At 52 years old, I am having open heart surgery this month.

If you knew me, you would be surprised. I am tall, fit, and look very healthy. Through the last decade, I have fully embraced the concept of “wellness” through exercise, eating right, meditation, and choosing LOVE as the guiding principal of my life. I work very hard at making my life easy, which I know seems like an oxymoron, but it really pays off and works.

It turns out my leaky heart valve that I have had since a child can’t keep up with my full and busy lifestyle. My heart let me know this last year by releasing a clot from the blood pooled in my enlarged left atrium, which travelled up to my brain and caused me to have a stroke. After spending 8 weeks recuperating from that event, my doctors highly advised me to consider valve repair surgery.

You would think I would have jumped right on it and got it fixed, but I didn’t. I was too tired and traumatized from the shock of the stroke to mentally endure open heart surgery. I told the doctors that I just needed to calm down for a while and spend some time healing a few other issues first. For the next year I got massages, eliminated some unfriendly foods from my diet in order to improve my digestion, cleared my lymph nodes to relieve some sinus symptoms, saw a chiropractor to fix my neck pain, and consulted with a shaman to fortify my psyche. It all worked very well.

But then a “wicked snowy” New England winter hit and I found myself dragging and developing a few other mystery symptoms, including severe fatigue and fluid around my lungs. The doctors said it was time to protect the heart and get the valve fixed. I reluctantly agreed.

There’s really no good or bad time for surgery, is there? I thought it would be better to wait until the fall and enjoy the summer, but my body told me that spring was the ideal time. So, I accepted it and let my body shake with shock and fear for the remainder of the day, after which I decided to take the bull by the horns and turn the situation into a wild joy ride.

Did I just say “wild joy ride”?

Yes I did. Having my chest cut open, my sternum broken, and heart stopped sounds worse than riding a wild bull, but just like the rider that gets something exciting at the end of the stint, I will have a better heart which means more opportunities to experience than I have now.

Can you tell I have a penchant for a life well lived? I sure do, and with many earned successes under my belt along with a strong dose of wisdom kicking in, life keeps getting better and better. My grandmother is turning 102 years old this year and still dances with the fellows at the nursing home. I think I have those longevity genes and am not ready to throw in the towel yet, or even slow down much. I know life is not about the destination, but rather the journey. I know how to live in the moment, take one day at a time, pace myself, and not sweat the small stuff.

So it is with this attitude that I decided to take a unique approach towards preparing and recovering from surgery. To note, I did not use this approach eight years ago when I had a hysterectomy. It is the memory of that very stressful event that prompted me to do everything in my power to prevent such distress this time around. Pain is a very powerful motivator, and I am determined to experience moments of happiness and pleasure in between the pain.

NOTE FROM KAT: The operation was successful and much needed. I am very proud of I showed up to the surgery in the morning, calm and confident. I endured a long and steady recovery, and am so grateful for life.