This article was originally posted on the WomenHeart blog on July 10, 2018 and can be found here >
I have a purpose to share my heart story and save lives.
I am a WomenHeart Champion, a heart disease survivor, cardiovascular research advocate for women and retired cardiovascular registered nurse. The WomenHeart Champions are the core of our organization. I want to share the WomenHeart Champion story. We are fighting for every heart as WomenHeart Champion in our community.
WomenHeart Champions are a sisterhood of women who have established an extraordinary bond with women all across the country with a common issue; heart disease. First we go to the Mayo Clinic to be trained to become WomenHeart Champions. And by the time we arrive back home, back into our communities, we’ve already adopted what I call the WomenHeart lifestyle.
The pinnacle of that lifestyle is that a champion will talk to anyone about heart disease, anywhere, anytime. We keep the issue of women and heart disease, in the forefront of every conversation. WomenHeart Champions feel empowered when they plant the seed about how our heart symptoms might be different than men’s. We really hope we are saving women’s lives by teaching them about the potential symptoms of heart disease.
We really can’t believe so many women still don’t know their risk of heart disease in this country. We teach women how to be proactive about their heart health. Sometimes women go even into the workplace to give presentations to businesses and organizations through our Women Heart at Work program. With this program we teach women during the lunch hour about heart disease and hope that by doing that we help women not dismiss their symptoms.
WomenHeart Champions have been invited to various media events too numerous to list. We’ve been to Capitol Hill to talk to our political leaders. We’ve been to talk to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner about more women being in clinical trials. We’ve been invited to the White House, sometimes multiple times. But believe it or not, although it’s quite exciting to do all those things, those are not our most cherished experiences.
Our most memorable experiences are when we connect with another woman struggling with heart disease. Many of us have support networks that we meet with monthly. Or some of us may also visit patients in the hospital. Here’s what a WomenHeart Champion said about her experience leading a support network group. “Seeing the relief of a woman’s eyes, the tears that often come, and then that smile on a fearful face when I say, I’ve been in your shoes. I share your journey and today I am living well with heart disease. I felt so alone when I was diagnosed and I vowed to never let another woman feel that fear.” And this WomenHeart Champion has been with WomenHeart for 15 years.
So one might ask, what keeps a Woman Heart champion energized to continue the important work that we do. One champion summed it up this way. She said, “I should have died that night that I had my heart attack, but I didn’t. I stayed alive because I know I have a purpose to share my heart story and hopefully save lives of others.”
Evan McCabe is a Chair on WomenHeart’s Board of Directors and a WomenHeart Champion
If you are woman living with heart disease, consider sharing your story and helping other women by becoming a WomenHeart Champion. We are currently recruiting women for the 2018 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium. It’s the nation’s only volunteer program that trains women with heart disease to be community educators and support network coordinators for women heart patients.
To learn more or to sign up, visit http://www.WomenHeart.org/empower.