Posts Tagged With: Atrial fibrillation

Day 2256: Heartbreak to Happiness

Yesterday, I went from heartbreak (about my wonderful, trusted, and long-time cardiologist Dr. Mark Estes leaving Boston) to happiness about the kindness, caring, commitment, and competency of my new cardiologist, Dr. Munther Homoud.

While I was waiting to see Dr. Homoud for the first time, I noticed all this:

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I’ve gone from heartbreak to happiness about my unusual congenital heart disorder many, many times during my almost sixty-six years on this planet.   At this point, after a miraculous and happy time when my heart reverted to a normal rhythm after my valve replacement surgery in 2016, my heart is back in atrial fibrillation for the rest of my life.  I have no heartbreak about that, only happiness because of my caring and committed team of cardiologists.

Do you see any paths from heartbreak to happiness in my other photos from yesterday?

 

 

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My boyfriend Michael (who makes my heart happy  with his nutritious, delicious, low-salt home-cooked meals) helps me go from heartbreak to happiness, every day.  Last night, after a  typical heartbreak-to-happiness-to-heartbreak-to-happiness day, we danced to this:

What helps you go from heartbreak to happiness? For me, gratitude always helps.

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Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Day 1494: Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day!

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Groundhog Day is my birthday.  Can you guess how old I am today? Here‘s a hint:

While there are many things out there on Groundhog Day 2017 that are making me afraid of my own shadow, there’s still a lot of sunshine.

Do you see shadows or sunshine in the photos I took the day before Groundhog Day?

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Happy Groundhog Day to all my readers and Happy Birthday to me!

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 72 Comments

Day 1373: Dreams

Yesterday, my  12th day after open heart surgery,  I fell asleep and had a dream of  being lifted suddenly by unseen hands and carried, very rapidly, as I lay flat on my back, through many rooms and hallways. In the dream, I thought, “Oh no!  Ghosts are taking me away!” I screamed in the dream, the dream faded, and I woke up in my  bed at home.

Somewhat of an expert on dreams (because I’m a psychotherapist), I asked myself, “What did that dream mean?” And I realized the dream captured the dreamlike experience  of being wheeled down hospital hallways into  operating rooms, which has happened to me more times than you could possibly dream between the ages of 10 and 63.

Then, I got ready for my dream of a friend, Carol, to pick me up and carry me to my appointment at the Coumadin/Warfarin clinic at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, to find out if I would be able to eat all the foods of my dreams on this new medication.  The nurse there, Kathleen, was a dream, as she allayed my fears and told me I would probably be able to eat whatever I wanted (including chocolate!), as long as I did so consistently.

Then, I told Carol I wanted to drop in on members of my Cardiology Dream Team at Tufts Medical Center, who hadn’t yet seen me since my surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on September 21. I assumed my appearance would exceed their wildest dreams. And while most patients wouldn’t dream of dropping in unexpectedly on their doctors, my cardiologist Dr. Mark Estes has demonstrated (see my previous dreamy blog post here), that he is fine with my doing that.

The next hour was like a dream.  Dr. Mark Estes showed up trailed by five students and told me I looked like a dream — better than he had ever seen me in our decades of working together.  I told Dr. Estes that I might have been dreaming, but I thought I had heard various people at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota state that my heart was in a normal/sinus rhythm after the operation, instead of its usual atrial fibrillation.

Let me explain why my heart going out of atrial fibrillation and into normal/sinus rhythm, even for a limited amount of time, would be a very unlikely dream come true.

  1. My heart went out of normal rhythm and into atrial fibrillation almost exactly three years ago today (described in this here dreamy blog post).
  2. At that time, my doctors agreed it did not make sense for them to try any non-surgical means to return my heart to a normal rhythm, because the atria were so stretched out from my leaky valve that my heart would almost definitely return to a-fib.
  3. When I had my last cardiac procedure in May of 2015, Dr.  Estes told me that my fibrillating atria were even bigger — “the size of a grapefruit, instead of the normal size of a walnut.”
  4.  My other cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem,  had a dream: he hoped that the surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, when performing the open heart surgery twelve days ago to replace my leaky valve, might also use a surgical technique (called the Maze technique) to try to get my heart back into a normal rhythm.
  5. When I discussed that possibility with the Mayo doctors, they all agreed that the added surgical time of two hours was NOT worth the risk, since the chances of any technique returning me to normal rhythm was highly unlikely.
  6. At that point, I let go of the dream of my heart getting out of atrial fibrillation, and instead focused on preparing myself for the heart valve replacement surgery.

