier this month, she opened up about entering a new chapter of her life.
"I am just really about self-love and taking care of myself. Obviously, my son, Kiyan, is 14, in high school, he is my priority, but I'm really just about tapping into me and what do I like to do and what do I enjoy," she said. "It has always been about everyone else but me and this year I kind of want to make it a little bit about me."