Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Not. So. Mundane.

Wow. I can't believe my last blog post (which was forever ago) was entitled "Mundane." How ironic that things are anything but mundane around here now! Here I sit, in my 30's, a mother of seven, an accomplished runner, healthy eater, seat-belt wearer, tooth flosser, caffeine shunner, alcohol avoider , sunscreen enthusiast, non-smoker.... you get the point... and I'm having open heart surgery in just a few days. The first thing my surgeon said when he entered the exam room last week was, "Well, you're not my typical bypass candidate."  It is definitely strange to sit in the waiting rooms at the specialists' offices with all of the elderly , sickly and those patients with a lifetime of neglected health. I'm even pretty sure that I was voted "Least Likely to Ever need Heart Surgery" in high school. Or something like that. Anyway... because so many have asked, here's the story- in a nut shell- of how I got from there to here...

I have been an avid runner since I was in middle school. I competed in track and cross country all four years of high school and after graduation won the Collegiate National Cross Country Championships. No wait, that last part was someone else. All I did was make like Forest Gump and kept on running. I ran through all 7 of my pregnancies and even went into labor with baby #3 while on a run. I have competed in countless road races and 3 years ago pushed myself to the limit in training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I did that- twice. I have run 7 marathons in all and at the beginning of this year, had started training for a return trip to Boston later this month.

I started having  heart palpitations when I was pregnant with my 5th child . My doctor had me do a holter (event) monitor test for 24 hours which came back normal. Seven months after having the baby (who is 9 now), I underwent brain surgery to fix a rare congenital brain malformation that showed up around that same time. Over the next few years, as I experienced more concerning heart symptoms, I chalked them up to the brain issue because the brain defect involved the portion of my noggin that controls the heart.

Eventually, I had more heart tests done but never could come up with an explanation for the symptoms. Two years ago, I was back at the cardiologists looking for answers. I went home without any and continued to push through the pain, reminding myself that the doctors can't find anything wrong and this must be my "normal". I threw myself into training and was logging 40-60 mile weeks.

By last October, faced with the reality that my symptoms were getting worse, I returned to the cardiologists for another echo. I curbed the training while I waited for the results and when they told me, yet again, that everything was fine, I was back in the gym and on the treadmill, training harder than ever.

Finally in January, with symptoms interrupting my daily life and regularly feeling like my heart was going to stop on me, I set my mind on getting an explanation, once and for all. I began to reason that perhaps it was related to my brain issue and that I just needed to see a doctor who would listen to me and help me piece things together. (*Insert much trouble with getting in to see a specialists and even more trouble with insurance here.)

After reviewing three past echocardiograms with a new cardiologist, it was looking like we had an answer but it was the worst possible answer I could think of: a terminal heart condition with no cure. The only way to know for sure was to do a heart cath. Thankfully, the heart cath came back negative for the terminal condition but did show something else. We followed up with a CT scan the next week which FINALLY diagnosed my condition, one that matches the symptoms I've been having for nine years. I was born with a rare but critical heart defect called "Anomalous Origin of the Right Coronary Artery with an Interarterial Course". This defect is one of the leading causes of Sudden Death.

(Hmmm... another rare congenital defect of a major organ. Isn't one of those per lifetime enough? I guess I got the short stick in the family gene pool. Fortunately I'm running out of major organs to have surgery on so I should be good to go after this one!)

I have to say that if you're going to be told that you have to have open heart surgery, the news comes much easier if it comes after thinking that you may have a terminal heart condition. They're like "You need surgery." And I'm all like, "Oh, is that all? At least it's not terminal!" 

Well, that's how I got to the not-so-mundane that I'm living in today. Now that I'm here, I have to choose what I'm going  to do with it. With confidence, I tell you that with the Lord's help, I'm going to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9) and that I am covered with the peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7). I will continue to trust that the Lord is my keeper (Psalm 121) and that I'm an Overcomer (Mandisa 2013 - ha ha!).

Disclaimer: I may cry on April 21st, one week after my surgery, but only because the Boston marathon will be going on without me:( 


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