Tag Archives: Fear

Live Fully Now

z0auawqqI’ve been on an Alan Watts kick lately. There are endless YouTube videos of his lectures in which he imparts his wisdom and gift of words upon us. Here is a short (3 minutes) clip of one of his talks where he discusses the importance of living fully now, in this moment.

As heart surgery patients, the reality of our own mortality is thrust upon us. This becomes clear in the days leading up to the surgery. The fear can be crippling. After a successful surgery & recovery, that fear lingers. We are afraid so we worry about potentially dying one day. No amount of worry will prolong the arrival of death! In fact, the stress could possibly make it happen sooner.

I’ve made one mistake over and over, especially after my heart surgeries. Because of this near death experience, I have it in my mind that I need to do something greater with my life. There really isn’t anything wrong with that, except that it has become a desperate and flailing search. By constantly planning or deciding things that I should do to improve my life, I am forgetting to enjoy my life, now. There is no future, only now.

Watch The video below.

 

Reaching Out: On Hypochondria

Some of the following words have an air of irony to them, but they are worthwhile nonetheless. I received the following email before my emergency surgery and was meaning to post it. I’ve actually received many emails like it from other BAV patients. Our stories are often similar. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone to share your story.

Hi Anthony,

I found your blog recently and was struck by how similar our cases are. My name is Elliott, I’m a 27 year old East Coast (MD) transplant west (Chicago). I was diagnosed with a BAV when I was 4, had echocardiograms every year but only just had my first MRI and found out about my aortic aneurysm in the last week — 4.8 cm (I’m 6’4, 220#). I enjoyed powerlifting for the past 4 years and my cardiologist, like yours, wasn’t thrilled to hear about my intense workouts. The cardiologist and I decided to wait on another set of MRI results later this year to see if the aorta’s changing and decide if surgery is the next step (it’s a when, not if with surgery). No more heavy weights, no grunting.

First, congratulations on what sounds like a very successful surgery. I admire your determination, it sounds like that’s a big reason for your quick recovery. I had inpatient chest (note: sternum/ chest surgery, not heart) surgery 7 years ago and I remember clearly that it was my determination to get out of bed, to get on my feet that got me on the path to being stronger than I was even pre-surgery. You’re on your way to being stronger than ever.

Second, a question for you. I remember something you said in a blog post about overcoming your hypochondria. Can I ask how you worked through and overcame that fear? That’s my main problem right now. Until my physician shared my MRI results and prognosis with me via voicemail last week (he shouldn’t have), I never suffered from hypochondria or medical fears. Since, I’m aware of every twinge in my chest, every slightly-shallow breath, any hint of faintness. Meeting with my cardiologist today helped, but it seems like whenever I’m not working on something or otherwise distracted, I’m hyper-aware of my body and I’m fearful of dissection . Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this fear?

Again, congratulations, and thank you for putting together the blog. You’re a talented writer with the gift of brevity. I look forward to hearing back from you,

-Elliott

Dear Elliot,

Thank you so much for the kind words! I have received many emails by fellow BAV patients. A good percentage of the people that email me are young males, like ourselves. I think we tend to take it pretty hard. Our masculinity is all of a sudden threatened. The idea of being weak is very scary. Luckily for you and I, we have known about our BAV since childhood, which at least gives us some heads up. It is particularly hard for those who are surprised by the diagnosis and the need for surgery at some point in their 20’s or 30’s.

My hypochondria has gotten much better since my surgery. Leading up to surgery, I had a few instances of imagined emergency. I went to the ER one evening because i totally imagined up an aortic dissection. Like you, I was also very fearful of dissection. I wish I had a good suggestion for dealing with fear. Leading up to my surgery, I was very fearful. The best suggestion I can offer is to ‘get it out’ somehow. For me, my blog is what helped me deal with my fluctuating emotions and fears. Being able to talk [write] truthfully about what was going on in my brain and heart was extremely therapeutic. My suggestions for you would be to somehow get your thoughts off of your chest: Blog, write in a private journal, write an email every week to a friend or relative (or me), Set up a weekly coffee meeting with someone, talk to a therapist, or participate in discussions on the online forum valvereplacement.org.

Some good news that I can tell you is that after your surgery is over with, most of those fears go away. That dark cloud of uncertainty will have dissipated. Even immediately after my surgery, when I knew I had a 3-month recovery ahead of me, I knew that the worst was over. If your doctors recommend surgery sooner rather than later, then I would suggest listening to them and do the damn thing. The sooner it is over, the sooner you can get back to powerlifting.

Also, I cannot stress how important it is to have a support system of friends and loved ones. Though they may not understand what you are going through, their support will be critical. If possible, bring them to your appointments and let them help you. I am so thankful for my parents, girlfriend, and friends during that time.

Best of luck with all of your future meetings with cardiologists and surgeons. Record the audio of your appointments and ask lots of questions.

