In December of 2003, I was halfway through three years of seminary. While on Christmas break, I experienced a heart attack. I ended up in the hospital on Christmas Eve, and received a stent for Christmas. It was definitely the best Christmas present I got that year! And then in early January, I got a second one. And then things got scary. In early February, I knew there was something seriously wrong with my heart. I went into the hospital overnight, but the stress tests they gave me revealed absolutely nothing.
That night, I ended up speaking with a nurse on the cardiac unit. I told her I knew there was something wrong with my heart. She gave me a bit of advice that I never have forgotten. She said, “No one knows your body better than you do. Trust in what your body is telling you. ” As I conversed with my Dr. the next morning, I told him that there was something definitely wrong with my ticker. He replied, “I not saying I don’t believe you. But I can’t do anything until I can diagnose and document the problem. He then had me do another stress test on the treadmill, which I passed quite easily.
The next month was kind of scary. I knew there was something wrong with my heart, but I had no way to prove it. As the days went by, it continued to get worse, and I began to experience feelings of dread. I would feel twinges of pain when I lifted things up off the floor. I finally ended up going back into the hospital and this time, I failed the stress test. The next day I had open heart surgery and received a triple bypass.
I’ve never forgotten those words of wisdom that I received from that nurse. Over time, I’ve learned to listen closely to what my body’s telling me. Listening allowed me to discern the early onset of my dementia, caused by lesions in my brain. I was able to catch it early, and to get on medication. What I have can’t be cured, but the meds I take slow its progress.
I’ve learned the hard way, that my mind and body really do communicate. The same true is true for all of us, if we learn to pay attention. The golden rule in medicine, is to catch things early and get treatment. I’ve wondered at times whether the lesions and my heart disease are somehow all related. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know, given the current state of medicine.
Train yourself to listen. Meditate, if you will on what your body is saying. It will improve the quality of your life, and who knows, like me you just might save it.