Heartbreak… Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Maybe you were dumped, diagnosed with a life threatening illness, suffered loss, financial downturn, or simply gave in to fear. It’s that moment when you feel completely numb, isolated and alone, desperate for something or someone to give you faith. My own heartbreak and battle with heart disease led me to create Voices To Share… Healing Hearts One Voice at a Time. Together we'll banish self-pity, and invite prosperity in all matters of the heart. As a Heart Coach, I will share: inspirational stories that will give you courage, tips to shift your fears into love, recipes and products to live a heart healthy life.


Share Your Voice

Maya Angelou wrote, "Words mean more than what is set down on paper.  It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning." 

After being diagnosed with heart disease, journal writing was my greatest outlet.  Then I started sharing my story through speaking engagements and through my book, Fragile and Fierce: The fLIGHT of my Heart.  I'd always been fearful of my own voice; scared that I wouldn't sound smart of that I would come across as self indulgent.  I thought, who cares about my story...

But the more I spoke with friends, the more I realized the importance of sharing our stories.  They're all important.  Many people quiet their voices and dim their light for fear of judgement.  Yet, every single day I meet someone who inspires me through sharing their voice - happy, sad, courageous, funny, adventurous, creative - they all matter.  Voices to Share...  Healing Hearts One Voice at a Time is your place to share a story with my readers and me.  Please email your stories to www.VoicesToShare.com.  I am grateful to those of you who share, and to those who read.  Together we can heal hearts one voice at a time.


Holly's Voice

I met Holly five years ago in a baby group class. We immediately connected through our passion for jewelry and philanthropy. Her line, CJ Free Jewelry, is unique and timeless.  Last year Holly and her business partner, actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, approached me about creating a red-corded bracelet in honor of my battle against heart disease.  I jumped at the opportunity to raise money and awareness for the American Heart Association. Today, Holly and Jamie are launching a new campaign with a limited edition purple bracelet to raise money and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s is an illness that is close to Holly’s heart. I’m honored to share Holly’s voice.

Photo collage of Holly, Poppy, and his artwork.
Going Purple for Poppy
By Holly Freeman

Alzheimer’s has touched so many.  I know firsthand.

My grandfather was an incredibly talented artist. His works spanned from beautiful flowers and landscapes, to drawings of my favorite cartoon characters he made just for me and my friends. His mind was as precise and colorful as the paintings and drawings he created.

But Alzheimer’s changed that. The details and precision that had always been a hallmark of his art started to shift. There were inaccuracies—the first sign to me that his health, and more specifically his mind, were declining. 

As we spent time together while I attended college near his home, the changes became more and more painful to watch. Alzheimer’s was slowly taking him away – and more than anything, I wanted to be able stop this devastating disease.

There were good days when Poppy would turn and look at me with a half smile when I called his name or squeeze my hand when we were sitting together. These moments were small gifts – moments of recognition.  But as the disease progressed, there came a point when my grandfather didn’t recognize me at all.

I don’t want any other granddaughters to lose their grandfathers to Alzheimer’s. That’s what is driving me to help fund research, programs and care for people dealing with this disease. I’m taking action not only for the sake of those suffering, but also to spare their loved ones the pain of simultaneously living through this disease.

Back when my grandfather was diagnosed, we didn’t have such easy access to information. People weren’t on the Internet sharing their stories.  But today, we have the opportunity to come together and support one another. And we each have the opportunity to take action.

Friday September 21st is Alzheimer’s Action Day. If we each choose to do something – even if it is as small as talking openly about Alzheimer’s – we can raise awareness, get more funding for treatments, and move closer to a future where our children won’t see their grandparents, their parents or anyone else slowly be taken by this disease. 
Learn more about how you can go purple to end Alzheimer's this month at Alzheimer's Association


Jenni's Voice

Several months ago my husband forwarded me an invite to a golf tournament.  Brooke's Big Heart Golf Classic was hosted in honor of Brooke's heart transplant and to promote awareness for the organ donation registry.  Brooke Balck, a beautiful vibrant little girl was born healthy.  But as her mom shares, their world turned completely upside down when she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at 2 months old, the exact condition I've been living with for years now.  I'm honored to share Jenni's voice with a story that will touch your heart.  

