My Broken Heart
A broken heart is the worst. It’s like having broken ribs. Nobody can see it, but it hurts every time you breathe. ~ Unkown
So I have a broken heart
I have images, papers, new medications and a full diagnosis to prove it. You see I have been diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve with regurgitation and more pressingly an ascending aortic aneurysm. What this effectively means is that I have weak spot in my aortic artery wall, kind of like that little balloon that happens on a bike tire. Mine measures at 4 centimeters, when it gets to 5 centimeters insurance will grant you the privilege of paying for the operation to get it fixed. So, yeah a broken heart.
Now I could paint this romantically and say that this happened when she left me. That the pain of losing her not only emotionally, but actually physically broke my heart. It makes for a romantic tale but likely this has far more to do with a birth defect I have. I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, essentially you have have three leafs on your aortic valve, for people like me, at some point in the developmental process mine either separated and fused back together or never separated to start. This for some reason can also lead to a weakening of the arterial wall and there it is the details of my broken heart and associated heart disease.
Now, it is a bit scary for sure, I’m at a risk for the weak spot rupturing. If that happens, I’ve got about 15 minutes to be in a trauma center or I painfully bleed out and die. To prevent that, I need to keep my blood pressure as low as possible, to exercise, to avoid any situations where I put excessive pressure on the artery. This would include things like like acute changes in my blood pressure, this can be caused by things like lifting heavy weights or lifting or exerting myself while holding my breath, This is a mistake people often make when they lift weights, especially bench pressing. So I need to be smart, I’m in good physical condition, I recently had a stress test where they pushed my heart rate to 190 bpm and I had good recovery time after. So I can still workout, hike and do almost all of the things I normally do including my upcoming adventure with a slight modification.
The Death of Machu Picchu
So, part of my plans on my next adventure were to hike Machu Picchu with my awesome friend Gail. However, the idea of hiking at elevation seems like perhaps an unnecessary risk. So I will be adjusting my plans but the adventure is still on and in fact I will likely be substituting a hike across Scotland in replacement for my time in Peru. Also, it likely means I get to do the Camino Primitivo in Spain before I head to Mexico for a few months.
There is definitely a good bit of anxiety in the diagnosis I received and I had a couple of really down days after I got it. A diagnosis like this forces you into heavy thoughts, it makes you think about how short and precious life is, what you still want to achieve, what kind of mark you will leave behind? In all honesty it makes you wonder if there is a point to it all and that’s a hard bit of contemplation to chew on, it’s a road I’ve been down before, just never with as much a feeling of immediacy. You have to remember that fear is a liar, you can’t live a life in fear, it will destroy your happiness and however much time I have, I want to be happy for that time.
But, those days have passed, I’m coping a little better everyday. You have to believe in yourself, and what you are doing with your life, hopefully you’ve connected to some kind of purpose. In Viktor Frankl’s book, A Man’s Search for Meaning, a really spectacular read, he really hits on the need for purpose in life. And if people could find purpose and happiness while prisoners in a concentration camp than my friends, what’s our excuse, if we can’t? That’s a bit harsh I realize, but it’s also the truth, a truth I’ve struggled with for some time.
Part of what gives my life purpose and meaning is this blog my friends, helping some of you find more happiness in your own lives. The notes I occasionally get to this effect are truly prized possessions and make me feel this work is worth doing. I hope my posts have in some way have helped you my friend and that you have happier days because of them. ~ Rev Kane