Immediately after that conversation with Bob, I called my doctor. "All this medicine is making my life feel like a flat line," I said. So my doctor slowly weaned me off it, except for one aspirin a day. (By the way, never suddenly stop taking prescribed medication, especially heart and blood pressure medication, without checking with your physician.) That choice was the beginning of my road back to health—and back to myself.
Regaining my footing hasn't been easy. What is true for every one of you is also true for me: Life's responsibilities don't lessen just because you aren't feeling your best. In my case, the show literally must go on. Many days I didn't feel like going to work, but sick days aren't an option when more than 300 audience members have bought plane tickets and arranged babysitters so they could come to a taping.
I think I hit bottom when I wanted to stay home even from a show as fun as the one we did with Tina Turner and Cher in Las Vegas. I was supposed to stand between them onstage, and I felt like a fat cow. I wanted to disappear. "God help me now," I thought. "How can I hide myself?" Later, as I was interviewing both of them about their ages (at the time, Tina was 68 and loved being older; Cher was 61 and didn't), I asked myself, "Who's the real older woman here? I am." They both had more energy than I did. They didn't just sparkle; they glittered.
At the close of our 2007–2008 season and the beginning of my summer hiatus, I still had other commitments. I make at least four trips each year to check on my girls in South Africa. No matter what continent they're on, a group of 150 schoolgirls is a lot to manage. By the time I left South Africa, I knew I needed some time to do absolutely nothing.
In July I was able to take a break. I went to sleep and woke up whenever I pleased. I sipped soy milk, downed vitamins, snacked on flaxseed, and allowed my body to restore itself. Some days I exercised by walking with my dogs in the hills of Maui; gradually I started working out on the treadmill, at first with a heart monitor to make sure there were no palpitations (it was a black box smaller than a BlackBerry, which I wore on my belt). By the end of the summer, I felt I could do a full hour of cardio without dropping dead.