I've discovered that most of the time, my life with a chronic disease can be
much like everyone else's. I am 41 years old. I am a father, husband, uncle,
nephew, and son. I am an ex-cop. And, to either the bemusement or bewilderment
of my friends and family, I am a former professional wrestler-the raucous,
fake, TV kind. I am a writer and the token male member on my office's women's
I am many things to many people. Most of all, I am a man with advanced heart
disease, aggravated by type 2 diabetes. When I was 38, I had quadruple bypass
surgery. One of my arteries was 99% blocked, the others a mere 90%.
Lynn Swassing was just 48 years old, the mother of two sons in high school
and one daughter in college, when she had a heart attack in 1987. She
underwent quadruple bypass surgery and was hospitalized for nearly six
Every single day, at some point, the hospital had an exercise specialist at
the foot of my bed, she recalls. They told me, if you don't get active, you
won't make it.
No way,was Swassing's first thought. The full-time mom had never been on a
treadmill in her life, and she...
After the surgery, I had a stent [a tiny mesh-like tube used to prop open
clogged arteries] inserted. A week passed before I felt "normal." Then
I was back into a routine-insulin pump management and medications. It's my
diabetes that has sped me along this path to heart disease, and I can't afford
not to manage it properly.
Before having the stent placed, I was taking nitroglycerine to relieve some
minor but noticeable angina. Recently, I haven't touched it. I take that as a
fantastic sign, but my cardiologist is always a bit more cautious. However, I
am quite optimistic about my next follow-up appointment.
Life, with or without a chronic disease, cannot be a constant pity party.
Attitude and good mental health are keys to good physical health. The
responsibility for taking care of myself lies within me. I can diet, exercise,
manage my diabetes. I can faithfully take my cholesterol medications.
Lately, my biggest concern is finding my son's lunch box and my daughter's
tennis shoes so we're not late for school. I can live a normal life. Together
we can go to the beach, the mountains, camping. With my friends and extended
family, I can celebrate the births of their children or grandchildren. I can
watch my daughter perform ballet and my son compete in karate. I can hold their
hands and wipe tears. With or without a chronic disease, this is
"normal." This is life.
Originally published in the January/February2006 issue of WebMD the