So when I told Dr. Estes yesterday that I thought I had heard people at the Mayo Clinic say that I  was out of a-fib after my surgery, he looked like he thought I was dreaming. He said, “Ann, if your heart DID get back  into sinus rhythm post surgery, that would have lasted for a very short time. I am skeptical it happened at all.”

And then everybody  — Dr. Estes, the students, Carol, me, and others — watched yesterday, as if in a dream, as we accessed the data stored in my pacemaker/defibrillator to see what kind of rhythms my dreamy heart had been generating recently, when I’ve been awake and dreaming.

As if in a dream, my dream team cardiologist, Dr. Mark Estes, announced to all of us: “You’re in sinus rhythm.  And you’ve been out of a fib and in normal rhythm consistently since your surgery on September 21.”

I responded, “My boyfriend Michael would call this a Christmas miracle.”  I heard Carol say, dreamily and sweetly, “Today is the Jewish New Year.”  Everybody looked happy, like in a dream or in a special on the Hallmark Movie Channel where the heroine does better than anybody dreamed possible.

How did this better-than-anybody-could-possibly-have-dreamed result occur?  I have a dreamy memory of a discussion, last week, with a Mayo Clinic EKG technician, who told me I was in normal/sinus rhythm when he visited me in the Intensive Care Unit.  Perhaps, we speculated, when they stopped my heart and then restarted it after the open heart surgery, that helped my heart’s rhythm — just how we often fix our phones, computers, and other devices  by turning them off and turning them back on again. Sometimes, the simplest solution works better than our wildest dreams.

After this dream of a visit with Dr. Estes, Carol carried me away in her car and drove me home to my dreamy boyfriend Michael. I told him the good news, as if in a dream. Later, when I shared the good news with my dreamy 18-year-old son, Aaron — far far away in the dreamy land of Scotland — Aaron texted me: “It sounds like a magical fairy wonderland situation over there.”

Magical and MUCH better than the scary dream that started out my dream of a day, yesterday.

I also want to say, at this point in this dreamy post, that it’s very possible that my dream of a heart with its shiny new valve might go back into atrial fibrillation — tomorrow, next week, or some other point in the future.  However, I wouldn’t dream of lowering my heart’s expectations right now — that heart of mine has exceeded everybody’s dreams for sooooooo long.

When I was dreaming under general anesthesia last week at the Mayo Clinic, my surgeon played dreamy music by our favorite saxophonist, the late Michael Brecker. On this dreamy day, 13 days later, here is one of my favorite tunes by Dreams, the 1970s dream team of Michael Brecker, his brother and trumpet-player Randy Brecker, the dreamily fabulous drummer Billy Cobham, dreamy bassist Will Lee, and other dreamily amazing jazz musicians.

 

 

Because my readers appreciate photos I take beyond my wildest dreams, here are all the dreamy images I captured yesterday:

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You know what?  Yesterday still feels like a dream to me ….  too good to be true. And I don’t have any photos showing Dr. Estes, the medical students, Carol, Kathleen the nurse, or any of other people I dreamily wrote about in this post.

So …. maybe it was all a dream?

What do you think, my dreamy readers?

Dreamy thanks to all those who helped me create this dream of a post and to you  — of course! — for whatever dreams you bring, here and now.

Categories: adult congenital heart, celebrating, heart condition, heart surgery, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

Day 400: Expected Numbers

First of all, dear readers, I want to acknowledge the number of my post today.

I made it to Day #400!   Yay!!

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When I started this blogging journey, my goal was to make it to Day #365, with no expectations of ever getting into the Four Hundreds.

Which reminds me of a story, ladies and gentlemen. The timing for this story is pretty darn good, since I told this story at my 60th birthday party, almost exactly a year ago.

The story is about ….

Me and My Cardiologist

My cardiologist’s name is Dr. Deeb Salem.  He works at Tufts Medical Center.  Here’s a photo of him:

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I could tell lots of stories about Dr. Salem, since I’ve been working with him since 1980, when I was 27 years old. I’ve already written about him here, on Day 62 (credited) and Day 275 (uncredited).

