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Life’s A Beach

March 15, 2012

I really thought I might post regularly about food. I envisioned sharing all my culinary efforts. I thought I would remember to take pictures as I cooked, making it really easy to duplicate the finished product. I imagined this helping family and friends who might want the recipes, and also helping me to remember exactly how I made somethings that we liked and would like to have again. Alas, I have fallen once more from the wagon of plans.

My fall began with the recurrence of the pesky cardiac symptom. At first, it was a random moment I thought a mere fluke. The next day, it was a few random moments. By the third day, I knew  I needed a medication tune-up.

Of course, this wasn’t my initial thought. Though heart disease is never far from my current train of thinking, I can easily live and breathe within the comfort of denial. I can forget in the blink of an eye just how scary it can be. I can move seamlessly between devastation and endless hope. I can latch hold of good days as if a bad day had never happened. This redefined living in the moment I considered and consider still a tremendous gift. However, when the not so good day returns, it is a jarring fall from the grace of momentary bliss. Carpe diem can quickly turn to a not so magical ride on a carpet-of-impending-doom.

Fortunately, I had a routine appointment already scheduled with the cardiologist. I explained the sudden recurrence of angina as well as our now month-long walking expeditions.

He gently patted my hand as he drew on a scrap of paper a nonsensical graft of how exercise elevates blood pressure. He added to his graft figures of percentages of resting heart rates and resting pressure, somehow explaining that increasing either beyond a certain point pushed me logically into the land of chest pain (sweating, back pain, throat fullness, jaw pain, shortness of breath and all the other strange sensations caused by narrowed arteries and compromised blood flow).


BLOOD PRESSURE CHECK (Photo credit: Morning Calm News)

Next, he reminded me of why I love him so. Instead of sending me to a cath lab, he suggested changing two meds, one at a time. I’d try increasing the Imdur to 90mg twice a day for a few days. I’d found the use of long acting nitrates no less than miraculous, so he humored me by suggesting this change first. I liked this choice best too because the Imdur is inexpensive, an ever-present consideration. If that didn’t relieve things, I’d double the Bystolic, the beta blocker. I was to monitor my blood pressure daily.Only if these medication changes failed would we “need to consider another cath and the possibility that there is a new blockage.”

I tried the Imdur increase and though things did improve, I was still having frequent “break-through” angina. Three days ago I doubled the Bystolic instead and finally am almost symptom free again.

Now, I’ll clarify what that means. I live within the confines of an ever-expanding field of vascular limitation. My space grows bigger, slowly, gradually but surely. I push until I experience pain. Then I rest. If the pain subsides with a few seconds, I resume whatever I was doing. I can anticipate when this will happen. I know the limits and I push them gently but frequently. If I take longer to recover, I know I pushed too far. I constantly push the limits, but not foolishly. Slowly, very slowly over these three years I’ve progressed from not being able to brush my own hair to the daily walks we were now taking.

Within these tried and true limits, I was symptom free. Only beyond these expanding walls, did I experience symptoms. The “break-through” angina that began a few weeks ago, happened far within those limits, at times when I hadn’t been experiencing symptoms at all. It happened lying in bed, watching TV, cooking. It resumed as it had before the last medication change in the fall, when I’d have episodes as often as 30 times a day.

Needless to say, blogging about dietary efforts to reverse heart disease was not my focus right then. Instead, had I blogged my real thoughts, I might have written about the anger I felt or the fear or the depression that tried to grab hold of my mind. I could have written about my fear that the recent months of feeling so much better were over forever. I can be such a fatalist. I might have instead, written my family one more set of “just in case” letters to replace the most recent stack of letters by that name I have bound with a rubber band hidden in a drawer. I might have blogged about how I might refuse another cath. One more stent? Three more? Another bypass is out of the question. They said that already. I’ve had enough radioactive material injected in me to be labeled a bio hazard.

So, instead of blogging or writing at all, I busied myself with other things. I continued to walk almost every day. The walks were shorter and I was more diligent in remembering to put the baby aspirin in my pocket, just in case. Lee and I spoke little of it. “You having a spell?” would be the only mention other than a silent taking of the blood pressure.

Two brief “spells” during the night last night were the only symptoms in twenty-four hours. The increased Bystolic seems to be working. Like the shining sun and singing birds after a storm, it is so easy to forget how scary it can be. I do love living! I have an incredible life! I am so glad it is so easy to forget. I think that’s how life is supposed to be.

