By Deb Avery
It was one of those days when the sun was shining brightly one moment and the next it was pouring rain.
The sound of my favorite music was often drowned out by the splattering of rain hitting the windshield and the swishing of the wiper blades. But as time went by the the rain let up while the clouds covered the sun completely leaving the sky dark and gray.
There were many thoughts running through my head as I drove the 50+ miles to my cardiologist’s office. Having recently been diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease and having three stainless steel stents inserted into two of my arteries, there were many thoughts and questions going through my mind as I made my way northward to the picturesque city beside the river where my doctor’s office was located.
My mood was almost as dark as the sky above my little sedan as I traveled along the highway. While not deeply depressed, there was a proverbial dark cloud hanging over me. Ever since the surgery five weeks ago everyone had been making similar comments to me. “I bet you feel like a new person!” or “You must feel great now!” were the words echoed in my ears as I encountered people and friends who knew about the procedure.
And when we hear something repeatedly being said to us over and over again, we tend to accept it as the truth, as we often do. So there I was bombarded with these type of comments and feeling as though I ought to be in great shape and feeling great! I became so convinced of this that it was a great shock about a week later when I felt like I had hit a brick wall—physically and mentally. How could I be feeling so badly when my arteries were pumping blood through at greater efficiently than before. Why did I feel so badly and why was it all I could do to drag myself out the door to do my morning and evening walk? There had to be something wrong.
As I parked my car in front of the doctors office, I took a deep breath and took a look in the rear view mirror to make sure I was halfway presentable. It was then I realized why the sky had been so dark and gray the whole trip up.
Even though the sun had been long gone, I was still wearing my sunglasses.
I chuckled, removed my shades, and made my way into the building. After a short wait I was called back into the exam room. A few minutes later my cardiologist walked in the door.
This was the first time I had seen him since right after the procedure. It was actually the second time I ever saw him, period. Because of the urgency of the procedure itself, I had seen his assistant in the office beforehand who grasped the seriousness of the situation, talked with the cardiologist and rushed things through.
I was delighted to find out that he had a wicked, dry sense of humor, patience and a lot of compassion. He was also very direct—something I personally like. I have found that sometimes it takes directness to open our eyes to truths that, for whatever reasons, we just could not see otherwise.
I began to relax somewhat and found him very responsive to my questions and concerns. After listening to my heart and finishing the exam, he told me that everything sounded good and that he did not believe my problems were related to my heart issues. Then, in a very compassionate manner we discussed my other health issues.
I have four chronic health conditions. The most problematic, up until the coronary artery disease, is rheumatoid disease,or RD—also known as RA (rheumatoid arthritis). RD is an autoimmune disease that effects every part of the body and organs, and is concentrated in the joints. Chronic pain, extreme fatigue and inflammation are just a few of it’s symptoms. Then there’s the Sjogren’s Disease, a sidekick to RD and another auto-immune problem that causes extreme dryness of the eyes, nose, mouth and throughout the body. It can also affect the organs and cause many complications.
Also, about three or four years ago, I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. This is a problem within the ear that causes extreme dizziness, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, drop attacks (sudden falls), and loss of hearing in the ear involved. Add to that 20+ years of being a diabetic (although well controlled) and that makes four chronic issues that I contend with on any given day. And now one more has been added to the list.
“Just think, you are struggling with all these problems, when the RD alone is enough to be debilitating, and you wonder why you’re not feeling well?” my doctor asked in a kind and gentle voice. He proceeded to tell me that I was doing a great job of dealing with the hand that life had dealt me. My family genes came from the deep end of genetic pool. And that it was no wonder I was feeling overwhelmed and still not feeling great.
After a few minutes of talking and seeing things in a new perspective I was feeling better—at least emotionally. And that’s half the battle.
Just as in thinking the sky was darker than it really was while wearing my sunglasses all morning, my view had become distorted by the opinions of others who did not have a 360 degree view of my situation. When my windows of perception had been cleaned away by kindness and concern, I was allowed an undistorted view. It was then that I realized things weren’t as dark as I had thought.
I was actually doing an awesome job of dealing with all my issues. Of course it was overwhelming at times and it was not going to simply stop because I changed my diet or had a procedure. All my problems have a myriad of symptoms. Each one feeds and sustains the others. There is no easy fix.
But, with encouragement, help and perseverance, I believe I can make a huge difference in the quantity and quality of my life.
Yes, we may face great challenges in our lifetime. Nothing in life is guaranteed, especially a smooth ride and constant sunshine. Yet if we approach these challenges with courage, perseverance (stubbornness can sometimes be a virtue), and compassion with ourselves, we can weather the storms.
We simply have to remember to remove our sunglasses (perceptions of gloom) on rainy and cloudy days.
Editor: Dana Gornall