Thursday, September 27, 2007

Things are moving along!

Dr. Doug called today and said he'd like to do my ablation earlier rather than later, so he has scheduled me for October 1st. I am so looking forward to getting this behind me. It is truly driving me crazy. The only setback, and I realize this is minor, is that I may not be able to do the Twin Cities Marathon. UNLESS he gets in there and can do the cauterizing he needs to do without too much circling of the pulmonary vein(s). If he has to do some of that, then I will have to be on a blood thinner for 1 to 3 months. And even getting a blood blister on my foot would turn into a nasty bleeder. BUT - he said not to cancel TCM until he gets in there and looks around. But he did say I should focus more on IM FLorida, and be ready to just let TCM go. I told him that I'm not a pro, so giving up a race isn't like saying my kids won't eat dinner for a few weeks. It's just my hometown marathon and the course is one of the most beautiful urban marathons around and EVERYONE goes or watches so it's like a huge family reunion.

I swam a couple thousand yards today, and I took it nice and easy. Tomorrow I was hoping to bike after school drop off, but got invited to play golf instead, so I will do that.

I take my Sotalol tomorrow, and then stop until the ablation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Hello Reality", or "Who Did I think I Was Kidding?"

OK, so I get this great positive outlook pep talk from the new doc, and he says I can run TCMarathon, and that it's okay to jump back into training. So yesterday I set out on a conservative 5.2 mile run. Which takes me 1 hour 6 minutes to complete! I had to walk the last 20 minutes. I felt like I really really really really really really really needed to just lie down. I got home and ate a tbsp of peanut butter on pretzels and drank some more water and that helped pretty fast. But you'd have thought I just ran the marathon. I mean I was SPENT.

I figure I must still have the old beta blocker coursing through my veins. Although upon reading the side effects of the new drug, Sotalol 80 mg, it says it will also make me "tired, weak, short of breath, slowed heartbeat, and dizzy." Arghhh. Is this going to be my new life until I get the ablation?

So if I plan to do this marathon knowing hy HEART is okay, just my ELECTRICAL SYSTEM is whacked, I should probably schedule 6 hours on my Franklin Planner on Sunday the 7th. I certainly also should bring a lunch box because I simply can't go that long without eating. And at that pace, I risk getting to the finishline party after all the pizza is gone.

But as long as the doc says I will live through it, I'd like to go ahead do it beause I've never missed a year at this race since 2001 when it was my very first marathon. And next weekend it will mark my 25th marathon. So as long as I can stay awake for it, I'd like to try it.

On a fun sidenote, remember that my friends were taking pictures of my head on a stick during the Colorado Relay? Well, Holly emailed me yesterday telling me that when they returned the rental minivan, they left my head in the glove box with a note asking to go with them wherever they were traveling, and at some point to mail me home. I wonder if the next car renter will do it? I know I would!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finally - some peace of mind...

Oy. What a ride this has been with my heart wigging-out on me since September 4th...

Today I met with Dr. Hodgkin, the other electrophysiologist. This is the guy who is married to my girlfriend, whose kids went to Early Childhood classes with mine when they were one year old, and now his daughter is in Bobby's class at school and his son is in Ally's. So although I don't know HIM, I do go pretty far back with the rest of the Hodgkins!

The first thing he said when he walked into the room was that we should just call him Doug. He had reviewed my reports and listened to my heart, listened to my symptoms, ran a fresh EKG, heard about my lifestyle and history, etc. and almost immediately started putting my mind at ease. He used words that I actually know (some even fewer than 6 syllables!), and when he used words I didn't know, he exlained them like a friendly professor would. Everything made better sense to me. He explained why the symptoms were so much worse at night than during the day (because there is some stretch in the heart and vessels when reclined and that can exaggerate the arrythmic beats).

He took me off the new medication and ordered something different and gave me some options for how to make this all go away (which he feels confident it will). I will be going with the "ablation" option, hopefully on October 8th. He's done this procedure thousands of times (I asked;-)), so I feel confident having him do it. About 70 -90% of "otherwise healthy" people (like me) come through this, recover for about 3 or 4 days, and then feel "cured". Ablation is where he'll go in through a vessel via an IV (so no stitches even), thread it up to my heart, and look for what is causing the erratic beating. Then he can cauterize the villains, reestablish the real beat leader, and retreat.

Sounds like a plan.

He also explained why he thought I should go ahead and do Twin Cities Marathon on Oct 6th, and also Ironman Florida on November 4th: that while these rumblings, grindings, fast-slow-fast beats, poundings, pressure, etc... this all sounds and IS very unnerving... but since my echo and MRI show that my structures are indeed healthy... these unnerving symptoms are nevertheless still benign. Meaning I will not drop dead like Will did (my classmate who got a virus in his heart and promptly died about 5 months ago).

