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Time Well Spent

Dear Reader;

Alas, it is time for me to put down the mouse and discontinue my blog, ‘Rebecca’s Heart’.

This blog has been instrumental in working through my condition. However, I believe that this avenue of therapy has run it’s course. It is now time to move on to other, more satisfying, endeavors.

I would like to thank you all for your kind readership and, if my experience has helped even one person, then it was all worth it.

Good health to you!

Rebecca Fortunato

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Unconditional

It’s not a disease; it’s a condition.

So says my fantastic doctor, Dr. Margo Minissian.  She said it in just the right way, too.  Not downplaying it, instead, focusing on the positive.

After all, when you have a ‘disease’, you sound so, well….sick

Let’s compare. 

1.) Disease: an impairment of the normal state that interrupts or modifies the performance of the vital functions.

2.) Condition: a usually defective state of health.

Both definitions have a certain amount of right to them.  After all, who among us would argue that chest pain et al ‘impairs our normal state; or impairs our functioning.”  And, clearly, who would argue that our state of health is ‘defective’.

Semantics

It feels more like a matter of he said/she said.  Take your pick; Heart Disease or Heart Condition.  Now, say it aloud.  Which sounds better to you?  I’m leaning towards condition.  It sounds like something I can fix.  Something that might go away in time.  Something that won’t kill me.

The Hear and Now

Asking you, dear reader, to say both aloud may seem a bit odd.  But listen to the words as you speak them. 

Heart Disease.

Heart Condition.

Decide which is better and incorporate it into your vernacular.  Who knows, saying it aloud might make it go away after all.

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For women, the symptoms of a heart attack are very different from men.  Dr. Smolens, Director of the Women’s Heart Center at Banner Heart Hospital explains:

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‘Heart Disease’.  With these two words, the lives of millions of women are changed in an instant.

While there is a sense of relief in knowing why your heart hurts, it is impossible to predict how this knowledge will affect your life.

Beyond the questions lie the reality that your life has taken a dramatic turn.  Although chronic by nature, your viewpoint of your condition doesn’t have to be.  It would seem, though, that this is a lesson best learned in retrospect.

20/20

As in ‘hindsight is’.  I’ve always thought this to be a strange saying.  It suggests that looking back is the only way to see if your chosen path was correct.  It makes sense, I guess.  Looking behind is the best vantage point from where to view the road ahead.  Only from this perspective can we know if we’ve made the best use of our knowledge and time.  This is the place where changes can be made and attitudes can be adjusted. 

Panoramic View

If you’ve seen ‘Pride and Prejudice’, you’ll recognize this scene:  She stands on a precipice, wind blowing in her face, clouds float by intermittently shading her closed eyes.  When she opens them, she has made a decision; one that she sees only now; now that she’s found time to stop and see where life has taken her.  Though probably not the best time to mediate as she is standing on a cliff. 

 Stepping Back From The Edge

Taking a moment to meditate on the past year has brought me to some astounding conclusions.  First and most importantly, I’m not alone.  While the numbers already suggest that, it’s the stories we share with one another that count most.  Secondly, the decisions we now make matter absolutely.  Will be chose to learn and share and live our lives or will we waste the time we’ve been given. 

While heart disease may be in your future, how you get there is your choice.

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What’s worse; suspecting you have heart disease or knowing for certain that you do?

If you answered that fear lies more in suspicion, you’d have research to back you up.  But do we really need research to tell us what we already know?

Stating the Obvious

Congratulations, Science!  Another fine example of useless information disguised as ‘research’.  It’s ridiculous to think that good money was spent researching what we already know to be true.  Of course we fear the unknown; especially when it comes to our health.  When something goes wrong, we turn to a doctor.  We ask questions.  When answers don’t come, our minds run wild.  Then we question ourselves.  “What is causing this?  Can they operate?  Am I going to die?”   

Deliver Answers; Not Sound Bites

Anymore it seems that we, Joe Patient, need to rely more on ourselves than our doctor.  While it is true that no doctor can be completely versed in all-things heart disease, one would hope that they could recognize their own limitations. 

