Few things in life are worth setting an early alarm for, but on Thursday night I set one so that I could be on time for Friday’s break in scheduled programming.
At my last cardiac clinic appointment, my fabulous clinic nurse Caroline asked me if I’d be interested in participating in filming a project to educate people either newly diagnosed with, or caring for someone with, heart failure. I said yes before she finished the question. Yes! Resoundingly. She gave me the details and I left the hospital that morning with a spring in my step.
Fast forward to yesterday and I chose a few of my favourite things – all blue – and settled on very minimal makeup because I was a bit spotty. I really wanted to wear no makeup at all, but my ego prevailed. Thanks spots! Just concealer and mineral makeup, not a lick of mascara or anything else. I wanted to look like everyday me on film.
Heart shield activated!
I drove over to St Kilda, reminiscing about old jobs, weddings and friends as I passed familiar buildings, and arrived 20 minutes early because that’s just how I roll.
The studio was located at the back of the back of other businesses, and the light filled reception area was quiet as a church while I filled in my release form and thought about questions I may be asked.
The producer came out and introduced herself, and soon enough I was inside the small studio, chatting with the interviewer.
Lights were adjusted, my minimal makeup got a lift with a bit of bronzer and my mouth went dry.
We started filming and I found myself thinking about the intended audience.
I remember how stressed and scared I was, discovering I had heart failure. Heart failure meant nothing to me, and sadly seems to be equally off the radars of most Australian women. It kills us, in droves, yet we know little about it in the public domain.
Women’s hearts aren’t like men’s, when we have heart attacks we sometimes don’t even realise it. Our symptoms aren’t like the sudden heart attacks men have in the movies. And, sometimes fatally, we don’t want to make a fuss… I was almost in that category by the time I was sent to Emergency. (To be clear, no heart attacks for me.)
In the studio, I talked about going to hospital after an X-ray showed my heart to be worryingly enlarged.
I shared how hard it was to grasp what the doctors were telling me – “you have heart failure”.
I just could not comprehend their words. Had they said cancer, I had a frame of reference, but heart failure – nothing registered.
I recalled how often I spoke to, texted or emailed Caroline in those early days. She was my trusted teacher. Without her availability and expertise, I would have been so lost and unsure of myself. Thank you Caroline.
The experience of being interviewed was thrilling, and as I answered questions, I remembered everything that the last year has been. As I talked, I knew my presence in that studio meant something.
I know people will see these videos, of lots of people living with heart failure, and they’ll be helped.
My story mattered. It matters. And not just in the realm of my heart’s buggered pump.
Stories matter. They shape our lives, even when we aren’t conscious of it.
Being asked to commit part of my story to film was pure joy. And I did well, I know I did. The interviewer, who was great at his job, affirmed that to me.
I was more than happy to contribute, and I wanted to do a good job. For myself, for Caroline, for all the nurses who cared for me so professionally and compassionately in hospital, for my skilful surgeons and for other women with heart issues.
After we finished filming, we chatted and took photos. That’s Caroline giving me a hug, she’s a total rock star.
As I left, the producer said they would use one of my comments in their social media campaign. Chuffed!
I made a quick video for Instagram when I got in my car, and as I watched it back I could see and hear the joy of the day in my voice and on my face.
I was asked to CONTRIBUTE, and I did. Meaningfully. Authentically. Deliberately.
That is my jam.
On Monday, I posted on Facebook about having a quiet day at work, and the sense that in ticking things off the to-do list, I had been contributing to the team. I love that feeling. It’s more important to me than any perk or plush salary.
It’s why I’m here. I want to contribute positively to the world.
Yesterday I was given the opportunity to do that, and it’s the freest, fullest and strongest my heart has felt in a long, long time.
When someone asks you to share your story, don’t dishonour them, or yourself, by breaking eye contact, making a joke or saying you don’t have anything worthwhile to say.
We ALL do.
The best feelings I’ve EVER had come from exchanging stories – knowing yourself and having someone invite you to share it, and listening to someone tell you who they are. Whether that’s over coffee or in a studio is neither here nor there – tell your story, and be open to other people’s stories. It’s what connects us.
My heartfelt thanks to you, Caroline. You reminded me why I’m here, and that’s a beautiful gift.