I just checked to see if there’s a Wikipedia page about Dr. Salem. I found that while Dr. Salem doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page (which surprises me), he shows up on a page titled How Doctors Think, which is a book by Dr. Jerome Groopman. I don’t want to go too deep into this digression, but I will quote from that page, as follows:

Salem’s challenge

Groopman spends a great deal of the book discussing the challenge posed to him by Dr. Deeb Salem, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Tufts-New England Medical Center, during a presentation the author made at their hospital grand rounds. During the presentation, Groopman was discussing the importance of compassion and communication in providing medical care when Salem posed the following question:

“There are primary care physicians in every hospital who speak with great sensitivity and concern, and their longtime patients love them, but clinically they are incompetent–how is a patient to know this?”

This is what I find ironic about THAT:  a lot of Dr. Salem’s patients love him, 3 including me.  But I understand why Dr. Salem may have asked that particular question.  He is not only lovable, he is EXTREMELY competent. Believe me, I know.

Anyway, back to the story I told at my 60th birthday party.

I will set the scene, with the cast of characters. I had invited Dr. Salem to my 60th birthday party and I planned to tell this story, at some point during the festivities.  Soon after he had arrived with his wife, I found the two of them chatting with some other Very Important People in my life. I joined the conversation and told my story, as follows:

When I was 44 years old, and about three months pregnant with my son, my then-husband was experiencing some medical problems. He wanted to spend time, on a Saturday, at the Boston University Medical Library, researching his symptoms. Since I hadn’t brought anything else to read there, I became bored, so I decided to look up the latest research about my very rare medical condition, Congenitally Corrected Transposition of the Great Vessels. 4

And what I found, that day, totally freaked me out.

I found published medical articles that said:

  1. Women with my condition should NOT get pregnant.
  2. Most people with my condition were not expected to live past their 40’s.

You can probably imagine how I felt, reading those, that day.

Very soon after that, I called Dr. Salem and told him what I had found. And I know I was having many feelings, during that phone conversation, including fear. And anger, too. I remember crying and perhaps raising my voice, a little 5 on the phone.  The gist of what I was saying was:

What am I supposed to think about all this? And why didn’t you tell me these things before?  I’m 44 years old and three months pregnant!  Arrrghhhh!!!! 6

And this is how Dr. Salem responded, on that day on the phone with me, in 1997.  He said, very calmly,

Ann, you have an incredibly rare condition.  Every article published about your condition uses a very small sample size. So the results are suspect.

And Dr. Salem told me some specifics about the articles I had read.  While these details were somewhat reassuring, I cut to the chase:

Let me ask you this, okay?  Am I going to make it to age 50?

Dr. Salem immediately said,

Yes, Ann.  I look forward to celebrating your 50th birthday with you.

I immediately shot back,

What about my 60th birthday?  Will you be celebrating that with me, too?

And because I am very observant of subtle reactions in people, I noticed that Dr. Salem paused and took a breath, before responding, more slowly this time:

Yes, Ann. I expect to be celebrating your 60th birthday with you.

And, my punchline, as I was telling this story to Dr. Salem, his wife, and other VIP’s at my 60th birthday party was …

And here we are!!!

But, as usual, Dr. Salem had an even better punchline.  He laughed and said, “I remember that conversation.  I was wondering if I was still going to be around for that.”

And Dr Salem, his wife, and other VIPS in my life celebrated, that day, that we were all very much alive.

So why am I finally7 telling you this story today, dear readers?

Because, tomorrow I’ll be seeing Dr. Deeb Salem for my annual cardiology visit. And it’s the first time I’m seeing him since I left the hospital, a few months ago, after developing atrial fibrillation and being prescribed anti-coagulant medication, probably for the rest of my life.

And, honestly, I have some fears about this appointment.  I’m going to be asking him some difficult questions. And, as always (because I’ll be getting some tests that day, too), I might be hearing some difficult answers.

However, I may very well be catastrophizing, right now:  looking into the future and imagining the worst.

I’ve got an idea!  Maybe I’ll ask him about my 70th birthday party!

Thanks to Dr. Salem (obviously) and to you (of course!!) for reading today.


1  This photo has shown up several times before, including this post and this post.  And in case anybody is wondering…. NO! I have not gotten any further in developing my brilliant product idea of Neat Confetti.

2  I found this photo here.

3  Believe me, I know.  I’ve seen it, over the years, in many circumstances, including a dinner honoring him about five years ago, which I attended (and where many patients talked about their positive experiences of him).

