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%.
It’s dramatic when someone has a heart attack on television or in the movies. But in real life, symptoms can be more subtle and difficult to identify. And because heart attack and angina symptoms are so similar, it may be hard to tell what's going on.
But knowing the differences -- and the reasons behind them -- can result in seeking treatment sooner, and living longer.
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