It’s widely known and acknowledged that lemons aren’t sweet ( unless you have some peculiar taste buds) and are the very opposite. They are sour and I cannot eat a lemon without my mouth puckering when the juices hit my tongue. So, it’s been established – lemons are sour. In fact, lemons are used as a metaphor for things going wrong in your life. Well, life gave me lemons.
Those lemons were enormous!
Let me backtrack a bit to the time pre-lemons. When life was generally sweet and if I had a lemon, I had chosen to get it. It wasn’t forcefully handed to me.
Back in 2015, we had been living in Japan for three years and we were packing out for the move back stateside. We are a military family (Proud Navy wife here!) and moving is part of our routine every 3 years. But this time I was devastated. I had fallen in love with Japan and did not want to leave. I loved everything about the country- how safe it was, the people, the food. My love for Japan can fill this whole post but I digress and this post is not about that.
The day we left Japan I cried on the ride to the airport, I cried on the first flight to Tokyo, and finally when we were on the giant plane that would take us across the Pacific, I sobbed like my life was ending.
Little did I know that my life, as I knew it, would in fact end.
I started adjusting in the coming days and things were getting back to normal. We found an awesome house to rent at our next duty station. We even had two weeks in Virginia Beach( the hotel was literally on a private beach) while my husband was going to school.
Then, a few days before we were leaving Virginia Beach, I started feeling weird. My chest felt tight, climbing stairs was winding me easier than ever. I had been an avid exerciser in Japan. I used to Zumba daily and climb the mountain next to our apartment building. Climbing a few stairs shouldn’t be this hard.
This was the beginning of my lemon journey.
I started getting chest pains and burning. Numerous ER visits, numerous doctor visits. “It’s anxiety” , “stress from the move.” Those were the lines I heard from almost all healthcare professionals. “Maybe you should be on anti-depressants.” By this point, I was starting to believe that it was all in my head and I was, perhaps, going crazy. My chest was squeezing but I exercised, desperately trying to feel like I used to. Instead, I felt worse and extremely short of breath. Exercise, the activity that used to make my anxieties disappear, was no longer an option. My body had betrayed me.
I started really researching things online. There was something wrong with me and it wasn’t in my head. Many tests have ruled out various things. One thing remained a possibility but remote if I was to believe the doctors. I was young and had no risk factors. I was skeptical myself . It never entered my mind that heart disease affects people on their 30s. I was extremely shortsighted and naïve. I thought my age and my very active life-style protected me.
How wrong I was. I have since learned that heart disease shows no discrimination. It’s an equal opportunities disease and anyone can get it.
Now when I say heart disease or heart attack , many people probably picture the stereotypical middle aged man clutching his chest and grimacing in pain. That was what I was imagining too whenever I thought of heart disease. I have since educated myself and can say with completely sincerity that my knowledge prior to my diagnosis could have fit on a head of a pin. Okay, maybe this is a small exaggeration but it is close enough.
I thought ( erroneously so) heart disease equaled a heart attack. I had no inkling there were so many different types of heart disease. And heart attacks are just the tip of the iceberg.
What really threw me off was something called non obstructive heart disease. Basically, there are no blockages in your coronary arteries. All the symptoms stem from spasms of the blood vessels, or the small (micro) vessells not relaxing and contracting properly.
Bottom line, this is what I have – a disease of many names – coronary microvascular disease, CMVD, variant angina……and many more. The fun part (insert a sarcastic voice here) is that it is very difficult to diagnose and so it goes misdiagnosed ( the aforementioned anxiety is the top of the list) or undiagnosed.
Another fun part -This affects more women than men.
It is a life altering disease.
I have turned into a completely different person. I can’t be active, exercise is out of the question( I have tried many times only to end up with worse symptoms afterwards and a long recovery period). Shopping can be a real struggle on bad days. On the worst days, I can’t leave the house.
So, I have had to go through an adjustment period ( at times I am still adjusting) to channel my self into other activities. I know my limits and what I can and cannot do. And after the initial anger, denial ( I used to cry and bemoan my fate daily in the first few months after diagnosis and while adjusting to meds), I discovered Pinterest. And all the different creative ideas I could find.
I had found my calling! And it was something that my body would allow me to do! I am happiest when crafting and creating!
So this blog will be about my numerous crafting projects, and perhaps a sprinkling of dealing with a chronic illness. Because as much as my heart disease doesn’t define me ( it took me a while to accept that), it is still a part me and my every day life.