My 2019 HealtheVoices name tag had the following message attached: “You must do the thing you think you cannot.” I read it and immediately my spirit stirred. The words exposed me. They called me out. I walked into the hotel anxious, ailing, disheveled, exhausted and once again, emotional. I wrote about a heightened emotional state after last year’s HealtheVoices and here I am again. So much has happened in my life over the past few months. My 84 year old mother endured a devastating injury. This tragedy was emotionally and physically strenuous on her and our family. The fear of addressing mortality and the reality of aging parents became clear once I occupied the roles of both patient and caregiver. Added to an already worn, ill and injured physical body came a compromised emotional state, increased intolerable pain, overwhelming fatigue and separation anxiety. The sequence of events led to several bouts of depression yet the show had to go on. I mustered the strength to endure. Through all injuries, illnesses and occurrences life went on.

The warm faces from our HealtheVoices tribe filled my heart with excitement. Hugs and familiar voices quelled my perturbation. Once checked in and settled my mind recalled the message on my name tag. I queried, what is the thing I think I cannot do? Is there anything in my spirit that limits the fulfillment of that which I was designed to do? On a path of self discovery, I always try to identify the elephant in the room, or more specifically the culprit of the heaviness in my spirit. To my amazement, that and other answers would be revealed during the HealtheVoices 2019 conference.

Representing over 60 Chronic Illness communities, 140 well known, courageous, spirited, compassionate and powerful advocates united. Thanks to the generosity and investment of Janssen our travel and hotel expenses were paid. With that being said, every thought expressed here are my own.

This year’s theme “A Little Heart Can Do Big Things”, coined by  fellow attendee, advocate and advisory board member Mike Durbin was a perfect description of the individual construct and collective goals. As advocates we set out to educate, empower and motivate others. We use our stories to demonstrate the value of resilience and the power of an indomitable will. Most of us are not cognizant of the huge impact we are making in our communities and beyond. We believe that we are one fish in a sea of others when in reality, everything begins with one person and metaphorically “a little heart.” Every act of kindness expands our hearts and the vibrations reverberate through our spirits and communities. It is often the vision of one that leads to monumental change. The keynote, world-renouned speaker Rick Guidotti of Positive Exposure solidified that message of what a little heart can do. In his words, “Change How You See, See How You Change.”

One hundred and forty little hearts are collectively doing BIG things. That small, mighty muscle called a heart is vital to every system in our physical body. The heart knows that life will perish without it. The heart understands its essence and comprehends the value of touching another heart. For each and every advocate past, present and future, HealtheVoices has or will change your life. We enter the conference in search of empowerment and in need of replenishment. We experience an onsite metamorphosis internally. We teeter between emotional exhaustion and invigoration as we are compelled to examine our core values while simultaneously practicing self care. Connections become lifelines as we are challenged to step out of our comfort zones. We accept that our very existence demands we show up and show out.

I will close with the resounding roar of lessons learned from my message. I MUST do the thing I think I cannot do. And what is that? For me, it is to LET GO. To release anger, hurt, regret and anything or anyone that compromises my spirit. To relinquish all control from those things I have no jurisdiction over. To remember that matters of tomorrow and the reality of death are beyond my realm. To remember who holds the key to my tomorrow. It has never been me yet still I am here holding on to hope and my loved ones. My little heart has already done big things. It is fighting the good fight.

To all of my HealtheVoices family, thank you again for another year of transformation. I am eternally grateful. Each season of my life requires that I elevate and adjust my expectations, perceptions, circles and reality. You have poured into me and I in turn will pour into others. Crossing paths with you conjures that I live my best life with all of my heart. It evinces that I am never alone and a little heart can absolutely do big things!