There was a casting call held at a nearby Mall here in New Jersey. The American Heart Association was looking for women living with heart disease to tell their stories as part of their "Go Red for Women" campaign.
I was nervous, but I attended. As I sat I the room filled with women, all decked out in red t-shirts, I was shocked at the diversity: women of all different ages, races, and backgrounds who were currently living and coping with heart disease.
While waiting to be called, I struggled to hide my emotions and was nervous about sharing my story. To this day, talking about my heart attack makes me very emotional, and I didn't want to bring the other women down.
Unfortunately, as soon as they called my name, I lost it. The tears started streaming down my face as I began talking about my heart attack and how my baby and I almost didn't survive. I looked around the room and noticed that I wasn't alone in my emotions — every eye in the room was filled with tears.
I just knew I had blown the audition. I wasn't sure what the American Heart Association was looking for in an ambassador for their Go Red For Women campaign, but I was certain they wouldn't want a babbling sack of tears.
Well, I was wrong. They were looking for real stories that other woman could connect with. The director came to me after the audition and told me there is no one way to share a survival story, that everyone needs someone to connect with, and said that someone may feel comforted by my story and the strength I showed in being able to talk about it in front of a room of strangers.
Since then my story has appeared on the AHA's website and in their heart disease journal, Heart Insight. As a result, I have since been contacted by several women saying they were encouraged by my story. I have made new friends and I am inspired by their stories. We support each other and help each other cope with the day-to-day challenges presented by this disease.
I am so happy and thankful for the American Heart Association and all they do to raise awareness and provide support for people with heart disease. My experience, both as a heart patient and as part of the AHA's Go Red for Women campaign, has taught me a valuable lesson about finding support through communication and sharing. It is very important to feel a connection with someone or something, and to be inspired by that connection, when you are fighting a tough situation. Even now, when I speak to others about my experience I do so with my true feelings. I don't put on a brave face if I am really feeling sad inside. I allow others to see the truth.
Living with heart disease can be tough, but as I've learned, you must take it one day at a time.