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 advancement committee.
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%.
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 Magazine.