A New Year Message Of Hope For Fellow SCAD Survivors

DSCN0211It’s been almost five years since my SCAD and I wanted to let you guys know that things can, and do, significantly improve with the passage of time.  If you had your SCAD in 2015 then you may not believe me, as the first year is the hardest.  2011 for me was a nightmare of A&E visits, hospital appointments, anxiety and a feeling that life as I knew it was over.  Well, it was actually, but it turns out that it was no bad thing, as I’ve never been happier than I am right now.

The very best news in the last few months is that my wanderlust has returned.  I really thought my globetrotting days were over, but just recently we’ve been looking at holidays in Costa Rica, and maybe even Australia and New Zealand is no longer out of the question.  If you’d have told me this on my first post SCAD flight to Mallorca when I sat shaking in the departure lounge convinced that flying would stop my heart, then I would never have believed you.  Well, since then, we’ve travelled extensively, but mostly in Europe.

So, the big trip for 2016 is a girls only trip to New York (shopping yay!!) with my best friend Linda.  Following this, who knows where the new year will take me?

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016.

 

 

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The ‘Me’ You Don’t See

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Someone jokingly referred to me as ‘Judith Chalmers’ the other day, and I agree that, from the outside looking in, I always seem to be travelling to new places and having lots of new experiences.  What you don’t see of course, is that for every day you see me having fun, there is a PJ day to follow, when I quite literally, am knackered.

My recent trip to London was followed by two days of inertia.  Sitting on the sofa, napping and then going to bed at 9 p.m. Not so attractive now is it?

This week, I had a concert with choir on Saturday night, followed by a shopping trip on Sunday morning.  The result: chest pain which I thought was going to land me in A&E.  I slept most of the afternoon on the sofa and went to bed after X Factor.  Rocknroll!

There are ways to manage this of course.  I plan my diary meticulously and have no more than one ‘thing’ a day.  So if I do an exercise class, then I don’t plan any other strenuous activity that day. If I have a concert at night, I don’t go on a marathon shopping trip during the day.  I allocate days to certain activities e.g. all my committee admin gets done one day a week and I don’t think about it on other days.

Christmas is being planned like a military operation.  I am buying a couple of things a week, wrapping them immediately, then parking any Christmas thoughts ’til the next week.

Today is ironing and tidying day.  Nothing more, apart from cooking dinner.

Blogging is not counted as a ‘thing’ to do, as I only ever blog when the mood takes me and I see it as relaxation.

One day, I’m hoping things will improve, but until then, please be gentle with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tired Again And Feeling Guilty

I’m tired.  I’m always bloody tired.  This week we’ve walked miles (or so it seems).  We’ve been down country lanes, had a shopping marathon, been on the tourist trail in Liverpool, been to the gym, and just the general day to day business of getting about.  So, today I’m shattered.  I have no energy.  The worst of it is, I know that Steve is frustrated with me because I’m not leaping about, doing chores, rushing to make the place Pinterest worthy for the weekend.  The fact is, I simply cannot oblige.  He’s hoovering downstairs (huffing and puffing) and I’m hiding up here on the bed, blogging away.  I was in bed at 7:30 last night and asleep by 9 p.m. so no sleep deprivation.  I had a shit day with palpitations yesterday and really, I’m just glad that my heart is OK today.  Dr Abi says she is writing to my GP to see if I can come off the beta blocker.  I really hope it will help, but at the same time, I’m scared that a change in medication will aggravate the palpitations.  She suggested I could have an ablation (get the offending bit of my heart zapped) but that scares the living daylights out of me.  Sorry for the rant, but sometimes it just has to be said, and I feel I can’t keep whingeing to Steve about it.

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SCAD Study: My Day At Glenfield

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As many of you know, I’m taking part in a study into SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection), which aims to better understand what causes this rare type of heart disease and what can be done to prevent it.  It mainly occurs in women, and the main flashpoints are post childbirth or in perimenopause.

So today, I saw the lovely Dr Abi at Glenfield in Leicester for a battery of tests.  For those SCADsters who are due to take part soon, I thought I’d share my experience, which I have to say, was extremely positive.

  1. Fasting for five hours prior to the appointment
  2. Meet with Dr Abi and brief discussion
  3. Measurements/BP
  4. Urine sample
  5. Ultrasound on neck to look at arteries
  6. Cuff test – using a band to temporarily interrupt blood supply to lower arm and use ultrasound to check how the body responds once blood supply is resumed.

All of this was completely painless, maybe number 6 was a bit uncomfortable, but nothing more.

Teabreak/breakfast

  1. Ultrasound on neck to look at flexibility of arteries
  2. General flexibility test
  3. Medical history/family history/medication review

Break

  1. Bloods
  2. MRI scan – this was the part I was dreading, but with a little help from a sedative, it was absolutely fine, taking just over an hour.  For Miss Claustrophobia, this is was major obstacle overcome!
  3. Skin biopsy taken from my arm – painless, just a bit of gentle tugging when the stitches went it.

