Identifying What’s Is and Is NOT Normal
You see, the reason I am wearing shorts in the photos accompanying this series is that I moved my annual cardiology appointment about a month earlier than usual because I had been experiencing some issues.
Not “I’m on the verge of another heart attack, go to the ER” issues, but a “That’s not a normal feeling. I need to get this checked” kind of issues.
So I went in August instead of September.
The issue present:
Breathing difficulties 👎🏻
It wasn’t everyday and it wasn’t ever an issue when I ran, but it was an issue. The best thing I learned from cardiac rehab after my first episode is what the baseline of “normal” for me feels like.
In this case it felt like I couldn’t complete a yawn. I’d taking a really deep breath, but once that air reached the top of my lungs (near the heart) it felt like it got cut off and I couldn’t get that satisfaction of release.
So I moved my cardiology appointment earlier and wore my Garmin 24/7 to track my heart rate throughout all my activities so I’d have some data to show my doctor on top of my self reported feelings.
My heart rate appeared to adjust as it should based on my level of activity. (i.e. rest, walking, running at various paces, and sleeping)
If that’s the case though, what caused this breathing abnormality?
He didn’t have an answer yet. Testing would be needed.
The Prescription of Tests
Many phone calls and calendar checks later, I had the test scheduled. So. Many. Tests.
✔️ Chest X Ray
✔️ Echocardiogram (heart performance at rest)
✔️ Pulmonary Function Test (lung function)
✔️ Pulmonary Stress Test (lung/heart function under physical stress)
The PFT showed a slight lag in air conversion (O2 to CO2), but only temporarily and not enough to warrant medicinal intervention.
The rest all confirmed my marathon training has been effective clinically. I have excellent heart function and lung capacity ❤️💪🏻
Making Peace with the Unknown
So why the weird breathing?
Great question. We don’t know🤷🏻♀️ Lots of guesses and multiple doctors consulting, yet we don’t have a clear answer as of now.
It could be because of the Canadian wildfires this summer impacting Chicago’s air quality. It could be part of aging. It could be that I’m a special snowflake.
To make it even more fun to diagnose: it’s cyclical!
I have slight trouble breathing (read: annoying, not life impeding) for a few days at the beginning of each month, then it goes away. Yay womanhood🤦🏻♀️
We’re currently tapping out every resource and avenue possible for an explanation, but doctors can only do so much. This is precisely why it’s so important to advocate for yourself and your health.
You may not get a conclusive answer, but you absolutely should get the proper attention when you raise the red flag saying, “Something is off here.”
I’m glad to say my doctors do listen to me. That is not always the case, particular for women presenting with heart-related issues.
Too often it is dismissed as anxiety or panic attacks. These things are NOT the same. Speak up and if one doctor won’t listen, find another doctor to tell until someone does.
As for the WPW, we are still in the testing phase. Earlier this month I wore a heart monitor for nearly a week and then shipped it off to my electrophysiologist for analysis. During my next appointment we’ll discuss potential plans to address it, if needed, based on those results and the severity (or lack thereof as it currently shows) of the Delta wave.
At present, I am not experiencing any typical WPW symptoms.
Until I am told otherwise, I’ll let the things I cannot control sit where they are and focus on what I can control.
Next month marks my 12-year heart-iversary and I will celebrate my heart health that day by running another marathon🏃🏻♀️
Because I CAN and that was not always the case ❤️