Back in early 2009, Dan was home. I was teaching in Auburn, Alabama and learning to live my new lifestyle with a low sodium diet, exercising with a trainer and my new medications. I don’t remember how I heart about it but there was going to be a Go Red for Women casting call in Atlanta. Go Red for Women (GRFW) is a movement started by the American Heart Association (AHA) specifically designed to raise awareness of heart disease in women and they were looking for spokeswomen with real experience with heart disease.
I told my roommate Jessica that I wanted to do this and, as usual, she was up for the adventure to Atlanta! Side story…
In May 2008, I had a cardiac catheterization that caused a large hematoma in my groin/belly. Jessica drove me to the hospital at about 7:00pm. I was admitted around 3:00am. Jessica slept in a chair all night and didn’t leave until my mom arrived at 10:00am. Whenever I discuss a new friend my mom says, “Will she sleep in a chair?”. Jessica is one in a million.
Ok, back on track. We drove up to Atlanta the night before the casting call. We went and found the Macy’s and scoped out the best place to park to be sure we were their early. I don’t know why but I imagined this was going to be hugely busy and there would be tons of people at the casting call the next morning. I was wrong. We arrived about and hour early and there was NO ONE there. We beat the camera crew, Macy’s employees, everyone. I imagine they interviewed less than 50 people all day. This was when I realized with GRFW was established. No one knew. No one knew, that heart disease kills 1 in 3 women. No one knew that heart disease is the #1 killer of women! There are pink ribbons everywhere and breast cancer only kills 1 in 8*. Women didn’t, correction, women don’t know that heart disease is their #1 killer. From that moment on I was on a mission.
I was selected as one of nine women from across the country to be a 2009 national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. The best way to explain this is like a Miss American reign. Spreading awareness of heart disease is always my cause, my goal, and my mission. As a national spokeswoman, I was given a title and a platform to be able to get the word out for one year before a new set of spokeswomen would take over. I spoke at luncheons, did radio interviews, public service announcements for television, was printed on advertisements and billboards. My face was HUGE about I 95 between NYC and Philadelphia. The best part was the phone calls, texts and Facebook messages. “I saw you on ____.” The word was spreading. Some of my heart sisters were selected to appear on the Today Show. It was an amazing year.
We still have a long way to go. Heart disease is still the #1 killer of women and kills about 1 per minute. It has got to stop and they only way to do that is to know your risk.
Learn your risk here but also know that I’m the first in my family. I do not have any of the typical risk factors. Listen to your body. Follow your gut. I did and that is why I am still alive. Never be afraid to call 911.
* I, in no way, discourage breast cancer research. My grandmother is an almost 30 year survivor of breast cancer and I support the pink ribbon too.