Mellanie True Hills and StopAfib.org in More magazine
October 13, 2008 7:42 AM CT
The premise of the story is that “If you love to work, the thought of stopping entirely can be terrifying. So don’t. See how these overachievers are redefining retirement.”
The section that includes Mellanie’s story is quoted below.
Replacing Work with Work
Neither would Mellanie True Hills, 56, of Decatur, Texas, who was a pioneer in the early days of the Internet, finding an adrenaline rush in a series of start-ups. “I am not type A,” she says. “I am type A plus plus.” Her creations include the Web site JCPenney.com, and for years she crafted Internet and e-business strategies for Cisco Systems’ customers, a job that kept her on call 24/7. “Every day was like jumping from a plane with my hair on fire,” she says, in a tone that suggests the pressure wasn’t a bad thing.
Hills thinks she would have worked at this pace forever if she had not been diagnosed with heart disease in 2003. In fact, she didn’t want to stop working even long enough to clear her blocked artery, insisting to her doctor that she needed to leave the hospital because it was nearly April 15 and she had to finish her taxes. The doctor kept her from bolting but wasn’t so successful at persuading her to ease up at the office. “To me, slowing down meant working six and a half days a week instead of a full seven,” Hills says. “I did tell my boss, ‘I can work only 12 hours a day for a while.'”
Even though surgery didn’t lead her to retire, it did give her an idea. She decided to switch to a new career: teaching women about their hearts. But just when she was about to tell her boss that she’d be leaving, her condition suddenly worsened. She was in her home office going through e-mails when her heart began skipping beats. This new problem, which her doctor soon identified as atrial fibrillation, required medication that left her so susceptible to excessive bleeding that she couldn’t garden (for fear of small cuts) or travel by air (for fear of blood clots and stroke). Again, retirement would have seemed a reasonable option, but she never seriously considered it, instead sticking to her plan to travel the country giving lectures on heart health. Her biggest accommodation to her condition: She traveled in an RV, not an airplane.
In 2005, Hills learned of a new type of surgery that promised to eliminate her need for medication. She had the procedure and is now back on airplanes, as the CEO of the American Foundation for Women’s Health and founder of StopAfib.org. She takes care of her health and tries to rest regularly, but she knows that she isn’t the type to stop altogether. “As a driven achiever,” she says, “my retirement project is to save lives.”
Read the full story: Retirement for the Restless
Mellanie also appeared on Life’s Work with Lisa Belkin on Take Five, XM Radio 155.