Annette is a 42-year old Pennsylvania artist, teacher and mother of two kidlets (10 and 6 years of age). In August of 2010, after returning home from a run, she suffered her first cardiac symptoms: “a tired I never felt before along with shortness of breath, chest tightness/pain, low blood pressure and low heart rate.” Since then, she’s been volleyballed about by cardiologists, an infectious disease specialist and a rheumatologist – until finally arriving at the diagnosis of Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction.
Annette’s now being treated for this small vessel disease by specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and considers this diagnosis to be her “major health issue.” She admits:
“It feels like life as I am used to is a memory. So I am trying to use my time to learn the practice of meditation and use the time (during the day when I have energy) wisely.”
I’m sharing this recent back-to-school essay from Annette today – with her kind permission:
” School’s In! – EVERY Day!
“I saw an adorable photo of an owl and his heart shaped face. It reminds me of how wise you need to be about your heart and health in general. Where does this enlightenment come from?
“You need to be aware every day of all you do.
“Over time, you become wise on how to respond to your body’s reactions. This is true in every aspect of living. You must be aware of body, mind and spirit.
“In chronic illness, you need to be extra sharp on the things that work and do not. It is only through time that you know yourself well. You learn to expect certain symptoms or repercussions from an action or non-action.
“Yes, in life there are still unpredictable things, perhaps this is why the learning never ends. Things change. Your response to situations, emotions, medications and how you treat yourself is rarely a static event. What should not change is your eyes and ears being open to anything new or important, and then shifting focus to adjust.
“The diagnosis is just the beginning. You must keep learning.
“Work hard and never settle for mediocre when you know you can do better. It IS challenging. It IS sometimes late nights cramming, pop quizzes and lots of research papers. Be sure to make the time for recess. Play when you can to recharge and jump back in.
“I know . . . when is the longer holiday from this? Sorry. No real break from learning in life. Every day asks you to participate. You will gain discernment and feel more in control from the knowledge of your past experiences. Build on them. They are good tools to help you deal with this never ending fight.
“Life is in session whether you are up and moving, in bed and healing or able to do some of both. It is in all of the good and bad and even the so-so.
“Oh, wow! Look at the time. Class has begun!
“May every day teach you what you need to make the next one better or hold on until it can be. As Mahatma Gandhi said:
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
“Love and light all around!”
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote more about common cardiac meds (and managing side effects) in my book “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease“. You can ask for it at bookstores (please support your local independent bookseller!) or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon – or order it directly from my publisher Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN to save 30% off the list price).
Q: Do you share Annette’s patient experience with lifelong learning?
Annette’s helpful Facebook page about Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction
Annette’s guest post called “Is Your Bra Too Tight” – A Poem For Heart Patients”