It’s a quiet visitor, coming by night or day. It doesn’t like giving notice, for why should one be able to prepare. Well, actually, one can’t prepare. Perhaps knowing it’s coming would be worse. Actually most of us know it will come again. It’s pretty unsettling. Knowing that it may and probably will come again. It’s hard, sometimes, to not live in constant fear. Fear of it coming, fear of not really knowing what it means when it does come, because no one can tell us what it means. Take nitro and if it doesn’t get better in five minutes take another nitro and call 911. But I’ve been told that if nitro doesn’t work it means it’s not heart related. So what if the nitro works? What the fuck does that mean? Does it mean it was something serious and so I should go in. Or should I go home and try and forget cause now it doesn’t hurt. Ask ten different doctors and you’ll get many different answers. So comforting. And it comes whenever. Like today. I’m feeling like I’m finally back on my feet, the happiest and most relaxed I’ve been in years. Out of the blue, there it is.
That fucking chest pain.
So I start the mental checklist. Am I having upper back pain too cause I had that when I had my heart attack? Oh wait, but I get the same upper left sided back pain for other reasons. So that doesn’t help. Am I short of breath? Nauseous? Dizzy? Have any jaw pain? No but then I didn’t have any of those either when I had my heart attack. So how do I know? I don’t. Do I go in anyways? Well I’ve had four false alarms since my heart attack. The first two times were after I had my stents placed cause no one bothered to tell me I’d still have chest pain and no one bothered to tell me the heart meds they put me on would make me feel like shit. And then there were two other times.
When you go in for chest pain, they don’t just listen to you and you’re on your way. You’re in there for at least 8 hours so they can do a sequence of labs. And what do I do with my son? He gets so scared when I go in. Of course he does. And the best thing I can do for him if I’m not sure is to go in so I can stay alive. But if it’s a false alarm do I want to go in for an entire day and scare him over nothing? Listening to other survivors, unexplained chest pain is one of our symptoms. So I take a Xanax and breathe and am over hypervigilant about every fucking symptom. And I let a friend know just in case I change my mind and need someone to take my son. And yes my family knows where I keep my will and trust.
People say I’m so brave and good for me that I’m taking off on an extended trip with my son. I have to. I want to spend time with my son. I want him to have memories of me. The research is relatively new but the recurrence rates suck. A couple of people had the nerve to tell me that a 20% recurrence rate wasn’t that bad. I have no history of heart disease in my family. I finished Ironman twice. I have low cholesterol and my arteries look great. I know because I’ve had a camera travel through them. I don’t want to let fear drive my life. I don’t want to sit and wait around for another event. I want to explore the world with my son. And then I have chest pain and I’m terrified. What happens when this happens, and it most likely will, when I’m on another continent, away from my support network? When a friend can’t reach out and give me a hug. When I have to sit by myself with my nitro and my Xanax and hope it’s another false alarm. I’m scared. It won’t stop me from going but today I’m scared.
PS: I wrote this a few days ago and all is well.