Unlike most people, I’ve been offered a “shortcut” to making exercise easier. I have the option to go from being out of breath 80% of the time to being more like other people my age (you know, the 24 year olds who aren’t winded by a single flight of stairs). And it would happen almost over night. But I’m not going to do it.
If you’ve read my about page, then you probably know I’ve had 2 heart transplants over the course of my life. In the last couple years my current heart has been giving me trouble, and I started taking beta blockers to keep it going at a steady and slow pace.
While a more steady heart rate is definitely a good thing, the medication comes with some side effects.
First of all, it’s a little too good at it’s job!
In order to get the most out of cardio exercise, you need to reach and maintain a certain heart rate depending on your age. The thing is, my heart rate is so misleading because of my medication.
I have run at maximum effort before and have only gotten up to 110 beats per minute.
In theory this is good, because it prevents episodes of tachycardia (and thus prevents those fun trips to the hospital). But it also means I am tired often for no reason, and I get exhausted far easier than other people my age.
My doctors tell me there’s a ‘simple’ fix for this- a procedure called an ablation. They would essentially cauterize the scar tissue in my heart that causes the tachycardia, and I could stop taking the beta blockers.
I’ve done this procedure before, and that isn’t what happened.
The procedure wasn’t simple, nor was it easy. And it didn’t fix my problem.
Here’s the thing. Anyone who had significant health issues as a kid knows the feeling of being constantly poked and prodded, pulled and pushed. As a kid and as a teen, my personal space was always being invaded in painful, embarrassing, and impersonal ways. I’ve been under anesthesia more times than I can count so that doctors can open me up and mess with my insides.
I’ve had hundreds of IVs inserted into hands, arms, and sometimes my feet and head when the more common veins gave out. Lots of times, I’ve had nurses tell me it doesn’t really hurt. “Mind over matter,” one nurse said to me. The thing is, my mind matters. My experience matters, and I’m tired of experiencing pain.
My first ablation was way scarier and way more invasive than I thought it would be.
I woke up scared, sore, and feeling like these procedures would never stop. My tachycardia came back two weeks later.
My doctor offered to do the procedure again, noting that it might take one or two more tries to completely fix the problem. Unlike with most other procedures, I was actually offered a choice. If you’ve had chronic illnesses then you know that most times you don’t really have these sorts of choices. That’s the way I perceived a lot of my medical history, anyway – “get this surgery or possibly have a heart attack” never sounded like much of a choice to me.
So I decided that, for now, I would deal with the medicine. After all these years, I’ve just had enough of surgeries and biopsies and angiograms. And I’ve had enough of feeling like I’m not in control of my life or my body.
That’s part of why I started my fitness journey – to show myself that I can take my own life by the horns!
And I want other people to know that they can do this too. Of course, some of us have more choices than others. You should follow the advice of your doctors and avoid putting your own health at risk. But I really believe that people have more choices and more possibility than they think. So make the choices that are best for you, regardless of whether other people would have done the same.