Navigating change

First, mea culpa for ending my first blog with “…see you tomorrow….”.  Rule #1 of blogging:  Never promise a post tomorrow!  I have to chalk it up to being overly enthusiastic.

When discussing heart-related symptoms,  I’ve learned that women, complicated creatures that we are, have very different symptoms than men.  Even though you might have your cholesterol under control, as I have, you can still end up with heart disease.  Plaque slowly builds up in arteries over  decades.  It’s not usually until an artery is over 50% blocked that one experiences any symptoms of restricted blood flow. Quoting percentages and numbers isn’t hard and fast.  It’s different for each unique person.  This is important to remember.

Our living, breathing, energy-filled  bodies will  speak through symptoms, giving you red flag messages to pay attention.  I’ve listed  some of my symptoms; see if any are familiar to you:

*Chest heaviness; for me I described  intensity as  “one/two bricks” on the chest (I don’t have shooting chest pain).  Clammy in neck area; sweats not unusual.

*Headaches with pain radiating down to the base of the neck, continuing on to both sides, over the shoulders and down the arms.  This pain radiates and isn’t located in one particular spot.  Most important it doesn’t go away with heat, ice, or massage.

*Backache; more involved than my usual chronic pain.

Hand weakness, with specific pain between the thumb and first finger.  Hands/feet/toes/arms/legs–numbness/cold.

*Short of breath, even after minor exertion, or talking too much. Dizziness or vertigo

* Throat and jaw pain, however minor.

*Stress.  There’s no doubt, we live stressful lives.  Globally: wars, starvation, environmental pollution, threats to the food chain.  On a personal level,  the stress of day-to-day living:  mortgage, job loss, day care, illness, aging parents, children’s needs. Huge, stressful issues. No wonder use of over-the-counter medicines, as well as pharmaceuticals, is skyrocketing.  Now we are urged by “pharma TV ads”  to ask our doctor if we might need this/that drug.  Insanity!

*Finally, an observation: sharp diagonal creases in earlobe.  I add this because I read it in the February issue of ALIVE magazine and then went to the mirror.  I have these creases on both of my lobes.

You might be asking if I had any of these symptoms before I was dignosed February 17th?  The answer is yes, some of them (1/2 bricks, trouble swallowing, increasing body pain).  In 2005 I had a series of tests:  echocardiogram, the 2-day stress test, and a carotid artery ultrasound.  I passed them all yet here I am, eight years later with a different set of results.

As you can see my list of symtoms includes a long paragraph on stress.  I spent ten years living abroad; six in Japan and four in Mexico.  I left Mexico in 2004 to return to Canada.  I got very sick living in Mexico.  First from bad water, then environmental poisoning with high levels of heavy metals, topped off with four scorpion bites!  STRESS?!  Over the top, yes.

For almost eight years now I’ve developed more physical issues compounded by stress.  The body can only handle so much.  This is what happened to me.  Aside from an OB/GYN during childbearing years, I’ve consulted few specialists.  In the last months I’ve been referred to a respirologist, a urologist, a dermatologist, and now not one but two cardiologists!

Days are spent moving slow, doing only what needs to be done.  Shortness of breath is increasing, the body hurts; sleep is always interrupted leaving me groggy most days.  Waiting for news is very hard.  One might say stressful.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Navigating change

  1. Tracy Tom

    I truly enjoy reading your work, and blogs. You are constantly opening my eyes to such issues that have lured in the back of my mind that I should take more than a passing thought to. I have extremely high blood pressure. My #’s have been so high that it’s been 214/126. My life has been so full of stress, sometimes hard to imagine ever getting to this point in my life let allow this age. I am 32, over weight the one good thing I’ve done lately is stop smoking . I need to get off my butt and start fixing my body, but I don’t know where to begin.

  2. Tracy, you are the reason why I am putting my journey out there. You have made a major first step in stopping smoking. Congratulations! I know how hard it is; I did it, too, but not until my 50s. You have a headstart.
    The next step is getting yourself to your family doctor immediately. Take a list with you. Pay attention to your body’s signals. Are you getting any of the warning signs I just posted? If so, write them down. How often? When? Document a typical day/week in your life. Work, what you eat, stresses you endure. Tell your doctor about your family history.
    Then ask your doctor for preliminary investigative tests for heart disease. Your blood pressure is enough to qualify you for these tests. Tracy, this is a big wake-up call. You can’t ignore it. Sadly, though, statistics show that we women DO ignore. I ignored my signals so I know how it happens…and why. Please, Tracy, don’t join the statistics camp. You have a beautiful little boy who needs you for life. Your job now is to get yourself to the doctor. Promise me you will do this for Jonathan. It’s not going to be easy. Lifestyle changes are very difficult but if you resolve to change, you can do it. I will support you 100% along your own journey. Keep me posted.

  3. Hi Rebecca. This is going to be an amazing blog. I just heard through the CWILL list serve of your recent heart issues and your new blog.

    My daughter-in-law, mother of a four year old and an elementary school teacher, at the age of fourty four had a heart attack last year. She is a vegetarian, a healthy weight, never smoked, has been a marathon runner for years but she has a family history of heart disease on her dad’s side. She is now on medication and doing well. But we worry.

    My brother’s daughter, my 24 year old niece, a power style aerobics instructor died suddenly two years ago. After teaching three aerobics classes and after walking her dogs at the beach she had been feeling very tired and complained of indigestion and was having trouble getting her breath. She told her mom she just needed to sleep. But she died early the next morning alone in her apartment. Her mom is still kicking herself for not taking her to emergency that night.

    Heart disease is a serious issue. I applaud you for sharing your experience here.
    I wish you good health and I will follow along as you blog here.
    (I am the one who looked at your iPad and the math game last Monday at the CWILL meeting.)

    • Mary Jane, thanks for your stories. I’m hearing more and more of them. Heart disease truly is the silent killer. It’s so, so important to learn to listen to the body because we don’t truly listen. Genetics are strong. Usual stuff like being tired, some indigestion–seemingly normal, no problem. But, combined with more obvious signs like breathlessness it becomes a huge red flag. How sad but isn’t that what 99.9% of us would say? “Just need some sleep, mom….” Thanks for sharing.

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