Since hearing the diagnosis, I have been pretty obsessed. This really changes my sense of self. Of course this really different from what I hear from cancer victims, who feel like their bodies have turned on them (and justifiably so). But I thought I knew my body and I had pretty much accepted its limitations. I have developed strategies that allow me to enjoy long bike rides by carefully pacing myself, gearing down (sometimes way down) for hills. I know if I try to ride fast I will tire quickly, but if I am careful I can ride all day. Now I find that there is a specific physical malfunction that may be slowing me down.
Also since hearing the diagnosis, I am experiencing all of the symptoms– shortness of breath, dizziness, a tight feeling in my chest, lethargy. Most of this is probably imagined, but some may be real, and I had not noticed because it developed so slowly that it just became normal. I pay attention to every little sensation and sound my body makes, trying to fit it into my primitive picture of what the condition is doing to me. I worry about pushing too hard, even if I am just walking around. Further confusing my efforts to sort this all out, I have a lump of anxiety sitting in the middle of my chest.
I don’t know how much it is really slowing me down, or when it started effecting me. I remember complaining 12 or 15 year s ago about how uncomfortable it was to run – was that related to this problem, or was I just really out of shape? I started riding regularly about 10 years ago after a bit of a hiatus, and I struggled to get into good enough condition to ride more than 20 miles. For the last 5 years or so, I have tried to average 100 miles a week (I have not quite succeeded, — I rode about 4800 miles last year). It took a couple of years to get there, and if I ride much more, or add any speed work, I don’t seem to able to recover. Has the bad valve affected me for a decade or so, or has it taken the edge off my physical ability and energy level since I was a child? And how much will I get back with a new valve? Will I ride/run/work like I did at 35 (assuming there was some impact back then) or will surgery just slow further degradation?
I don’t want to sound like I am whining (though I am). In many ways, I am very fortunate. Unlike many infirmities, this is correctible (though the correction takes some significant investment in blood and treasure). It was caught before there was a lot of damage. I am getting lots of support from wife, family, friends, and colleagues. I have pretty good insurance, enough sick leave, and I have confidence in the medical professionals who are on my case.
Yesterday, I visited my GP. I got a flu shot (I really don’t want to get sick while recovering) and another look at the thyroid issue, since it might interact with the blood thinner (thyroid looks okay). And since depression is common for patients after heart surgery and I have a history of depression, I got bag full of samples of antidepressant, which will hold out for about 5 weeks.