Disease and Conditions Make You Feel Empty
Have you ever felt empty in life? Feel as if life has no meaning because of hardships and low moments which are part and parcel of our daily lives. Felt so low, obscured, tainted and unwanted to a point of giving up on life. This is a feeling that some people may have experienced at one time or another.
Lets talk about breast cancer and feeling empty
Nobody talks about cancer, until they have it. I had spent most of my adolescent life around it. I lost my mother to bone cancer when I was 12. She was 42 when she died. A great aunt on my mother’s side had died from breast cancer when I was just 8, so the family history was strong.
I was 48 years old when I got the biopsy result, saying that I had breast cancer. The only question that popped in my head was, “Why now?” I won’t bore you with my past life history, other than to say, most of my friends were peer-pressuring me to get regular mammograms. And given my family cancer history and high risk status, I did undergo regular screening.
I was undergoing regular check-ups and Pap smears from around 5 years before
I had a couple of lumps on my breasts three years prior that turned out to be just breast cysts. Then finally, there was a new lump on my left breast which thank-goodness, they did another ultrasound, and it wasn’t a cyst.
I had a biopsy and then went on with my life as if nothing had happened. Maybe I purged the worry from my brain to combat the anxiety. So I was quite surprised, OK, in shock, when the call came from the doctor’s office with the biopsy results, telling me that I had a 1-cm invasive ductal carcinoma. I was driving back from work at that moment.
Then, my brain was behaving like, I had thought I had seen this coming. But that didn’t last long, and suddenly, I missed my mom like I had never before, and was slumped over the wheel crying like I had no control over it. It was almost as if I was watching somebody else cry for 15 minutes.
I finally managed to reach home and waited for my husband Ben to arrive. Ben didn’t know what to say, probably because I was very calm about it. We hugged and just cuddled up on the sofa. He called my dad who actually sounded relieved as if he was waiting for the news.
It wasn’t like when my Mom had cancer
Skipping ahead… after a few doctors visits, I had a clear roadmap as to what lay ahead and what to expect.
I called up work to let them know of the situation. I was going to need time off to get various treatments.
Although it was an HER2 positive cancer; which could be easily treated with herceptin, I was mentally overwhelmed and spent my recovery period watching movies and stand-up comedy on YouTube. Ie, sitting on the couch.
It was that and a lot of sleeping. I think this is the opposite of looking after myself, like I was apparently supposed to do.
I was a little surprised by the fact that none of my friends had really called on me. Word had gotten out through the office and I rationalized that people were uncomfortable dealing with the subject of cancer. I mean, what do you say to somebody who has cancer? You really can’t even ask “how are you?” or “what are you doing?”
The treatment took a whole year
The mental toll it took on me far outweighed the physical challenges. I felt like I was falling down a black hole with no light in sight. The loneliness was kind of numbing for me. I wanted Ben and Dad to relax and stop worrying, so I did my own shopping, took care of my laundry, and just spent my free time staring into the television or just lying wide awake. Gradually, my friends started calling on me and congratulated me on my recovery.
Strangely, I couldn’t deal with it
As far as they were concerned, I was over everything, had conquered my challenge, and everything was back to normal. For them, I should be moving on. This just wasn’t the case with me. As far as I was concerned, I was still trying to overcome the mental strain of dealing with the situation, and hence it was not over for me. I couldn’t match the cheerful energy of my friends and drew back into my shell. Though they probably meant only the best for me, my friends were making me feel worse. I realized that I had to learn to deal with this on my own terms over time.
It’s been more than a year now since I got the phone call in my car that fated evening. Even though I have fully recovered from the cancer, I am still trying to find a foothold to get back on track with my old life. All said and done, this one year of my life taught me more about life than all my healthy years combined. I appreciate everything around me and have learned to value things I never even noticed before.
After losing my eldest brother to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) several years ago, I ransacked the internet to gain a better understanding of this awful malady. Considering that my brother was a star athlete, who was snatched at the prime of his youth at age 17, I sought to identify the correlation of this disease with athletes.
My research on HCM revealed its destructive history on the lives of young athletes. Although HCM has a prevalence of less than 1% globally; the disease is the leading cause of death in young athletes.
Causes of the Disease
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or hypertrophic cardiac myopathy (HCM) is a disease that causes the heart muscles to thicken, thereby inhibiting the heart’s functional capabilities. The cause of HCM is mainly genetic although it is also associated with aging and high blood pressure. However, in some cases like my brother’s, the cause is unknown.
