Health is never a guarantee. Getting answers always requires appointments, rest, and possibly some research, but not too much research that you consume too much and don’t know what to believe anymore.
From the time I was born all the way to today, I’ve been living with heart valve disease. In fact, when I initially wrote this blog back in May/June of this year, that sentence ends with “… I’ve been living with a pre-existing condition.” Up until a few months ago, it had little to no impact on my day-to-day living outside of the occasional fatigue, shortness of breath, and yearly checkups.
Today, I am sharing something people in my inner circle know about, and many may not know about me and the struggles I’ve been through recently living with heart valve disease. I’m just really opening up about my story in the hopes that it will help others feel less alone whether they are battling heart valve disease, heart disease, or any other major illness, disease, or the c-word. Especially those who are young. My goal is to remove the veil and to feel more comfortable with this being part of my story and what it means to me.
I grew up as normal as possible. Thank you, mom and dad. In fact, I was never really self-conscious about having to have open heart surgery as a baby or the scar on my chest, and I’m still not.
Somewhere in my 20’s, I became self-conscious about sharing this part of me with my professional world. That is when I saw it as an inconvenience to employers and colleagues; if I needed time off for annual checkups or if the time came, I would need another surgery, how would that look to an employer? So, I just shied away from talking about it unless someone asked about my scar; then, I would be open to sharing.
In the last six months, I’ve been to more doctor appointments than I anticipated outside of my annual appointment. I operate in a neutral mindset 99% of the year. However, when my annual check-up approaches, I start to think, is this the year all those tests will tell us this disease is progressing, or has nothing changed since last year? Like clockwork, in the few days leading up, I began to ponder those thoughts. This year, in particular, the negative thoughts crept in differently. Last year, things were changing. My daily workouts were getting harder. I am more fatigued than a year ago. And a host of other symptoms made an appearance occasionally.
At the end of April, I was told, “Your echo came back showing us the leakage in the heart’s aortic valve appears to have increased.” All those symptoms became consistent, and more symptoms showed up, which left me feeling like I was running a constant marathon while sitting. Those who know me know I am not a runner.
Six months ago, life shifted on me in ways I was not prepared for or even anticipated.
I had big plans for the summer and this fall. I had work to get done. I wanted to teach my youngest to ride a pedal bike without training wheels so we could go for longer bike rides as a family. Anything seemed possible.
I knew how to live neutral with a pre-existing condition. However, the fatigue and shortness of breath that arrived earlier in the spring were different. Workouts stopped. I switched to taking daily walks until that left me super short of breath. There were days I felt numb and in shock at how quickly simple things in life became a tremendous challenge. However, after that fateful appointment, I told myself I was not going to get angry or question why. I haven’t in the past, and to start, that just doesn’t seem right. To be honest, I had a few moments of anger and questioning. I’m only human, and it’s natural. Yet, now more than ever, I needed to continue to stay neutral to face one of the hardest seasons of my life that I will remember.
I know that this is just a season in my life; it may be hard to understand and may be an uncomfortable conversation. I don’t share this story to make you feel uncomfortable, I share because this hard season is one of millions. I share because so many people sit alone in a hard season, silent. I didn’t understand it until I walked it. I don’t expect many to understand what I’m going through or what others battling an illness, disease, or the C-word are going through. I know others have it harder than I do. I know I’ve been fortunate to live a very “normal” life.
Today, now more than ever, we share so many positive things, materialistic things, and easy things, but it’s not fair to withhold the fact that life is filled with hard seasons that straight up knock the breath out of you sometimes. I’ve had a hard six months. I’m grateful for the lessons learned and the ability to rest and rest. I feel transformed. I’ve asked God to give me strength and grace as this is a lifelong battle, and I’m scared of what the near future will look like. I wish I could go back to the days when life wasn’t so hard. I KNOW there is hope, but right now, I am ready to share this so I don’t feel so alone outside of the few in my inner circle. I am sharing this so others aren’t feeling so alone.
Over the last six months, I’ve rested and reflected. I took time to learn how I could honor my ambitions in my career while managing my health and showing up for my family. This fall, I’m sharing and inviting others in the messy or hard seasons of life. I never imagined my journey would be this, but I am thankful to all of those in my inner circle who have lifted me and carried me through some pretty hard days. While I’m feeling much better these days, I trust in the power of God and what he has in his plan for me.
I wrote a poem back in May randomly, and it helped me sort through the emotions of everything changing for me. Since then, I’ve pulled the handwritten poem out when life got hard on me, and it would continue to bring calm to the hard moments. After I wrote it, I knew I wanted to put it into a design. Today you can view this design here.
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