RDP #23 – I HAVE A HEART — Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #23 –  HEART

I have a heart.

Everyone (living) has one. These days, the issue is whether or not it works like it ought to. You know, compassion. Caring, love, concern. That stuff.

Mine is a little more complicated. I have two replaced heart valves – mitral and aortic. I also had a myocardectomy involving removing an oversized muscle in the left ventricle which had grown exponentially because the mitral valve wasn’t working. There was also a bypass and implanting a pacemaker.

A fantastic amazing wonderful heart surgeon.

After they opened my chest, it never properly healed. This has made full-scale recovery difficult. There’s nothing that can make the chest heal if it doesn’t want to.

Sometimes, injuries don’t heal. They should, but for some reason, don’t. The medical team will tell you it will, but it depends on your body’s ability to recreate cartilage. Your chest isn’t solid. It’s a mobile design so you can breathe.

Until my chest didn’t heal, I had no idea how many different parts of my body were connected to my chest.

I didn’t know there was anything wrong with my heart except for that annoying murmur I’d had since I was a child. I knew I was out of breath often, but I was still recovering from a recent bi-lateral mastectomy (cancer), so I wasn’t at my peak. Whatever my peak might be. I’m not sure I’ve been at a peak for years. Like maybe 15? Or maybe never?

Note the dog hair. It makes it “smell right” …

Anyway, they told me that after all this repair work was done, I would feel MUCH better. Except my heart wasn’t bothering me. It’s my back that really kills me.

Four years later, I feel better. I’m 7 years past cancer and almost four years post heart surgery and I’m gradually becoming human. Unfortunately, I’m also 7 years older which, at my age, is a not an inconsiderable difference. You don’t bounce back from surgery the way you did when you were younger.

Nonetheless, I am better. I haven’t been sick except for a cold and a stomach virus and they only lasted a few days. What’s left is a woman with a badly damaged spine, a seriously screwed up digestive system, two fake breasts, and a redesigned heart.

As for the digestion, acid reflux, left untended for a lifetime, can make a mess of your innards. If you have a reflux problem, you might want to deal with it before it deals with you.

Now, speaking of my heart, I have one. No small miracle, that. My pacemaker is metal, so I can’t have an MRI … which for some reason the medical staff of my local hospital refuses to believe, even though it’s not as if I have a reason to lie about it.

Also, to go with the spine, I have fibromyalgia. Spinal arthritis (there was a surgery involved there, too) is bad and fibromyalgia goes with serious arthritis like the horse goes before the cart.  I deal with it. I deal with everything. There’s so much to deal with sometimes, I wonder how I find time to deal with anything else.

Weirdly, you get used to it. Impossible though it seems, you learn when you are going to have a bad day. On those days, you rest. Listen to audiobooks or read. Process photographs. You do not go for long walks or explore the wilds.

I also understand that even had I not had such a long run of ill-health, I would be getting on in years, so I’d be dealing with something. It’s just one of those things. A few people enjoy brilliant health from birth to the end. Others of us? Not so much.

For all that, I do feel better. I can walk. I have some kind of MS that mostly affects my eyes but is in remission. I don’t seem to have any sign of renewed cancer. I had it twice so I’m hoping that was all of it.

There’s not much more they can do to my heart except change the battery in the pacemaker and no surgeon wants to do anything to my back. As long as I can walk, no one will touch it.

I have a heart. It works. It’s extraordinary what they can do to fix us these days.

Absolutely astonishing.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

12 thoughts on “RDP #23 – I HAVE A HEART — Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. Which goes to show that the heart can do it. My mum died of a heart attack at the age of 72, but it was her second. The first one was at home and she never bothered to call a doctor because she had a doctor psychosis or whatever you call it. She survived, but the second one happened on the street outside her house and she did not survive. My dad had a pacemaker, fixed at the age of about 85. 2 days before he died, he was already in pallative care, he was transported to the heart hospital on the other side of London to check on the pacemaker. I tried to stop this ridiculous journey, but was too late. If the pacemaker had been faulty would they have replaced it in the chest of a man 100 and 7 months old In England it is all done by the book and no-one bothers to read the book.

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    1. My mother had a phobia about doctors too, but eventually, she went. Sometimes, too late. I think if she went earlier with her cancer, it might have been fixed … but times have changed and there are a lot of better treatments now than there were back then — 55 years ago, come to think of it.

      For my heart, I had one very bad doctor and one very good one. I went with the good one and ignored everyone else. If I’d listened to the OTHER idiot, I’d be dead.

      They do the same idiotic stuff with pacemakers here, but you are allowed to say “NO” and make it stick. That is one of the few things that got passed for which we are all grateful. Unless you are totally deranged or in full dementia, no one can force you to do anything you refuse. James Garner (actor) ended his life when he refused to go in to get the battery changed in his pacemaker. He decided he’s had enough and everyone agreed.

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  2. My mother died from a heart attack at the age of 71. She lived with hypertension for many years (mainly the result of living with my dad). They wanted to do a bypass on her but she said no. Her thoughts were “we live too long” and maybe that’s true in some cases.
    Leslie

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    1. My mother refused final care for her cancer. She said she’d seen the x-rays and doubted there was anything they could do that would make her life better. So, at 72, SHE died. It’s not an unusual decision, either. I know when my mother was dying, I talked to her doctor who said his own mother had made the same decision and we have to honor it.

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        1. My mother said no and it stuck. Interestingly, they did a study on what treatments cancer doctors get if they get cancer … and the answer is none. Almost all of them turn it down. I think they know something we don’t know. I’m assuming it depends on what kind of cancer it is. Mine was very minor, relatively speaking.

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          1. Some cancers have a better prognosis. I do think they have made some head way in their research. However, I would decline chemo at this stage in my life. Just keep me comfortable.

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            1. There’s chemo and there’s chemo. Some of it is less lethal than others and there are MANY different kinds of cancer. Some less a less aggressive, some more aggressive. So you can’t say “no” without knowing what exactly is going on. Let’s hope you never find out. They’ve obviously made progress. I’m alive. And I had it twice.

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  3. Astonishing what the body can endure. It sounds like you’ve had your share, and probably more, of ill health…here’s to (at least) seven years of good (or reasonable) health for you!

    For myself? I often wonder if the increased life span of the human being is to blame for the severity of our health as we age. Maybe some of us aren’t designed to live well into our eighties or nineties. I’m hoping my time is up in my early 70s. But that’s up to someone else and way above my pay grade.

    My sympathies too.

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