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.


Maya's Voice

I met Maya a few years ago, right after her husband died.  I had just delivered my first child and was told the function of my heart was dangerously low again.  I didn't know how much more devastating news I could handle.  Then I met Maya, a vision of courage, hope and a true testament to living life without regret.  She was smiling as she spoke about her husband and told me their story.  When I saw her again earlier this year she was so excited, Glamour featured her story.  She was willing to write a separate entry for my blog, but I thought her voice in the published article was so powerful I had to share it with you.  Thanks to Maya I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and started to live again.  I am honored to share Maya's voice.

January 4, 2010
By Maya Fulcher
At first it sounds like a movie cliché: Jack and I met at a wedding where I caught the bouquet. I'd noticed him the minute he walked in, so when he asked me to dance, I was giddy. After one song, I felt like I'd known him my whole life.

But on our second date, Jack pulled some pills out of a vial on his key chain and said that he had a liver disease. At 15 he had been told he'd live a year, but at 27, after lots of medicine and procedures, he was healthy, playing racquetball, mountain climbing … and having dinner with me. I thought I could handle it. I was just 19 and didn't grasp how serious his condition was. I did know pretty fast, though, that we were serious. As we dated and got close, I could imagine being with him forever.

Eventually the liver infections came back, and within five years we got news from his doctors: Jack would need a transplant to live — and, said Jack, to get married. He didn't want to propose with a bad liver. He couldn't bear leaving me behind.

Finally, on July 2, 2005, Jack had his transplant. But the surgery didn't have the happy outcome we'd hoped for. The doctors found gallbladder cancer. Still, seven months later, at sunrise on a beach near the hospital, Jack got down on one knee and proposed. He was so bloated from chemo-induced kidney failure that I had to help him get back up. But I had no doubts. However long I could, I wanted to be his wife. A few weeks later, after a session of dialysis (to celebrate, the clinic staff sang the wedding march: "Dah dum dah dum …"), we eloped.

Our hope for a full future lasted not quite three years. Then things went bad. Every medical complication you could get, Jack got. Finally, together we made the decision to stop chemo and begin hospice care at home in August 2008. One night in his last couple of weeks, I said to Jack, "What do you want to talk about? What do you want to say to me?" That's when our amazing nightly talks started. We shared it all, things we'd never brought up in our 10 years together. Jack died on September 21, 2008, but I can say I have no regrets. Well, that's not entirely true. I wish we'd talked about all these things sooner. So I beg of you, talk about the tough subjects. In honor of my Jack, when you're with someone you love, ask each other these questions:

1. What did you really think when you first met me?
After we danced at that wedding, we were walking in an alley by the restaurant, and Jack said, "Oh, look — a shooting star!" We stopped and gazed at it silently. All those years later, Jack said, "I never told you what I wished for. What I wished was, 'I wish she were mine'." He'd never told me that. Life's too short — why not say what's in your heart?

2. Do you believe in God? We'd never really talked about religion. Jack's parents are Jewish and Catholic, but he wasn't raised as either. I'm Catholic but didn't want to push that on him. In our last weeks together, we asked each other: Where am I going? What is my life about? What about my soul? At Jack's request, a priest even came to do a blessing and, eventually, last rites. I think it was a real comfort for him.  Just as Jack found faith, I now believe that energy is all around us. While Jack was sick, for instance, we would talk by walkie-talkie when he was in bed and I was in the kitchen. He died at 10:00 A.M. on a Sunday, and from noon on, that walkie-talkie made static noises, like it did when he would talk to me. I still get chills. I know it sounds a little crazy, but I absolutely think Jack was letting me know he was there.

3. What little things do you love about each other? In his last weeks, Jack kept a journal. He wrote, "When we played Rock Band, I loved how something so simple could make you so happy." I had no idea! My "little thing" was a baby photo I'd seen of Jack in his playpen, laughing. Whenever he'd laugh a really deep belly laugh, he looked just like that. It warmed my heart, and I told him so. Let each other in on the secret moments you cherish.

4. What was missing when you were growing up? We'd talked about our families before, of course, but in the end, we spoke a lot about what we didn't get growing up, and what we hoped we had provided each other. Jack, for example, wished he'd gotten more spoken "I love yous," so I gave that to him. Through the years, my mother and I faced economic struggles, so Jack did everything he could to make me feel safe financially.

