Last Monday I visited my internist with some heart concerns. My heart seemed to be skipping beats and I could feel it beating hard in my neck. Sure enough an electrocardiogram confirmed that something was wrong.
In reviewing my file, the doctor also noticed that I’d had a nodule on my lung back in 2012 and that the former doctor (who has since retired) had made a note we should keep checking it every few months. That was news to me. My new doctor left the room and I could hear her talking to her assistants. When she came back in, she seemed to be trying a little too hard to sound calm. “Sorry that took so long. We’ve found a cardiologist who can take you today, and we we also scheduled you for a CT scan. I didn’t like the sound of that. I’ve dealt with cancer and didn’t really want to deal with it again. And who wants heart problems?
The next day I visited the heart center in a local hospital. The cardiologist was a non-smiling, quiet man who studied my electrocardiogram, then looked at me for signs of distress. “Are you hurting right now?” he asked. “Are you short of breath?”
“Not really,” I said. Nevertheless, he set me up with a stress test for the next day.
When I came back to the hospital the next day with my running shoes, I was soon pushing the limit of my endurance on a treadmill. I had to get my heart rate up to a certain number. The two hospital workers took a before ultrasound and and after ultrasound of my heart. The doctor, they said, would let me know the results the next day.
That afternoon I got a call from my cardiologist. I hadn’t passed. The next step, he let me know, was a procedure to check and see if I had any blocked arteries. If that was the case, there would be an intervention and a stint or stints would be put in, but first I had a CT scan scheduled.
Was it okay to have the two so close? “It’s fine,” he said. And so on Wednesday I had a CT scan and on Thursday I had a heart procedure. Here’s what I did inbetween:
1. Called friends who’d had heart problems to ask advice. Realized how they must have felt when they had their procedures and promised myself to be more empathetic when others have medical scares or difficult life problems of any kind.
2. Told my husband I love and appreciate him and called each of my children to let them know as well how much I love them and their families. I hadn’t done that for a while. Took more time talking to my mom than usual, explaining everything while trying not to worry her. Thought about my influence on others. How could I be a better example? What did I need to let them know?
3. Wrote a check to the Red Cross designated for aid to Nepal and vowed to give much more generously. Yes, I’m on just about everybody’s list because of past giving, but I realized now how little I really give in comparison to what I probably can afford to give.
4. Reviewed the temple ceremony and promised myself I’d go again as soon as possible.
5. Prayed much more urgently than usual. Life had been too good and I’d pulled away. Funny how much harder we pray when we need help.
6. Basically just reanalyzed. Yes, you’ve heard the expression, my life passed before my eyes. Was I really doing what was most important? What did I need to spend more time doing? What could I get rid of, not only of my possessions, but the things that were cluttering up my time—my days, and ultimately my life.
Today is Saturday. I did not die during the heart procedure. I did not need to have a stint put in. It’s still a mystery why my heart acted up. Yesterday I got the results of my CT scan and the nodule on my lung hadn’t changed.
I’m not sure what will happen next, but it appears I have a little more time to get my life in order. On the other hand, I could get hit by a truck. The fact is we will all die and none of us knows when that will happen. I’m glad I had this scare to remind me again that life is short and that I need to make each minute count and each day the best day possible.