If I’m being completely honest, I’ve been avoiding this post like the plague. It’s not because I’m ashamed of what’s been happening to my health, but somehow typing out the events of the last month makes the situation more “real.” I don’t know if I’m ready for this “situation” to be “real.” But like it or not, here goes nothing. About a month ago I began to notice my blood pressure was becoming increasingly higher, even while taking my prescribed water pill. My family has a history of heart issues including high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Anxiety and stress are also very common. Lucky me!
The palpitations I was experiencing scared me so badly, I initially went to see my gynecologist. I saw a link between my menstrual cycle and the increase in blood pressure. He examined me and prescribed a different kind of blood pressure medication. He told me I was “anxious” and to follow up with my primary doctor.
Well, duh? If your heart was pounding out of your chest every fricken’ day you’d be anxious too!
Within two days I was sitting in my primary’s office. My blood pressure was very high (170/90) and my pulse was slightly fast (106). I expressed my concerns about the pressure and my worries about being unable to care for my two children. My doctor listened (somewhat attentively) and then agreed I should switch my blood pressure medication (same as the GYN). He got quiet for a second before saying, “I’m also going to recommend a mild sedative. You’re anxious.”
I seriously felt like the crazy train had left the station – full speed ahead! What the hell was wrong with these doctors? Yes, I was anxious!
My blood pressure was reaching epic numbers and my heart was pounding so hard; I could literally “hear” it (Yes, I said hear it) pounding. His answer is to give me a “sedative?” Well, to hell with that bullshit!
As soon as I left that office I called my insurance company and asked for a referral to see a cardiologist. Thankfully, because of my medical history; they covered it. I spoke to a receptionist who took mercy on me and got me in to see the doctor the next day.
Seeing a new doctor for me is always stressful, especially when they review my complicated medical history of breast cancer and vision loss. In the past, some doctors have actually refused to take on a case like mine. However, this particular cardiologist appeared to be up for the challenge based purely on the fact he was fascinated by my health history. While I was grateful to be treated, inside I wanted to scream “Hey, I’m a person – not a case study!” But that’s a whole other blog post.
He performed an EKG, which came back abnormal. My pressure was still high and my pulse elevated. I was told I needed to wear a halter heart monitor for 2 weeks and come back in for an echocardiogram. I left the office with a tiny black suitcase containing the monitor, making me look like a blind bank robber.
My “mostly” wonderful husband hooked me up to my new hardware by putting electrodes on my breasts and under my rib cage. Trust me; he enjoyed it.
I was only allowed to shower every other day because the machine could not be interrupted while it was recording. The inability to shower may have bothered some people, but hey, I’m a mother; I barely shower as it is.
Two days after getting the heart monitor, clumps of hair started falling out of my head. I have thin hair to begin with, so I really couldn’t afford to lose anymore. Hysterical, I called my doctors. Each one said I needed to see a dermatologist right away. The next day, I sat in another doctor’s office.
After a lengthy examination, the dermatologist told me I had two hair loss diseases: female pattern baldness and post-chemotherapy alopecia. Two days of crying later, I bit the bullet and shaved off what was left of my hair. It didn’t take very long, considering so much had already fallen out. I now refer to myself as the “blind, bald, blogger.” Just kidding.
One week later, I went back to the doctor for the echocardiogram. It’s basically an ultrasound of your heart where they check the chambers and the blood flow to make sure everything is pumping correctly. The technician was a middle-aged woman who appeared to love her job (INSERT EYE ROLL HERE). She instructed me to get naked from the waist up and lay on a table. She told me I would “not” get any results that day and as long as she did not send me to the hospital, I shouldn’t worry. Thanks for the pep talk, lady!
If you’re keeping track – that’s 4 doctors and 6 appointments in the span of a month.
Finally, I got to go back to see the cardiologist for all my results. I’d been on the new blood pressure medicine for two weeks. During this exam, my pressure was perfect. The pulse rate was also good. When the cardiologist reviewed the heart monitor report he giggled and said, “Can I ask you something… do you sleep?”
Do I sleep? Umm, no I don’t sleep! My husband works the graveyard shift and I have an 18-month-old!
My husband must have seen the look of aggravation on my face before saying, “The baby is up a lot at night.”
The doctor then asked to repeat the EKG. This time it was also perfect. Turns out my old water pill had been lowering my potassium rate, impacting my heart rate, and causing the abnormal test results.
Finally, the doctor reviewed the echocardiogram.
Without even blinking, he said “You’re 36 years old with a 50-year-old heart. Your heart is hardening.”
I was instantly teleported back to 1981 and the Quarterflash song, “Harden My Heart.” If you’ve never heard of it, Google it to further understand my sarcasm.
My prior medical history, high blood pressure, and the way I deal with stress (or lack thereof) have all caused my heart to stiffen. Blood isn’t flowing the way it should. Not good.
My biggest fear is life expectancy. I have two babies that need their momma. I have a husband I adore (on most days) but he doesn’t have an ounce of domestic capability. The thought of my children being sentenced to a life without me while eating stale crackers and greasy take out scares the crap out of me.
Without sounding too dramatic, death is not an option. I need to stick around.
When I started crying, the doctor explained I could stop and “possibly” reverse some of the heart damage through diet and exercise. I also need to stay on top of my blood pressure and take my medicine like I am supposed to.
So that’s where we’re at Blind Motherhood.
My 36 year old, hard heart is in need of a tune-up.
My bald head is cold as I type this.
I’m seriously reconsidering that sedative suggestion. It appears I am still anxious.
I feel beat down, emotionally, and physically. There are moments I want to crawl in bed and hide under the blankets indefinitely. My short-lived pity parties are usually interrupted by one of my children screaming for me.
I have six months before I return to the cardiologist. During that time, I need to come up with a plan on how I am going to drop some serious weight, de-stress, and get my physical act together. I’m currently taking suggestions that don’t include surgery or joining the cast of Naked & Afraid where I would be left on some remote island to starve for 21 days. Trust me, if you saw me naked, there is a distinct possibility you’d be afraid.
If you have any suggestions, thoughts of inspiration or recommendations for other 80’s music that may apply to my predicament; I’m all ears. You can email me at [email protected].