Archives for posts with tag: SCAD

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and after two lumpectomies, had a right side mastectomy. The right side of my body was plotting against me.

A few months ago, I had two heart attacks, spaced eight days apart. The left side of my body was plotting against me.

We my sides battling? What side was I on?

Both sides of my body are me. Diseases have threatened the integrity, the wholeness of my body. Body systems need to work together reasonably well in order to sustain life.

Integrity is not a battle. Battles don’t produce wholeness, healing does.

I can’t fight against myself, well I could, but I don’t want to. I want to live with the reality of myself. I will not take sides.

Yesterday in Charlottesville, VA, there was a terrorist attack on peaceful protestors, carried out by a young man who had joined the march for white supremacy. There were others who terrorized with hate speech.

This event was not born without historical or cultural context. There are excellent writings about this and one point that is made over and over is that given our history and our current culture, we must be vigilant. There are also many condemning the white supremacists and making statements that put them on another side,  noting that they came from out of town, they are not representative of Americans as a whole, and “this is not us.”

Humans, like other animals, have dominance hierarchies. Aggression is part of our make-up. It is a spark in each of us. For some of us, it is a small fire, and for others still, an inferno.

In my mindfulness practice, which waxes and wanes, by the way, I have found that through self-observation, I have found more acceptance. And in accepting more, I find it easier to change, to get past the guilt, shame, confusion, and denial that make me battle with myself.

We are connected by our humanity. I cannot deny that I do not share something important with people who identify as white supremacists. I believe that all are worthy of respect, respect for the intrinsic value of each person. What people do, that’s different. Respecting or condoning actions is different. It boils down to what I tell kids, “There are no bad kids. I have never met one. But what you do, can be okay or not okay.”

The acceptance of oneself, each of us with all of our flaws, allows us to remain part of humanity rather than running off in shame. It allows us to look closely at ourselves and make steps toward healing.

Our country has never worked perfectly but right now, all of the diseased parts are inflamed. It is time for self-examination and action.

We have a painful road ahead; let’s take the most healing path that we can. There are many things that I am against. I am against hateful ideology. I am against aggression. But I am also on the side of humanity.

Peace friends,

Elizabeth

 

It started when I was born. I was early and not quite baked. I was born with Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome,  which was known as Hyaline Membrane Disease at the time. My lungs did not work properly. Back then, they didn’t know how to treat it because they didn’t understand the cause. But I made it. Yes, I have residual respiratory issues, but they have been minimal.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were back to the thorax, the trouble-maker.  I didn’t really make the connection, at the time, about this coincidence of location.

Five years later, exactly three months ago, I had a heart attack! Eight days later, I had another.

There’s a colloquial rule of thumb in research. Two data points can suggest a trend. Three can reveal a pattern.

Well, I’ve had four thoracic events. “Thorax” is a funny word. However, it is a very important part of the body and when it’s dysfunctional, it’s not cute or funny, at all. Like Dr. Suess’ Lorax, my thorax has a funny name but an important message, “I am the thorax, I speak for disease!”

Horrible word play, I know. I may or may not have, contrived a way to work it into this post. It’s hard to say. What I will say is that my thorax has been an intermittent trouble-maker. I will also say that I started this blog with a word-play filled title, with a serious theme of identity. “My eyes are up here.” My disease is not the sum of my life. My diseases are not the sum of my life.

I’ve been blogging for five years now. I blog about my life. I blogged a lot about breast cancer. As I blogged less about breast cancer, I was fine with that. When SCAD entered into my life, I had a brief concern that my diseases were competing for limelight in my blog. What is this blog?

My heart is pumping. My lungs expand and contract as I breathe. I have surgical scars but no known cancer. Thorax, you don’t speak for disease. You speak for life, my life, with all of its parts.

My eyes are still up here.

I have spent the last two days at the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. To make a long story short, they live up to the hype. They are consistently ranked #1 in hospitals/outpatient clinics. If you live nearby or as in my case, a ways away, and have need of their services, do not hesitate. Don’t let the cold winters scare you off, either.  The entire town has a network of underground walkways that will take you from one building to another. It’s kind of amazing.

I’ve been staying in a hotel that is across the street from the Gonda Building, Mayo’s Cardiology Building. The hotels are incorporated with the clinic buildings, which span several city blocks in all directions. In other words, I have been surrounded by sick people. Even in the clinic buildings, it can be hard to tell who is sick. Frankly, I expected to see a lot more wheel chairs, more people with walkers, and more people on oxygen. I saw these things, but really, not very frequently.