We read so much about heart disease; how stress contributes to it, how blood pressure affects it.  But it’s what we do with the information that defines us.  Do we allow what we read to embolden us or lull us into quiet complacency?  Do we rely too heavily on the ‘professionals’ out there or do we take a more proactive approach to our health?  Are we waiting for them to make it right?

Stop Waiting

So much of our time is spent waiting.  We wait for appointments.  We wait for test results.  We wait for answers.  Waiting takes your power away and places it in the hands of someone who doesn’t have chest pain like you do.

An ancient proverb states that ‘Expectation postponed is making the heart sick’. 

Waiting is a luxury your heart doesn’t have.

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If asked if the current state of your heart disease is acceptable, how would you answer?

It’s a tough one; I know.  Just yesterday I was asked this very question.  “If, when we first met, your chest pain and quality of life was terrible, 10 being terrible, what number would you assign your quality of life now?” asked my super-hero of a doctor, Dr. Bairey-Merz.

Looking her straight in the face, I responded, “That’s a tough thing to quantify”.

How do you assign a number to the quality of your life?  Of course, I understood the question.  I realized that she needed a figure to determine where I am on my journey.  How else is she to know what to try next. 

Leaning back in my chair, I looked down at my hands and fiddled with my ring.  Slowly raising my eyes, I assigned a number to my life. 

“I estimate my quality of life currently to be a 3”.  Her face relaxed a bit, but I saw no smile.  “About 75% better than when we first met; would you agree?” she asked. 

That’s when it occurred to me.  Her face gave her away.  This was the best it would ever be.

The Best Compared To What?

Every six weeks I visit my wonderful doctors.  With each passing week, however, something very interesting has happened.   My visits with both Dr. Bairey-Merz and the fabulous Dr. Margo Minissian focus more on managing my condition and less on curing me.  ‘Curing me’….  Only now am I beginning to realize how stupid I was to think that I would be cured.  After all, I have Microvascular heart disease.  You can’t operate on the tiny vessels around your heart. 

Why Compare?

I know my life will not be returning to the old ‘normal’.  To be sure, 75% better is better than 0% better.  Even still, the problem isn’t so much in the number assigned to my quality of life as in having to assign a number. 

It’s hard not to compare.  But remember; comparisons do one of two things; they either make you feel bad because others have it better than you or make you feel better because others have it worse than you.  Either way you lose.

So, I will stop comparing my current self to my old self.  I will stop comparing what I could do then to what I can do now.  I’ll stop comparing — period. 

Call it a compromise if you will.  But life is worth living.  Nothing compares to that.

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“The day was finally here.  I have nine whole days to relax in Maui; nothing but fun in the sun.  It’s a week I’ve been looking forward to for several months.  Too bad I have to take Rebecca with me.”

— Rebecca’s Heart

Sometimes I imagine my heart disease has a life all it’s own.  After all, it deserves a vacation too, right?  It’s got to get sick of me eventually.  All I ever do is complain about it, tell others of its horrors and wish it away with every fiber of my being.  Is that wrong?

Life Goes On

Perhaps it isn’t very realistic to think of my condition as a life force.  No doubt, some would argue that to do so is a bit egotistic.  I mean, after all, we all have problems, right?  How can it be a good thing to attribute human traits to something one can’t control?

Well, ask anybody who has this, or any other, stupid disease.  I bet they’d tell you the same thing.  Sometimes to come to terms with your condition is to acknowledge it and toy with it.  What do I mean?

Vacation’s All I Ever Wanted

And who wouldn’t?  I want a vacation from all of my troubles, worries and responsibilities.  Therefore, it stands to reason that what comprises me would want the same.  So what if I talk of my condition as wanting a vacation or speak of it as a living entity.  When you face life each day with the prospect of dying, you’d be a fool not to make the most of it.  If that means teasing myself and that which consumes me, so be it.

Kudos Kathy Valentine, Charlotte Caffrey and Jane Wiedlin.  Who could imagine the impact your song would have:

‘Can’t seem to get my mind off of you’

‘Back here at home there’s nothing’ to do’

‘Now that I’m away’

‘I wish I’d stayed’

‘Tomorrow’s a day of mine that you won’t be in’

 

Wouldn’t that be great.

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