Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Recovery Day 24: Scared Shirtless

Well, maybe "shirtless" wasn't exactly the word I was looking for. But I wanted to maintain my PG rating.
As an aside: what on earth are " ... some thematic elements"? Well, it turns out that there is actually a Motion Picture Association of America definition of Thematic Elements

Anyway ...

Late last week, I had a negative and scary follow-up visit with a specialist cardiologist. He went over all of my recent medical records, and especially the report from my catheterization procedure of June 14. What I understand is that the doctor who implanted the stent in my right coronary artery also basically took a look around the other arteries of my heart while he was in there via angiogram. Apparently he saw and noted several more blockages in my coronary arteries, which is in itself depressing. But worst of all, he noted that one of those blockages (estimated at 40%) gives me a terrifying double-whammy: it's located in a spot that can't be fixed with a stent (main coronary artery), and if a clot forms there I'm a goner within minutes - because it's the main artery that feeds most of my heart. They call this a Widow Maker. Insert intense and loud curse words here.

He told me that I will need open heart surgery and at least a double bypass surgery "soon". I will be getting a second opinion of course, but I suspect that this is simply my reality now.

From his perspective, I might be able to run again, but only at low intensity and for short periods of time. He also said I'd probably never run a race again. I will confess that looking forward to specific races has been an integral part of what I've relied on to feel happy for over three decades. Thus, I need to re-configure my life quite a bit now, especially to come up with other things to look forward to, which seems so easy to type here but at the same time feels so challenging. Should that embarrass me? Perhaps. Running has been such a steady companion through all of the ups and downs of my adult life, maybe I came to rely on it too much. My challenge will be to reformulate my coping strategies and keep moving forward.
I'm a bit depressed. I would imagine plenty of you are familiar with that feeling. I think ever since I reached age 40 I've been joking with my peers about how it sucks to get old, but now it's not really much of a joke anymore is it? What matters most now is sticking around awhile to be here for my wife, my children, my family. Certainly that's more important than even the most-awesome race in the universe.

Meanwhile, I continue to do cardiac rehab 2-3 times per week and some easy cycling in between. I'm getting outside and feeling the air on my face. For example, I managed to get out on my road bike this morning for about 12 miles at a fairly easy cadence, keeping my heart rate down under 110 bpm. What's hard for me is the inevitable comparison to what I used to be able to do. Psychologically, I need to move away from "I used to be so much faster" to "man, am I glad to be here and to be able to smell the damn roses".

If you are facing challenges in your life (and really who doesn't face challenges?), I hope you will join me in determination to defeat defeatism.


  1. Doug I will continue to keep you in my prayers. I've enjoyed your writing since the 9th grade. And watching you run back then was always so refreshing.

  2. Hi Doug,
    Thanks for sharing your difficult times here. We have not met but more than once last year you went by me in the latter part of some trail races. I saw you were signed up for ATR and I thought I might have a chance to get even. When I did not see you in the results, I found your blog. Genetically these type of things run in my family and I think about it often. It would be extremely difficult for me to have to give up activities I have been doing many years. You have a great attitude and a lot to be happy for.
    Our family will keep you in our prayers.
    John Hopkins

  3. So scary. And I'm so sorry to hear this news. Feeling lost & upset are definitely not things to be embarrassed about -- seems like a totally normal reaction to me. You might even consider seeking some additional help to get you through this major life adjustment. Sending you all the best from NY -- lots of us cheering you on from here.

  4. Please don't call them "damn roses". I appreciate being able to smell mine each summer morning as I head off to a stressful day at work. I think they provide a tincture of anti-stress inoculation for the day. I just heard about your heart attack. I am grateful for your survival. It seems that the appreciation you have for your family and medical professionals provides an inoculation of strength against the scariness of the surgery you face. Stay strong.

    --- from a rose

    1. Rose - you are right, I should have written it as: " ... damned glad to be here and to be able to smell the roses". Or, as I've been putting it lately: "At least I'm here to complain about all of this". At any rate, IMHO what really matters is living and living well and loving sincerely, the rest is frosting.

  5. Doug having nearly kicked the preverbial bucket It sucks. It's like you hit 50 and the warranty runs out on the other hand like your self a life of running has given us good lungs and a heart that is used to abnormal lows and highs It's scary in the hospital you are running one day and the next you can't walk 2 feet But you are on the healing side and looking forward is the way to go And there is a bright side. You are now in a different running group A survivor
    Get well Kieran

    1. Nice to hear from you Kieran. Thanks for the thoughts. It's true, we're both in new categories now. And I suppose neither of us takes things for granted as much as we used to. I hope that all is well with you and your family. Hope to see you before too long.


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