“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”
After spending a couple days checking and re-checking my blood pressure and looking up many scary things online, I got to see my primary care physician. I brought with me my chart of blood pressure readings (scary bad the first day, great the day I had no kids home, up and down a lot today), my chart of medications I’ve just stopped taking and the ones I’m about to start, and my biological-family-medical-history chart. The doctor took a look at the numbers on my chart, the ones in his computer going back the 7 years I’ve been visiting him, the results from two echocardiograms (one more recent, one ancient). He told me that while yes, my numbers are slowly rising, he’s not especially worried about it.
I thought I was home free as he typed a bit on the computer, stopped for a moment, and looked at me. “Wait, what’s your family history again?” I knew this was coming, so I was prepared: my biological mom has high blood pressure and some sort of heart issue, as do three of my four half-siblings (the ones older than me by 5-15 years)the fourth is younger than me by five years). One of my siblings has had two heart surgeries, another has had three strokes in the last three years. Two of my biological aunts have died of heart attacks, but both were 50 years old or older.
The doctor visibly gulped. “Well, that changes everything. With such a strong family history of cardiac problems, we’re going to have to take steps to make sure you don’t have the same problems your siblings have had.” He went on to explain what kind of medicine we’d be looking at, as well as lifestyle changes I’d need to make, and when & how often to take my blood pressure for the next three weeks. I, of course, asked if all this was necessary because as scary as my family history sounds, I still thought that since my numbers seemed okay over the years that we shouldn’t have to take a big step like this. He said “You want to live, right?” That’s what sold me.
I left the office with a prescription for the lowest dose of the least little blood pressure medicine you can get. I was told that the major side effect is fatigue, but that should be gone in about 4 weeks. Fatigue. Ha. I laugh at fatigue. (Or as my best friend said: “Maybe you’ll get over your insomnia and get some sleep finally.”)
I spent the next couple days explaining things to my family, not just about my blood pressure, my stress levels, and my new medicines, but also to my parents about the RA, its effects on my life, the things they see and can’t see. It was a good, but surreal set of conversations, but in the end the thing that most struck them came down to this one thing that I had to say: I am determined to be cheerful, no matter what is thrown at me. I can’t change any of that, but I can always choose to have a good attitude. In the depth of my medical winter, I can have an invincible summer in my soul.