Photo of Jenni and Brooke taken from Maria Shriver's Blog

The Gift of a New Heart
By Jenni Balck
(story edited from Jenni's journal entries)

Our world was changed June 17, 2009 when we received the surprising news that our 2 month old baby girl, Brooke, was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged, and cannot pump blood efficiently.  We had gone to the pediatrician for routine immunizations and as we discussed her severe colic and reflux, he noticed that a couple symptoms could double as heart issues.  Although he thought it was nothing, he sent us to a pediatric cardiologist just to be safe.  Well, we were all dumbfounded to find that the smiling, cooing little peanut in front of us was suffering a life threatening illness.... 

Technically, the surgery occurred at about 1:30AM, so tomorrow (Aug 18th) will be BROOKE’s Big Heart Day that we will celebrate and pay tribute to her precious heart donor, Malaikye, who is with us every day.  It is the anniversary of her new red lips and warm feet, a result of having appropriate blood flow for the first time in 2 years.  It is the memory of her “Christmas Tree” of IVs, and her waking up and asking to go to the play area.  Of wanting to eat chicken nuggets right away, and when we said no, she decided she’d settle for some chocolate.  It’s the memory of Brooke receiving a Joy Jar on the very day of her transplant, from a special little girl who was battling cancer near our home.  It’s knowing now that Brooke would walk the halls of the PICU (with Toms and purse) on day 2 and go home on day 8.  It’s also the day that started the year at home with her big brother, Billy, who loves her with all of his soul.  That celebration will all begin tomorrow, but today is OUR heart day, as it is the memory of the news, the emotional journey we have been on as parents, and handing over our daughter in pure faith and hope that all would go as planned....

As exciting as this milestone is, I know another family is suffering from their own anniversary.  They were so courageous to donate their sweet child’s organs and we are forever grateful to them for saving our daughter’s life.

To learn more about Brooke's story and register to become an organ donor, please visit Brooke's Big Heart.


Karen's Voice

I met Karen in high school.  She was always fun, outgoing and sweet.  A few months ago when I was gathering toys and clothes for children in Peru undergoing open heart surgeries, she was one of the first people to contact me with a trunk full of goodies.  I'm honored to share Karen's voice.

Here's a photo of Karen and her family in October 2011.

Karen's dad and daughter in New Zealand February 2012.

By Karen Moran Faullhaber
Two thousand and three was set to be the best year of my life. I had met the guy of my dreams (Scott, who is now my husband) and -- despite having known him for only 3 months – had decided to join him on a six month work assignment he had in Burlington, Vermont.  Since our time in Burlington was going to be brief, my plan was to train for a marathon, discover New England, and enjoy my life rather than work. 
I was so excited when my parents came to visit us.  Scott and I planned to take my parents to Montreal for a long weekend, followed by some time in Vermont, where my parents could get to know Scott.   As we explored Vermont that weekend, we visited the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.  It was there that the “best year of my life” transformed into something much different. 
My mom and Scott were walking ahead of my dad and I.  I distinctly remember him telling me “hold one for one second before we go in because I want to tell you something.” My dad is very sentimental and expressive so I knew what was coming next: a sappy speech about how he couldn’t believe how grown up I was and how much he liked Scott.  Ugghh, I don’t know why we always had to have these awkward sentimental moments together in public. I was thinking about how I wished he could just tell me these things over the phone or, better yet, leave them to my mom. 
Anyway, we stopped and I steeled myself for the awkward sentimentality.  My dad then said “Karen, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma a few months ago and have been told I have 18 months to live.”  I was stunned.  Was my dad really telling me he had 18 months to live while a tourist group walks by me in front of the Trapp Family Lodge? It took a minute to register and then I just cried uncontrollably. My dad hugged me and took me for a walk. It was so surreal, I couldn’t think and when I saw my mom I just cried like a baby.  Poor Scott just looked on not knowing what to say. The rest of the day is a blur. I called my brother and cried some more.  The rest of their visit is a blur, all I remember is standing in front of the Trapp Family Lodge listening to those words coming out of my dad’s mouth. 
Months passed in Vermont.  I wished I had a job to keep me occupied.  I wished I were home to help out (my parents forbid it).  Most of all, I wished I knew more about what my dad was up against.  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) was an invaluable resource, providing me with a wealth of information and support. Doctors told my dad that his only hope was to harvest enough stem cells to enable him to get a stem cell transplant. He tried and tried but was never well enough to harvest the cells.  Again, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society came to the rescue.  My dad was able to participate in a clinical trial for a drug LLS funded called Rituxan.   That drug ultimately saved my dad’s life.  
My dad is now in remission, which has given him the extra time to walk me down the aisle at my wedding, witness the birth of my two children, and share in their childhood.
LLS is truly remarkable, it literally changed my life and it changes other peoples’ lives everyday.  I am honored to give back to LLS now as part of a team led by my brother competing in the LLS Man and Woman of the Year campaign, which is a 10-week competition among teams across the U.S. competing to raise the most money for LLS.    All support is welcomed and deeply appreciated.  I am passionate about LLS because I have seen first hand the comfort and benefits it provides.  To donate or learn more about LLS or the competition please click HERE and visit my WEBSITE.


