2015 was the year I became a statistic. Here are some of the ways I try to keep my head in the game… and the key is emotional support.
If I’ve learned anything by putting on running shoes, going vegetarian, taking medications religiously, sitting on the floor on a pillow listening to myself breath, taking a step back from being “busy” when I can it’s that I’m not alone.
I was not alone when I sat in the hospital room before being wheeled into the Cardiac Wing. Nor was I alone when they wheeled me out of surgery high on Valium whereupon I high-fived the surgeon, sigh that actually happened, after he told me I had a Widow Maker with very little damage.
The folks at Grant Medical Center and the Cardiac Rehab staff equipped me with the care and information I needed to get started. I soon found out that most of us struggle with very real emotional issues after having a cardiac event. I was not unique in that department. So it was that I found community and friendship on the American Heart Association Support Group site. Those beautiful conversations and friendships help me to redefine life with a chronic condition in a way that makes it feel less, well, finite.
I’m not here to tell you what not to do. I make plenty of mistakes even as a vegetarian. There’s mountains of info out there on why we take medication, the benefits of reduced sodium and saturated fat diets, daily moderate exercise, stress reduction and so on. Less easy to quantify is the subtle impact of support, friendship and connection. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with others in our shoes, care givers and health providers daily choices become easier to make and sustain.
I’m fighting Cardiac Artery Disease but I have an Army behind me. You are never alone if you face your fears, open your heart, don’t let your ego shade your choices with the prejudices of your old self. The funny thing about opening up is that you get a chance to redefine your life as those friendships begin to put the wind back in your sails where it belongs. This holds true for my good buddy who can’t walk down to the street corner without suffering strong chest pain to the younger guy in his 30’s, Mark Poniatowski, with the same thing I have who, incidentally, puts my running times to shame.
So here’s to marching in step, every day, with all our various battles against heart disease. It’s OK to fall. Don’t beat yourself up. Never be afraid to reach a hand out and ask someone to give you a lift back up off the ground.
We are our own Army.