4  See here, for my most detailed blog post about my heart condition.

5  I raised my voice only a little because other people were around me AND I have a little trouble expressing anger (as I wrote about, yesterday). Although, come to think of it, I feel pretty safe expressing all my feelings to Dr. Salem.

6   Or words to that effect.

7   I could have sworn I already told this story, in a previous blog post. But …. NO.

(I’ve forgiven WordPress.  I was angry at it earlier for throwing in unexpected numbers for the footnotes, which I’ve now fixed. C’est la vie, right?)

I’m mad at WordPress again. Unexpectedly, it changed the date of this post from the correct one, February 4, to February 2. While it might be fun to time travel two days back to my birthday, this screws up the order of my posts. The authorities have been alerted. (And they — and other bloggers — helped me fix it, on 2/5.  Yay!)

Categories: inspiration, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Day 349: How We Are Doing

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m a group therapist, so I see groups in most things, and I see most things as groups.

Not uncommon, wouldn’t you say? We tend to see, in the external world, a reflection of our internal experience.   That which is important to you, you will see reflected back from the world around you.

I wish I had some cool examples or images of that to show you here — for example, motorcyclists seeing motorcycles everywhere, teachers seeing students everywhere, or something like this saying:

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…  but I’m eager to get to my next point.  So I will let you fill in this space, with your own examples and images:

INSERT

YOUR IMAGE

(of seeing your interests, thoughts, assumptions, and experience reflected back from the world around you)

HERE

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So, where was I?  Oh yes, I see groups everywhere and I see these groups in terms of my personal experience and assumptions about leading groups.

And, for the groups I run, I allow people to join in and attend, whenever they choose.  Which is not unlike the situation here, in my blog.  That is, new people are constantly joining with veteran readers. Some people have been reading since Day 1, and each day, new people appear.

One thing I work on, as a group therapist, is helping new people come up to speed, while still meeting (some of) the needs of the long-timers. I don’t mean to brag (although I’ve been working on allowing myself to brag, this year) …. but THAT is NOT an easy thing to do well.

I’ll give you an example, of how that issue occurs for me, here.  When I just looked at the first sentence of this post –“As I’ve mentioned many times before” —  I considered rewriting that,  because I thought, “Hmmmm. That doesn’t apply to new readers.   How can I make that sentence work for everybody?”  And  my response to that question was:

I can’t.  Oh, well. Now what?

…. which is not a bad answer to other questions, pertaining to the urge for perfection in difficult tasks.

Okay!  Time Out!

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I want to take a moment here and point out my state of mind while I’m blogging right now.  Here are the relevant facts:

  • I didn’t get enough sleep last night.
  • It’s Sunday, so I have more space and time to blog.

Those can be a dangerous combination, when it comes to digressions, ramblings, and (to use a word my new reader, Brenda, used yesterday, in a comment here) …  babbling.

Here’s another factor to add to this dangerous combination:

  • It snowed, quite a bit, overnight, so I’m feeling some anxiety, right now (because of some obligations, later today, that involve driving).

Therefore, this will be a digressive, rambling, and babbling post, today. There’s no getting around that.

Okay, I think I’ve done a good enough job, right now, managing people’s expectations about this post. Therefore, it’s time to move on to the “meat” of it.

In other words,  what WAS the major point (as reflected in the post title and in all digressions, ramblings, and babblings up to now) that I wanted to make, today?

Here it is:  I wanted to bring longer-term readers up to speed on some pre-existing issues, while still providing something for new people.

What were the issues I was thinking about?  Two of them:

  1. How our new cat, Harley, is doing, adjusting to his new home.
  2. How I’m doing, adjusting to my new heart “condition” (that is, the October addition of atrial fibrillation AND my new need for daily anti-coagulant medication).

Actually, speaking of adjustments and How We Are Doing, I’m going to try to add another, more recent one, to that list of two:   The First Major Snow of the Winter Season.

How am I going to tie all these things together AND provide something valuable for readers new and old?

Simple!  A Photo Essay!

How We (Harley and I) Are Doing***

A Photo Essay

by Ann

Harley is doing quite well, thank you, adjusting to his new home. Here is some recent photographic proof:

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Michael, my bf, took this photo last night.  Actually, as much as I might admire Michael’s photographic sense of composition and emotional content, this does NOT prove that Harley is doing okay. To me, he looks totally freaked out.  However, this is not an inaccurate representation: Harley still looks freaked out, a fair amount of the time. However, Harley looks (and acts) freaked out much less, these days (compared to how he was when we introduced him in October). And that’s getting better, every day in every way.

