I have named my seminars “Healing the Whole Heart,” and I prepare for them with quiet time. Quiet time is something I have to strive to achieve. Sometimes that quiet time becomes very like a reverie, a dream. And the dream is always the same. Dream along with me…
Picture a boxing match. We’re all in a big stadium. I’m in one corner, holding this book. In the other corner is my opponent, Women’s Heart Disease.
My robe and shorts are bright red—the color chosen by the American Heart Association to represent women’s heart disease. My shorts have the word Surviving embroidered on the waistband. In my corner are closest friends and family—and my trainer/editor and a cut man because I fall a lot, sometimes from exhaustion, occasionally due to finances. Sometimes I confess that I have so much self-doubt that my legs buckle under me from weakness. I rely strongly on each of my supporters; they know that this match is being fought for the millions of women who will be tuning in to watch.
Turning around, I see the stands are filled with women, cheering women—about 500,000 of them. Probably 25% of the rows are filled with women who died from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). These women cry out to encourage me. They seem to be the saddest group—maybe because they didn’t get a chance to tell their loved ones good-bye. They left grocery lists on the fridge, children at soccer practice, and nothing thawed for dinner. They left business proposals unsigned and bills unpaid. When they saw their death certificates that read “cause of death SCA,” sadness and guilt overwhelmed them.
“Keep telling your story wherever you go,” they cry out to me in my dream. “Please continue writing and sharing with women. Someone has to tell our daughters, sisters, and girlfriends.” Another group, sobbing tears of regret, calls to me: “We should have listened to our intuition. It really wasn’t sudden. We suspected for months that something was wrong. We had been out of breath when we walked the stairs, knew we needed to slow down, needed to make an appointment with our doctor.”
All these women—row upon row, stretching up and back farther than I can see—look so different. So many races and colors sitting together! Like a rainbow, the rows stretches back, filled with beautiful shades of skin tones. These women are chanting: “Tell them, Lois! Tell them about all the risks, including diabetes. Go over all the risk factors. Warn them!”
Many of these women died because of complications from diabetes. When first diagnosed with diabetes, they didn’t worry that it could affect their heart too. They talk quickly, almost drowning one another out, but I hear the message: “If we had known the risks, we would have been more careful with our diets, taken our medication for high blood pressure, checked our cholesterol, and made the time to exercise.”
Another cheering section is yelling: “We love it when you make us laugh! Laughter is healing.” And another group in the huge arena shouts: “We love it when you talk about fiber and how we don’t have to conquer every change overnight. But if we had just incorporated a little change in our lives daily, maybe…” Their voices drift into silence.
Then quietly, almost in a whisper, I hear a younger woman’s voice say, “I thought I was protected during my child-bearing years, so I figured I’d stop smoking when I turned 40.” Somehow the small voice sounds familiar, and silently I pray it’s not one of my daughters. Then I see the girl, and she’s the same age as my oldest daughter. This lovely young woman clears her throat and tells me, “I miss my children so much. My little girl is only 5, and my baby boy just turned 3. Please tell everyone that heart disease doesn't care what we wear, or what age we are. Tell them now.”
I close my eyes and the cries die away. Half a million women, I think to myself. Half a million deaths each year that might have been prevented. And I gain renewed strength from knowing that my story can make it possible for wives to remain with their husbands, mothers with their young children, and their children’s children.
Then I begin to speak again. And when I falter, I cry out. But I get up again. I always get up again. Because the work ahead of me—the women’s lives waiting to be saved—is too important to quit.