I am happy to report that I have a strong, healthy heart.

Which is good, because my Kryptonian blood wants to make it beat really fast, all the time now, so I’m glad I’m built to handle the extra work.

My increased pulse is a symptom of myelofibrosis, and it frustrates me, as I have faithfully banked 4-6 cardio workouts per week for the past 15 years. My resting heart rate in recent months has been an acceptable (though rapid) 100 – 115 beats per minute, but at my appointment last week it was 130. My doctor sent me to a cardiologist, just to ensure that we don’t have anything new to worry about. He set me up for some tests, all the while reassuring me that it was all precautionary; not to worry, blah blah blah (“You haven’t satisfied your 2011 deductible yet, so that will be $1,078.41, please. Will you be writing a check?”)

This morning, I went in for an EKO (see price tag, above) without really knowing what to expect, until I saw the ultrasound machine. I smiled, remembering several screens similar to this one, that, back in the late ’90’s, revealed first glimpses of babies sucking their thumbs and kicking tiny feet back at the ultrasound waves. Back then, my only medical visits were related to my chronic status as a baby factory. When Richard, my tech, turned up the sound of my own heartbeat this morning, I fought back tears as I tried to process the stark contrast between my current medical situation and the visceral memory of burgeoning maternal joy that came along with that same audio track, first heard clearly at Week 11 of Pregnancy #1. That moment, 16 years ago, was surreal and overwhelming. That tiny, steady gallop provided the first undeniable evidence that Sam was really in there.

Today, my heartbeat made virtually the same “woosh, gallop, woosh,” that I remember from prenatal ultrasounds. I realized that over three pregnancies I must have developed a kind of Pavlovian response to that sound; one of gratitude for life, health and unlimited potential. I was unprepared for how much the same pattern, heard in such a different context, would jar me emotionally. What a difference a diagnosis makes.

Richard was kind, but didn’t say much as he moved the transducer around, assessing and measuring chambers and valves and ventricles. While I don’t know the specifics of which structure is what, I couldn’t help but wonder how it is that we depend so completely on the proper function of something that delicate, with its impossibly thin walls and fluttery valves. I thought about how hard I have pushed my heart in the gym over the years, never once worrying about its ability to rise to the challenge. But there it was in front of me, revealing itself for the mortal structure that it is, capable of so much despite its impossibly fragile appearance.

The line between health and illness is fuzzy and tenuous, far more so than I ever realized. I’m grateful for the fitness I had going into this disease, because I’m sure that all of those years of sweat and effort will make the difference in my ability to come out healthy on the other side.

My heart is fine, but I’m going caffeine-free to help bring my pulse down, a prescription that would have left me whimpering in a closet a few months back. But it seems a small price to pay to help keep things running at full strength.


4 responses to “Tenuous

  1. Wow KDF.

    Hang in there honey. Getting sick like this is shocking to the core, but it will come good again. Just wait and see.


  2. Hi Kathy–well, I have been able to read some of your thoughts now, thanks to your mom’s alerting us to your blog. I like the way you seem to be able to balance the “life goes on as normal” things with your working your way through what seems like more than most would want to know about your paradoxical pairings like lower jeans sizes and enlarged spleen and names that even someone with ten years of Latin study would not immediately say, oh yeah to. The medical terms in red seem to me like dangerous fish encountered when snorkeling and I would rather backpedal from them than click and know more. You are amazing in your set of attitudes and your ability to take on information and consultation and input and tests while keeping a caustic somewhat humorous eye on it all… and what’s good is that your many years of faithful cardio work now just may come to your rescue. We here in Lexington are always thinking about you and your family and your expanded family as you surely know. We love you and send you hugs. And on normal side, we have a swimming party today for our birthday boy, now 10 suddenly…we took over at 3, so life is moving along for all of us. Do you best with this situation and know your friends are always behind you on this journey. Much–make that tons of — love, but you know that too, Chris

    Hi Chris, thank you so much for your love and support. I miss you guys, owe Suz a phone call, and genuinely hope to somehow see you soon! Love and wishes that I could have been there for I’s swimming party, -KDF

  3. Hi Kathy,

    I heard about your diagnosis last night at the Burns Park Players cast party. I was not in the show this year after a 5 year run, but got a special invite from the host….so a “get in free” pass.

    Kathy, I just very humbly and simply want you to know that I am hoping and praying for you so so very hard. I managed to read some of your posts (despite being a facebook “idiot” (cannot get around, have NO idea if anyone else can read this…etc etc. but don’t really care.) and am similarly ….blown away by your writing….which I happen to believe is a relfection of your soul. Hope you don’t mind my professional evaluation that….you are an old soul. In case that needs translating….that means kind, courageous, generous, loving, in touch, honest, beautiful (it kind of goes on and on…. : )

    Power and peace to you, especially in relation to your challenge.


    Eric, your kind words mean so much. Thank you so much, and right back at you. -KDF

  4. Kathy: After seeing one of your postings on Facebook I became concerned and emailed Mike and your Mom. They both contacted me via email informing me of your diagnosis. My gut reaction was “this is not fair”…your family has been through so much already!
    Mike suggested I read your blog which has helped me understand what an incredibly positive outlook you have facing this terrible disease. Your mix of humor as you face new and different medical tests and symptoms together with the new challenges that you face is inspiring to all who read this blog.
    Kathy, both Ken and I continue to pray daily for you and your family.
    May you feel the love that family and friends will share in supporting you through this journey!

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