“Channing, have you heard of Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome?” My cardiologist had asked me.
Yes I had heard of it. When I first presented at the hospital with a racing heart in December 2011, the ER doctors did an ECG. They questioned if they say the tell tale Delta wave that indicates WPW. They got a second opinion. Then the results of my blood work showed I had elevated cardiac enzymes, indicating I had indeed experienced a heart attack.
Those results pushed the investigation down the path to answer, “Why did a 26-year-old runner and vegetarian have a heart attack?”
Each year since that first episode, my electrocardiogram (ECG) results have been consistent without any indicators of anything being off. Now I am faced with the reality that WPW is now part of my story.
The Emotional Reaction(s)
My cardiologist had confirmed for me I could continue to still run, my go-to method for processing feelings and thoughts, so I held onto that as my touchstone of “normal.”
In any doctor’s appointment, I am very rational and logical. I ask questions, I take notes and I focus on the FACTS, the tangible information I need at that moment and what the variety of next steps will be. All emotions take a backseat. Those I can deal with later after I leave.
So that is where I focused. I got my orders of next steps: an extensive list of tests to schedule and the directive to make a medic alert card of my meds & ECG results to show as a baseline should it be needed.
After I got to my car, my feelings came.
🤬 You have got to be kidding me! I am sooo good. I am not perfect, but I work SO hard on my health & fitness. Why is yet ANOTHER thing wrong with me?!?
😥 Am I ever going to be able to really trust my body again or is it going to always be “something else” that’ll pop up no matter how hard I try?
😡 Why me? Seriously, why me…AGAIN?!
(A common, rational answer to this is “Why NOT you?” but at this moment I am not rational. I am emotional and just got delivered another blow, or so it seemed.)
😩 Is two heart attacks really not enough? Do I really need to prove I can overcome this sh*t again?
Balancing Emotions and Action
It only took a single statement from the nurse, “The doctor is going to come back and talk to you,” for me to feel the foundational trust I have in my body to begin to crumble.
I’ve been down this road before. I’ve received the surprising diagnoses, totally lost all faith in my body to NOT break down on me, and had to rebuild that body confidence all over again.
It sucked. It was a rough, emotionally and mentally challenging road to travel.
But I did it. And thankfully, I learned a ton of lessons along the way. Lessons like:
Emotions (all of them!) are OK and should be acknowledged.
By giving light to all those feelings, I could acknowledge their reality and be able to take the next step. In this case, that meant a pep talk and focus on action.
Ok Channing, deal with this just like running: one mile at a time. Schedule the appointments. Deal with the rest later.
So that’s what I did. By focusing on what I could control in a situation that felt out of my control, I was able to move forward.
And as I hope everyone knows: forward is a pace.
The story continues in Part 3…