So. Here's the skinny: I'm an Ironman. I tough things out. I can tough out freakish heartbeats.

I told him that I haven't been training, and he assured me I can get back to that right away. I just have to know that I may feel the sensations of my heart making these weird thumps and noises and that it shouldn't freak me out. Also, as an endurance athlete, I will have to use other methods of assessing my "current condition", since my heartrate monitor won't offer much as a tool. When I said, "but I'm so exhausted! now", he said that was most likely caused my the medications I was taking. That's their job - to slow everything down to try to get the rhythm to come back.

Ah, ha!

This would explain why at IM Wisconsin, I was running up and down the streets taking pictures, full of my usual energy, piss and vinegar, yet after I got home I started getting so tired... well, that's when I started the medications (and stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol), so that part of what he explained to me today, also made sense.

So that is the scoop. I start the new medication today, and will get back on my bike and not worry that I'm going to pass out and fall off of it. I still think that I will do a dreadmill run today, rather than an outdoor run, just so that I can familiarize myself with my erratic heartbeats while running, and not freak myself out.

Thank you all so much for all your prayers, and good thoughts. Although my BODY feels the same, my MIND feels better.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

9/22 Yesterday's EP meeting

Hi Everybody - I really, really, really appreciate having so many of you wishing me well, posting, PRAYING. It does help and I want to thank you.
Yesterday I met with the first electrophysiologist (Dr. Melby) who said it does indeed point to a heart-attacking virus, although he was perplexed that I didn't first catch a whole-body virus that left me vomiting and feverish, but I didn't. He took me off of the two meds that the regular cardiologist had me on because even though they had been doubled twice, they were not putting a dent in my symptoms. (Grinding, rumbling heart, tightness, backache, lightheadedness if I stand up too long, the sensation of whole-body oxygen-debt if I walk up the stairs, etc.)

So now I am taking Indomethacin and Cartia XT. Hopefully the latter will ease the tightness. Dr. Melby said that I have paracarditis, which is affecting the lining of the heart, not the muscle, which is GOOD, and that's why I feel the tightness in my chest and upper back. I will likely be in this for another two months, but when it's over, he expects I won't have any lingering symtoms.
But that still makes Twin Cities marathon a definite "no", and Ironman Florida a "probably no". Even if I have whipped the virus, byNovember, I will not have trained a single day for 9 weeks. So an Ironman would be my first day back? I would have to guess not... even for someone like me who thinks training is overrated!

Anyway, I apparently am having a blast in Colorado.

I got to meet some ponies:

... and Kevin Bacon....

... and I even got to direct traffic! "Slow down 'fore Mama gits yew!!!"

The relay team (Puke-and-Rally) is having some hardships out there. Mark S. tripped and fell tumbling on his 2nd leg, which left him with a nasty gash on his knee and cuts and scrapes on his back. Being dark, I guess there was nothing to do until daylight, but he may need stictches. Brooke got sick and has been just sleeping in the back of her van while her 4 van-mates are running her legs for her. Jeff S completed his 2nd leg only to get to the exchange point, wet and freezing and find that his van went to the wrong exchange point. After 20 minutes he just took off running agian towards the next exchange hoping to meet them, but they were doubling back to meet HIM, so there was some confusion and they lost a lot of time. Last year they were the only team of 5, so obviously they won their category. But this year there are 5 teams of only 5 (called an Ultra team), and they want to hold onto their title.

My van? No hardships, other than aches from incessant bellylaughs. My van has Joe and Jeff and really, I have never known funnier people and to have them BOTH in the same van must really be something. I can't wait to hear wahat Stronger thinkks! So they are having fun, and will have perfectly toned abs by the finish later today.
... now I see I've befriended a bear...
... was taken for a lovely afternoon stroll...
... and have become art in somebody's yard... Joe-Bobby git yer haind offa mah breast!!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Update 9/21

I don't have a change to report for my heart condition, although I did have my meds doubled AGAIN. Apparently I should be responding to the beta blocker by now. I have an apointment with the first electrophysiologist at 3 p.m., so will let you know how that goes. My girlfriend is picking my kids up from school so Bob can come with me.

As many of you know, I was supposed to be doing the Colorado Relay this weekend and am really sad that I am missing it. I do this race with some of the funniest people I have ever met. Here's what's going on out there:

This is part of Team Puke-and-Rally: Erin, Brad, Robert, Deb, Merilee, Marty, and Chae.

