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A (Not So) Simple Question

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

By Alissa Butterfass

It all started with a simple question to my cardiologist: “Do you think I could train for a 5K run?”

I have always been a walker. Come the warmer months, I lace up my sneakers and walk around the park or the neighborhood. When I am being good about my fitness, in colder months I will hop on an elliptical. But walking always felt kind of “lame” and I thought that if my heart could withstand the exertion and I could build up to a point where I didn’t get out of breath so quickly, I would enjoy running much more than walking. So on my most recent visit to the cardiologist I posed the question.

That was back in August. Since then I have had a cardiopulmonary stress test and a 24-hour Holter monitor and I still do not have an answer to my question. After reading the results of those tests, my cardiologist wants me to have a cardiac catheterization, which will enable him to view parts of my heart, my baffle, and my stents not easily viewed on other tests. Due to scheduling challenges, both on my part and on the hospital’s, the catheterization is scheduled for later this month.

Obviously, this test is not strictly to answer my question about running, but to understand better my heart health overall. The good thing is that I feel great (hope I am not jinxing myself!). I haven’t experienced any troublesome symptoms and I have been working out several times a week for the past few months, which should only be benefiting my health. For the most part, the most troubling thoughts I have had about the upcoming procedure are about how to arrange appropriate childcare for my two sons so that my husband can be at the hospital with me.

But when I pause for a moment and think about it, I do start to worry. About going under general anesthesia. About getting a huge and painful hematoma, as has happened in the past. About the fact that while I feel great, there is always potential that something could be found that requires more medical attention—be it another stent, different medication, a pacemaker, another surgery or otherwise.

When I start to overthink like this, the prospect of ever running around the block—much less a 5K—seems trivial. But I need to maintain a positive attitude and an optimistic outlook, and know that if the response to my original question is a big fat “no,” I will be OK, even as I hope for a resounding, “Yes, go for it!”

Note: Always make sure to check with your ACHD cardiologist before beginning any exercise routine.


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The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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