5. What would you change about each other? Jack knew that I'd always had a type-A personality, so he had to teach me it's OK to relax and enjoy life. Over the years, he got me to try skiing, kayaking, even snorkeling in Hawaii! But in those last two weeks, I think Jack worried that, without him, I wouldn't keep trying new things. Jack said to me, "I want you to be more adventurous. I want even more for you." As a tribute to him, I've parasailed and am about to go to Tuscany with a girlfriend. And a few months after Jack's death, I went to the Bahamas with another girlfriend — a trip he had actually planned for me, saying, "I think it's something you'll need to do."

6. What are your greatest fears? I don't mean if you're scared of bugs or heights; I mean the real things. Jack, for instance, wasn't afraid of dying. He was more scared of what would happen to me afterward — that I'd fall into a bad relationship or drink too much or maybe even want to end my life. Most of all, though, he said, "I'm afraid of leaving you."

I then shared my biggest fear, which was having to move forward and have a life after him. I was very candid with Jack about this, about not wanting to marry again. My mom said, "You're too honest. You have to stop upsetting him." But I had to tell him the truth. And Jack gave me the greatest gift. He said, "I want you to meet someone and have the family we couldn't." And as painful as it was for me to hear those things, I'm now so glad he told me that. I know that when I'm ready, I'll just say, "Jack, send me someone to love."

On the first anniversary of Jack's death, I visited the cemetery rose garden where I'd scattered some of his ashes. I brought some flowers, sat down and talked to him for a while. The hardest part, still, is when I want to tell him something and he's not there. So please, for me — for Jack — if you feel it, say it. Don't ever waste that chance.


Elissa's Voice

Elissa, a reader from St. Paul, MN, found out about my blog from the American Heart Association Go Red for Women campaign. She's the reason all my hard work is worth it!  At 28 years old, Elissa was diagnosed with heart failure for the second time.  Today she's searching for strength.  Please open your hearts and send her all your healing energy and strength.  Below is Elissa's voice.

If you Google the word gratitude, you find an endless explanation of its meaning. 
It's a powerful word.
One that I've learned to love.

Ten years ago, when I was 18 years old, I was the typical girl.  Fresh out of high school, engaged to be married to my high school boyfriend.  Life was good.  It was all I had imagined it to be.
Until the eve of my best friends wedding, when chest pain and shortness of breath sent me to the hospital.  From that moment on, my life was never the same.
I was diagnosed with Viral Cardiomyopathy.
The following years were filled with fear, sadness, and loss. 
I lost more than I could ever describe.  My love, my security, my innocence. 
My gratitude for life.
I was jaded, and angry.  I couldn't make sense of why this happened to me.  Why did I have to be different, why did I have to be sick?
The years went by, and I started to regain some footing.  Outwardly at least.  I tried to live as normally as possible. 
My physical health went up and down.  It was a struggle. 
That brings me to this last Christmas. 
I knew.  I just knew.  Something was wrong.
I went to the doctor after the holidays, and was diagnosed with Heart Failure. 
My heart.  My one and only heart, failing again. 
The heart that for ten years, I forced myself to love, to accept for being "different"....for being weak.
I have always thought of myself as a positive person, someone who knows the power of grace and dignity. 
But in the face of illness, I tend to forget all of those things. 
I started to ignore, to refuse to accept that this was happening again. 
I didn't want to be sick anymore, I wanted to be a normal 28 year old woman.  I wanted to play, and date, and run, and work, stay up late, drink too much red wine....the whole thing. 
I wanted it all.
To make a long story short, (okay, shorter...) I tried to live like that "normal" girl for awhile.  Only taking a break to slip away to my doctor appointments, hoping nobody would ask me where I was going that day.  I wanted to hide the fact that I wasn't just like them. 
Nine months went by, until I found myself laying on my couch in the house I was renting at the time, sobbing with grief.  I finally let it all sink in.  How long I had run from my reality, how long I had deprived my body of much needed rest and tenderness.  
I made three phone calls.  My dad.  My mom.  My brother Ryan.
I barely had to say a word.  They knew. 
Within a week, with the help of my family, I moved to Saint Paul.  The city where my doctors are.  My wonderful, caring, amazing doctors. 
I knew in my heart that it was time to take control of my life.  To accept that my number one priority is me, my heart.  My beautiful, strong and sometimes weak heart, that has tried so hard to get me through this journey.  It is my turn to give back, to give it everything it needs to fight, to stay as strong as possible.
So here I am, in my tiny studio apartment. I've been here three weeks.  My dog Bennett is sleeping on my feet.  She and I are two country girls living in a new city.  I am within minutes of my doctors, which is amazing.  I am creating a life that is all about health, and healing.  One step at a time.  I call myself a full time Healing Junkie!
I have good days and bad, but one thing that remains a constant is this...
I am grateful for my journey.  All of the things I've lived through had a purpose, they brought me to today.  I am grateful that my heart is beating in my chest.  I am grateful that I finally put my health and well being first.  I am grateful for my amazing family, for holding my hand every step of the way.  I am grateful for my doctors.  I can actually say, I am grateful that I am living with Heart Disease.  I truly am.  It has created a depth in me, something I might never have had.  A wisdom.  A sense of purpose.  I am grateful that I'm living with this, that I'm surviving.  One day at a time.
I will continue to dust myself off, and walk on. 
I still get scared, and have days where it takes everything in my power to get out of bed.  I get angry and frustrated, and sad about the things I have lost. 
 I allow myself that.
I figure that I deserve that much.  Being sick is a challenge, one that you can't really describe.  It is ugly and defeating.  But at the same time, there is so much beauty as well.  There is magic underneath.  I can promise you that.  Even if you have to peel away the layers of yuck, it's under there somewhere.
If I had to leave you with one piece of advice, I would say this...
Remain grateful.
Even when it hurts.

