In 1998, my family doctor heard an abnormal heart beat and sent me to a Cardiologist. After my first Echocardiogram, the cardiologist diagnosed me with Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy. I was 24, training for my first triathlon only to be told by a cardiologist that I should not do high intensity exercise or heavy weight lifting. She advised going on Beta-Blockers. I laughed it off and continued to keep active.
In 2004, a new cardiologist replaced the previous ones I had been seeing every two years for an Echocardiogram, ECG and the ‘you should be on medication’ talk I always brushed off.
Dr. Anna Woo was a bit different from the others. She’d use scare tactics to convince me to get on medication. She put the fear in me after each appointment, but after a few days of reflection, I stood firm in my belief that if I didn’t feel any of the symptoms that comes along with this disease, I didn’t need to be on drugs.
These every other year visits turned into yearly visits, which eventually, turned into every 6 months visits.
In 2009, I had Sciatica , the stress lead to an anxiety attack one night. It was then that I decided to go on the medication for my heart.
For almost a year, I was on beta-blockers (Atenol 25mg). Neither my family doctor, nor I liked the side-effects. My already low blood pressure went from 100/80 to 80/55. I was feeling light headed a lot, my mouth was always dry and my teeth would stain fast.
In 2010, my yearly Echo showed that the thickening of the heart wall muscle had doubled and she warned me that I should have surgery if I don’t go on this new drug, Rythmoden. I went off the Beta-Blockers even though she wanted me to continue on both drugs.
In 2011, there were some improvement. I started to believe that Rythmoden was the end to all my heart problems.
In 2012, the muscle got even thicker. (so much for improvement). A normal person’s heart wall muscle is 0.8-1 mm, mine was 2.1. She sent me in for an MRI. The results came back showing scaring and open heart surgery was the only way to prevent sudden cardiac arrest and doing it quickly would prevent permanent heart damage (from the scaring).
In March 2012, I started to feel some chest pain. Nothing too painful but enough to make me take note that I was flirting with death. In early May, the symptoms would come more often. I was feeling tired and finding my workouts were getting more and more exhausting. Dr. Anna Woo said that Rythmoden was taken off the market and she was concerned that if I run out, my life might be in jeopardy. I agreed to see the surgeon.
May 10th 2012, I met with Dr Anthony Ralph-Edwards and we had a long discussion about the surgery. It all seemed so surreal. I’m not scared (yet) and in some way, I just want to be done with it. Which is why on May 23rd, 2012, I’ll be going in for Open Heart surgery.