Break

Finally a long chat to discuss findings and MRI.  This was really interesting and encouraging and I feel so much better about SCAD now I’ve seen Dr Abi who really does understand the condition.  The things I’ve experienced since the heart attack are all common with SCAD and with a few tweaks to my medication I’m looking forward to fewer premature atrial contractions (which Abi assures me are not something to worry myself senseless about) and more importantly, confidence that I can have a normal life and that post menopause, when all this hormonal stuff has gone away, my heart will settle.  My ejection fraction is 68% and there is no evidence of heart muscle damage, so all good!

If anyone want to talk to me about Glenfield, you can contact me via the SCAD facebook group.

Never Take Your Heart Health For Granted

OK – this is a whinge! Today my palpitations are driving me nuts! Frustratingly, yesterday I felt on top form.  In fact, in the last week I’ve been running again on the road and managed three 20 minute runs plus a Zumba class.  So why am I feeling like shit today?  SCAD is a funny thing and there seems no rhyme or reason to the ups and downs of my heart’s behaviour.  I look at people running and feel a sense of loss for what I could do in the past, but didn’t do often enough, and now of course, I just can’t do it.  I would urge anyone who is fit and healthy to exercise now while you still can – make the most of your health and don’t take it for granted because it can disappear in the blink of an eye.  Of course, I’m grateful to be as well as I am and not on the mortuary slab, but even so this really pisses me off!  I may just put my running shoes on in a bit and see how I get on – walking seems to regulate my heart beat and might improve my grumpy mood too!  Thanks for reading – rant over.

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Premature Atrial Contractions (Palpitations): What I’ve learned

A year go, on my fledging blog, I wrote about palpitations and what I did to manage them.  I notice that in the SCAD user group (spontaneous coronary artery dissection) lots of people are asking about how to cope so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in the last twelve months.

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  • My SCAD is now four years behind me, so every day that goes by, I feel safer.   I know that PACS come and go and I don’t pay them the same attention.  They are my new normal and to some extent, I’ve accepted this.
  • I’ve read a lot about palpitations and it seems that they are very common and according to my GP and specialist, nothing to worry about.  Lots of people without heart problems have them, it’s just that us SCADsters are hyper aware of anything to do with our heart.
  • Occasionally I do panic a bit.  When this happens, I aim to distract myself.  Sadly at bedtime, this is hard to do, as your thoughts are magnified and you can over focus on your heartbeat.  I have a pile of magazines by my bed to flick through – easier than trying to concentrate on my book.
  • I eat to keep my blood sugar stable, as dips seem to set them off – especially getting hungry and missing a meal.  This means avoiding simple carbs: white bread, cakes, pastries, alcohol, chocolate, pasta which cause a sharp rise in blood sugar followed by a crash.  I’m no saint and love all these things, but keep them for occasions, and not for every day.
  • I love chocolate, so have a strip of 85% cocoa Green & Blacks right after my evening meal so there is protein in my stomach too.
  • I aim to have protein, complex carbs and good fats at every meal.
  • Planning my menus each week avoids relying on a quick fix carb heavy meal.
  • I exercise to raise my heart beat – Zumba and regular walking for a few miles at a time.  I couldn’t maintain the running because it aggravated the PACS.
  • I practice Yoga to help with relaxation.
  • I have a set bedtime relaxation routine which includes reading for an hour before sleep.
  • I take comfort in knowing that palpitations are common at menopause, so now I’m almost 54, it can’t be forever!
  • Sally Bee is my role model – she’s a SCADster and looks fabulously healthy on ITV’s Lorraine.
  • Finally, I’m not letting it rule my life.  In the last year I’ve flown long haul, had food poisoning (was terrified that vomiting would kill me) and agreed to be chairman of a registered charity which will involve public speaking.

If you are getting palpitations for the first time, then of course check with your GP, but once you’ve been checked over and told you just have to get on with it, then maybe the above will help.

The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back

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Well it’s arrived! My damascene moment, the straw that broke the camel’s back, the wake up call I’ve been waiting for!  I’ve admitted to myself that I’m not going to lose weight and get fit by:

1. wishing it

2. asking the universe

3. reading about it

4. ignoring it

I actually have to do something about it!  Furthermore I need professional help so I’ve called in Helen Conway from Kick Start Fat Loss at Bodywork Pilates.

So what pre-empted this decision?  Well, it was a size 14 shift dress from M&S.  Lovely linen with a jewelled neckline.  I bought it with a view to wearing it to a hen party this weekend.  But shock horror! When I got it home, it zipped up alright, but I look tubbier than a tubby thing in it (even with my big knickers on)!

So, before we start, let me give you my excuses so far:

  • Can’t exercise too hard because of my heart
  • I don’t look too bad
  • I need to eat to keep my blood sugar stable otherwise I get palpitations

I know these don’t wash and that there are ways around this.  Yes, my running progress was aborted because of palpitations, but was that really the cause or just a convenient get out clause. Yes, I do need to keep my blood sugar stable, but eating clean will do just that.  And finally I can’t keep pretending that it’s OK to carry a bit of weight, because it absolutely isn’t and for my heart health, losing weight is the very best thing I can do!

So bring it on!