After my brother was diagnosed with the disease, doctors insisted that we should track whether anyone had ever suffered or died from the disease in our family. Amazingly, our family history did not reveal any past occurrences of HCM and the cause of my brother’s infection is a mystery to date.
The Signs and Symptoms of HCM
The most frightening thing about HCM is that its prognosis is variable and majority of the patients are asymptomatic. In my brother’s case, the disease was mildly symptomatic until the final stages of infection. My brother was a meritable athlete, who participated in almost any outdoor sport and was a member of three athletics teams in his school.
In the initial stages of infection, my brother complained of various symptoms that are associated with many diseases including HCM. He started suffering shortness of breath, fatigue, and ‘loud’ heart beats. These symptoms were largely ignored until he fainted during a training session.
Undergoing Diagnosis of HCM
The first step in the diagnosis of HCM is to evaluate the patient’s medical history; which includes disease symptoms and family history. On arriving at the hospital, the doctor inquired whether my brother was experiencing light-headedness and chest pains/angina due to exertion. After he confirmed these symptoms, the doctor decided to conduct further tests for HCM. Although our family history did not prove anything, my brother’s symptoms necessitated a physical examination.
The physical examination indicated that the ‘murmur’ of my brother’s heart increased in intensity with any maneuver that decreased the volume of blood in the left ventricle; which is one of the signs of the disease. The doctor also conducted an echocardiogram test; which revealed that my brother was suffering from an acute case of the obstructive variant of HCM.
At The Heart Clinic
Following the diagnosis, my brother was placed on a medical therapy aimed at symptomatic relief. Because the disease had progressed significantly and also because it was obstructive, the doctor administered disopyramide. However, after sometime the doctor noted that my brother’s symptoms persisted and his health continued to deteriorate. Consequently, we were informed that there were only two options possible for saving my brother.
An open heart surgery operation called surgical septal myectomy or cardiac/heart transplantation. Due to the severity of his infection and the inherent shortage of donor hearts, we opted for the open heart surgery. We were informed of the inherent risks that were associated with this option. But we had no choice.
The Loss of a Loved One
Sadly, my brother suffered a stroke while undergoing the open heart surgery operation. Following this sudden, unexpected, and untimely death of my brother, everyone in the family was devastated. Mostly, we were devastated by our medical decision. We regretted the decision to accept the surgical procedure instead of waiting for a donor heart. There was nothing we could do except to live with the traumatic guilt after this depressing turn of events.
However, counseling sessions have helped to ease the guilt and we have managed to overcome this depressing phase of our lives. All in all, as my therapist stated, our decision to go forward with the surgery did not rob us our brother, HCM did.
The Effects of Stroke
There are times in life when you feel so low and empty because of the challenges that you may come across in life; you feel so low and melancholic because of what hails you. As much as you may try to avoid it, still the pain and loss can’t go away. Such was a feeling that I experienced when my dad and the sole bread winner of our family suffered from stroke; which to date he has never recovered to date.
Dad was a wonderful and inspiring person whom I had grown to love and cherish. He was always there for as a family since we were all young. However, all that changed when we lost my mom to a tragic road accident. As much as we were all traumatized, dad must have suffered a worse blow because he didn’t recover from what transpired during that day.
After the accident, he became a habitual drinker and worked less. He would go in the morning well dressed and groomed as if going to the office. But would end up at the local bar in our neighborhood. As much as my uncles and his friends tried to intervene, nothing could stop him from what he had resulted into.
The worst came to when he was dismissed from job. He must have realized his mistake because he tried all he could to support us then, even at times looking for casual job. But his appetite for the booze never diminished. He still would drink till the weird hours of the morning and at times spend almost the whole day sleeping. Soon after he started to smoke and would be aggressive oft a time.
The Unexpected Stroke Symptoms
The first signs came in the form of dad’s inability to recall things. He would say something; but forget it entirely. There are times that he would seem not to use his brains in reaching at conclusions and all the while we thought that he must have been drunk. With time, his ability to speak became a problem and that when we knew that something was definitely wrong.
Bound by the lack of money or an insurance cover, we couldn’t afford the necessary medication required for someone enduring such pain as he was. No matter how we tried, there was no better way for us to handle the situation. We were deserted by friends and even his new drinking buddies and there were less of choices for us.
Then came the paralysis; which crippled all the left side of his body from his hand downwards. This was so sad for us that we prayed hard for things to get better. But God had different plans. After a week of taking him to a local dispensary where he was admitted, he died to what the health specialist termed as stroke.
