If you're reading my post, then you want to hear about how my story led me to the diagnosis of a benign heart tumor called Papillary Fibroelastoma (PFE).
Last Monday, two days before my oldest, Grace, started school, I was in my kitchen getting ready for the cleaning ladies to come. It was a normal day, nothing auspicious and truthfully, while I was glad Grace was home, I was certainly ready for her to go back to school so I could resume my school year schedule: coaching, exercise, run a few errands, consider doing laundry without actually doing it, play some tennis, go to Bible study, think about cooking a healthy for dinner while allowing myself to get side-tracked by Facebook, and then the inevitable question: 'what can wait until tomorrow?', quickly followed up by guilt that I don't do enough to help my family.
The day is different, but the cycle is the same. This is my everyday life, until last Monday when I felt a sharp pain in my stomach, hunched over the kitchen counter-top and then woke-up on the floor. As soon as I realized that I had passed out, I knew four things to be true: I couldn't move, I was dizzy, my head hurt (later I'd find out I was bleeding & would need staples), and thank God, Grace was home. I called out to my eleven year old with as much gusto as pregnant cow with a nipple infection on a dairy pump to come downstairs. Did my doting daughter come right away? Of course not. She needed to know if she was in trouble (at least she has her priorities straight). In case you're wondering if what you do will ever be as important as what an eleven year old is doing in her bedroom, it's not.
When she saw her cow of a mother lying on the brick floor, while surprised, she remained calm, offered to get me a pillow to put my head on and then held my hand. We say our children grow-up before our very eyes, but in the moment I saw her grow the size of a giant. She asked if I was okay, retrieved my phone and called Jonathan on speaker. Given how far away he was I knew I couldn't have been hanging out in Neverland for too long. Jonathan came immediately came home. Pam, my mother-in-law, made it inside the house first. Jonathan and Pam helped me off the floor and got me in the car. I don't remember much after that other than being dizzy and pulling into the ER.
You know what Emergency Room clinician's like? They like people who can't walk or speak coherently. Apparently, that and your super hot husband earns you a trump card over chest pain. Sorry, everybody you're going to have to come in with a new excuse other than chest pain if you want to bypass the wait.
Getting your vitals checked is super cool when you're dizzy. And, then, when the ER doctor comes, you must be on your best behavior. I'm talking you gotta make your heart flutter at just the right moment when he put his stethoscope on your chest. That takes special work, people. In our panic and surprise, neither Jonathan nor I thought much when a tech came with an order for an EKG. I'm not sure if I was dazed and Jonathan was confused, but between the two of us we were a 90s throwback movie. A couple liters of IV fluid later, my dizziness subsides and I'm feeling much better. I'm not feeling like swinging a lasso in a rodeo kinda good, but good enough to get out of bed kinda good when the tech comes back in with another order for another EKG.
Did you you know doctors are down with you passing out from time-to-time, but they're not down with failing two EKGs? Wait, excuse me, I didn't "fail" them. I just had some "non-specific abnormalities". So, next comes an echocardiogram (echo), it's an ultrasound of the heart and that's when she finds what she and the cardiologist called some hardening on an artery in my heart. With this new information, they decide to release me with the condition that I get a stress test and meet with cardiologist.
We were barely home before cardiology calls with appointment and stress test. I went in Wednesday for said test. Have you ever had a stress test? Have you ever given birth? Well, it's not like that but is more embarassing. You walk then run on treadmill at an incline while topless while one million wires come of you. We're talking cleavage, pads, electrodes, and wires everywhere. Only, a baby doesn't come out, just a large piece of your pride. At least when I had a baby, they gave me drugs.
Next, I meet with cardiologist immediately following the stress test which took forever for me to complete because I'm buff as Biff and I can jack that heart rate higher than a bottle rocket on New Years Eve. He tells me that I pass my stress test, thank you OrangeTheory heart rate monitors, but that the I have a rare growth on my heart, which (sigh) will require another test. This time I need an endoscopy.
This past Tuesday, I had to swallow a camera that took pictures of the back side of my heart and they could see it- my little cauliflower, a benign tumor, Papillary Fibroelastoma. A lot has happened since Tuesday. We've been told surgery is required to remove it for risk of breaking off. The tumor has grown on my aortic valve, so every time my heart beats, the tumor moves. It's like Nell, a tree in the wind, just flapping around. We won't talk about what will happen if it breaks off, moves, or throws clots into my heart. Right now, life is changing by the hour. I'm thankful for today. It is a break from listening to more opinions, more advice, more updates, and asking more questions.
This leaves us with how we got ourselves here. I joked about Grace being home and my heart being on it's best behavior for ER doctor to hear it flutter. The reality is, these are all seeming instances that revealed the tumor. It's not an accident that I passed out, it was a mercy. It's not incidental that my heart fluttered precisely when he listened through his stethoscope. No, that was intervention. A divine one. There are many small ways I recognize God's intervention. He made sure that Grace would be home and only Grace (not my younger daughters who would have freaked out). He allowed Pam to help and even allowed my aunt to visit, so that she could take care of Grace while we went to the ER. God, alone, intended for the cardiologist to see the ultrasound as the tech was performing it. These mercies, these interventions humble me and they reveal God's deep care for me. He did not allow this tumor to become fatal. He made sure it to be seen through a "chance" fall.
While this post regards a specific story, the larger, emerging theme here is the goodness of God and my need to write my story. I've hidden from my writing for years. I went to school to write, I was a writing scholar that paid for most of my graduate work. I've been paid to write. Swallowing my story just doesn't work for me anymore, especially when I know writing is something I'm supposed to do and gifted at doing. So, this blog is my commitment to staying in the process, staying in the moment and enjoying the walk on this imperfect journey.
I'm sure many of you have questions. I'll do my best to answer them. I will update specific news as I have it.