Do you ever feel like just throwing in the towel?
Or is it the old saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"?
So, it looks as if I may have some heart issues going on. Whether it goes back to some family history, or the Adriamycin taken during chemo (adriamycin or doxorubycin) and the risk of heart damage this drug has, I'm not sure that I will ever know.
I have cardiomyopathy, which is a weakness of the heart. It's pretty severe right now, but hopefully very treatable. Symptoms came on suddenly during the end of our wonderful anniversary trip about a month ago, which were shortness of breath and what felt like a fast heart rate. I immediately got into my Primary Care Physician, who sent me to the ER for an evaluation and suspicion of a couple of things that might be going on. Last thing on my mind was my heart. Especially since I've had so many colds this year, including bronchitis, and this felt more like a breathing issue, which had us both thinking lungs.
From there it was a matter of choosing a cardiologist and setting up tests and labs. So, we are now about a six weeks into this and I have had just about every test imaginable for the heart.
For those that don't know, I have brothers who have had cardiomyopathy; serious enough that one required a heart transplant at age 33 (he later passed at age 40), another who has improved but almost needed a transplant in 2011 at 48, and a third who at age 45 had a low Ejection Fraction (EF: the hearts ability and efficiency at pumping blood), but was able to bring it to within normal ranges with medication . Their cause of their conditions was always a mystery, or thought to be attributable to lifestyle, or perhaps a virus, for lack of another concrete reason. My cardiologist immediately questioned if any genetic testing had been done, when he learned of the family history, which it has not. Well he is all over it, and has consulted with Stanford on the subject, and I have an appointment there next week. As you can imagine, the rest of the siblings (there are 8 of us), not to mention children, etc., are all anxious to learn more. Knowledge is power and knowing would help them to be proactive so as not to get to a point that I am presently at.
The good news is that I am doing ok, considering all this; but have been very fatigued at the slightest bit of activity. I am on three heart medications, which will be monitored and adjusted as needed (and most likely more meds will be added in later), as I progress. My cardiologist is very optimistic that we can make great strides with medication, but tells us that it is a slow process that will likely take 3 months to get dialed in just right. He says that this did not happen overnight, has been coming on for probably a year or two. And that my heart has been working overtime trying to compensate for its weakness; hence the very rapid heart rate, even while at rest. It wasn't until these symptoms came on that we knew something was amiss. And the odd part of the whole story is that I had an echocardiogram in February 2011, in anticipation of the chemotherapy I was about to have, which can be hard on the heart, and my EF was in the normal range.
As a safety precaution, on Tuesday June 16th I was fitted with a Zoll LifeVest, which is an external defibrillator vest. The doc feels it is an important safety net right now. The vest is hardly noticeable as it is worn under clothes and covers my upper back and around my ribs. Unfortunately I cannot hide the power pack that goes with it very well, but what the heck, it is now my new best friend. :-) Probably the most inconvenient part is I cannot swim, and must have someone with me when I bathe, as that is the only time I can take it off. But it is all for a good reason, and I don't question the need at this time. I just follow the doctors orders.
Unlike cancer, this cannot be "cut out", or treated, with the hopes of it not returning. So it feels so much more frightening to hubby and I right now.
And although the last two weeks on the newest increase of heart medications I have been feeling better, a bit more energy, finally able to sleep in my bed for more than a 3-4 hour block, got rid of some miserable indigestion and bloated feeling with the best probiotic tab from Pharmaca (Thank you Cathie for taking me there to consult with Paul - what a great resource); but today the cardiologist says he does not think the heart has improved any, but that the symptoms have made me feel better. That was disappointing to hear. So medications are increased yet again, and hopefully there will not be a 5 day set back as last time.
I'm just glad I'm feeling up to making the walk out to see the alpacas in the last few days and will attempt a lap around the track tomorrow morning at the Sonoma Relay for Life Survivors lap.
So that is it for now. We are all taking it one day at time, and trying to stay as positive as possible. Of course we welcome all positive thoughts/vibes/prayers coming our way. It is our close family and friends that help us to get through these challenges put before us.