I have not been feeling good for quite sometime. Blaming myself perpetually for my bad habits or lack of self-care when honestly I try my very best a lot of the time. But, I finally now have the answers and pieces to the puzzle to move forward. Despite the serious diagnosis, I feel a deep calm in knowing that it is not my fault and deep gratitude for all the amazing things I do have in this little life of mine to live for. Writing this post today even has more value knowing it is National Women's Day. As Women we have for so many years taken the Back Seat, but Our Voices Do matter. Our Stories do Matter and Our Health does Matter. A huge reminder that we do need to be the advocates for the many Women of the World that still don't have that Voice.
Monday morning I awoke like any other day. But, things were still a little different after three clinic visits last week and no definitive answers to consistent swollen lymph nodes in my armpits and neck. Slight chest pains and tiredness. I also noticed my breathing worsening and any simple physical activity getting the best of me. Honestly I had secretly been dealing with this for sometime. It scared me, a cough that wouldn't go away. Not coughing just because I was sick, but a cough to push air I needed into my lungs. I chalked it up to smoking and being overweight. But, anyone that knows me in real time, knows that I had lost 100 pounds after being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2012. But, as of late I felt like I was still carrying around that weight again with how I have been feeling. Not good. Last week I even tried to go for a 20 minute walk and was so exhausted after getting back that I took a two hour nap. All huge warning signs that I couldn't shake. So, after Monday morning being so winded even after walking to the kitchen and downhill the driveway to go to work. I was really scared. My chest hurting significantly on my drive to work even as I was being sedatary. I decided it was time to go into the ER. Once at work, my amazing co-workers and assistant manager encouraged me as well to go in. They have been apart of this journey and have been so kind. My heart goes out to each and everyone of you! Thank you! Thank You.
Once at the ER, they got me in right away. Chest pains they take as no joke. After a couple hours and a Chest X-Ray. I was admitted to the Hospital for further observation. Initially they found my lungs and heart filled with fluid and initially diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. I will be honest this whole thing was very scary and I have a hard time allowing myself to feel that. But, I let me myself finally. I try to put on a good face, but all of this reminds me of how lonely I feel for not having my Mom around for stuff like this but the realization that I might not have her physically here, I have her in other profound ways. And the other beautiful souls that I call 'family'. Another reminder that I am not alone. Ever.
Time and Tests. The waiting game and the amazing care I was given. But, as anyone that has stayed in the Hospital. Knows it is nothing like home. It least there was the comfort and distraction of Old 70's/80's gameshows (As a kid when I would stay home sick I would watch them religiously) and Me TV vintage sit-coms. Then when I was awoken in the middle night, I would pray the Rosary to Mother Angelica (the spit fire nun you probably saw on extended cable as a kid). Finally in the morning I was given a Sonogram and about hour after the Physicians Assistant came in to give me the news. I honestly was expecting a confirmed diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure. My great Nurse Joe had explained it was not as scary as it sounds. Healthy habits and exercise could strengthan my heart muscle over time. But, instead it was Severe Mitral Valve Stenosis. Huh, what is that? It is narrowing of the hearts Mitral Valve (left one) and it is caused by an Infection called Rheumatic Fever- which is now very rare in the US, but more common in Developing countries. It is related to Strep Infections that go untreated. *Here is the Link to the Mayo Clinic's definition.
After she left my Hospital Room, I went and stared out the window. Wishing there was a door to stand out and breathe some fresh air outside and get in the car and drive. But, instead I put my hand on the cool window glass and stared outside with some crazy little tears streaming down my face digesting it all. Wondering when the hell I had Rheumatic Fever. Laughing to myself when she asked me if as a child I ever lived or visited a developing country. Nope. But, I did recall from the age of 14 to 15 getting strep a million times and often not telling my mom. I also remembered a time staying at my Grandmother's house for twos weeks the summer I was 15 and getting awfully sick and chalking it up to the Flu. Maybe that was it... it didn't matter now. I have it and there was this calm that came over me. Finally after all those years knowing what had been progressing and that it wasn't my fault. So, don't get me wrong I am scared and Thank God for faith. I do have faith that it is in God's hands and his timing. I am so grateful to has listened to my gut and went in. I am grateful that there is a plan and health professionals to help me through this process. And LOVED ones (You know who you guys are, thank you for the texts and calls).
What Now? Well, after talking with the Cardiologist and begging to be released from the Hospital (I am at home now). I will be taking medications until my heart surgery will be scheduled. It is a planning process until then. But, my Dr. says I will feel like a new person when my heart Valve is replaced. Honestly I am glad I have time to digest all this and really make the right decisions. I am sorry to write this in a blog post, but it truly helps me share with everyone I love. And as you all know writing helps me so much understand it myself:)