Families Facing Cancer

Coping with the problems and possibilities together

Dis-ease of the Heart: Part II

Dangerous heart disease—double bypass this coming Wed

Dis-ease of the Heart: Part II

Wednesday, they will crack open my chest like a Maine lobster shell. They will take my heart in their hands and splice some available arteries into my left main artery, thus bypassing the very dangerous area of plaque build-up that might have easily killed me.

It turns out I was that person who is asymptomatic, in great shape, good blood pressure, and good cholesterol that dies suddenly on the tennis court, bike, elliptical, or golf course. All my favorite activities.

So I am flooded with fear and gratitude. I’ve been exercising up a storm to get into good shape and now the docs have given me a supply of nitro and told me to stop everything till I get to my surgery in two days. Unfortunately, my anxiety abut all this manifest as tightening of my chest and shortness of breath, thus masquerading as the beginning of a heart attack. This ever so slightly intensifies my anxiety! At least I am married to a fabulous doctor who can tell the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack.

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I am a shrink, so I should be able to help myself through this with meditation, relaxation exercises, positive visualizations and other such wise practices. No such luck. Turns out I’m not such a good patient. I did spend yesterday at my Buddhist meditation center on a retreat. I actually slept like a baby for part of the day, and it was very comforting, although not the best form of mindfulness.

Today, I will be with my sons and my wife. We’ve been through this drill before with my stage four cancer. We call if FFF, forced family fun. We’ll eat a big brunch, I’ll make them talk about their feelings because I’m the sick dude and the therapist, then we’ll play some bridge (we are new England WASP types).

There will be laughs and love.

My meditation teacher Narayan gave me an invaluable tip to take into surgery on Wednesday. She suggested that I say the metta phrases (a form of Buddhist prayer) for all the doctors, nurses, patients, and families that are doing or undergoing open heart surgery alongside me all around the world. It’s a comforting thought to remember this isn’t just about me; just the human condition. I have a vast community of compatriots with their hearts in others hands.

To all the doctors, nurses, families and my fellow patients.

May you be safe and protected.

May you have comfort of heart.

May you live in love and in compassion.

May you get through this OK.

David Treadway, Ph.D., is a therapist, teacher, and author of Home Before Dark: A Family Portrait of Cancer and Healing. more...

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