Stefanie's Voice

Stefanie, Sarah, me and Michelle by the food trucks at the event

Good bye rubber chicken dinners and hello food trucks, Pauly D, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Bruno Mars.  Need I say more?  Hilarity for Charity not only raised money for Alzheimer's, a disease that has recently touched my good friend Stefanie, but it was fun.  The event was hip and cool, bringing awareness to an often times forgotten disease.  Rogen, who's wife Laura Miller's family has been affected by the disease for multiple generations, hosted the event and wants the world to know that Alzheimer's isn't just a disease for "old people".  In fact, according to the Alzheimer's Association website, it's estimated that nearly 200,000 Americans in their 40s and 50s have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.  Stefanie's another one of my inspiring girlfriends.  Check out her voice and donate to the Alzheimer's Association, every penny counts!

By Stefanie Paletz
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."  I am not a religious person, but I have held this prayer close to me for a very long time.  My mom introduced it to me when I was young, during a time when I could not control my worrying.  I needed to learn how to quiet the noise inside my head, to be still, and to trust that things have a way of working themselves out.  Over the years I have turned to this prayer in times of need.  Always for a different reason, but seeking the same advice - to distinctly separate what can and can't be controlled and to find acceptance.  Never has this prayer carried more meaning for me than it does right now.  My father is 64 years old and he was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer's at age 62.  It was 2009 and I was 31 years old.  Fear, sadness, pain and despair inhabited my soul and haven't left since.  They have become all too familiar feelings.  Acceptance, on the other hand, is still foreign.  Why should I accept that this terrible disease has stricken my dad and my family?  How can I accept that he won't know his own grandchildren?  Or that my dad is no longer the same man that my mom married over 40 years ago?  These are questions that I struggle with each day. 
Prior to his Alzheimer's, my dad always knew about acceptance.  He embodied it.  He rarely challenged what life threw his way.  he simply dealt with what is.  Even now, this disease only allows him to focus on the present and to accept what is directly in front of him.  It's ironic, yet oddly beautiful. 
In this crazy, fast-paced world filled with tragedy, I hope to learn from his outlook on life and to accept the things I cannot change so that I can find peace.


Nicole's Voice

Several months ago my friend took me to a wonderful play called "Expressing Motherhood", which featured 13 women talking about the trials and triumphs of motherhood.  The show was amazingly raw and powerful.  I was excited when I met one of the moms at the park a few weeks ago.  We immediately connected and she sent me this story.  Even if you're not a mom, Nicole strikes a nerve.  Sometimes life presents challenges, and it can feel like your world is unraveling.  Use humor and look for those little glimmers of light, it's right there in front of you.  By the way, Nicole's a comedian and she has a show coming up November 1st.  Proceeds go to the Be Aware Foundation to fight breast cancer.  Enjoy Nicole's voice.

Nights and Daze
By Nicole Blaine

I swear to God I am going to throw this baby off the balcony.

Okay, I’m not Michael Jackson. I love my child. The moment the Nurse laid her on my chest, she looked into my eyes, and I fell in love. And then... she screamed. FOREVER.

They call it colic. No one warns you about colic. Why? No one knows what colic means. For me, it meant months of sleep deprivation. So I had to create a very detailed, extremely precise, yet ever-changing method to turn her off at three in the morning.

