So…Where Have You Been, Mark?
For those three people who used to read this blog regularly, you have noticed that for someone who used to write almost daily, I have fallen remarkably silent over the last few months. It’s time that I crawled out of the hole with some mea culpas and built some content around it. In short, the last few months have been pretty difficult.
I have been described many times as “indefatigable,” “energetic” and the like. I found immense pleasure in keeping 16 hour days working, taking care of my children and keeping both feet firmly planted in social media.
Then, things slowly began to change.
My energy level was low. My desire to exercise went away. And worst of all, the least bit of exertion caused pain – pain in my chest that I did not recognize until much later. At the time, I chalked it up to being out of shape (which I was), or drinking too much coffee. One doc told me that I had acid reflux. No prob, doc.
Then, while walking my loyal companion, Mr. Prince the Dog, I felt quite bit of chest pain and the sensation that someone was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath. I labored to walk the 200 yards or so from the train station to my job. Something was wrong. Big time.
With some prodding my my primary care doctor (shouting, actually), I reluctantly and sheepishly called for an ambulance at work – but insisted on standing outside the building as not to draw attention to myself.
Fast forward to the ER and George Washington Hospital and I was told “we’re going to keep you overnight for “‘observation.'” In the cardiac ward. Then my chest really started to hurt.
Without a lot of fanfare, a wheelchair showed up at 9:00 the next morning, taking me to the “Cath Lab,” where they were going to shoot dye into the arteries in my heart. I was told that, due to family history, there were two likely outcomes: blockages in my coronary arteries that they may be able to fix on the spot or I was going to wake up talking to a cardiac surgeon about bypass surgery. To be honest, as they put me under, I was terrified. I even forced myself awake during the two hour procedure to start asking questions – and they put me back under quickly.
When I came out of the anesthesia, I was told that I had three blocked arteries in my heart and they fixed two – the third had been blocked “for years” and they could not do anything about it. I had dodged the Bypass Bullet with my name on it. A wave of relief washed over me the likes of which I have never felt.
I came home the next day, missed only three more working days and went back to work. I was tired, but it felt nice to be back into a routine.
Then the Gods of Health decided to play another cruel joke on me a couple of weeks later. Fever, night sweats, chills, body aches and horrendous coughing. I dragged myself to yet another doctor and was told “Mr. Story, you have pneumonia.”
Being the third time that I have contracted pneumonia, I know that the recovery process takes about six weeks. I stubbornly went back to work after missing four working days. And I paid for it. Big time.
There is good news in this, however. My weight is down about 15 pounds (with 25 to go) and I will soon return to exercise – slowly. But I came away with an altered perspective on life.
Believe it or not, as I have learned firsthand, when confronted with scary words and a sense of mortality, most patients don’t jump off the operating table and embrace new found vitality. It is a tremendous shock to the system and one that takes time to fade. Add that to another nasty illness, and my psychological boat had been rocked more than a little bit.
What I am slowly coming away with is that a brush with mortality at 46 years of age can, in fact, be a blessing. Many of the people in the cardiac ward did not and will not walk away from there. I can choose to live life as I want to.
I want desperately to stay healthy and alive for my family, who are my life. I want to walk my beautiful daughter down the aisle when she gets married to someone who hopefully loves her as much as her daddy. I want to see my son grow up to be the fine man that I know he will be. I want my children to see Ireland while our relatives are still alive. I want to run a marathon. I want to write again. I want to spend my days not filling my bank account, but leaving a mark on this world that will hopefully make it a better place when I am gone.
In short, I want to be back to a semblance of the old Mark, but in a way that provides an mind-body-spirit boost, rather than a drain on my precious resources.
I want to be back, but different.
And that, my friends, is where I have been. And hopefully, where I will be.
I’ll see you soon in this space.