My heart has decided to help me take my mind off of… well, my mind.
Yesterday was a real bummer. I had a routine visit with my primary care doctor and got a rude wake up call. Actually it was more like a delayed realization, which is worse than a recovered memory.
For more than a year now I’ve been struggling with shortness of breath upon exertion. As think about it, I’ve probably had some issues with this for several years, but it’s gotten much worse.
During the last quarter of 2021 I spent weeks and months on a medical merry-go-round trying to find out why I got dizzy whenever I looked up. Thanks to Medicare and my private insurance I saw waaaayyy too many specialists. A neurologist, an orthopedic doc, ophthalmologist, otolaryngologist, urologist, pain doctors and my first cardiologist.
I had so many scans and tests performed that I eventually just said Fuck It and tuned out. Life was not being kind to me. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, I was administering chemotherapy for Cushing’s Syndrome to my dog, Bella, who died in February.
Three months later Michael and I went to Mexico to enjoy the first vacation we’ve had in more than a decade, and had an incredible time with José, a delightful young man I had met online from Colombia. We were exploring possibilities for moving and living to another country.
I told myself that I was going to choose to Live, not just spend the rest of my life being a patient.
The summer has been spent finally completing some long-overdue remodeling projects, like a new kitchen and flooring in the front rooms. Two months ago, we started painting the house. Our home has never looked better. It is the only asset we have left to help us finance our retirement… or whatever this stage of life is called.
Life was still very complex and we took some big financial risks, but there were more reasons for hope and optimism than for dread.
Life was good. And still is. But the road is never smooth for long. Our entire household was hit by COVID in July and it was not kind to me. I very nearly went to the ER with a severe cough and other symptoms. I have never fully recovered from the fatigue and lethargy, and still have a persistent dry cough. The most activity I’ve been able to muster lately is a walk around the block.
After complaining to my doctor about shortness of breath, she started digging through various reports in my medical file, while muttering to herself about her needing to get to other patients. Everything was fine. “You’re a healthy young man,” she keep telling me in her heavily accented voice. I only note the accent because I’m also growing quite deaf, and between masks and hearing aids that are past due for adjustment, it’s almost impossible for me to follow normal conversations in English these days. I imagine trying to function in a Spanish language country, as I study on Duolingo!
Apparently I wasn’t able to understand the cardiologist very well back in December, either. That, or I had simply shut down and tuned out. “The patient has a dilated cardiomyopathy with a left ventricular ejection fraction of 45%,” he reported. Only in hindsight now do I think I remember being told then that I have “heart failure.” He spent maybe five minutes with me and sent me off with a prescription. No scheduled followup, though he noted we needed one, according his notes in my chart, which I hadn’t seen until now.
As strange as it may sound, I’m thinking I must have just obliterated this news and entered a silent zone. At least that’s what my current recovered memory is telling. I took the prescribed beta blocker for a few days and quit it. I hated the way it made me feet, and a familiar aversion to prescription drugs took over.
Denial has always been an important part of my life. I swear it’s probably the reason I’m still alive and a “healthy young man”—with heart failure. But there comes a time when I have to try to find a reality I’m willing and able to face.
I resumed taking the metoprolol last night and have started taking lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor. Doc is referring me to a different cardiologist.
Just as I was preparing to finally be able to quit taking pills for HIV, thanks to newer injectible formulations of antiretrovirals, I see my pill case starting to fill up again. Words can’t do justice to the mental trauma that causes me. If I haven’t made it clear yet, I HATE prescription drugs. Doctors nearly killed me years ago by over-prescribing medications.
It’s weird that I seem to need medical crises in my life to compel me to refocus on trying to just be healthy. Since Monday I’ve been in the kitchen more than any other part of the house, preparing baba ganoush, fresh homomade salsa, tuna salad and other foods to try to lose weight and reduce uric acid.
Oh, I forgot to mention gout? My bad. Another pill for that.
I’m using a calorie app to track my diet; reduced my consumption of meat; and so far have managed to not drink bourbon for two days in a row! Yeah… that’s another problem I have. I love my fucking bourbon. Shoot me. Oh, wait, I’m killing myself, so you don’t have to shoot me.
In the midst of this mess, I’m also ignoring the “other” diagnosis regarding changes to my brain. Read my earlier posts.
Denial. I’ve got it bad again.
I’ve had one major item on my bucket list for a few years now, and it is my motivation for all other goals, like losing weight and maintaining muscle mass. If I don’t accomplish it soon, it probably ain’t gonna’ happen. I really, Really, REALLY want to visit Colombia (the country, not Columbia!) while I still can. I’m not even sure I care if I make it back or not, to be honest.