Last year, before I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I got exhausted walking just a few feet. When I went to Augusta’s Riverwalk to enjoy the scenery and take pictures, I had to stop and sit down every couple of minutes. The idea of walking all the way from one end to the other and back seemed ludicrous. I didn’t know when I’d gotten so out of shape, but it felt like no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t build up any strength.
It’s been six months since I was diagnosed. Heart medicine has helped my heart rebuild itself–not completely, but about halfway. I’ve found myself feeling better and better. Other than some weird symptoms in my left eye–an intermittent, enveloping blurriness, a higher level of irritability, and lately a weird flashing in the periphery–I feel good. I feel normal. I’ve been able to walk farther and farther, and do aerobics, and ride my bike again.
I knew I was doing well when I walked the North Augusta Greeneway with Brooke and felt like I could keep going forever. But it didn’t really hit me how much I’ve improved until I went to Riverwalk on Thursday. Without feeling tired in the least, I walked the full length and then walked back…and the only reason I ever sat down was because I’d foolishly chosen to wear sandals instead of sneakers.
I can’t describe how that difference makes me feel. I’m an extremely independent-minded person, and stubborn to boot, and not being able to walk even short distances had a huge effect on my personal happiness. I hated it. I hated life, and I hated myself, and I felt helpless to change it.
That diagnosis was the best thing that could have happened to me.
A lot of people are scared to go to the doctor because they’re afraid of what they might find out. They’d rather keep going along, blissfully ignorant.
If that’s you…take it from me. Please don’t. Please go to the doctor.
You may get a scary diagnosis, sure. But you may also find out that there’s treatment, and that you can live a normal life again. You can be strong again. You can do the things you want to do again.
When you do go to the doctor, don’t let them make a snap diagnosis. Bring notes. Tell them all your symptoms. Tell them how your quality of life has changed. My doctor wouldn’t have even thought of heart failure if it hadn’t been for my mom reminding him that I used to bike for hours.
And once you have that diagnosis, don’t run away from it. Do everything your doctor says. Don’t stop taking your meds when you start to feel better. Don’t skip appointments with your doctor, or stop going entirely. Keep a journal of how you’re feeling, and make note of any new symptoms, and let your doctor know. It’s a hassle, and it might make you feel resentful…but that’s still better than losing your ability to function, and dying too soon.
Make a commitment to enjoy life. You have things you want to do, don’t you? Do them. And do what your doctor says so that you’re able to do the things you want to do. Take charge of your health, and take care of yourself. You’ll feel better.
I certainly do.