Something has changed within me; Something is not the same; I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game; Too late for second guessing; Too late to go back to sleep; It’s time to trust my instincts; Close my eyes: and leap!
~ ‘Defying Gravity’ sung by Elphaba, Wicked
I noticed right after the surgery, while still at HUP even, that every so often my heart would start beating really fast. It could happen when I was sitting on the couch watching a movie or when I bent over to pick something up off the floor. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I would be ticking away normally for much of the day and then when I lay down to go to sleep at night – BOOM! I’d be racing away.
Finally I went to my family doctor in March. I explained to her what I had been through and she referred me to a Cardiologist. “Oh Christ”, I thought, “Here we go again.” They made me wear a Holter Monitor for 48 hours. A Holter Monitor is a very sexy, bulky machine with electrodes and wires that are stuck to you in order to track your heart rhythm. After the 2 days I returned it. My doctor called me on March 17th, 2009 to tell me I had been diagnosed with Supra Ventricular Tachycardia – a rapid heartbeat for laymen. (It was also the day my bff, Heather, had her twins! So this ended up being a very good day after all.) A normal heartbeat is around 80 beats per minute. Mine, when the SVT reared its ugly head, clocked in at 168. ACES! It was hypothesized that my Vagus nerve (the one that controls involuntary organ function) may have been nicked when the chest tube was yanked out of my thorax. Thankfully, there’s a medication for that – Inderal. One a day keeps the irregular beat away.
I invited everyone I knew to my ‘It’s Not A Tumor’ party in May. Family, friends and co-workers all showed up to help me celebrate not having cancer. I held the whole story pretty close to me and didn’t divulge most of the nitty-gritty details to too many people. I was kind of bored by it all and really, they just needed to know the story had a happy outcome.
I prepped for weeks ahead of time. Bought all the paper products necessary… prepared any food I could to freeze until that Saturday… cleaned my house to a sparking shine. I’ve had big parties before, but I was really excited to host this one. It was like a rebirth for me. Mother Nature cooperated and the sun shone gloriously; the sky as blue as it could be. Over 100 people came to my house that day – they brought champagne and chocolate and vintage bottles of wine. Oh, they know me so well! I shook hands and kissed babies. We took a group picture and it is awesome – one of my favorites ever. I can’t get everyone’s permission to post it on this blog though, so here’s my artistic license in stick-figure format:
On July 10th, 2009 Dr. Kucharczuk gave me the all clear. No new growth was detected in my final CT Scan.
It’s been 3-and-a-half years since my ‘mass’ ordeal. I still need the Inderal every now and then – probably once every 2 weeks. I consider it a small trade-off. Also, I still have very little feeling in lower part of my right boob and along the incision line. The best description I can come up with is that it’s kind of rubbery feeling on the inside when touched. Good news is the scar has shrunk considerably. Part of this is due to time, part of it is due to losing weight. Here’s what it looks like now:
The losing weight part I attribute to the promise I made to myself the eve of surgery. I was so OVER feeling badly about myself that I took this second chance seriously. I now work out approximately 5 days a week. Some days I run and do push ups. Others I do the Tony Horton (a.k.a. The Devil) P90X work out. (He is an asshole for putting this program together, by the way.) Last month I even got to realize one of the items on my bucket list and taught an aerobics class (Zumba) for 2 weeks while my instructor went on vacation. I’ve lost about 20 pounds since surgery and am maintaining it well. I’ll fluctuate a few pounds here and there, but I wear a size 4 or 6 (depending on the cut) and that is just fine with me.
I no longer accept what is doled out to me. Rather, I ask for what I want and anticipate that is what I will get. I don’t just go through the motions I am expected to go through because that’s the way it has always been. Case in point… I recently switched OB/GYNs. This is because the old OBG told me I have endometrial fibroids and need surgery to have them removed. I wasn’t so sure about part of it and was questioning her about it. She kind of dismissed my questions and acted like a pushy twat (pun intended) insisting I schedule the surgery right away. I booked a consultation/paperwork appointment, but was uneasy about the way she treated me. So after thinking about it for a few days I talked to Heather to find out if she likes her lady garden* inspector. She said she absolutely loves him. So I called the pushy twat’s office and said, “I will be changing offices and would like my records for my new OBG. How do I go about getting those?” I could have lied and said I was moving to another state/country/planet and I didn’t know who I would be seeing in the future so could I please just get a copy and not let you know how I really feel. That’s what I would have done before November 2008. Not anymore. She can suck it now! (Not literally – I like men too much.)
