Saturday, March 26, 2011

I carry your heart

Photo by Angie McKaig from Flickr.
As I was perusing through Flickr photos in search of a heart photo, I came across the photo on the left. And along with the photo was the posting of a poem 'i carry your heart' by ee cummings. I immediately thought of my dogs Ahnung, Missy and Mister. I imagined my heart being wrapped by their paws, by their unconditional love, by their belief that everything would be okay.

I met with my primary physician yesterday to discuss the results of my heart tests. On Tuesday I took a stress/echo cardio test and was told that it was 'normal.' The abnormal rhythms (ventricular bigeminy) were only happening while I was at rest. Once on the treadmill and exercising it went away. And no blockages found in my heart and that structurally it appeared that my heart was normal. So that was the good news. Somehow I knew though that what was of more concern would be the results of the holter monitor that I wore for 48 hours last weekend - it would capture every heart beat of mine in a 48 hour window and would be able to tell doctors just how often my heart was going into these abnormal rhythms. So yesterday morning I met with my doctor. I've been seeing her for 10 years now and we have a great rapport ... as she comes into the office and sits down she looks at me and says, "I got a copy of your holter monitor report from the heart center. You have a zillion irregular beats! ... okay, thousands!" She knows I always joke around with her. I ask for a copy of the report. She returns with the summary page and says, "I knew it was a lot and was thinking it was 5,000 irregular beats, but I was off by a zero. You had 53,670 irregular beats in a 48 hour period and a majority of them were ventricular bigeminy (meaning every other beat ) ... and you also have some couplets and triplets where these irregular beats are in succession." She goes on to tell me that I need to followup with a cardiologist and most likely an electro physiologist (a cardiologist who specializes in the electrical portion of the heart). Occasional irregular heart beats is common and nothing to worry about, she says. Mine, however, is pretty severe. Essentially, my heart is beating from the 'wrong' place (starting at the ventricle) almost every other beat. She said it is what's causing why I some times feel light headed and need to sit down. It's also what's causing the palpitations and probably waking me up in the middle of the night. It's also why my hands and feet are cold as the blood isn't being pushed through my body efficiently; it's probably also what's causing my fatigue. She says that she would want to know that with this level of severity of ventricular bigeminy does that put me at higher risk of ventricular tachycardia (which could then lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death)? I confess to her that I've learned to adjust to the symptoms of palpitations, fast heart beat and light headedness and have simply brushed it off in the past. Until I know more about what's causing the electrical problem in my heart I know I need to be more diligent about not only noticing my symptoms but not disregarding them. I assured her that if I felt chest pain, shortness of breath or even if something just didn't feel right, that I would call 911 or get myself to an emergency room.

So for whatever reason my heart is not functioning 'normally'. The two suspicious lesions found on an MRI remain in my left breast and the MRI biopsy is on hold now until my heart issues have been resolved or at least understood and I get clearance from a cardiologist. In many ways i've mentally and emotionally prepared myself for the big 'C' word ... Cancer .... I hadn't really thought about the possibility that my heart would simply give out. I guess the reality is, we never know when it will be our time, but I admit that I am much more aware of it right now as I feel the palpitations in my heart. I hear my doctor's words at Mayo as we were talking about cancer ... "we don't really know what sets of cancer." I hear the words of the doctor in ER last Friday, "we don't really know what triggers someone's electrical heart patterns to shift."

For now I am simply grateful for every new day I have. I meet with a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute on Tuesday morning and will know more about what is going on with my heart and what are the next steps/tests I need to take.

I can feel the unconditional love of Ahnung, Missy and Mister as they wrap their paws around my heart. I feel the support and love of friends, family, health care practitioners and community.

I choose to live life fully and to risk loving, falling in love and having my heart broken. Because if today, or tomorrow were to be my last day I want to know that I gave it my all and that I loved with reckless abandon and that I lived a life of passion and purpose.

and to my sweet Ahnung, Missy and Mister ... thank you for carrying me in your heart :)

i carry your heart

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-- ee cummings

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