"At the end of the day, there are some things you just can't help but talk about. Some things we just don't want to hear, and some things we say because we can't be silent any longer. Some things are more than what you say. They're what you do. Some things you say because you have no other choice..... And not too often, but every now and then, some things simply speak for themselves." Meredith Grey, Grey's Anatomy
Last February, I volunteered at the local Go Red for Women "Casting Call" event - I had planned to work the "giveaway" table. Little did I know (and trust me, I did not prepare accordingly) that I would be sucked on camera by local AHA staff to tell my SCAD story. I was nervous and wished I'd dress up a little more, done something with my hair or at least put some lip gloss on. But Brian was home with an ailing (and pukey!) Cameron, so really, it's a miracle I made it out the door at all for my volunteer commitment. Two months later, I received an email notifying me I was a "semi-finalist"... for what exactly, I wasn't sure. As I skimmed the email, I recalled my storytelling at the mall and got really excited. A few weeks later, I told my story again, this time over the phone to four women at the America Heart Association's National Office. I spoke for about 20 minutes. And when I was done, there was silence. And a couple sighs, a few "wows" and then, some questions. And then a few weeks after that (and pending a background check to make sure I'm not cray-cray), I received the official notice that I'd be one of the Real Women volunteers included in Go Red for Women's 10th Anniversary Celebration. That was May, and I've been sitting on this for what feels like forever! I couldn't wait to share what I thought was the next step in this crazy journey of mine.
And then, in August, I went to LA to meet my sister spokeswomen. Getting on the plane was tough and I didn't know why. I have been flying since I was three and have NEVER been nervous about it. As the plane took off, I was a wreck - and the older woman next to me thought I was motion sick and offered me a barf bag :) I politely declined and looked out the window as tears rolled down my face. And then it struck me - I was going to meet 9 women exactly like me. Who were probably living a "normal" life - working or raising a family or both. And then, heart disease threatened to break them. And somehow, they each found the courage to not only move forward, but use their own survival to help others. On that trip, I realized that no matter what exciting events would come in the next year, I'd already gotten to experience the best part. Nothing could possibly live up to sharing 48 hours with the bravest, strongest, sweetest and most resilient women.
The ten of us account for: one stroke, two heart transplants, a congential heart defect, birth control induced heart disease, chemotherapy induced heart failure, two SCADs, post-partum cardiomyopathy, and five heart attacks. One of us is waiting for a heart. One of us has battled breast cancer too. Some of these women make my experience sound like a stroll in the park. The youngest is 22 and the oldest is 51. I'm pretty sure we have close to 20 children between us. We are the 1 in 3 women who are afflicted with heart disease. We are (for now) the 1 in 2 that survived. I have said it before and I'll say it again. THIS IS WHAT HEART DISEASE IN WOMEN LOOKS LIKE. It is the #1 killer of women. Period. If you haven't been personally affected by it, you will be. And this is why we share our stories.
"Human beings all change. Not what they are but who they are. We have the power to change what we do with our life and turn it into our destiny. ” — Elie Wiesel