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A Heart Is Strongest in the Broken Places

The writer vows to protect her heart and health in the best way she can

By Stephanie R. M. Bray

"I am prescribing you a statin. It'll protect your heart," the doctor said during our telemedicine visit.

Thanks to COVID-19, the visit had been long overdue. She went over all my test results with me, pointing out the numbers that were cause for concern. A high blood sugar level that put me on the cusp of diabetes. A slightly elevated cholesterol level. Combined with my family's medical history, both made me more likely to have a stroke or heart attack if I wasn't careful.

Abstract illustration, a heart is strongest, Next Avenue
Credit: John Gilman

"I want you to live a long, healthy life, so make sure you take it once a day. Most folks take it before they go to bed," she said.

"I fully intend to ride this body until the wheels fall off," I said with a laugh, and was off to the pharmacy.

As I stood in the socially distanced line to pick up my prescription, a sudden sadness came over me. I fought back tears as I listened to the pharmacist explain the medication's side effects.

I did hate that time seemed to be getting ahead of the things I had yet to do in my life.

I blamed my sadness on not being emotionally ready to accept that I was getting older. Plus, I hadn't yet fully come to terms with the many ways that my 55-year-old body was changing. The effects of perimenopause were not for the faint of heart. There was certainly nothing I could do about my genetics.

I did hate that time seemed to be getting ahead of the things I had yet to do in my life. This is what I told myself that I had to change. Protect your heart echoed in my head for the rest of the day.


That evening, I cooked dinner for my husband and me, mindful of the amount of salt I was using, how many servings of vegetables I was eating and how much wine I was drinking.

Bedtime came and it was also time to take my first dose of the statin. The ten o'clock news was on in our bedroom. Coverage of protesters marching in cities all over the world dominated the news hour. Then, the clip of the police officer's knee on George Floyd's neck as he cried out for his mother was on the screen again.

Tears ran down my cheeks as I watched, and I began to sob. I realized what protect your heart really meant to me. I looked at the little pill that the doctor said would keep my heart beating the way it should and wished that it could prevent the heartbreak I felt, too.

It was a silly thought. Silly because a broken heart in response to what happened to George Floyd and so many others who looked like me meant that such a thing was wrong and should have never happened.

As a Black woman whose heart is strongest in the broken places, I wiped my tears and took my statin, protecting my heart the only way that I could.  

Telling Our Stories contributor Stephanie Bray
Stephanie R. M. Bray, of Sacramento, is a nonprofit executive, writer and founder of Black Women Write, a community that since 2018 has uplifted and supported Black women writers on the path to publication. She said she was inspired to write this essay “as a reminder of how precious life is” and adds, “I have more years behind me than I have ahead of me to lift up my own voice. I have a lot to say and I enjoyed writing this.” Read More
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