So, again, Harley is doing quite well, thank you.

And here’s proof that more often than not, Harley is not freaked out:

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(Notice how I snuck in the presence of snow, in that photo)

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(and also the presence of Michael, there).

One more photo of Harley, this morning, to show that he is doing quite well:

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For those of you who are wondering about how (New Group Member) Harley is affecting (Old Group Member) Oscar, Oscar is also doing quite well:

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… which I hope you can see, in another photo by Michael.

Okay! Now, what do I have to do, before I conclude this post? (As I mentioned before, I’m tired and a little anxious about the day, so I would like to end this post soon.)

Oh, yes!  I was going to bring you up to speed on how I’m doing, too.  I have to admit that, since the beginning of October (and the appearance of the atrial fibrillation and my need to take daily anti-coagulants), I have not been feeling as well as I was, before that.  And that’s been difficult.

However, yesterday, when Michael and I were at the supermarket (stocking up for groceries for the predicted snowfall), I turned to him and said, “You know what?  I’ve been feeling better lately. As a matter of fact, right now, I feel …. as good as I was feeling before.”

Now, I don’t feel that good, every day.  But it was wonderful to feel that — and realize it — yesterday.

Yay!!!!

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Despite my celebration, I will confess to you, dear readers,  that I resent having to take medication every day, for the rest of my life.  And I always am on the verge of forgetting to take my daily pill (although I’ve taken it every day so far).

Also, in general, I have been feeling more anxious, especially as the snow and ice appear. Why?  Here’s a direct quote from one of my cardiologists (regarding my being on anti-coagulants):

“Ann, please make sure NOT to fall on the ice, okay?

And my response to that (as with other doctors’ orders, in the past), was to say,  “I’ll do the best I can” (while feeling, inside, a new anxiety).

But, like Harley, I’m doing better with that, too. Still freaked out, but a lot less frequently.

Here’s my penultimate image, for today:

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Why am I choosing that photo?  Lots of reasons:

  • It’s a group of objects, and as I said (way back in the beginning of this post), I tend to see things in terms of groups.
  • In the foreground of that photo is the fancy-shmancy pill-box I recently bought myself, to help myself feel better about having to take medication, every day.
  • My son put my glasses on that grapefruit yesterday, and that makes me happy.
  • There are some objects in that photo that I’ve been losing track of lately (including my keys) but that photo is proof that I keep finding them again, too.
  • The cat in the background looks a little like Harley, but it’s actually a computer screen cleaner I bought earlier this year (I like adding fun — or beauty —  to things I don’t like to do, whenever possible).
  • The girl looking out the window is a dancing-hula-girl toy, which was a gift from the very nice owner of a nearby Chinese Restaurant (which we haven’t been to lately, so I’m letting go of guilt about THAT).

Okay, now that I’ve managed to let go of some guilt and anxiety (and to embrace some joy,too), it’s time for the final photo of this post. This photo is what the hula girl, in that previous picture, is seeing, right now:

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That’s not so bad, is it?  Actually, I believe I can add that to my lists of Things That Won’t Kill Me (those lists are here and here, in case you haven’t seen them yet).

I hope so, anyway.

Thanks to Michael (for shoveling off my car this morning, among other things), to anybody I forgot to thank (because of tiredness and anxiety),  to group members old and new, and to you — of course! — for reading today.

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* I found this image here.

** Thanks to FreeSoundEffectz

*** NOTE: All these photos were taken within the last 12 hours, so they are pretty much “in the moment” (something that’s important to me).

**** Personally, I think we all need to hear applause sometimes,  and cheering, too! Feel free to play that, for yourself, whenever you need it.  And thanks to TheHalloweenHaunters, for posting the video on YouTube.

Categories: humor, inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Day 311: Shall we dance?

“Shall we dance?”   That was the title, for today’s blog post, in my head, when I woke up this morning.

I remember feeling joy, when I was very young, watching the movie “The King and I,” when Anna (Deborah Kerr) and the King of Siam (Yul Brynner) connected, in a new way, through dance.

The movie is not on YouTube, so I can’t show you that exact scene, but here’s a version of “Shall We Dance”, with Yul Brynner and Patricia Morrison, from the 1971 Tony Awards):

 

For me, with my unusual heart, and the evolving capabilities of pacemakers to speed up that heart of mine, there have been times when my physical activities have been restricted.  However, no matter what has been going on with my heart and with pacemakers, I have always been able to dance.

