Friday, January 31, 2014

Sharing the Struggle

January has been chaotic and fun and on occasion, a little crazy - it's just been life. Sometimes we take that for granted. We get lost in the hustle and bustle or even in the mundane. Well, maybe you don't, but I know I am guilty of this. I begin and end many days, forgetting to be appreciative of the opportunity to have lived it. 

As I close out January and gear up for National Heart Month, I have good intentions to be more mindful of this gift. It is indeed a treasure - to still be here with my family, to fully live each day, to make new friends, and to work to raise awareness for women's cardiovascular health. 

I have shared my journey with many of you. Some of you have walked it with me. Perhaps even more appropriate, you carried me along the way. Others have supported me from the sidelines and this has been a blessing. Today, I am honored to share the beautiful and brutal words of my dear friend, Rachel D'Souza-Siebert, a heart attack survivor and one of last year's National Go Red for Women spokeswomen. Rachel recently shared about the loss of her friend Rekisha, another National Go Red Woman, and I have to tell you - if her words do not move you, nothing will. 

Thank you, Rachel, for allowing me to share your struggle. There is always so much work to be done. 

"Buried deep as you can dig inside yourself
And hidden in the public eye
Such a stellar monument to loneliness
Laced with brilliant smiles and shining eyes
Perfect make-up, but you're barely scraping by
But you're barely scraping by...

Well this is one time, well this is one time
That you can't fake it hard enough to please everyone
Or anyone at all...or anyone at all
And the grave that you refuse to leave
The refuge that you've built to flee,
The places that you've come to fear the most,
Is the place that you have come to fear the most." - Dashboard Confessional

 2012 Go Red Photo Shoot: Amy, Rachel, Rekisha, Lidia

Once upon a time, there were 10 of us. The reality of our heart disease and no-bullshit, scream-it- from-the-mountain-tops attitudes brought us together - our paths may never have crossed otherwise. We parroted the same message out into the world:

Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women
 Heart disease kills more people annually than all forms of cancer combined
 Heart disease kills 1 in 3 women
Wanna know what heart disease looks like? Look at me.

We share our stories over and over, in hopes they make a difference - we nag and annoy and repeat and surely, people get sick of listening. It becomes exhausting to share it and exhausting to live it and all you really want to do is let yourself be "normal", and be silent and blend in and leave it behind. 

And then, one of us died. It felt out of the blue and unexpected, but really.... really, it was just a matter of time. We'd been saying it over and over - heart disease kills 1 in 3 women. How could we really be surprised

The night that Rekisha died, I had to work late.  It was in the car on the way home that I learned of her passing. I tried so hard to stop the tears when I came in the door - but both boys knew something was wrong. Cameron, channeling me in his own little way, said "Shh, mama. It'll be okay. It hurts but it's not broken! Want me to kiss it?"

In my absence, my boys spent the evening building forts out of couch cushions. I concocted a steaming drink of almond milk, cocoa powder and peppermint schnapps and laid in a heap on the cushions. I watched her over and over again, hoping to get some perspective on the situation. Hoping that I could be fine thinking "It was her time" or "Her work was done." But it's not fine. Fuck fine. She was a mom and a wife and a daughter and a friend and a sister and so many things to so many other people. I've been through so many iterations of "what if" now that they all just blur together - what if she'd had better doctors? what if her heart disease had been discovered earlier? what if she'd been in a different city? Would the ending really be different?

So I can't get perspective. And it's not fine. And who knows what the right words are to honor her memory - I guess all you do from here is keep breathing and keep moving forward? And fight like hell so her death wasn't for nothing? 

I'll let you know how that goes.

 "I'm not afraid of death, but I resent it. I think its unfair and irritating. Every time I see something beautiful, I not only want to return to it, but it makes me want to see other beautiful things. I know I'm not going to get to all the places I want to go." -Viggo Mortenson

In honoring Rekisha and the 43 million women (and almost as many men) lost to cardiovascular disease every year, I ask you to please wear red on Friday, February 7th. Send me your photos (, post them on Facebook and tag me, or send them in a message. 

Wear your red loud and proud - show your support! 
Love and thanks ~Karen 
I'm not afraid of death, but I resent it. I think it's unfair and irritating. Every time I see something beautiful, I not only want to return to it, but it makes me want to see other beautiful things. I know I'm not going to get to all the places I want to go.



  1. Thank you for a wonderful post, I will be wearing red Friday and will have Johnny 3 in red as well, will send a photo of at least one of us from Legoland as we are celebrating Johnny's birthday that day.

    God bless you,

    1. Hi Pam - Thank you so much for your response! I look forward to seeing your photo from Friday's National Wear Red Day. Thank you for the support! - Karen

  2. Bless you, Karen. I'll be wearing red too.

    1. Thank you, Sydney! I would love to see a photo :) -- Karen

  3. Amazing post. No, death is not fine. But life is, and so we cherish it. I am thankful for you, Karen, and all the heart sisters. I know I will die, as will we all. It is terrible to leave and to be left. So we live now! We speak now. For each life, for each day, for each other. Bless you.

    1. Marcia, I am grateful for you as well! Always so positive and encouraging!
      You are right - we must live and speak now for ourselves and for each other. Thank you for your support! -Karen