This is Robbie showing off our new bumper stickers...

... and Joe-Bobby putting them on the minivan. To an outsider looking in, these relays are a disturbingly overwhelming convoy of about 300 rented minivans, transporting runners on the course.

This is me with Holly in the van.

... and me where we stopped to buy meat (I guess!)

And here we are on the course! This is "my" van - and that's our very own Stronger on the right! I can't wait to hear what she thinks of my friends! Especially Joe-Bobby and Jeff-Bobby who I hear had a Brokeback Mountain Moment last night.... oy vey!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

No change; a little light entertainment

I don't have any changes to report on my heart condition, although I deeply appreciate how many people are thinking of me and especially grateful for those who are praying for me.
I have appointments on Friday and Monday with two different electrophysiologists, and had my medications (that already make me feel weird) doubled. :-(

The a-fibs I'm not all that worried about ---- apparently those are really common; it's the p.a.c.'s and the v-tachs that I am eager to get fixed like, last week.

The way it was described to me yesterday is that usually you have one "beat leader". Then all the other chambers fire their responses and the blood pumps all around and out to the rest of my body. What I have going on right now is like a revolt against the authority of the "real" beat leader. Now all the other areas of my heart want to be the beat leader and so they are all firing. (I sort of think of the movie Shrek when the donkey yells, "pick me! pick me!") Anyway, the machine - meaning all my parts - all look good (of course!, and thank God), they're just all confused because there is no leader. Meanwhile in all the confusion, my valves are fluttering and leaving behind a bunch of lost-and-wayward blood to pool up in my heart and if it hangs out there long enough I could have a stroke. About the virus, they can only assume it was caused by a virus because it came on so suddenly, but they can't tell me what virus is (or was) without doing an autopsy, and I'd have to be dead for that, so I won't be ordering that test. And if it was a virus, then it may already be gone, but I am just left with the electonic mis-firing afterward. No one will probably ever know.

So if the medications don't "reset" my electonics, then the cardiologist can feed a cable with a weapon on the end of it, up through my groin, and "zap" the places where the revolting beats are trying to initiate. Sounds scary, but I guess it's fairly common. At least I hope he's done it before ;-).

My friends all leave tomorrow for The Colorado Relay, so I am pretty blue that I have to miss that for the first time in about 5 or 6 years. Go Puke-and-Rally! Dread Pirate is on the Runnin' Rebels team, so you should all check back on Sunday to see if they were able to beat us. I predict they will beat us by 5 hours. BUT NOT MORE!! Have fun you guys. I will miss you.

On a lighter note, TriDummy, make that IronTriDummy, is in town, so I accompanied him while he got his M-dot tattoo last night. Poor thing cried like a BABY! I felt so bad for him. He's GOT to be pretty embarrassed. He composed himself once IronTaconite Boy got there, though... You'll have to check his blog for the close-up of the tattoo - I don't want to steal his thunder... it is a really nice one.

Signing in and getting the final drawing done.

Ouch!!! Waaaah!!

IronTac, IronDummy and me showing off our tattoos and ironmuscles.

... for those of you who read all the way to the end of the post, I was only kiddin' about Dummy crying like a baby. tee-hee.;-)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Today's EKG

I just failed the EKG.
I am having a-fibs, v-tachs, and p.a.c.'s - whatever those are.
I will update after my doctor calls me to discuss. All the technician told me was that the v-tachs are the ones that aren't compatible with life. How could she say that, and why is this happening?

9/17 update

Well, I slept poorly because I kept waking up needing a big deep inhale. But after I was up and moving around, I think I started to feel better... I counted 20 and then ... get this... 90 regular heartbeats! When I was counting the 90 set I was giddy in disbelief. Maybe I am turning the corner and my body is starting to create an antidote.
I am still lightheaded and exhausted. But that could be the medication. I hate this medication. The feeling that I am dreaming and everybody is just in my dream is very strange.

I gave more blood this morning to try to figure out (and explain hopefully) the hypothyroidism factor which is so bizarre. Hopefully they will let me know soon what came up today. At 1:30 I go back to the cardiologist for another EKG.

Thank you all so much for all the good vibes and prayers you are sending my way. This has truly been the most unsettling few days of my life. I'll add to this post in the afternoon after my 1:30 appt..

