For no reason that could be named, my shoulder decided to “freeze,” (clinically called capsulitis) and so intense was the freezing I had to “thaw” it with a medical procedure—manipulation under anesthesia—and so, so, so much therapy I had to endure—turns out thawing is painful.
Inside that process I also had an ablation-that-wasn’t because my heart beats before it’s supposed to—clinically called premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). When I feel them—because I don’t always feel them—they feel like tiny farts in my chest. (I know you were wondering about that and I aim to please). An ablation attempts to burn the wires that misfire and cause the heart to not beat in 4/4 time.
For no reason that could be named, sometimes my heart beats in rhythm and not ahead of the beat. And it decided during the ablation would be the best time to behave like a good beating heart should. Unlike it had on a morning run about which I was so excited because I crushed my pace at the end. Well, that small joy precipitated a chain of events that my ICD read, acted on, and reported to my electrophysiologist (yes, Zinzi—my ICD—can do all that) which landed me on a different cold metal operating table this time with a thin wire snaking from my groin to my beating heart to find the offending electrical wires that kept knocking it off beat.
Sometime inside the ordeal of my shoulder and the ablation-that-wasn’t, I have found myself, as they say, over it; “it” being my body. All its betrayals among which I counted these two as my deal-breakers. The point when you’re done, all the way over it, is not always a conscious decision and this one wasn’t either. It was a subtle but in retrospect absolute; a what’s-the-point kind of slouch you’ll recognize if you know what you’re looking at.
Anyway, my logical mind must’ve known; surely knows this is the body that has saved me a million times more no less as it struggled—me none the wiser—with heart failure. Before I was diagnosed, I challenged death—she looked different dressed as a lump in my throat—and famously I sprinted whenever I felt sluggish on a run or when the lump rose from my chest to my throat. Yes, Body, I am the boss of you—I was relentless according to my training logs. And the attitude persists even though I know better. We work together, but damn if I’m The Boss.
I don’t expect anyone to understand, but I’ll bet someone does, the ambiguity of feeling betrayed by your body and loving it at the same time. I really love my body, but I’ve told her: girl, I’m sick of you (no pun intended). Get your act together, I push. Why can’t you just act right? Here’s the thing: my “act right” is asking of her the impossible: to be infallible, invincible, impermeable. Which she rarely asks me when I do things like not move, not eat, and expect her to still function without issue.
So today I was working out because I’m trying not to be vindictive to my own body. Working out is a love affair for me, especially running. As hard as it’s become to love my body through the challenge heart failure imposes on it (and if I’m honest before h.f.), I absolutely don’t not-love her. I do worry that she will up and leave me altogether. The truth is, our relationship will end because all bodies end. It’s no secret that all of them are fallible and impermanent despite the corporatizing of them that says we can make them otherwise.
I intend to live a long life in this constantly changing body if only because I’m stubborn. (I’d also like to make up for time lost in these last five years). I should admit that in these years, I have been inordinately preoccupied with my body’s end. Which we all must face at some point but rarely do or have to. My diagnosis is no easy demon. It quantifies life in ways I never required myself to imagine and puts abstractions on parts I want to be tangible.
Typically when we come anything like face-to-face with our mortality—that our bodies will inevitably end—it is indirectly or peripherally; almost always as abstraction. We have known others to end through loss; we score the widening distance between what was and is: #waybackWednesday, #ThrowbackThursday; countdowns and anniversaries; from new to full moon. We’ll even approach our body’s end as possibility rather than an inevitability: gospel anthems celebrate I could’ve been dead in my grave and almost all of us have stories of when we “escaped” to underscore the lyrics.
Our end is typically not comfortable to face. After all, for most of us this—the lived experience—is the only one we know or remember.
Yet here I am. In a pandemic that tells me this body will be no match for Covid and moreover that because of that perceived weakness it’s expendable. In a highly capable body (she really is, her scarred heart notwithstanding, a very strong girl) that has been denied employment, relationships, general consideration because of who she is (perceived to be). In a body that I say, when I’m in my feelings, has recanted on our—it was really all mine—deal enough times for me to know that no diet, lifestyle, or medication will provide a get-out-of-jail free card for the inevitable. I will not run my way out it, eat my way out it, supplement my way out if it, assemble a team of clinicians to pull me out of it. And I have to get okay with that; to remind myself that it is an inevitability for us all; I’m not unique. Perhaps, that collective truth is what’s least scary about it. (Did I tell you I have dealt with a lot of fear)? Least scary, next to this truth, are all the possibilities of living which is what I get to do now.
I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and usually appointments are PTSD triggers. To explain: In September 2016 I went to an appointment expecting to get an inhaler and go run the next morning in preparation for my upcoming marathon. I left the appointment with a diagnosis that my heart was barely beating, orders to cancel the marathon and all running. So, trigger.
Just as I can no longer face mortality the same (that is, in abstraction) since then, I do not face doctor’s appointments the same. Maybe you won’t either. Live while you’re alive. (<–That’s for me—maybe you can use it too).