Yes, I still have my moments (it’s difficult for me to believe compliments about my physical self), but I find I’m more accepting of those every day. For the first time in my life I feel healthy – mentally and physically. It might have been this experience, it might have been turning 40… maybe a combination of both. Who knows? The important thing is that it happened. Sure, I’m no Angelina Jolie, but I am who I am. And who I am is a determined, confident, sometimes impatient, fastidious, decisive (with lapses of indecisiveness about really big issues), standoff-ish and guarded (until I feel a person can handle my true personality then I’m very loud, obnoxious and friendly), snobby (about certain things), smart, pretty girl who doesn’t look too bad for being over 40. And is funny as shit (that’s the really important one – at least to me).
I actually like having turned 40. At first I wasn’t so sure about it, but could care less now. Besides, what am I going to do about getting older? Stop it? Lament over it? That’s no fun. And I am all about having fun. So why not embrace it? Now that I am more accepting of who I am, I don’t have to question every word I utter or every move I make. That I own my choices and I don’t care if someone else likes them or not because they are MINE. If I didn’t have this health crisis experience, I don’t think my attitude toward this milestone birthday would have been the same.
While sitting in that hospital that first time I was told I had “a mass the size of your heart behind your heart”, I got really afraid. Not just for the immediate situation that lay ahead of me, but for not having lived my life fully. That was my biggest fear – that I had wasted it and the time had just evaporated. That this was as good as it gets. Yes, I had a great family and job and friends, but was I really living my life to the utmost extent? Was I happy settling for being uncomfortable in my own skin? Was I happy swallowing every true feeling I had? Was I happy bowing to others because I was expected to be polite? Was I happy maintaining the status quo and not growing and developing as a human being?
For me, these questions are answered with determination and humor now. I am determined to not feel poorly about myself anymore and to not allow other people to make me feel that way either. So I work hard at keeping my body and mind healthy. I like who I am now and I think other people do too. If not, I don’t need to have them in my life. And sure, I take things seriously. At my core I’m a Type-A perfectionist, after all. But I’ve realized that once I allow things to get serious, they become too real. Humor stops it from being so real. I try to put this into practice every day. To practice loving myself and seeing the silver lining. To practice having high energy and laughing at most things in life. To practice being the best person I want to be. And though I do not believe that practice makes anything perfect, I do believe it can make anything practical. That if I am realistic with my expectations of myself and make certain they are useful, I can be the person I want to be; not some lofty ideal I can’t possibly live up to. I find I often look for what I can change about myself to become who I feel I have evolved into. Admittedly, I don’t act on every impulse I have – it’s gonna take me a long time to change the really big stuff. It’s a work in progress and will continue to be for the rest of my life.
Many of my life’s goals that flashed before my eyes when the E.R. doctor told me I had some unknown glob behind my heart have come to fruition. We did go to the Grand Canyon in July 2010; we drove across the American West for nearly a month in July 2011; I started writing this blog in January 2012 and have begun sketching an outline for a book; I’m considering getting certified to teach aerobics. I even had very tasteful pictures done by famed “erotic photographer” Scott Church (yes, his work is pornographic, but it truly is art).
Here’s how I feel about myself now…
And so that is why I decided to write about parties. Sure they can be a lot of work, but the ends justify the means. And who doesn’t want to be surrounded with people they love and who love them in return while celebrating every little thing life throws at you? Time passes at lightning speed. Who knows how long you’ve got? You can let it get you down or you can grab it by the balls and take it for what it’s worth to you. For me, no way am I merely going to survive it. I’m going to make it count. My life is now focused on seizing every opportunity I am given and having fun with it while loving myself – imperfect parts and all. And if an opportunity I’m looking for doesn’t present itself, you can be damn sure I’m gonna seek it out. DO EVERYTHING! That’s my new Modus Operandi.
And there ain’t nothin’ I can’t do.