How perfect that I fall victim to a writing prompt via wordpress. The irony is that I assign such work almost daily to my students.
More and more, I’ve been wishing that my surgery date was sooner. More irony. Previously I wished it away into the distant future. Now, i feel that the anxiety leading up to it must be worse than the surgery itself. The last part of the six word story is “LIVE“. I just want to put this behind me so I can get on with life. I am very excited about life ‘on the other side’. I plan on livin’.
Which leads me to a relevant lesson taught to me by a Bruce Lee JPG (click pic to read).
It is just really incredible (and strange) that, so far, this has been one of the most positive experiences of my life. I know there is a hard road ahead of me, But I can also see some rewards up ahead as well. I have many ideas that I can’t wait to explore and share with you.
I’ve entered an awkward time. As an 8th grade science teacher, a new school year is typically an exciting time, filled with new ideas and expectations. Luckily, despite the fact that my thoughts are occupied by heart surgery, I still have that same excitement. Still, I sometimes fear that I’m not focusing on preparing for work as I should be. That fear, just like many of my fears of heart surgery, are fueled by the unknown and anxiety. My amazing girlfriend came with me to school to help me set up and decorate my classroom. My incredible mother bought me a Juicer because she knows I want to eat healthy. I have a strong support network, and I will be ready. Tomorrow is the first day of school. My approach this year: To have so much fun. This year is a wonderful opportunity for me as a teacher. We will be implementing the new standards, which means more labs, hands on activities, and technology. In order for me to balance recovery and work, I must embrace the chaos of both, relax, and have fun with it. I plan to come out on the other side a better teacher, friend, climber, cyclist, yogi, person.
Non-heart valve post: I had a great reminder of why I love my job today. I was listening to my favorite show, StarTalk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and it happened to be one of his shows that he answers questions taken from his fans via Facebook & Twitter. Well last school year, my 5th period honors class submitted a question, and it ended up on the show! Listen to the whole thing or just fast forward to 30:00 to hear our question! http://www.startalkradio.net/show/cosmic-queries-dark-matter-and-dark-energy/
Let’s start of with a little background on how this all began. When I was a child, my pediatrician heard a heart murmur in my chest. He referred me to a specialist, and after some imaging, I was diagnosed with Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV). I went back every 4 years for checkups and until recently I was always told that I would be over 50 years old when I would need surgery, if I needed it at all. I’ve been secretly hoping for advances in human organ teleportation technologies, but alas we are many years off on that one. I lived my life with little anxiety about it. I went to college and got a job. I moved to California from New Jersey and got different jobs. I became a teacher and finally got health insurance. I went back to the cardiologist, who told me that my heart condition got worse and that I would need surgery in 2-5 years.
That was 2011. I kept doing my thing. I continued to rock climb as hard as I could. I love bouldering and sport climbing. More to come on that soon. I bought a new road bike (Cannondale Supersix) and rode hard. I tend to push myself. I went back to my Doctor every 6 months and my stomach would be in a twist until I heard from her after each echocardiogram. Each time, everything remained stable. Until last month. I received a CT scan for the first time. CT scans are better at revealing Aortic Aneurysms than echocardiograms. The scan revealed that I have a 4.6 cm Ascending Aortic Aneurysm. This is commonly associated with BAV, or can exist by itself. When a person with BAV also has a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm, it is usually time to operate. Too many risks at once. I met with a surgeon to see what he thought. He told me that it was up to me, but if it were him, he would get it ASAP. This is a video of me when I found out that I needed Heart Surgery:
So here I am. The wheels are in motion. Things are happening. This is actually going to happen. It is no longer a dark thundercloud in the distance. The surgery will happen soon. The thing that I have been wishing away will be coming, soon. SOON.
My surgeon told me to keep my heart rate down in the meantime. I bought a heart rate monitor and intend to continue exercise to my heart’s content. It will be a challenge to rock climb and attack big hills on my bike while keeping my BPM under 150. I’ve been using a cool app called Digifit, which is highly customizable. I can do this. After the surgery, I will climb hard again. I will not allow this to change my lifestyle. Soon I will post my goals and intentions.
What’s on the horizon? I have to get to the dentist to clear my mouth of any possible cavities (mouth bacteria can infect the heart valves under stress before & after surgery). I am continuing my exercise routine with some caution. A new school year is coming soon. I gotta start planning!