I’ve been able to dance, in my basement alone, after my first surgery at age 10,  listening to the music from many musicals, including West Side Story (like this number):

I was able to dance to that number,  my heart beating 80 beats a minute, every minute, never speeding up.

Every once in a while I had to stop, to rest, but then I would be up and dancing again, on the basement floor.

Then, in the 70’s, when I was in my 20s, I was dancing disco whenever I could, with my heart beating 72 beats a minute, every minute, never speeding up.

I asked my doctors, how am I doing that? How am I able to dance throughout the entire length of a song?

Like this one, sung by Gloria Gaynor:

Or this one, by The Trammps:

(I’m including that number, even though John Travolta and his partner are not really connecting, because .. I could do all the moves she’s doing there!)

No matter what disco song was playing, and how long it lasted, I kept on stepping, spinning, and dipping — always keeping pace with my normal-hearted partners.

So, how could I do that?  I asked my doctors.

My doctors said, “Your heart is keeping up with you, somehow. It developed that capacity.”

I’d have to sit down and rest between dances. But not for long.  I was back up on the dance floor, very soon.

Then, starting in 1987, all my pacemakers were able to speed up, making my heart beat like a “normal” one.

And I stopped dancing as much. Perhaps that’s because I could do all sorts of physical activities, then.

Last month, my heart went into atrial fibrillation and — according to my doctors — it’s going to stay there, for the most part, for the rest of my life.

When my heart is in atrial fibrillation, my pacemaker cannot do as great a job, speeding my heart up.  When I’m in atrial fibrillation,  the pacemaker needs to pick up signals from my breathing and body movement, in order to help compensate for physical exertion.

So, when I go upstairs, I’m more out of breath now. However,  climbing stairs still feels better than it used to, before 1987.

Two weeks ago, my bf Michael and I started taking Argentine Tango lessons.

Last night, we danced across the floor, for the good part of an hour.

I had to stop and rest. But only once.

And we’re beginners, so we’re not exactly exerting ourselves, like this:

Not yet.

Thanks to Rodgers and Hammerstein (for The King and I), Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim (for West Side Story), Clifton Davis (for “Never Can Say Goodbye”), Leroy Green and Ron Kersey (for “Disco Inferno”), Patricio Touceda and Carla Chimento (the tango dancers), and to you — of course! — for visiting today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Day 280: No Worries, Part Deux

Exactly 39 days ago, I wrote a post called No worries. If I do say so myself, it was a good post.  And other people seemed to like it, too.

What are you waiting for?  Go check it out by clicking on that link above.  I’ll wait.

Back?  Okay.

Yes, I wanted to re-visit that post today, because, frankly, during the past week, I lost track of the lessons of that post.

In other words, I’ve been worried.  My mind has been doing this:

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Even though I believed it, when I wrote 39 days ago, that worry doesn’t help us,  I still circled back into worry, this past week.

(Psssst! If you’ve ever lost track of a previously learned lesson, see another previous post — called “The Ascending Coil” —  for a perhaps helpful “reframe” of the perhaps unhelpful concepts of “backsliding” and “losing ground.”)

So where was I, before the aside in parentheses?

Oh, yes, I was going to re-cap some facts, to explain why I “backslid” into worry last week:

  1. Last week, I was surprised by a new development with my unusual heart. I went into atrial fibrillation, where I will most likely stay, for the rest of my life.
  2. As a result of #1, I will need to take medication (to counteract the increased risk of stroke) for the rest of my life.
  3. When unexpected changes happen, my first reaction is often to  catastrophize — a cognitive distortion I seem to share with many other human beings.  (For definitions of catastrophizing and other common cognitive distortions, click here.)
  4. While I actually like certain kinds of surprises (e.g., I’d LOVE somebody to be clever enough to succeed in surprising me with a party, some day), other kinds of surprises make me cranky.  And when I’m cranky, I tend to worry more.

I think those four reasons, above,  are enough to explain why it sucked to be me, last week.

Actually, I don’t think it actually sucked to be me, at least not completely.  In ways, it was wonderful to be me, last week.

I’ve just always wanted to say that:  “It sucked to be me.”   And I haven’t said (or written that) before, until now.

