Reality Bites…

As I read an email from my cardiologist this morning, my heart was racing…

Three years ago when I was diagnosed with a dilated aorta, it was the scariest time in my life, even more frightening than having a tumour removed from my thyroid (thankfully that turned out benign)! I remember thinking not my heart…that’s the organ that keeps you alive!!! Once we learnt more about it and my cardiologist, who is brilliant, educated us on what i was facing, although it took a while, I learnt to accept what I had without it doing my head in! Since then, I’ve had 4 echos and an MRI and for the first time since diagnosis my results have changed!

Each time I trek up to the Mater Cardiology Department, all I wait to be told is that my aorta hasn’t grown from 4.5cm. Every time they always give me the nod of reassurance, but yesterday they didn’t! I walked away for the first time feeling very overwhelmed and sick with worry. I was told my cardiologist would contact me with the results….

I went straight home and emailed him. The next 12 hours would be the longest 12 hours I’ve ever lived! When I woke this morning, I frantically checked my email – nothing! I went about my business got the kids to school and before I set out to do my groceries, I checked my email and there it was….”your aorta has measured bigger than last year’s results, it’s now 4.6cm!” I went from feeling confident to fragile….

Although its only a mm of growth, it’s growth and that’s a big deal when in three years it hasn’t grown at all, this is the first time I’ve had to deal with growth! I always had it in my head that because I was probably born with this condition, maybe this is just how my heart is meant to be formed. Now that it has dilated further, the reality of this condition has bitten me today. I’m now only .4 of a cm away from being categorised in the severe range…..I’m not going to lie, this scares the crap out of me!!!!

After some tears and lots of questioning myself – how’d I let this happen?? Oh and some retail therapy, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and will continue about each day like I’ve done for the past three years. Because the realty of it is; I know I’m doing everything I can to keep myself as fit and healthy as I can. I don’t smoke or drink, I regularly exercise, eat well and all of this contributes to me maintaining not only good physical health but my mental health is the best it’s ever been! I’ve felt so good for so long and haven’t let this condition get the better of me, but today it got the better of me. I never feel sorry for myself but there were moments of today where I felt alone in this bubble. This was until I thought about the fact that there are so many people around me who are worse off.

Tomorrow is a new day. I will start by waking feeling happy and appreciate what I have. I will continue to be in control of what I can be and leave it up to fate to control what I can’t . I will enjoy the small things in life that make me smile and laugh and most importantly I will continue to be the best mum and wife I can be to my party of 5. I will not let this little hurdle define or defeat me. I will continue to work hard each day in order for my heart not to deteriorate. But for now, right at this moment, I will enjoy the best cuddles in town….from the 3 babies who have stolen my heart!

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I AM the lucky one….

Three weeks ago I had my yearly echo and today I’m finally getting my results back! What a loooonnng three weeks it’s been. Hoping and praying that my results haven’t changed since I was diagnosed with a heart condition two years ago. All I want to hear today is that my aorta hasn’t dilated any further. I’ve worked hard this 12 months to maintain my fitness and weight loss, which gives me the best chance of keeping my blood pressure down. And have I lead a stress free life like I’m suppose to? As much as you can when you are a prep special Ed teacher and mother of 3 children who are 7,5 and 2!

As I sit here in the hospital waiting room I’m feeling sick and nervous. I was hoping that starting to write this blog would keep my mind occupied but it doesn’t completely stop me from feeling worried. I can’t believe another year has passed. It only feels like yesterday that I was here and another year before that, waiting in the same room. As I walked from the carpark to the Mater hospital and through the corridors, all the memories I’ve lived at this hospital come flooding back….birthing my three children, having a curette after my miscarriage, having half my thyroid removed and the biggest health challenge yet my heart! But with each memory lived the door was closed behind me, this door is different, it’s one that will stay open for the rest of my life. The Mater hospital will be a place I visit indefinitely……

Thankfully my name was called out about 15 minutes after I sat down, which was good as it didn’t give me much time to think! As I took a seat in my cardiologist’s office I felt calm and ready to hear whatever I was to be faced with. We had our usual discussion on how my health has been over the past year. He was happy with everything. My blood pressure was perfect and he is extremely impressed with my fitness and overall well being! AND the best news of all my heart is no worse than last year’s echo….to say I’m thrilled is an understatement!!!!!

As I thank god that I’ve made it through another year, I’m also so very thankful that I’m even aware of my heart condition. Each time I visit my cardiologist he reflects with me how lucky I was to have this picked up while pregnant with my third baby. It is unknown how or why my heart’s aorta is dilated, but he believes I was born with this condition and in most cases you are unaware until its too late. At this time of year I’m always brought to tears as to how different my life could have ended up if we didn’t have Mia…my angel baby!

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I will spend the rest of my life kissing this baby for saving me!!

Like so many people who are faced with health complications, some can be fixed and so many can’t. I feel so blessed that my condition is now known and I now have the chance to live a long healthy life! I AM the lucky one. Yes I have to live the rest of my life with a defect on the organ that keeps me alive, and yes I can’t do EVERYTHING I want to do from a physical perspective and therefore I must be extra careful and cautious, BUT no matter how I look at this situation I AM the lucky one and there are far more people worse off than me!

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So where to from here?…The next step in relation to my heart is to have an exercise stress test, to check to see what my blood pressure does while I exercise. Then I’ll be back to the hospital in March next year for my annual echo. I am to keep doing what I’m doing in terms of keeping fit and eating healthy and I have to keep as stress free as I can. I could lye down and not move and rap myself up in cotton wool, but that’s one: not a life and two: not realistic! I don’t look at this as I’ve been given a death sentence, I look at this as I’ve been given a second chance. A chance to take the best care of myself. And I will spend the rest of my life giving myself the best chance to live a long, healthy and happy life with my beautiful family.

Today I feel blessed. I feel like I can keep going for another year. I feel free again for a while. Free to live, free to love and free to enjoy the simple things in life! Cheers to my heart!

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