Your Bicuspid Bud,
Anthony

I’d like to close this post with  quotes from two wise individuals:

yoda-fearlama fear

Warm-heartedness for Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

The internet is full of rants. Perhaps this will help tip the balance.

I’m thankful for my health. You heard me. Despite the fact that I need major surgery, everything else is working swimmingly. This will help my recovery, I hope.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama discusses how fear and anger are connected, and how these feelings can affect the physical body. I have been aware of this for the past few years, and it has been an ongoing process to improve. One should not feel bad for being afraid, however the more we can let go of these fears, the more anger we can also release. ohmmmmmmm…

I’m also thankful for my Mother, and Natalie

Writing Prompt taken from: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/daily-prompt-thanks/

Just an Update

The Margarita Throwdown Winners!

The Margarita Throwdown Winners!

I haven’t posted in a while. Work started a few weeks ago, so I’ve been super busy starting the year off right with a new group of 8th grade science students. I’ve been continuing my workout plan, so cycling, climbing, and light weightlifting/ core workouts, all while keeping my heart rate under 140 BPM. In addition to keeping my heart rate under 140, I also make sure that I do not ever strain. With weightlifting, it is easy to be straining under too much weight and still have your BPM low, so I must manage both. BTW, when I say light weightlifting, I really mean light. I have always been more into light weight, high rep anyway.

Bike BBQ/ Inland Empire Bicycling Alliance Margarita Throw-down Victory! Redlands is graced with a pretty cool cycling scene. Behind Augie’s Coffee Shop (where I write most of my posts) is Bike BBQ, a place where people can use tools and seek expertise from volunteers on how to fix and maintain their bikes. They even sell bikes/ parts for a very good price. These two cycling organizations threw a contest where cyclist teamed up with bartenders and used stationary bike-powered blenders to make margaritas. I am proud to say that my bartender friend Bryan Bruce (From Caprice Cafe in Redlands) and I won with a very interesting jalapeño/black sea salt/pineapple foam Margarita concoction. Check out the video at the bottom of the post to see how it went down. The quality isn’t too good, but you’ll get the idea.

Inner Evolution Yoga: My friend Phil owns Inner Evolution Yoga in Redlands, CA. We used to climb a bit together. When he opened his studio a few years ago I helped him paint the ceiling. I even worked there for 2 weeks as the front desk guy while he was away on a retreat. When Phil read my blog and saw what was up with my life right now, he gave me 10 passes to his studio. Yoga is a fantastic form of exercise that will also aid me in breathing and relaxation techniques that will be very useful leading up to my surgery. Thanks Phil, and if any of my readers live near Redlands, check out his studio.

False Alarm: The other day I had a little false alarm. I had a sudden onset of a sore throat thursday afternoon, and being the researcher/ hypochondriac that I am, I googled it and found this article, and this one too. In my head I understood that the chances of an aortic dissection with only a sore throat as a symptom is possible, yet extremely rare. I also knew that if it was a dissection, and I ignored it, I would die. As I was freaking out, some people said, relax it’s nothing, others said that I should go to the ER just in case, and I just didn’t know what to do. I realized that If I didn’t go to the ER, I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I just drove myself to the ER thinking that I’d be home by midnight if everything was okay, and that’s exactly what happened. It is a little embarrassing that I freaked out so much. I did learn about how Aortic Dissection can be diagnosed with a blood test called D-Dimer. Really interesting actually. This is what they did for me. The other option is a CT scan, which subjects the body to a large amount of radiation. I’m calling this experience ‘My Dry Run’.

Fear or: The Waiting Room

Wherever I read about receiving heart surgery, the people who have gone through it always say the same thing; the hardest part is waiting, and life is better on the other side. Trusting these individuals can make things easier, however this is a hard thing to do. I’ve never met anyone in my situation outside of the Internet. They are correct though. The time leading up to surgery, nicknamed ‘The Waiting Room’, is a scary place. But what am I afraid of? The data is on my side. Science, technology, and the experience of my doctors and surgeons are behind me. So what is the fear? The fear is of the unknown. I am nervous about the pain of course, about being weak, and all that. But I am afraid most of what I don’t know. It is hard to feel out of control. I must place my life and my trust into the hands (LITERALLY) of another human being. He will be a pilot, and I will be a sleeping passenger…
HOOOKAY, that was dramatic. Glad I got that out of my system!
Good news to report: I’ve been cycling with my heart rate monitor on, and it is quite easy for me to ride as much as I want while keeping my BPM well under 140. I rode 25 miles the other day while averaging 122 BPM. I peaked at 140 exactly and was able to slow down and bring it immediately down while going up a big hill. When I get the hang of my workout app Digifit, I will post results.

P.S. since I created this blog, I have received many messages of support and love from my family, friends, and strangers. Thank you all so much. People like this matter:

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Cheers!
Anthony