One of the best things about starting this blog has been thinking more about my heart condition. I have been so lucky that I have rarely had to think about it. Until the post-Dude blip, I never thought about it, and once things seemed more stable, I was able to stop thinking about it again. That’s a good thing!
The danger, for me, in thinking too hard about things is that I start getting paranoid. I’ve done quite a lot of online research this week about running and hearts etc and found myself nodding gravely to every symptom them mentioned. Heart burn? Yep…must be dying. Breathless at the top of a hill? Yep…dying. Blister? Yep…dying. I have to be careful – I don’t want to be one of those people constantly thinking about their ailments!
However, in general, being aware of my condition and treating it with a little respect is a good thing. Since I’ve become a mother, my life has become incredibly precious to me because I want to be there for my son. I want not only to see him grow up, get married, have children and be happy but also I want to be able to run around with him, run his first 10k with him, cycle across America with him. Sometimes, when I’m running, I wonder why I’m doing this. Why am I doing what could be a risky thing for my heart when my biggest priority is my little boy?
Before I upload a photo of my parents, my in-laws and my friends…you get the point.
There are a number of things that occur to me. Firstly, I feel FINE. I am asymptomatic. When I run, I am never breathless (apart from the usual, if you know what I mean). My heart recovers very quickly from exertion. I do not sprint and push my heart too hard. My heart feels comfortable when I run. If that changes, I need the courage to face up to it immediately.
Secondly, I believe running makes my heart healthier and stronger. There is plenty of evidence that running and exercise is good for cardiovascular patients – and all flipping people anyway! Yes, there is a balance to find, but in principle it’s a good thing.
Thirdly, running makes my heart glad – emotionally. I LOVE running. It makes me so happy. It makes me feel strong. So as long as there seems to be no negative impact on my heart, I will continue to run and to be careful.
However I do worry a little about the whole ‘dying’ thing. People who die in marathons generally have underlying heart conditions – which gives the rest of you no excuse 😉 But that kind of information does concern me, so I did some online research about it and found no real answers. I found a few snippets of into that grabbed me – people who run marathons with heart conditions are 4 times more likely to die than those who run half marathons with heart conditions. So no more marathons for me. And one study’s definition of the kind of excessive exercise that could cause damage was 3 or 4 hours. I don’t run for that long. Smug.
I did however find a couple of amazing websites that have encouraged me greatly. And as I would love this blog to inform and encourage others in a similar condition, here they are.
‘Grown Up Congenital Heart’ Patients’ Association (Guchpa?) is what it says – an organization to support people like me who survived heart surgery as a child and are now grown up. We’re kind of pioneers – the generation before us generally didn’t survive surgery so didn’t make it to adulthood (sobering, eh?). And as such, our generation face new kinds of issues – childbirth, pregnancy, fitness. GUCH and their website is a great resource for people with cardiovascular conditions.
I got SO excited about this site. It’s a website and forum for people who have cardiovascular conditions or have survived surgery and are cleared to exercise again. It is without doubt the most exciting website I have ever found – people with heart conditions who are into sport, into fitness, into achieving goals and pushing themselves instead of sitting on the sofa feeling like heart-patients. I haven’t met anyone like me before – someone with a condition who wants to be fit and strong and do stuff, I got so excited by this website.
So…deep thoughts this week; a fresh awareness of the fragility of life, of what’s important to me and the importance of being careful. And yet fresh encouragement that I can still run. Because it makes this heart content.