Our puppy Sam is almost five months old now. She lives like that. Just this morning, I took her out and the garbage truck came down the road and stopped at our neighbor’s house just as we walked onto the grass in the front yard. It scared her. She took off up the front steps for the front door, pulling on the leash ahead of me. She ran in the house and tried to climb up Lee’s legs. Before either of us could begin to comfort her, she had forgotten the scare and was chasing Birdie around the room. The scare was past. The threat was gone. Life was good again. Life was good, still.

So, today the sun is shining. Spring has arrived early. The trees are already wearing baby leaves. The wild onions are tall in the yard. I fill the bird feeders every morning. The lake is rising, threatening to cover the sandbar that allows us access to the islands. Today though, I will walk along the shore, now stained with the yellow pollen of the pine trees, washed onto the sand by the water. Sam will dig for smelly treasure and romp and splash at the shallow edges. It is our third Spring here.

I will cook us plants to eat and day-dream of cheese. No, sesame seeds with nutritional yeast do not even come close to tasting like cheese, by the way. Does this diet help? I have no idea. I only know that today I feel good. Today, I am thriving. Whether it’s from drugs, stents, surgery, luck, plants, diet, love, grace or some predestined plan, I am grateful.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Wanda Hopkins McClure permalink
    March 15, 2012 11:54 am

    Grace…I love how you write and how transparent you are. Excellent post and a grand reminder to us all – live well, live intentionally. Love you, girl!

  2. March 15, 2012 9:44 pm

    Oh, my. What a beautiful essay. Have you been eavesdropping on my life lately? The way you describe “I can move seamlessly between devastation and endless hope. I can latch hold of good days as if a bad day had never happened” – this is exquisitely close to how I live from day to day, too, but you have captured it far better than I possibly could.

    Would love to quote you (and link to) part of this for a piece I’m writing on Heart Sisters, with your kind permission.

    Brilliant job here – thank you so much for this. Take care, and keep on daydreaming about cheese! 🙂

    • March 16, 2012 6:04 pm

      Hi Carolyn, Thank you so much for your sweet words and kind feedback. I’d be honored to be quoted by you and would appreciate the link. Thanks too for reminding me my thoughts are not unique, nor is my life. Love, Allie


  3. Donna Hayden permalink
    March 16, 2012 10:26 pm

    Hello My Friend! I am so glad you are feeling better today. I also had to learn to live “in the moment” some years ago. After my By-pass I was nervous, very nervous…..but not enough to quit smoking yet. (For all of you who follow this blog: “I know, I know…) My condition is different than yours, mine is complicated by COPD & Emphzeimia (you would think I could at least spell it by now). My issue comes with sudden attacks of not being able to breath. I am fine, and then suddenly I cannot get a breath… happens without warning. I can be sitting quietly and reading, driving the car, or walking from the car to my door. I can work all day at my job…walking all over hotels…8 or 9 hours…nothing happens. It is not logical. Sometimes I have pain in my back and I think “this is it!” “There will be no more breathing”….and then it is gone again. I live on for another day. This is my second go round with a fatal illness….37.75 years ago I almost died from my primary illness, alcoholism. I am reminded of this when those attacks come. The gift of one more day has come for 13,779 days so far, so when that last breath comes, how ungrateful would it be for me to complain. I have to push aside the fear and remember that during those thousands of days so many remarkable things have come….my daughter, my grandaughter, my friends and my spritual growth. The flowers, the oceans, the sunrises, the places I have traveled. The moments with my family and friends. The sunsets…..the laughter and yes, even the tears. I have learned, as you seem to be learning, each sunrise is a gift. As an old man once told me….everytime I wake up on the top side of the earth is a very good day. When my final sunset comes, I will haven received much more than I deserved. Today, you and I are both here, and you are one of the gifts I am grateful for. We are both on the top side of the earth together, and that makes me smile.

  4. March 17, 2012 1:25 pm

    Dear Donna,
    I have to respond more completely than this reply box. See today’s post please.
    I love you, too

  5. April 17, 2012 7:58 am

    Allie, thanks for your blog. It was referred to in Carolyn’s blog. I too am a cardiac patient who experiences many of the feelings you describe so well. I am also a psychologist working with heart patients where I try to describe much of that which you have described. I also try to develop strategies to cope with such feelings, for the patients and myself.

    I am developing a web site to cover such topics. When published I will link your article if you don’t mind. Good luck in your journey.

    I too live near the sea and will be including photos of our beach and lighthouse in the site.

    • April 18, 2012 5:58 pm

      Thanks so much and I’d appreciate the link when your website is up. I look forward to seeing all you share. We can use all the strategy we can get! I look forward too, to seeing your pictures. I live by a large lake. I only pretend it is the sea!

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