TOWNSEND -- "Each day is a gift when your life has been threatened and you survive," Alice Struthers said.

"I am so grateful for every day of my life," Charlotte Murphy said.

The Townsend women have recently found they have something in common. After surviving potentially fatal heart problems, both are planning to keep celebrating their lives. Murphy, 75, after months of treatment for atrial fibrillation, was in the hospital undergoing a treadmill test when her heart stopped a little over a year ago.

Struthers, 82, was at home when she was struck this November. "I was getting some very bad pains. I took an aspirin and called 911," she said. Nashoba Valley Medical Center shipped her right off to Lowell, where they "reamed out" an artery that was 100 percent clogged.

"I've been feeling like I want to celebrate the fact that I survived," she said.

Murphy wanted to celebrate, too, and thought her feeling was unique. "I didn't know anyone else looked at it that way," she said after talking with Struthers.

Both women were active before their heart problems and are once again back to many of their old activities. Struthers is an artist and serves on town committees. Murphy is a volunteer at the senior center.

They put their heads together and consulted with Linda Salisbury, the program coordinator at the senior center, about holding an event to celebrate the survival of people who have had heart attacks or heart disease.

The word has just gone out about the event, Murphy said, but she expects there will be between eight and 15 people.


The first part of the program will be an informal gathering. The former music therapist is gathering a list of heart-themed songs to play during the event.

Fruit and juices will be available while people listen, eat and chat away, Struthers said. An AmeriCorps volunteer recommended by the Nashoba Nursing Service will give a talk during the second half of the program.

Struthers hopes the event will be an inspiration for future programs like an ongoing cooking class or a similar celebration for cancer survivors. The center already offers programs that are useful or beneficial for maintaining good health like exercise classes, she said.

The Heart Survivors Celebration is scheduled for March 28, from 9 to 11 a.m. A home cooked, heart-healthy meal prepared by Donna Fenton will be served after the celebration. Fenton prepares home-cooked meals at the center twice a month and runs the kitchen when meals supplied by the Montachusett Opportunity Council are served on Monday and Wednesday.

The celebration is free. The meal is $3 and reservations must be made at the center by noon on March 27. Depending on how many people attend the celebration, Struthers may pick up the cost of the meal for her fellow survivors.

"The reason for doing this in the first place is to celebrate life," she said.

Murphy is celebrating her life in another way. She knows that chocolate hearts melt, hearts on cards are just paper, but the real heart is filled with beating and life. She became engaged on March 17.