A concept in the game of Poker is “the tell”. A “tell” is a facial expression, mannerism, etc., that provides information to other players. I saw a lot of people at the Mayo Clinic who did not look sick. There was, however, a “tell”. The tell was the gauze wrapped around the crook of the arm. That gauze was put there after blood draws as well as after the removal of an I.V. port.

I was frequently surprised by the wearer of the gauze. They didn’t look “sick”. I don’t look sick, either, nor do I act sick. I learned at this visit that my heart attacks were caused by Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), a condition that causes coronary arteries to twist. They aren’t supposed to look like old style phone cords. Twisted arteries can dissect, which means that they can tear. Then blood can escape from the inner layer of the artery into one of the surrounding layers. Blood can pool and cause blockage. That can cause a heart attack even in someone like me, who has never smoked and has normal blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, etc. To most, even cardiologists, I look healthy, well except for the HEART ATTACKS! Mayo Clinic has been doing research on SCAD since 2010, now. Prior to that time, they saw 10 cases a YEAR. Now they see 10 a month. This means that I was able to see a cardiologist who has reviewed records for hundreds of SCAD patients. She knew what the “tells” are for this particular condition.

There is so much we don’t know about each other as a casual observer or even as an astute observer, who just has no frame of reference.

This seems like a life lesson to me.

Peace friends,

Elizabeth

 The Mayo Building

 

The Gonda Building  It is connected to the Mayo Building. Cardiology is in the Gonda Building. This was a familiar scene from my visit.

Hey, these are Chihuly! A little art from home.

L

This is the line-up for blood draws at the Conrad Hilton Building. It was like the DMV except faster and friendlier, even accounting for the needle stick.

Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center. The Healthy Living Program resides here and is open to everyone. There are programs for employees, patients, and drop-in services. They have a full service spa, which I very much enjoyed. I was lucking that the only openings they had for the week, fit into my schedule.

Following a devastating tornado, Dr. William Mayo was approached by Mother Alfred Moses, founder of the Sisters of St. Francis, with a proposal to build and staff a hospital. This was 1883.

I told you that the blood draw area was like the DMV.

 

The piano is located in the atrium of the Gonda Building. It was donated for anyone to use for up to 30 minutes with guidelines to play “something soothing”. The woman in the first photo was singing opera. She was approached by two Mayo physicians. If my eaves-dropping skills are intact, they were happy to see her because she is a physician they trained in the past. The woman in the second photo was singing Billy Joel and I later saw her performing at the Rochester street fair.


This charming historical building appears to be the original Mayo Medical School. It is now a student center.

I’m coming out of a dip in my mood that started yesterday. I’ve felt disappointed and ripped off. My husband is working a lot of hours right now, which is wearing on me. I miss him and honestly, overwork puts his brain in a different place. I remind myself that the reason I miss him is because he is so wonderful.

I also came to the realization that it is perhaps not a good idea for me to travel to rural areas, far from good hospitals, given that it hasn’t even been a month since my last heart attack. The week long do-it-yourself meditation retreat I was going to do on my own has now been cancelled. I just cancelled a weekend away that was coming up in about a week. This morning, I realized that the camping trip I was excited about going on next month, is a bad idea. This is not the time to be up in the mountains, gazing at the Milky Way, with no cell phone coverage.

I am, however, gaining in other ways. I made an appointment for a second opinion assessment and treatment review at the Mayo Clinic’s main campus in Minnesota. I am going there during what was to be my retreat week. I am getting pressure from people to take my husband with me. This was supposed to be my retreat week! I want to be by myself. I am just getting a bunch of scans done and talking to a cardiologist. I may change my mind but I am adamant that it is my decision to make. Take that, world!!!

I also had a follow-up appointment with my local cardiologist today. We had a nice chat. I got to keep my clothes on and everything. He was excited when I told him that I was going to the Mayo Clinic. I took that as a very good sign. Also, when I told him about the SCAD Alliance website, he immediately pulled up the site on his computer and started reading it. We reviewed my scans and he explained everything very well. He seems very bright and enthusiastic about his profession. He told me that SCAD was the likeliest cause of my heart attacks. The other possibilities are heart disease and spasm-ing of an artery.

Now that I’ve written about this, I am feeling a bit more upbeat.

I will keep you posted, friends.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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