Cheers to 4 Years!

As I sit here 4 years removed from my cardiac event reflecting on the past year, and really the past 4 years, it feels a bit different than my last 3 HeartIversaries. Why? I’m not sure that I can fully explain it, but I thought I would do a bit of a stock up/down on my Physical, Mental and Emotional states to try and explain.

Physical stock =

Not in the sense of my heart specifically, but more so with my overall physical health. This year has been a bit of a struggle for me. Early in the year, I herniated two discs in my back, causing intense back pain and sciatica pain down both of my legs at times. Where I used to run 35-40 miles per week on average, I’ve had to almost completely cut running out for the time being. I still manage to make it to the gym 5-6 days a week on the bike and eliptical, but my physical fitness has not been the same since injuring my back. I’m hopeful that through all of the treatments I have received (and continue to receive), that I will be back to running and my usual fitness level within the next 3-6 months. I am also fully aware that I need to be hyper focused on my diet if I’m not able to be as physically active as I’d like to be.  All in all, I’m doing just fine physically. I put this as a stock down because I’m not where I want to be, but I have no doubt that I’ll be back to that level very soon.

Mental stock =

For anyone that has had a cardiac event (especially at a young age), I think most would agree that the mental component of recovery is the most difficult. As I’ve written about several times in previous posts, the shear fear of facing death head on with a wife, young children and so much life ahead of me was something that left me constantly thinking about my heart and preparing for the worst (at least for the first year or so after). I am happy to report that the mental aspect of recovery continues to get better with each passing year! I still think about my heart every single day…whether it’s when taking my meds each morning, making a choice about which food to choose, how hard I push myself at the gym, a cramping feeling that I get in my side, how emotionally charged I get when watching my kids play sports, when I just feel off at times, and on and on and on. I don’t think that those thoughts will ever go away, no matter how many heartiversaries I get to enjoy. BUT, those mental moments are mostly in the positive (being mindful of my heart and decisions I make), as opposed to mental moments of fear that I had in the first year or so. Those moments are very few and far between now…which is a great feeling of mental peace and freedom!

Emotional stock =

This past year has been a bit of a challenge emotionally, but as I’ll try to explain here, it has been mostly positive overall. A big factor in this has been my physical fitness challenges as I described above. At times, I think my wife thinks I’m crazy when I complain about gaining a few pounds. But to me, gaining a few pounds equals emotional stress, because I equate my physical fitness (and therefore weight) with my cardiac health. Weight up equals stress and concern, weight down equals stability, health and a feeling of control. The most difficult part is that for the first 3 years I was able to maintain a weight that felt great, but this year gaining 5 pounds has had an effect on my emotional state. If losing 5-8 pounds is my biggest hurdle this coming year, something tells me I’ll be just fine.

Another emotional part of this year was the fact that my father had triple bypass surgery. This of course wasn’t just emotional for me, but for my whole family. To nobody’s surprise, he came through the surgery like a champion, because that’s just who he is. But for me, it has really been cool in a way. I know, who would say that having your dad go through triple bypass surgery is cool?? I’ve always felt a very close bond to my dad, and have always felt that we’ve shared a lot of similar life events in common (I could write a whole blog post on that topic alone), but this has been different. For the first time in the last 4 years since my cardiac event, I have had my role model and hero that can truly share with me the reality of being a cardiac event survivor. I would like to think that I’ve had talks with my dad and given him tips from my experience along the way that have helped him a little. And likewise, I would like to think that he sees my experience in a slightly different way now as well. And it’s not just my dad, but my mom as well. We’ve all had some of our best talks and moments together through this experience that my dad has gone through. Again, I’m probably not explaining this too well, but what my dad has gone through this year has certainly been emotional (both up and down), but overall has been a huge net positive for me.

As always, I continue to try and use natural and healthy ways to control my emotional state. Exercise is always at the top of that list for me, along with simple meditation, laughter and family time with my wife and kids.

Family Life stock =
Every second on this earth with my wife and kids is and will always be stock UP! Watching my kids grow is my ultimate motivation. Whenever I feel like taking days off from exercise, or eating unhealthy, it’s being there for my kids that grounds me in making good decisions. This past year has been full of big accomplishments for both of them in school, in sports, in friendships, and in life in general. As any parent knows, parenting can be challenging, but I am dedicated to continuing to be a better dad to my kids, and staying healthy to be there for them for all of life’s ups, downs, laughs, cries, struggles, successes, events and accomplishments. And with my wife Abbie, this has been a great year!  I am no where near the perfect husband (really, are any of us men!?!), but this year my wife has been such a strong supporter of mine and ours, in finding new ways for us to continue to strengthen our relationship together. Like parenting, marriage isn’t always easy, it’s always a work in progress. I’m so lucky to have a partner that always wants that progress to be positive together, and for that I am a better and healthier man, husband and father.

As I said near the beginning of this post, it’s a bit tough to put this year into words. I guess I would simply say that I am not living in fear anymore, I am simply living. I am alive and well and happy, and for that I am incredibly thankful and blessed!

To anyone who may find themselves going through something similar, stay positive and strong. I am here 4 years later to tell you that life can be better and healthier than ever!

As always….
“Dream as if You’ll Live Forever, Live as if You Only Have Today!”