People often ask me why I care so much or why I choose to volunteer and advocate when there’s “nothing in it,” for me. It may sound crazy saying that I’m lucky to have gone through my experience, but I truly I am. Going through what I did changed pieces of me and gave me an understanding for what it is like to live and what it is like to LIVE. Would I want to go through it again? No. But, that’s the point. I cannot fathom going through another heart related experience. I take everyday as an opportunity to better myself, work hard and try to make a valuable contribution in this world. This year, rather than sharing a list of facts, I want to share my “why.”

To me, it’s so important to make sure I am informing people of what I went through–not just physically but mentally too. It’s being open. It’s being vulnerable. It’s knowing it’s okay to cry and still be scared when reflecting back at what happened. It’s about being strong and having the courage to tell others that they don’t have to be a statistic. They don’t need to die from heart disease or stroke. I made myself a promise when I was facing my own uncertainties in the hospital, that if I was going to get up and walk out of there and be okay, that I wanted to lead a fulfilled life and I didn’t want to see anyone else that I love or care about in the same position that I had been in.

Going through something heart related is traumatizing. If your heart stops, you die. That’s it. Have you lived your best life? Have you done all of the things that you ever wanted to do? To me, that’s what LIVING is. LIVING is being able to make sure that even if a door doesn’t open, I’m still trying to knock on it. There’s absolutely no shame in “failing” because I have learned that it is better to try and fail than to sit around and wonder. That’s my wish for everyone else too. I hope that you never wonder what could have been. I hope that you’re able to lead the best life that you have chosen to live. I hope that you get to see your children and grand children grow.

And you can. You don’t have to be a statistic. You don’t have to find yourself laying in a hospital bed questioning what is going to happen to you. You don’t have to live with the regrets of knowing you could have done something if only you had known. Heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women which is more than all forms of cancer combined. Yet, it is 80% preventable. There are certain genetic factors of course that nobody can control, but learning to make choices that empower you is where it starts. It’s about taking that first step and knowing that your life matters. Your mother’s life matters. Your sister’s life matters. Your best friend’s life matters. Every woman in our lives deserves a chance to live out her fullest potential and to grow old.

I advocate not because I “get” anything out of it, but because I deeply care about the people in my life (but really, the reward is having time with the ones you love). I don’t want them to miss out on things because they didn’t do something that could have saved their life. If a heart problem could happen to me at the age of twenty-one, it can happen to you too. We don’t live in a fairy tale. Bad things happen. Let’s try to rewrite what’s happening and save lives.

We all matter. <3 Life is why.

Thank you to everyone that sent me photos today of themselves wearing red, and to those of you who even messaged me saying you were red but didn’t want to be part of the blog. You are amazing and I am so happy you’re helping to champion Go Red for Women.