Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Courageous heart ...

Photo from  Flickr
I was recently told that I have a "courageous heart." I must confess, that these past 24 hours that I haven't felt like I have a very courageous heart, yet I know that often courage comes when we can acknowledge and embrace our fear. I met with my cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute yesterday. Another EKG was done and confirmed the premature ventricular heart beats I have been having. My doctor tells me that in a 48 hour period while I was wearing a holter monitor I had approximately 200,000 heart beats, and of those heart beats 53,670 were irregular. It's essentially an extra heart beat that starts in the lower chamber of my heart (ventricle). It's apparently not supposed to start there and it throws out this erratic heart beat which appears on an EKG as a major spike. She goes on to say that means that close to 25% of my beats are premature and irregular. Occasional irregular heart beats is common and nothing to be concerned about. Anything less than 10% they may just monitor and try to manage symptoms if there are symptoms. In my case, she says, we have to find out what's causing it as i'm over the threshold of 10%. Although my heart appears to be strong and sound structurally right now, these frequent irregular beats will damage my heart. Electrolyte levels can be a cause. That was ruled out as they tested my magnesium and potassium levels. I don't drink coffee (i have one cup of caffeinated green tea in the mornings), don't smoke, or consume any alcoholic beverages ... I have a very healthy diet, "slender" (the doctor's words) and exercise ... these all work in my favor she says.

So next step is a cardiac MRI and a meeting with an electrophysiologist. She tells me that sometimes what causes electrical problems in the heart is scar tissue or damage to heart muscle tissue. They will be able to see that with the cardiac MRI. If they find an area that is damaged that may be interfering with the electrical current and flow in my heart they will do what's called an ablation and remove the damaged/abnormal tissue. She mentions a medication that is sometimes used but in my case it won't work as I have a low resting heart rate and this medication often lowers one's heart rate. She did give me the go ahead to proceed with with the breast MRI guided biopsy so I have that re-scheduled for Monday afternoon. By next Wednesday i'm hoping i'll have the results from the pathology report and will know what the next steps are concerning the lesions in my breast.
My precious Ahnung

For the most part I think i've been handling the stress of all these health issues pretty well ... yesterday while meeting with my therapist I broke down though and cried. I guess it's more scary that i've been willing to admit. Even before I knew I had heart problems I started having sleep problems -- waking up every hour or hour and a half throughout the night. I didn't know what was causing it and brushed it off to worry or "something." In some ways it helps to know it's the palpitations in my heart that are waking me up. It's been about 2 and a half weeks now since i've had sleep problems. The symptoms get worse at night. Often times I feel like my heart is going to pop out of my chest. I lay in bed at night and I wonder how i will know if it's time to call 911 or take myself to the emergency room. Can I just sleep it off? I've learned to live with the symptoms ... they're tolerable and don't stop me from functioning and going about my day. My cardiologist has a stethoscope next to my chest. She asks "do you feel it?" I say "yes." She nods to affirm that she can hear the irregular heart beat. It's persistent and constant now. I wake up every morning now with an immense sense of gratitude for the gift of another day. As nights of restless and interrupted sleep string together I do find myself getting even more tired and fatigued. I find myself not feeling as brave and able to take on all that life has thrown my way ... but in my darkest moments, I always look to my precious dogs and I smile. I will continue to fight and I will continue to trust in God.

As I continue to prepare for more medical tests and procedures and waiting, I found myself reading one of my favorite quotes over and over this morning:

"I want to ask you, as clearly as I can, to bear with patience, all that is unresolved in your heart, and to try to love the questions themselves, as if they were rooms yet to enter, or books written in a foreign language. Don't dig for answers that can't be given you yet: you cannot live them now. For everything must be lived. Live the questions now, perhaps then, someday, you will gradually without noticing, live into the answer."

~ Rilke

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