You start with the swaddling, which is like making a little baby burrito. Swaddling is meant to recreate the feeling of security in the womb. Next you play the white noise to mimic the sounds of the womb. Then comes the movement. What started as gentle rocking, soon turned into bouncing on an exercise ball, which morphed into lunges. It's 3:12 in the middle of the night, and sweat is pouring off me as I'm thrusting forward, legs burning, arms like jello, lost in a sea of deafening white noise. This is what my womb was like?

My husband, of course, is asleep. God, I hate him. I couldn't believe this was our life. We had been together for twelve years. We were madly in love, and we were best friends. I used to tell people our life was like a never-ending slumber party. Now everything he said bore through my skin, ripped into my muscles, and got on my very last nerve. Everything he did with the baby he did absolutely wrong. Eat, poop, sleep: That’s all babies do. He sucked at getting her to sleep, he went into gagging convulsions around a poopy diaper, and he never lactated!

He tried. He bought her stuff. We have a mantle of 82 different rubber duckies. As soon as she showed slight interest (a “smile” not a gas bubble) he went to the store and cleared the shelves.

“Are you kidding me? I’m on maternity leave, we can’t afford all these stupid rubber duckies! She also likes rolling over, and that doesn’t cost anything! I understand you want to make her happy, but you don’t earn enough money to make her happy.” Some of it may have been the hormones.

I mean, I hated everyone – everyone who still went on dates, who still loved their partners, who still had a life, who still slept. I hated all my friends who didn't make the fatal mistake of having a baby. And I hated all my friends with babies. They all had babies that slept. All the time, everywhere. They slept in their cribs. They slept in the car. They slept in the stroller. They slept in a sling. The slept in a tuba in the middle of a marching band! I hated everyone. I hated you.

Why is my baby like this? What did I do? I was too stressed out during the pregnancy. I should have quit work sooner. I didn't take enough vitamins. I took too many vitamins. I slept the wrong way. On my stomach. On my back. On my right side. She practically died inside me every night. No, wait, it's his fault. He must have some crazy genes that snuck their way into my uterus. I should have known his family tree bore nothing but crazy fruit. God, I hate him.

Then one day he grabbed me. He threw me down on the bed. And then… he tickled me. I laughed. We laughed. We laughed until I cried, until I peed my pants, until I punched him in the face just to get him to stop tickling me. And I missed him. I missed us. Everything that was great about us came back with that rush of laughter. How could I have forgotten him? He’s my BFF. We can still have a slumber party, we just can’t sleep anymore.

And when our daughter said her first word I cried tears of joy. Who knew the word “duck” would make me love my husband even more? She’s 3 ½ years old now, and she is perfect.

There’s this old wives tale about colic: it will magically disappear around three months. That we never believed. It didn’t seem possible, but abra cadabra: she fell asleep. She stopped screaming. Our house calmed down. We all fell in love with each other, and I realized something: We would never be a couple again, we were now a family.

**Nicole Blaine currently resides in her hometown, Santa Monica, CA, where she met her husband. You can see her headlining in an all female stand up comedy show on November 1st. The cover charge is $10 and all proceeds go to the Be Aware Foundation to fight Breast Cancer, held at The Varsity Sports Grill Los Angeles 6311 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90048 from 6:30-9:30pm.


Emily's Voice

I met Emily several years ago.  We were both pregnant with our now 4 year olds, volunteering for a wonderful organization called Harmony with No LimitsNo Limits is an after school program created for low income children with hearing deficiencies.  Like so many of my stories, Emily and I reconnected on Facebook.  She shared a quote about Bodhichitta, and I was immediately intrigued.  The quote is powerfully beautiful, and you can read it at the end of Emily’s story.  Through Emily’s pain and darkness, she awakened her own heart.  I am honored to share Emily’s Voice.  

Photo of Emily and Dad in 2006.

My Heart Opened in My Darkest Time
By Emily McGill

Growing up my Father was a friend to all – a stray animal, anyone who needed guidance. He put others first because he cared, and I think looking back he wanted to control his environment. If he took care of others he somehow believed he would be okay, too. He seemed so strong. He could almost will things to happen.

My Stepmom was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. With her perseverance, treatment and the selfless care from my Dad, she lived well after the diagnosis. However, the tighter he held on to things and managed her care, the more insecure I watched him become over the years.  Every test, every appointment no matter how routine threw him off course for weeks.  Love and hugs did not comfort him.  He wanted answers. Absolutes. A guarantee she would not have cancer again.

