Last year, at a regular check-up with my PCP, she hovered longer than usual over my chest with her stethoscope. She then said, “Nothing to worry about,” which always makes me worry. She explained that she heard a murmur. She thought I should go to a cardiologist.
There’s no history of heart trouble in my family, on either side. Both my father and his father died after massive strokes, so my PCP has advised me to watch out! Of course, both the aforementioned near ancestors smoked unfiltered Camels and nurtured an assiduous devotion to sugar. My grandfather liberally sprinkled sugar on his tomato slices and stirred four tablespoons of it into his (whole) milk, which he drank at every meal. My dad poured maple syrup all over his vanilla ice cream, seasoned his tomatoes with a teaspoon of sugar apiece, and carried hard Werther’s candy in his pockets at all times. He quit smoking those Camels at around age 55 by going directly to chewing tobacco, virtually mainlining nicotine through his gums. When my dad succumbed to his final stroke (he’d had several), he was, nevertheless, 83 years old. The MD told us that his heart was doing quite well for one who’d smoked such deadly cigarettes from the age of 12.
So, I figured that if I’d limit the sugar intake, never smoke, and continue with the cycling, I’d avoid the stroke scenario. I never thought I’d have to see a heart doctor.
On her advice, however, I made an appointment with a cardiologist. After an examination, he concluded that I have a “bi-furcated” valve, rather than a “tri-furcated” valve, which is what they’re supposed to be. When I told him I averaged 17 mph on my bicycle and that I rode an average of 2,000 miles per year, he also concluded that the bi-furcation hadn’t done me any harm.
That was all in November, 2020. In March 2021, I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on my tonsil, had surgery to remove it and 15 gnarly lymph-nodes, 8 of which were malignant, had 33 radiation treatments and concurrent chemotherapy, and dropped 40 pounds. I forgot about the heart issue.
Funny. It’s another example of how so often, the things we worry about are not the things that sting us. Oh, sure, a stroke could still hit me, but it never occurred to me in December 2020 that when the next Christmas rolled around, I would’ve survived a life-threatening cancer. I’m NOT one who sloughs off making plans, but all of this makes me realize how totally useless most of my fretting has been.
Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting on the cardiologist now for almost an hour. I was scheduled for 8:00 and at 8:55 all they’ve done is take my blood pressure. They’d get a different reading if they took it now. So, I made the decision to leave and reschedule. One might say I wasted an hour, but I don’t think so. I got to reflect on how the life we get is so often not the one we prepare for. And if I sit here any longer, I WILL have heart issues.