Okay! I don’t know about you, but I‘ve gotten a lot out of this blog post,  already, including these benefits:

  1. I got to boss around my readers, insisting that they look at a previous blog post I’d written,
  2. I got to brag about that blog post,
  3. I got to brag about the fact that I’m so smart, that people have tried and failed to give me surprise parties in the past,
  4. I got to use the term “It sucked to be me” for the first time and, in general,
  5. I got to  complain about my week.

That last point reminds me of a favorite movie quote (at 1:00 in this two-minute clip):

If you had trouble hearing that quote at the one-minute mark,,  Dr. Walter J. Kornbluth (played by Eugene Levy) said this:

What a week I’m having!

But you know what? I hope I’m not spoiling anything for anybody,  but by the end of the movie “Splash,”  Dr. Kornbluth (as well as all the other characters I cared about)  had No Worries.

And I feel safe in saying, now, that I’m back to No Worries, too.

Thanks to Eugene Levy, Tom Hanks,  everyone else who collaborated on “Splash,” other creative collaborators everywhere,  and to you, too, for reading today

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 275: Getting better

I appreciate, so much, people’s comments, hopes, and wishes in response to yesterday’s blog post.

Here are some random thoughts about what’s been happening:

Over the “Breaking Bad” Marathon Weekend (see here, here, and here), I noticed I was getting short of breath.  There were LOTS of reasons for those feelings, so I noted them, but I didn’t worry about them.

However, after the weekend was over, I still noticed the shortness of breath. I no longer had good explanations for those feelings, so I started getting concerned.

Monday night, when I was taking a nice long walk with my bf, Michael, I talked to him about my worries.  I said to him, “I can’t figure out, these days, whether these feelings are in my head or in my heart.”

And I told him about a technique for people having panic attacks. This technique was inspired by this book (which I recommend highly):

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The technique is this:  If you feel panicky and believe that might be heart-related, try this:

Exert yourself physically and see what happens.

So I said to Michael, “Wanna sprint?”  Because I also remembered, many years ago, challenging my old business partner, Jonathan, in a similar way, and discovering — much to my surprise — that I was a damn good sprinter (over very short distances).

So Michael and I sprinted, to the nearest tree.  And it was fun, again, to run like the wind.

After our sprint, I took my pulse.  And, much to my surprise, I found that my pulse ….

… was not speeding up.  At all.

It reminded me of my life, from ages 10 to 35, when I lived with a fixed-rate cardiac pacemaker.  During that time, even though I managed to dance a lot of disco, becoming a

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(which was lots of fun), my heart rate never, ever speeded up, no matter how much I exercised.

In 1987, when I was 35 years old,  I got my first DDD cardiac pacemaker, which essentially repaired my heart to act like  yours — like a “normal” heart.  That is, every time I exercised, my heart speeded up.

I remember, after I got that pacemaker in 1987, going to an indoor track and jogging.

To me, that felt like one of my childhood dreams.

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Flying like Peter Pan.

Monday night, my heart was not speeding up at all, after I had sprinted like the wind.

So I knew something was very wrong, but I didn’t know what.  When Michael and I got back home, I called the on-call cardiology resident at the hospital where I get my treatment. And together, we decided I should come into the Emergency Room.

So, at 9 o’clock on Monday night,  Michael and I went to the Emergency Room.

Now, as usual, I have some time limitations on writing this blog post, so I need to make a “long story, short.”  Here are some of the highlights of the next 24 hours:

  1. A very cool doctor, whom I had never met before, listening to my heart, and telling me that I had a “beautiful” heart murmur, which “sounded like the wind.”
  2. Two very cool doctors, whom I had met before, telling me that I was in atrial fibrillation, probably for the rest of my life, but not to worry, because this was extremely manageable, and with my very cool pacemaker, they would fix it so that I might actually feel better than I had been feeling lately.
  3. These same two very cool doctors,  seriously and respectfully discussing with me the pros and cons of various responses to my current situation, one of which would include being on medication for the rest of my life.
  4. My believing that the decision we came to, together, was a good one, and feeling hopeful about the future.
  5. Spending a couple of hours, having an echocardiogram performed on me, with one of the kindest, most beautiful people I have ever met in my life, which included the tears involved with any new, unexpected, and potentially scary development in one’s life.
  6. Having nothing but good results, in all ways.
  7. Going home.

Which is where I am writing this blog post, now.

Gotta end this blog post, so I can get some more sleep and go to work.

Thanks to doctors old and new, runners who fly like the wind, kind people everywhere, and to you — especially — for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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