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Gosh, you guys are nice. Thank you so much for all the good thoughts (and prayers from those of you who do that).
So today I woke up (thank God) and still feel the same in my chest. It feels like my ryhthm goes like this: BANG....... beat...... beat.......... beat..... [pause]..... ....... [come on! come on!] ........ ..... ....... BANG...... beat...... beat......
and so on. Sometimes the series is 2 beats long, sometime it's 12 beats long. It is so unnerving. Especially waiting for the big banging first beat after the long pause.
Yesterday was my first full day on my medications. (I still can't believe when I hear myself say "my heart medications" or "my cardiologist" ... that is just weird.)
I am sluggish all day and have a headache (I never ever get headaches, so that unnerves me too), but the cardiologist said that is what the medication might make me feel like. I also feel like I'm in a dream and I'm trying hard to be sure that everybody is real and not just part of my dream. But I hear that is normal, too.
I put on my Polar heartrate monitor and I think it's probably not helping for me to sit here watching my read-out go from 38 bpm to 104 to 53 to 47 to.... those are my numbers in the last minute. It's crazy

Across the meadow and on the hill is St. Anne's Catholic Church where the bells are ringing right now. I love that sound.

My service doesn't start until 10:00 so I have a while before I have to get the kids up and showered. Even Bob is sleeping in today.

More later... Greyhound in IMing me...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

This will come as a total shock

September 4th I noticed my heart feeling like it had a rubber band around it. The first hard beat would pound up into my throat, like it was trying to gag me. Then 2 - 12 gradually lighter beats until it just felt like a vibration in my stomach, making me feel nauseas - not puking, but just like you feel when your pregnant. Have you ever veered too far off the road and run over those rumble strips? Like that. Only in my stomach. Then no beats at all. Then WHAM there goes another first beat again.
So Friday (before WI) I went to Urgent Care where the PA heard what I was describing, and ordered an EKG. Then he sent me to my primary care guy to also took an EKG and ordered bloodwork. He heard what I was describing, too, and sent me to a cardiologist. He hooked me up to a monitor for 24hours, sent me for an echocardiogram and an MRI. (If you are not claustrophobic, the MRI machine will convert you.)

So, the cardiologist called me yesterday afternoon.

You've got a problem with your rhythm and it appears to be viral in nature.

The echo looks okay.

The MRI shows that all your parts are the right size.

The holter monitor indicates that you are indeed experiencing this all day and all night.

Start taking these two medications (Metoprolol and Flecainide) and come back Monday for another EKG.

Your test from your primary care guy indicated hypothyroidism, so we need to do some more blood work on that.

No, you can't go to Colorado on the 19th for the relay, and no, you should not do Twin Cities Marathon.

Hypothyroidism? I read the symptoms and I'm nothing like that. (Although I wouldn't mind having an excuse for not losing those last 10 pounds or so). I have not fainted, but get dizzy when I stand up fast; and I am experiencing shortness of breath, but nothing that a good long inhale doesn't fix.

But I am freaked out about the virus. And I'm a little freaked out that the cardiologist gave me a number where he can be reached all Saturday and Sunday. And he said if I feel really lightheaded to go straight to the ER.

Do you guys know anything about this? Am I about to be one of those freakish stories? I gotta tell you I was so happy and relieved when I woke up this morning.

go here for fun... Ally (7) singing to Hannah Montana with the hedphones on.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Day of School

I can still remember their first smiles and first words. And now they are in 2nd and 4th grade. It's going too fast. I want them to be this age forever.

Everybody can buckle themselves up, wipe their own butts, engage in serious or humorous conversations... I really enjoy my kids now.

And yes, I have been given the "heads-up" from my other girlfriends whose kids are older than mine, and I am fully aware that this parent-child utopia is nearing its end! But for now, I just love them so much I can't even express it.

Ally and Bobby in front of school looking so sharp in their freshly washed hair and new backpacks.

Ally at her new locker.

Today I babysat our friends Micki and [my ski coach] John's two little girls. Their normal daycare lady threw out her back yesterday so I filled in and spent the day with Quincy and Clancy. Bob and I were wondering if our kids were ever this small, and they WERE. They are just so darn cute... the sweetest little girls ever.

After Bobby and Ally got home from school we took a walk in the woods behind the house and found this. It's a giant mushroom. Quincy squeeled that it was bigger than her sister. (It was).

When Quincy got tired, Bobby piggy-backed her. The kids all get along so great.

I hope their babysitter throws her back out again soon.

John is racing at Madison, so please keep him in your prayers. TriBoomer is once again carrying John's name on his Hero List for all 140.6 miles. Thank you Boomer. You give so much strength to so many. I will be driving out Saturday morning with Jumper, staying with Laurie, 21st Century Mom, and IronGirlNyhus, and will be cheering for so many of you -- too many to link!

Good luck!