A quick catch up: I had my one year post OHS appointment at Emory a few months ago and the results were great! I am cleared to do whatever I dare within the next year and have a whole year without any trips to the Cardio! SCORE! What's more, I've been told that I can spend the summer in Aspen, Colorado interning at the Aspen Institute with hiking, paragliding, rafting, work, work, work and beauty filling my every breath! SCORE AGAIN!
I posted to the Adult Congenital Heart Association blog a few months ago about my evolving CHD identity, and every bit of that is true. But that expressed my external identity, and not my internal identity. As I've reflected since that post and struggled to find the relevance of my heart surgery in my day to day thoughts and interactions I've read through past posts and diary entries and I've come to realize that, at least for a time, I've reached my normal. Not my external normal, but my internal normal. My story has become a motivator and a regulator for me, but it has taken the backseat in controlling my emotions. Reading through past posts, fear of Open Heart Surgery plagued my every thought. Even after the surgery, fear that something would go wrong was always in the back of my mind. I used to find myself checking my pulse every few hours just making sure it was still there. It was silly, but the fear of anything and everything to do with the heart going wrong dominated my subconscious. Beyond fear, joy surrounded me. Coming out of the surgery I was alive, I was empowered and I was made new. My fear of surgery complications and pain disappeared. I did it, I made it through and on the other side I could only see the beautiful ride to recovery that meant with each day I would get stronger and better. With trips abroad I was given ample opportunities to test out my heart and see how far I could push it (pretty dang far y'all!) and it didn't even skip a beat! This past year has been a chance to find external evidence to prove my inner joys and (before the surgery) inner fears, but that rush of excitement has dissipated.
In a beautiful transformation, what adventures and habits that used to be constantly celebrated in my mind have now turned to my "normal." Now when I go to the gym or bike down the street, run to class or climb a bajillion steps, I do it out of habit. And what a blessing this is! While I appreciate every joy and happiness that surrounded (and still does) my every little accomplishment, I am so thankful that, at least for now, I have reached the point where that which was once impossible, tricky, difficult and then (after surgery) possible and surprisingly achievable is now normal. I can now expect it of myself! The surgery worked y'all! I am back to being a not so ordinary (I'm a little quirky if you haven't picked up on it by now), but completely enabled human being again! I feel certain that arriving in Aspen and doing some of those adventurous things that have been placed on my bucket list will immediately remind me of the life-saving deeds done by my surgeon and the true miracle that I see in my heart's ability right now, but I will also see them as fun, daring tales to be made with friends done by the completely enabled Katherine.
Knowing that for now I get to feel this way and that I get to push myself to new limits and appreciate my life in all of its beauty as an extremely blessed human being extremely special to me.
Enabled and empowered I want to begin to search for how I can continue my CHD voice, advocating for myself and my like-hearted friends, empowering my community and working towards the mission of awareness and funding for CHD. As I continue to feel more "normalized" inside I am searching for how that affects my voice and where I see myself having the strongest level of impact.
Finally, before I close I want to share a few photos from the past months and explain all that I've done. Just because it has finally been normalized a bit for me, does not minimize the awesomeness I've been fortunate enough to experience. Its crazy to think that just a little over a year and a half ago what I'm sharing was not even possible to consider, and now its "normal!" I wish I could go back in time and share these photos and memories with my past self and tell her that it will be okay, reminding her of the life waiting to be lived on the other side of the unimaginable. Just a year and a half ago none of this seemed possible, my future felt black and my understanding of what abilities lay ahead dim, but now it's clear. I've been empowered, re-energized (literally, the energy y'all!) and made sustainable to the point that I can live my life at the pace I have set for it!
|I got to go to France and get to know the most beautiful, funny, kind, and brilliant French women around. Je vous aime!|
|Drink some of the most delicious champagne in the south of France... I felt like I was living in an Ingrid Michaelson song y'all!|
|Get a sweet kiss from my boo-thing in the light of the Eiffel Tower!|
|Oh and hike mountains there... really, REALLY tall mountains|
|Like that thing was the mountain we were on....|
My heart can do that now... whaaaa?!
|Climb ropes courses with my lovely roomie Nancy back here in the USA|
|Hang out in Chinatown of DC with these lovely ladies!|
|Got my Bettie on at Greek Games with my lovely grand-niece! |
|Work my lovely boyfriends Student Body President Campaign :)|
|Storm the court after Wofford won the SoCon Championship and headed to the Big Dance to tear apart Arkansas!|
I am so blessed to call all of these experiences my new "normal" and I can't wait to see where this new "normal" continues to take me in the coming weeks, months and years as I live out the amazing abilities of my unique heart!