This past week I had a follow up appointment with my CHD Cardiologist in Atlanta. The appointment was scheduled to reexamine my heart and the palpitations I've been having. These are considered fairly normal after surgery, but they just wanted to make sure it was due to the recovery and not atrial fibrillation (results to come later this week or next). The appointment was not meant to be a difficult one, but as we talked more about my heart, its state now (absolutely FANTASTIC) and its well-being down the road, I was forced to confront the truth of my heart defect once again. As I am feeling so wonderful and full of life right now, its hard to realize that come many years from now, my valve will again decline in function. I'm hopeful this will be closer to the age of 30, 35 or 40, and not sooner, but as we discussed its future decline in function I realized how much I want to pack into my life between now and then and how as a person with CHD, I will need to prioritize and organize my time so that my heart wouldn't get in the way of my dreams. At the same time, I was forced to recognize that while I want to be married to so many dreams, I can't let planning get in the way of living my life to the fullest. Thankfully my dad came with me to the appointment, because the overwhelming sense of what it will mean to once again prepare for surgery down the road just flooded over me. At first, it clouded my ability to the recognize the current opportunities and future abilities I have because of my most recent surgery. However, after talking with my dad about the realization I started to work through the anxiety and get back to the truth of my life with Congenital Heart Disease.
He reminded me of how I felt before the surgery, and the complete and utter transformation I experienced almost immediately coming out of it. While physically it was tough at first, emotionally I was in a completely new and better place. Then, as soon as the six weeks were up, my stamina began to shoot through the roof. While lacking in the ability level, energy wise I felt like an Olympian! I reviewed my blog posts and reexamined all that had happened since the surgery. I saw and relived the transformation I had experienced over these past few months.
As my dad and I discussed the changes from before and after the surgery, and how much had gotten better for me just in the past few months, we came to the conclusion that no matter when this next surgery is, and what struggle I have to go through to make it back to the healthy side, I will get there. This whole heart surgery thing stinks, but its my life. Its my normal. Some people may see it as a roadblock, and coming back from this doctors appointment I saw it that way as well, but I've come to realize its not a roadblock, its my life. Because of my experience and my condition, I will have the incredible opportunity to truly recognize the value of the experiences of my life, finishing school, traveling the world, driving my career, being a part of a family, growing older, etc. as I am living them. I've lived this way unconsciously since the surgery, but thanks to this appointment and the conversation with my father, I now see this truth in my life. Congenital Heart Disease, while in some ways a big hassle and limiter of my life, is also an incredible gift. No matter how long my life is, and what all is stuffed inside of it, I am and will always be grateful for it. I can see the true value of my experiences and realize what an immense blessing they are.
So, after coming to this conclusion, I looked back on the week I had before the appointment (it was Spring Break and a big milestone in my recovery process). I got the opportunity to travel 8 hours away from home, separating myself from the comfort of knowing if there were an emergency my parents would be right there. I was forced to let go of any hidden fear of a recurring problem and just embrace life. I spent the entire week with friends, soaking up sun at the beach and showing off my hot, new scar (with Zinc Oxide SPF 50 of course!). Over the trip I got the chance to walk multiple miles up and down the beach, soak up the sun with friends, jump in the EXTREMELY cold ocean (its a miracle I didn't get a self induced heart attack!), kayak 6 1/2 miles, hang out with a wonderful and incredible boyfriend, throw the football around, go on crazy adventures with my girlfriends and much much more. These experiences were a huge blessing. Just three months ago they wouldn't have been possible, and before the surgery the energy required would have been immense and stressful. But not now. I have been blessed with the ability to recognize and celebrate my life to the fullest. Despite my condition and the future ahead, I will always have this feeling of gratefulness for my experiences and no matter what ends up fitting into this one and crazy life of mine, it is a wonderful, incredible gift and I will do my best to enjoy every minute of it.
Some photos from my adventures these past few weeks: