By Lorelei Hill
12 Nov

Finding Happiness In The Face Of Fear

Monday, November 12, 2012

This morning’s message on my calendar was a quote from author/mentor Robert Holden. It read:

True happiness is what happens when you come face-to-face with fear and choose love.

I understand this message all too well. During these past five years, I have come face-to-face with my greatest fear. When I discovered my cardiologist was considering me for transplant surgery I denied anything was really wrong with me. In truth, I had gone in to see him because I no longer felt like my happy-go-lucky self. I was frustrated, and often angry.

“This is not me,” I told him.

My cardiologist agreed. When he determined that I had a major degeneration of my heart muscle for which transplant was the only answer, the denial began. Chalking my dismal moods up to being a tired working mom, I decided I’d relax more, play more, and hire a cleaning service every few weeks. I soon learned that you can’t Band-Aid a failing heart. My condition worsened.

I cried. Having a heart transplant seemed like my greatest fear, and yet somehow I had to prepare myself for just that. My organs were failing—in particular, my liver. When I next saw my doctor I went prepared to be listed. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was already too late.

When non-cardiac doctors looked at my stats, they often jumped to the conclusion that I drank too much. Knowing me as he does, my cardiologist found this misdiagnosis amusing. He assured me it was a typical side effect of Fontan surgery. But when the cirrhosis of my liver presented as too big of a risk for the surgical staff to list me, it was no longer a laughing matter. I had just wrapped my head around having a transplant and now that option was out. It was time for me to regroup.

As visits to my cardiologist grew closer and closer together, I honed in my priorities. Attempting to make sweeping changes to my lifestyle, I thought I had put family first. Believing I had chosen love in the face of my fear, I told myself that writing and work came second. Things like heavy lifting, spending times in the cold outdoors, and becoming stressed were simply out of the question. In my heart I knew this. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell my head—little changed.

It would take a blackout, followed by the embolism, to get me to put love ahead of everything else. My family and I were gathered in the kitchen. I was reading with my daughter while my husband and son were preparing dinner. The frightened cries of my little girl were the only sounds that penetrated my mind. All at once, everything had turned black.

“Open your eyes,” I told myself, but I couldn’t.

Pleading my case once more to the transplant committee, my cardiologist got them to take a second look. I thought my greatest fear was heart transplant surgery. But in that moment, when I heard my baby crying out to me and I could not respond, I realized true fear. A new heart didn’t seem so bad when faced with the prospects of leaving my young family.

I could not bear the idea of my children growing up without a mother. I told myself I would get through whatever the future held for the love of my children, my family, and myself.

True happiness is what happens when you come face-to-face with fear and choose love. The life-threatening embolism ended up being what saved me. From that moment on, each day I have asked myself what is most important in my life. The answer is always the same.

Loving who I am and those who surround me is my true happiness. Coming face-to-face with my greatest fear was in fact my greatest blessing.


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