I have never been an athlete, because I'm just not social enough to like team things. And because girls in the 1970s did not do sports. But in my twenties, I worked out an hour each day doing high-impact step aerobics (because people did that in the mid 90s) and cycling for 100+ miles on the sixth day. I moved to Colorado in my late twenties, and hiked most weekends.
In my early thirties, friends my age with half my activity level started kicking my ass on easy mountains. The cough started. The sporadic palpitations started.
I'd become a nurse by then, and I looked into it. I found a pulmonologist that I respected, and asked him about it. I was 34 years old when I found a surgeon....whose oldest patient was 33 at that time. And he wouldn't see me, because he didn't do adults.
So I taught myself to square with the idea that mine was going to be an ugly death, sucking on a ventilator. It seemed more distant ten years ago.
I was hoping that I could at least maintain my level of activity. But it's been harder. The year I got divorced, I weighed something like Love-of-god-feed-that-girl from stress-related not eating. But even at the time, I couldn't run. I couldn't exercise. I got too winded, too short of breath too quickly. I put that down to deconditioning, or the four cigarettes a day....ignoring the fact that pack-a-day smokers could still run circles around me.
Now I'm remarried, with the requisite weight gain, so it's easier to point to that twenty pounds as the reason I can't run. I still don't hike like I used to. I can't run. I have a bicycle that rusts. Sometimes I'd blame this on middle-aged laziness.
But really, I think the biggest factor is this bone that my jacked up cartilage is pushing onto my heart. The one that everybody tells me isn't a problem.
If I sound angry, I sort of am right now. At wasted years. Of pain and stupid palpitations and the feeling of ripping air into my lungs that nobody else seems to get....I just need to push harder; it'll get easier with time. Blindly angry and afraid of a future of debilitation, heedless of my health choices. I'm a fucking nonsmoking vegetarian who would LIKE to enjoy exercise. Nonsmoking vegetarians don't deserve ventilators.
I've tried. In many different ways. Pilates. Running. Cycling. Different types of terrain hiking. Running again. Weight training. Snowboarding. I've tried them.
I tried running again a year ago, and I had tons of encouragement. My husband cheered me on from the couch. My 15 year old stepson had run with me on occasion, the only person on earth that I actually enjoy running with. (He does that laborador retriever thing by running two laps to my half lap, and for some reason, it never bothers me.) I have to friends that have done the Iron Man thing, and they both told me it would get better. It was infuriating that it never got easier.
I found a primary care doc who encouraged me this past April to go outside of the state to look into finding a surgeon who would do the procedure I want. I ignored this advice until three weeks ago. Now I have an appointment with a surgeon at Mayo in Phoenix in December.
I went out to the track again today, and told nobody other than my husband (who was on the couch, so it's not like he didn't see me go). It's going to fucking suck, and it's going to be damned frustrating and I'm really mad about that, too.
But I'm going to do it because I want to be in the best possible state to get this surgery done. I anticipate that it's going to be violent, painful, and frustrating as hell.
Mark is excited for me, because he loves me. And some days, I look at what I'm doing here with actual hope, and I am excited, too. Not every day. But some.
This time next year, I want to be running a 5K.
Without this surgery, I'm telling you right now that this is impossible. All well-wishers with normal sternums assure me that this can be done by anybody. My CT scan suggests a problem, and I'm hoping the CPET proves what my body knows. Today, there's no way in hell. No matter what I do, and damn do I hate being told that I can't do something.
But next year. This time next year. I want that.
I'm telling NOBODY about that now. It's September 19, 2015. I want to do a 5K by next Labor Day.