The Heart of the Matter…

For the past two weeks I’ve been paralyzed.  I haven’t run.  I haven’t written.  There has been a high volume static sound in my head that has made it hard for me to focus or communicate or think.  Fear is an immensely powerful emotion.

I’ve been very open here on my blog about the fact that I just turned 40.  I’m fine with 40 – because 40 is a number and my reality is that I am in the best physical shape of my life; eating clean and feeling amazing.  So I thought it might be a good time to benchmark my health with a physical.  That way, when I am 50 I can measure how much MORE awesome I am compared to 40.  Ha!

So off I go. To the lab.  To the doc.  The nurse does the pre-physical run-through which incudes taking my height, weight, blood pressure and an EKG.  The doctor comes in and we chat.  She reads me the lab results which she exclaims are fantastic.  So good, in fact, that she tells me I should frame them.  Everything is just where it should be, if not better.  My internal cheerleader shakes her pom-poms.

The doctor shuffles her papers and pulls out the EKG reading.  She looks at it for a beat, then holds it higher and closer to her face and looks at it for two more.  She clears her throat quietly and announces that there is an ‘issue’ with my EKG.  A red flag.  She runs her index finger across a line about 2/3 of the way down the page, from left to right.  She traces a single valley and peak that shows up nearly in the middle of the line.  She begins to talk fast or maybe my brain switches to slow motion because I can only pick up a few words she says.  Myocardial Ischemia.  Those two I hear.  But they don’t mean anything to me at all.  When her words and my brain start matching up again in real time, I ask her to repeat it; define it.  “It’s an indicator that there is a blockage or that a heart attack is imminent.”

I can’t hear the rest of what she says over my heart beating in my ears.  She takes my blood pressure and it is alarmingly high.  She furrows her brow at me but doesn’t comment.  Silently she writes out an order for an echocardiogram and hands it to me.  When she looks into my eyes I imagine she sees sheer panic, because she puts her hand on my arm and says ‘it may be nothing.  This may just be ‘YOUR NORMAL’.  But we have to check it out.  I’ll call you with the results.”

I float out of the office in a dream.  My life stops right there.  I’m in a frozen state for the next two weeks.

Your heart.  My heart – is there anything more important?  And yet I rarely think about it at all.  It’s there, beating away, day in day out.  Sometimes it races with excitement.  Sometimes it aches with sadness.  It soothes my daughter when she rests on her Mama’s chest.  But I don’t worry about it.  I don’t think about it – I just trust that it is doing its job.

But the second there might be something wrong with it, the trust evaporates.  It becomes an enemy.  The chink in my armor.  Each beat a reminder that life is precious and potentially fleeting.  The thought of running, or stressing it in any way at all, fills me with dread.  I being to move more slowly.  I age as I wait, and I feel years peeling off my life with each passing day.

The Echo is quick and painless, but I alarm the technician by crying uncontrollably when it is over.  It’s a mixture of anger and fear – a cocktail of emotion that produces body racking sobs in her exam room.  I try to tell her I’m too young for this and too healthy but the words are wrapped in tears, and can’t be understood.  She’s not allowed to tell me what she saw or give me any indications of the results, but she takes pity on me and tells me that she would not let me leave if she saw anything that indicated I was in trouble, or in danger.  And with that, she ushers me out.

I wait.  I wait and I worry.  And I don’t run a single step.  My blood pressure remains high, and my spirits low.

Finally, years later… or maybe just days… I get the call.  A chipper receptionist reports that she’s calling on behalf of the doctor to tell me that my results have come back completely normal.  Completely normal.  Completely normal.  The words swirl around in my brain and wash away the worry.  The world, which has been hazy and tilted on an axis for days, clears and rights itself.  My heart beats loud and strong in my ears, and I feel a flower of happiness and gratefulness bloom in my chest.  Completely normal.  And miraculously, so is my blood pressure. 120/80.

Health is paramount.  Without it, there is nothing.  Taking it for granted is easy, but so is appreciating it.  The poor health of my husband nearly 4 years ago was what fueled me to start my running journey, and my own scare has now given me the ability to appreciate it anew.  And I won’t take it for granted again.

Run.  It’s Completely Normal.



2 thoughts on “The Heart of the Matter…

  1. Ruby says:

    Casey – I just wanted to say your blog always inspires me when I have the chance to read it. I recently have made a commitment to get back into running after years of being too busy. When I start making excuses, a post from you will come up on FB or pinterest feed, and it kicks my butt back into gear. Thanks! If you ever have cardiologist questions, feel free to email Sandeep – that’s what he does ;). Glad to hear you are all clear. Ruby

    • Casey says:

      Ruby thanks for the kind words! And thanks for offering your husband as a resource… I hope I’ll NEVER need to reach out to him : ) Hope you are doing great.

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