I have no problem walking into the capital building and speaking to legislators. Send me to D.C. and I will spread the message to congress that research is the key to a healthy tomorrow. Speaking to strangers, is no big deal. I love talking to folks about heart healthy policies and the importance of medical research. Using my voice to change your tomorrow makes me ok with the fact that I cannot undo the past. It allows me to be ok with having a stroke and a pulmonary embolism. Mostly using my voice has allowed me to heal and come into my own as a survivor.
Every year at the Go Red Luncheon they hold a casting call to find the Spokeswoman for next years campaign. I sat down in front of the green screen just for fun and never thought in a million years that they would pick me. Pick me to be a part of the 2014-2015 Go Red for Women campaign. I got the email in early June and I was excited, nervous but very excited. I almost talked myself out of the opportunity. The email came on the heels of my neck surgery and I was still out of sorts. I wasn’t going to let a swollen neck and illness stand in my way of making a difference. With the support of my family and friends, I said yes and hit send.
At the photo shoot I got to meet an amazing group of ladies. We went around the room introducing ourselves and sharing our stories. All of us have been touched by heart disease and stroke. Most were survivors and others lost a love one to heart disease. In that moment I didn’t feel like an oddity, in this room I belonged and they understood my heart healthy journey. In this room Life was Why. All of us faced uncertainty and the cards they were stacked against us, but we chose to thrive.
Thriving means sharing your story and educating the women around us. In away we are pioneers, we went through the worst day possible, picked up and moved on. On to tell an amazing tale that leaves you questioning your own heart health. I was 26 years old, just 5 days shy of my 27th birthday when I had a massive pulmonary embolism with infarction and a stroke. My only risk factor was that I was taking a hormonal contraceptive. Until that moment I had no idea that the Nuva Ring or any birth control for that matter could almost take my life. To me birth control was harmless and it never crossed my mind that it could be deadly. Birth control increases a women’s risk for blood clots and stroke. This, this fact is the very reason I chose to share my story. I do not want another woman to endure my fate, knowledge is power and being your own healthcare advocate is the key to survival.
“A Second Chance Is Why, I Go RED”
We have all had that moment where we wished we could have a second chance to make things right, to live a little more, and to love with all of our hearts. I do not have to wish, because I am living my second chance. Five borrowed years and counting. I almost died 5 days before my 27th birthday, I got the greatest gift that year, I got the gift of life. A second chance to make my mark on this world. A second chance that allowed me to carry a child. My son’s feet never touched the ground yet he made one hell of an impact as wings were placed on his shoulders. Divorce, no one said second chances were perfect. I filed eight months after my stroke and I moved out on independence day.
I got a second chance to fall in love with myself and to come into my own as a young stroke survivor. I rented my very first apartment, adopted a dog, changed jobs, and started dating. In order for me to find love I had to heal my surviving heart. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was broken, that I would never be able to have a child of my own, and that I wasn’t always going to be there cup of tea. It takes a special type of man to love a woman with a surviving heart. Charlie, was my shooting star. He would always tell me “babe I am so glad I get to be your second chance love.” Fate stepped in and took him out before I got to say I do. My surviving heart broke the day he died.
Yet I persevered and continued my mission of educating women about the dangerous side effects of hormonal contraceptives and propelling heart healthy policies forward. I held my niece in my arms and promised her that she will grow up in a healthier tomorrow. I buried myself in my work and watched the world melt around me. Only to realize that I wasn’t living every moment of my second chance to the fullest. With time my heart healed and I dusted off my dating shoes. Fate, she likes to mess with me and love it eluded me. That is until one snowy November day it walked right up to me and as they say the rest is history. Finally! My second chance at this thing we call life is shaping up to be a beautiful disaster and I could not be happier.
It’s not just a man’s disease. Heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women, yet it’s 80% preventable.