Recently my extended family gathered at my house for dinner. The subject of my mom came up. My aunt said, "I always thought, Thank God Eileen didn't have the heart attack while driving you two kids to school that morning." I looked at my son, who's 5, and my daughter, 2, running the length of the house with their cousins. That night, I sat alone in my kitchen, peered into my computer screen, made a few clicks, jotted down a number. The next morning I'd call a cardiologist.
After ignoring my fears for so long, I found myself sleepless with questions. What if my mother had some genetic risk factor, perhaps the same thing that brought on her father's fatal heart attack, at 60, that I've inherited and can't do anything to change? Do I really want to know? Or, what if it's within my control, and I've been clogging my arteries one fatty meal at a time for years, sealing my own fate?
Still, I thought, as uncomfortable as it may be to dig into the past, or face the ways in which I've been coming up short taking care of myself, isn't doing everything possible better than leaving my children without a mother, my husband without a wife?
I knew it was, of course. And in a few short weeks I'd learn a ton about what I, and women like me, could do to win the fight of our lives.