My Stepmom was diagnosed with a secondary cancer the beginning of 2010.  She passed in the summer of 2010 after a very short 6-month fight with liver cancer. My Father’s will and spirit passed away the night she died. I felt it as I drove away from the hospital. My husband stayed with him.

He spent many nights with my two young boys and me for the 11 months that followed, and then returned to his home during the day. There he searched for answers.  He read about the afterlife and spirituality.  He flew across the country to meet with an author and doctor who wrote about the afterlife. He met with religious leaders in his community searching for answers.  He was angry at the world.  He was angry with himself.  He had no compassion for anything but perhaps my two young boys.

I knew the answers were within him.  I couldn’t give them to him. Why couldn’t he know that? I listened to him for hours at night. Repeating to him "for now" you feel this way. "For now" you can't see a path ahead of you, “But it's just for now, Dad”. 

My Father committed suicide three months ago.  He always woke up bitter and sad at my house.  When the sun came up day after day, he couldn’t bear his reality without my Stepmom.  He left my house that morning and went home. Normally, we spoke every few hours.  When I did not hear from him, I knew in my heart something was wrong.  He went home to his house, and took his own life. 

My world forever changed in that moment I found out.  It changed and there is a sorrow that I have deep in my soul.  Yet, it was then that I found an (my) open heart for me and it demanded grace and compassion from me, not from others – but from me.  

It's not been a subtle transition.  He was one of my best friends in addition to being my Dad. I felt anger and wrote my Father a letter one night several weeks after.  I spent a miserable time in anger and loathing his decision, and after my letter to him my anger was released.  And in walked more sadness and sorrow.  Yet, when I found the passage about bodhichitta I also found compassion, understanding and grace.

I think I've been on a journey of self-discovery since I was a child; I had always liked the idea of yoga and Eastern thinking. Been drawn to it since I was young. However wanting yoga and more Eastern thinking to be in my world seemed a struggle. It's as if I thought just thru my yoga practice I would find enlightenment. If I just could master wheel or headstand all would come to me. It wasn't until my Father’s death that I realized all those beliefs where within and not a struggle at all. They were inherent. I’ve always had an open heart for the world and finally I had an open heart for me.  I have to heal me, look for the deep soft place in my heart I see so easily in others and saw so easily in my Dad.

I'm actually at peace in one of the darkest times in my life. My journey may never be over in regards to healing from my Father’s suicide, but I have compassion for him and for me. Something my Father wouldn't allow himself to do if ever. I realize now that he was searching all along for what was right inside of him, inside of all of us: the most tenderness of love and hearts, he just never turned it onto himself to give himself the compassion he needed.

A good friend introduced me to the writings of Pema Chodron earlier this year as I was struggling to take care of my heartbroken Father.  I bought him a book of hers, which remains untouched.  I found one of her books “Comfortablewith Uncertainty – 108 Teachings on Cultivation Fearlessness and Compassion” just a few weeks ago that had a passage on Bodhichitta.

Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means "noble or awakened heart." Just as butter is inherent in milk and oil is inherent in sesame seed, the soft spot of Bodhichitta is inherent in you and me. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. No matter how committed we are to unkindness, selfishness or greed, the genuine heart of Bodhichitta cannot be lost. It is here in all that lives, never marred and completely whole.  
It is said that in difficult times, it is only Bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself. Bodhichitta is also equated, in part, with compassion - our ability to feel the pain that we share with others. Without realizing it we continually shield ourselves from this pain because it scares us. Based on a deep fear of being hurt, we erect protective walls made out of strategies, opinions, prejudices, and emotions. Yet just as a jewel that has been buried in the earth for a million years is not discolored or harmed, in the same way this noble heart is not affected by all the ways we try and protect ourselves from it. The jewel can be brought out into the light at any time, and it will glow as brilliantly as if nothing had ever happened. 
This tenderness for life, Bodhichitta, awakens when we no longer shield ourselves from vulnerability of our condition, from the basic fragility of existence. It awakens through kinship with the suffering of others. We train our Bodhichitta practices in order to become so open that we can take the pain of the world in, let it touch our hearts, and turn it into compassion.