About two and a half years ago, I had some scary symptoms while 30 weeks pregnant with my son. Various doctors tossed around the word stroke and had discussed the idea of taking him early. They put me on blood thinners, and the symptoms seemed to subside. Cole was born at 38 weeks, perfectly healthy. I thought that was the end of it. I was wrong.
About a month ago, I started noticing some sporadic blurriness in my eyes. I chalked it up to light sensitivity. However, a little over two weeks ago, I had an episode of blurred vision, disorientation, and numbness in my left arm. This incident was the worst it had been yet since the symptoms have reappeared and was eerily familiar to what I had gone through during my pregnancy with Cole. I wound up spending that entire Tuesday at emerge, with the team there running blood tests and CT scans.
In the weeks that have followed I have been back for various tests, more blood work, and to meet with a couple of different specialists. I’m still waiting for an MRI to be booked, which supposedly will tell us more than the CT scans did.
While we still have no definitive answers, I do know from two separate doctors, one of which is a stroke specialist, that I have a pronator drift with my left arm. Do you know what a pronator drift is? I didn’t either two weeks ago. I kind of wish I was still blissfully ignorant. Don’t Google it. You’ll spend all night doing the test on yourself and building your paranoia. Trust me.
A pronator drift is almost always a sign of at least a minor stroke, or can be due to a neurological disorder. Honestly, those are pretty shitty choices.
Now, I’m not a doctor, and stroke specialist did say that I still may just be suffering from a variant of migraines. Until the MRI is complete and follow-ups have been done I’m playing the wait-and-see game. Complete with a mild blood thinner, to control my symptoms and as a precaution to prevent a stroke.
I’m 32 years old.
I truly didn’t think I would be dealing with this kind of shit. Not yet. Sure, in looking at our family history, it’s a bit of a crapshoot as far as genetics are concerned. Both sides are riddled with some mixture of heart issues, cancers, diabetes, etc.
The nurse at the stroke clinic laid it all out for me. Having a first-degree family member suffer from heart issues or heart disease can increase my chances of developing heart disease. Those chances are further increased if the relative is a male under the age of 55 or female under the age of 65. That’s when I informed her that my mother suffered a minor stroke at 52 and died of a heart attack, just last summer, at 59.
So those are my odds.
I don’t love them, but I can do something about them. I need to stop taking my life for granted and take better care of myself. Now. If not for me, than for my children. It might be a depressing thought to have in my early 30s, but I desperately want to live past 70 and tear up the dance floor with my grandkids at their weddings.
It has been nearly a year since Mom passed and I can’t help thinking about everything she has already missed. She has a beautiful new granddaughter and a fourth grandson due in less than a month. She has missed my younger brother achieving a goal in his life. She will never hear my daughter read her a book. She will never get to play cars with my son.
Selfishly, I am heartbroken that she is not here for what I am going through now. I have shed more tears in the last week, purely out of fear mixed with the anguish that I cannot call her. Every kid, no matter how old, wants their mom when they are sick. I am terrified and I want to call my Mom so she can calm me down. But I can’t, so she can’t.
I don’t want to follow in her footsteps.
Not when it comes to this. It’s time to be completely honest with myself. I need to stop talking about living a healthier lifestyle and actually do it.
I need to be more conscience of what I put into my body. To eat take-out less and fresh food much more. To cut out coffee and drink less whiskey (*tear*). To drink more water and become smarter about my food choices and how they impact my body.
I need to put exercise back into my schedule. At one point I was really into fitness, but I let it go with the busyness of life. I need to find the time to walk, jog, swim and do yoga, on a much more consistent and frequent basis. I need to feel strong again.
I need to reduce the level of stress in my life. I’m a working mom of two, with an incredibly busy career, a university degree in progress, a bit of freelance work on the side, a novel in the works and a passion for community involvement. I’m exhausted just typing that list. I need to realize that I don’t have to work every night at 9:30 pm. Some nights it’s ok to say no and leave the office for the office. It’s also ok to say no to extra projects or slow down my schooling to a pace that fits my life. Guaranteed, this will be my greatest hurdle, but ultimately one that will have a huge impact.
I need to do more of the things that make me happy. I need to find more time to write for me; to work on my novel, write long-winded editorial pieces and spill my guts with poetry. I need to read more books again, catch more movies with my girlfriends, and spend more time with my family. I need to focus little less on making a living, and a little more on living. Period.
I need to sleep more. God, I need to sleep more. I can’t stress this one enough. I’ve always been a nighthawk, and so was my mother. I need to work on breaking more than 20 years worth of a bad habit because this is one of the few traits of hers I don’t want to embody anymore. I need to crawl into bed before 11 PM, put down the damn phone, and close my eyes.
I understand that this isn’t going to be easy, and none of it will happen overnight. It will take a great deal of commitment and self-initiative. However, I need to focus on being the healthiest and happiest I can. For me and for my family. My kids motivate me more than anything, to live as long as possible and have a great life. I simply need to harness that motivation.
Here’s to me and my future heart. Ideally speaking, I will be looking back on this post 50 years from now and patting myself on the back. With my cane, of course.