A Hard Reality to Face

It’s been a while since I have posted an entry only because I have been dealing with an issue for the past while that finally came to resolution last week and the news wasn’t great.   I’ll try to make a long story short:

About eight months ago I had an episode while swimming that caused major distress in my chest.  Basically it felt like I was going to pass out in the water and my heart rate took a long time to come back down, plus some other things.  Since then I have had some issues whenever I get my heart rate elevated, or run.  When I would lift weights after a while a jackhammer would be going off in my chest.  I could only run for about three minutes before I started to feel uncomfortable and lightheaded.  And this is from a guy who, two months prior ran a 5k in 21 minutes without any problem at all.  So off I go to the doctor.

Tests are all normal, except for the echocardiogram which showed a congenital heart situation in one of my valves (a bicuspid aortic valve), something called a dilated aortic root (which is big enough to be considered an aneurysm) and some mild regurgitation of blood back through the valve.  My doctor actually told me that I rocked the cardiac stress test at 10 minutes, not knowing that a few years ago I actually maxed it out and they just stopped it because I could have continued for a lot longer.  After doing some research into the condition, (and getting an appointment with a good cardiologist) the unfortunate conclusion basically means that if I do anything that elevates my blood pressure significantly, keeps my heart rate up high for a period of time or even puts serious pressure in my abdominal cavity I could be at risk of rupture and if that happens I’m pretty much dead.  Maybe not now, maybe ten, twenty, thirty years I could be fine – but it is always going to be hanging over my head.  And, if it continues to increase then I will need open heart surgery, a replacement valve and to be on meds for the rest of my life.  Whoopee.

So running fast speeds?  Done.  Lifting heavy weights?  Done.  High intensity sports pretty much of any kind?  Done.   Cycling sprints?  Done.  Swimming quickly?  Done.  Did I mention that I’m a personal trainer and endurance coach?  And that basically all of my personal fitness goals center around higher intensity?  After reading up on all this and looking at recommendations the only word I could think of started with an F and ended with something that rhymes with truck.

However, I also have a family to consider and my career.  I’m obviously not going to put my wife and family at risk just to complete a race.  If I can’t lift weights, I can find another way to stay strong.  I’ve just never been faced with something like this before, which is what makes it even more difficult.  Imagine if you were a baker and suddenly you were violently allergic to sugar.  Imagine if you were an auto mechanic and you couldn’t touch oil.  The one thing that runs through your mind instantly is that your life is pretty much over.

But your life is never over.  It changes day to day and week to week, and I’m the first one to tell people that it is all in how you manage it that lets you get up at the beginning of the day and keep going.  Instead of mourning the loss of something, it forces you to change how you think and apply it towards something new.  Can I still be in amazing condition while doing low intensity exercise?  Of course I can.  Can I still set goals and achieve them?  Of course I can.  Does this mean I have to stop moving forward?  Of course not.  In the grand scheme of things, this is a relatively small physical limitation.  There are many examples out there of people with far worse conditions than mine who do amazing things every day.

So I guess the lesson I’m trying to get across is that life changes – and the only way you truly die is if you don’t change with it.  You can sit at home and feel sorry for yourself (like I did for the last week) or you can suck it up and keep moving forward.  So I’m going to do another marathon next year.  I’m just going to walk it.  Maybe I’ll do a nice long bike tour and raise some money for charity at low speeds.  Maybe I’ll find something else to work towards.  But the point is to just keep working, moving and trying to do whatever it is that you want to do, even when it seems like you get something really bad thrown in front of you.

You’ll see me walking past at some point, I’m sure.  Be sure to wave.

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3 comments

  1. Marianne

    David-you are amazing! I missed training with you while I nurse my shoulder but that seems so trivial now. Your message is so right. In fact I had thoughts like you too and I finally made it to the gym to ride the bike last week as that is the only thing I can do right now until I get fixed…..Now just need to keep going. Some cardio is better than nothing.
    Keep on going-you are the best at what you do!
    Marianne

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  2. eatpedalpaddle

    Hey David, thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you’ve arrived at a healthy acceptance of the situation. Life changed and you’re changing with it. I’m sure you’ll find something else to put your energy into.

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  3. Kathy L.

    David, my heart and prayers go out to you. Sometimes we get these life-changing situations which seem to bring our world to a scratching halt, and yet, as you have realized, it does not mean an end but just that it was time for a new path in life. Like you I led a life that was so busy, then the universe found a health condition that initially stopped me and eventually just slowed me down. Looking back over the past 30 years I realize in many ways my life is richer because of it. I hope years from now you will look back and see that even though the changes were not what you would have picked you can see how it has brought you many rewards. May your guardian angels take care of you and your family.
    Kathy

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