I am so honored to have been asked to share my story with you. 
I wish I could say, happily ever after....but at this point my story is still unfolding. 
It is still being written.
So for now, I will say this... I am on to a new chapter of my life.  One that I hope is filled with a new understanding of my body, a new acceptance for its loving ability to keep me going.  Every day I will take time to be grateful.  I will place my hand over my heart, feel the constant thump of its beat.  And I will say, thank you, thank you, thank you.

All my love,


Meredith's Voice

When I brought my first daughter home from the hospital, I was overwhelmed by every emotion.  First, I couldn't believe the doctors trusted me to care for this little, beautiful being.  She felt so fragile, and I'm the world's biggest klutz.  I was certain I'd drop her or do something that would permanently scar her for life.  It's scary enough bringing a child home for the first time, so what happens when you get a phone call that tests came back and something's wrong with your newborn?

Meredith is a new mommy friend.  When her first son was 3 days old she was told he had a translocation on his 16th chromosome.  She writes:
What did that diagnosis mean? Nothing? Death? Something horrible in the middle...  I have a hard time remembering what I felt that night except for being completely numb. When the shock began to wear off, I began to lock every window to my heart. I needed to save my baby, and I could not risk falling apart. 

Many describe receiving a traumatic diagnosis as being punched in the gut or kicked in the head. I felt my pain in my heart. It was broken. The days and nights that followed were filled with panic, dread and guilt. Why did I take Zofran for my nausea during my pregnancy? Why could I not nurse this baby who might be sick? What kind of mother was I? Guilt and fear washed over me, day in and day out...

Once I gave in, the despair struck me like a hurricane -- and then quieted into a soft, gentle rain that soaked me to the bone but was a relief nonetheless. I crawled into bed next to my son and allowed the anguish to take me over. I couldn't stop crying as I stared at my perfect, sleeping baby boy. Afterwards, for the first time in weeks, I slept.

After I awoke, I looked at my son differently than before. He was no longer someone who was breaking my heart, but someone who would strengthen and mend it. Little by little, minute by minute, my heart began to heal. I began to cry regularly and freely. While I looked weaker on the outside, each tear was a release. There was time to cry and time to feel. Each tear was a reminder to slow down and realize that my son was still alive, and I loved him.
Meredith's son is not only alive today but he's almost 5 years old and thriving!

You can read the entire story at Momlogic.  Please keep sending me your stories so, like Meredith, you can help inspire people.  Thanks for reading Voices to Share, healing hearts one voice at a time.


Sharing our voices...

Maya Angelou once said, "Words mean more than what is set down on paper.  It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."  Thanks for joining me on this journey towards discovering my voice as a survivor, mother, wife and friend.  I've always been fearful of my own voice; scared that I wouldn't sound smart or that I would come across as being self indulgent.  After all, who really cares about what I have to say?  But the more I spoke to my girlfriends, the more I realized the importance of sharing our stories.  We all have a story to share about an experience that has affected us or shaped our lives, and no one story is more important than another.  Often times, it's these stories that we hide from the world for fear of judgment.  Every single day I meet a woman who inspires me.  From a grieving mother who is terrified of loosing another child to a woman who struggled for years to get pregnant and just had twins, we need to support one another.  Email me your stories to voicestoshareblog@gmail.com and thanks for inspiring me!