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Healing Hearts, One Voice at a Time

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When Amanda Daniels, mom of two, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy seven years ago, she had two choices: Give up, or find a way to get healthy and live her life. She chose the latter -- but it wasn't easy.

Healing Hearts One Voice at a Time
She searched for a means of support and connection online, and continued to come up empty-handed. As if fighting for her life and supporting her family weren't enough, she decided to take on a major project and build a site that helped people in need find daily words of encouragement through shared stories of strength and perseverance.

Today, Voices to Share is a network of thousands of women -- and now men -- around the globe who share stories of love, family, career, health, loss and philanthropy.

We sat down with Amanda to find out about her life after diagnosis, her role as a mother and her advice for finding one's voice and letting go.

momlogic: How are you moving forward after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy?

Amanda Daniels:
 I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy seven years ago, and it was devastating. Looking back, I'm grateful for my disease. I relish every day, whereas before my diagnosis, I found myself living life just to pass time. Life is precious. We need to love and support one another.

ml: Are there any cures other than the option of a transplant?

Apart from medication, diet and minimizing stress, if the strength of my heart decreases to a certain point, then yes, the option would probably be a heart transplant, although I try not to think about it because it's so important to remain positive and not live in fear. I have defied the odds twice, strengthening my heart from potentially fatal levels.

ml: How does it affect your health on a daily basis? Your family?

I take heart medication daily. Seven years later, I still get lightheaded. I've even passed out a few times. I used to teach spin aerobics and work out daily. For years, I wasn't able to take my heart rate over 120, but today -- as long as I listen to my body and don't get lightheaded while working out -- I can really do anything. I focus mainly on walking with my daughters, and I practice yoga. As for my family, since the doctors don't know the cause of my heart failure, we had to test both of my daughters for the disease. Fortunately, both girls are fine, but they will need to be monitored every few years.

Cardiomyopathy oftentimes presents itself during adolescence. Since I was asymptomatic, I'm grateful my doctors discovered my disease. I was teaching spin aerobics and felt fine. Since the doctors had discovered irregular heartbeats in high school when I got my wisdom teeth pulled, I had an annual appointment with a cardiologist. I remember wanting to cancel my appointment the day I went in for testing. Had I not visited the doctor, there's a good chance I would have had a heart attack while spinning. It's so important to become your own advocate, visit the doctor regularly and understand your body. I know so many women who are scared of the doctor. They'd rather not know then deal with a diagnosis. It's scary, but battling a disease can also be empowering.

ml: How important was finding your voice and the power of positive thought to your being able to move forward with your life?

My doctor says I'm crazy when I tell him that finding my voice and letting go are what saved me. He's adamant that the heavy medications and my cardiac ablation procedure  are what turned things around for me. 

Growing up, I never learned to communicate my feelings, and I held everything inside. After years of intense therapy and meetings with a spiritual healer, I peeled away all the different layers of my emotions. By sharing my story, I literally feel a weight [being] lifted off my chest. I can finally breathe again. The law of attraction and the power of positive thought are so important. First, the universe is not going to give us anything we can't handle.

Every day, I look at the challenges presented to me and ask why. What am I supposed to learn through adversity, and how can I grow as a person? I meditate on what I want from my life; I write down my goals, create vision boards and focus attention on the positive. When I notice my mind going back to the old pattern of fixating on negative thoughts and worrying, I make myself think about things that make me happy, like my husband and daughters.

ml: Tell us about Voices to Share. We love the motto, "Healing Hearts, One Voice at a Time"!  

We all have a story to share about an experience that has shaped and affected our lives. Oftentimes, it's those stories that we hide from the world for fear of judgment. Voices to Share is a forum where people can inspire, encourage or support others going through a similar situation. It's an honor for me to share my story.

I recently received an e-mail from a woman named Elissa who lives in St. Paul, Minn. She was diagnosed with heart failure at the age of 18, and her story is very similar to my own. She thanked me for giving her hope. That one e-mail made all of my hard work on this project worthwhile. It's so easy to relinquish hope and succumb to a disease. It takes courage, a deeper understanding of who you are as a person and an inner strength to choose life.

next: Seven Reasons I'm Thankful To Be a Mom
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