Thursday, July 8, 2010

Listening To Your Body

TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2010 10:01 PM, MST
My friend, Dianne recently asked me a very relevant question. She said that whenever I talk about my heart disease, I mention the importance of listening to my body. She wanted to know how I could decipher when I had a symptom(s) that warranted going into my cardiologist and requesting an angiogram (the gold standard procedure where they insert a catheter through the groin or wrist to view any possible blockages)? I thought that's a really valid question and one that I'm sure others have wondered. In reflecting on the three times I've gone in since September 2006 and had stents placed, I can confidently say that the tell-tale sign was based on my running performance or lack thereof. Having training for and competed in every running distance from the 800 meters on up to marathons and duathlons, I have always kept a running journal detailing my miles, pace, how I felt, etc. My inability to run at a certain pace while doing an interval on the track or my inability to hold a certain pace while running on the canal, no matter how mentally tough I was, was THE signal to me for possible restenosis (reblockage of plaque in the artery). Additionally, though, I did have secondary symptoms. I sometimes felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, sometimes my body would just ache all over because of lack of blood flow and I just had to rest, and then of course there were always the classic symptoms of squeezing of the chest and shortness of breath especially when I became overtired. When you have symptoms like these, you need to realize that this is your body's way of talking to you. 

Another friend asked me if I thought I would have been able to detect the continuing restenosis if I wasn't a runner and so in tune with my body? That's a tough one but my best guess is: probably not! Even with my early detection, my blockages in my left anterior descending artery (LAD) were at 75% after my initial silent heart (2006) and 80% each of the last two times I had stents placed (July 2009 & Jan 2010). 

When I was a freshman in high school, I wanted more than anything to make the boy's golf team (no such thing as a girl's team) as I had played competitive golf since age 9. It was a two-day tryout. I hung in there with the guys the first day, and I remember that the coach told me that if I played that well the second day that I would be on the team! I thought that would be way cool since that wold have made me the first girl to ever play on the boy's team. Well, that second day I choked big time. My dreams were shattered. But then, for some reason, the girl's x-country and track team coach (Steve Kascht) recruited me to run. Heck, why would I want to do that? But somehow he convinced me. Although I wasn't the fastest runner, I excelled in the mile & two mile. I immediately fell in love with the sport and the rest is history. I share this bit of history with you because I always wondered about that turn-of-events. Since being diagnosed with this disease, I believe that my path was rerouted some 30+ years ago (yikes!) so that my heart, and the rest of my body, would be as physically strong as possible in preparation for this surgery. For me, it's a message that sometimes God's plan for us isn't always made immediately clear to us. 

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