This was a big blow to my siblings and me and it gave me the determination to work hard at school and thus got good grades and was able to get a scholarship to one of the best colleges in my country to study a degree in medicine and surgery. Hope one day to help patients with heart conditions.
Shattered Joy of a Loved One
Since she was born twelve years ago, my little sister, Joy, has been the source of joy to our family. Joy is the last born child in our family and she is also my only sister. Just like her name suggests, the young girl is a joyous component in our family. However, this joy was suddenly shattered when my sister was nine years old after she suffered a recurrence of rheumatic fever; which developed into rheumatic heart disease.
This catastrophic development has caused my little sister to live on monthly antibiotics until she is 21 years old or until doctors’ feel otherwise. The following is the traumatic turn of events; which culminated in this sad occurrence.
Underlying Factors; which Could Have Caused the Disease
Rheumatic heart disease is a health complication that occurs as a result of infection with rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that begins as a throat (strep) infection caused by the streptococcus pyogenes bacterium. The progression of rheumatic fever from a throat infection can be prevented using antibiotics for treatment. However, if the throat infection is not properly treated, it develops into rheumatic fever in 2-4 weeks.
Rheumatic fever causes the human system to produce antibodies to fight the disease; which end up harming the body’s own tissues. This is the cause of rheumatic heart disease. Although a single infection of rheumatic fever may not lead to rheumatic heart disease, a recurrence of this disease will most likely cause heart valve damage. This is what happened to my little sister. After suffering a sore throat infection when she was seven years old, doctors she was misdiagnosed and hence received improper treatment leading to a recurrence of rheumatic fever.
Signs That She was Ailing and Prognosis
Rheumatic heart disease causes cardiac valve damage; which inhibits blood flow in the heart and hence various heart-related complications. After a recurrence in rheumatic fever, my sister started experiencing joint pains and shortness of breath. She also complained of chest pains, fatigue, and she also developed a reddish rash on her body.
In order to ascertain whether rheumatic fever has progressed into rheumatic heart disease, doctors consider the symptoms and a patient’s medical history to track the re-occurrence of rheumatic fever. Upon admission, the doctor discovered that my sister had been treated for a sore throat infection two years earlier. The doctor also conducted echo-cardiogram tests to test heart valve damage. The doctor concluded that the previous case of throat infection had not been properly diagnosed and treated. It seemed that the throat infection had progressed into rheumatic fever. But it had not been treated as such.
The first infection had inflamed the heart valves and the recurrent fever was doing more damage. The doctor concluded that my sister was suffering from rheumatic heart disease due to a recurrence of rheumatic fever.
The main goal in the treatment of rheumatic heart disease is to reduce inflammation in the heart valves. After she was diagnosed with the disease, my sister was given special anti-inflammatory medications classified as corticosteroids. Corticosteroids; which are commonly called steroids, were administered to prevent further damage of the heart valves and to inhibit disease progression. Additionally, she was placed on a long-term penicillin therapy that will last for a minimum of ten years depending on her medical condition.
After taking her medication for a while, my sister recovered sufficiently and she was discharged from the hospital. However, she was placed on a long-term long-acting penicillin therapy; which involved a monthly injection for the next ten or more years. My parents were advised on how to take care of the girl in terms of proper dieting, exercising, and other necessary aspects of physical and psychological care. Although we were all overjoyed with my sister’s recovery, we were greatly saddened by this turn of events.
My parent’s considered suing the first hospital where my sister had been misdiagnosed leading to the recurrence of rheumatic fever. However, after much consideration and advice from friends and counselors, this idea was discarded. Several years have passed since this occurrence and we have gotten used to the routine medical checkups and monthly injections. My sister Joy has regained her health and we are now glad that we did not lose the joyous component of our family to rheumatic heart disease.
Early; but Shy Signs and Symptoms
This is an account about my fight with aneurysm. I am Joe Tyler, married with two lovely kids. I started having abnormal heartbeats while still in my youths. They would often come and subside after a moment of resting and no activity. But as times went time, the heart rates became frequent and I started to experience pain whenever I had them. All the while I thought that all this was normal and that I was just fatigued.
There were times that I would faint unexpected after such an attack and there are times that I had terrible periods of short breaths that I felt that I would die soon. But since I had no insurance cover, I couldn’t go for better health care at the moment.
I also admit that I was an ignorant person because even when I felt that I had raised enough to cater for my medical expenses- at least a better diagnosis; I still didn’t take that chance. It was not until after five years after the first symptoms that I went to seek medical services.
The devastating Diagnosis
The continuous chest pains and shortness of breath made me seek medical attention. The day that I went to a health care center for treatment, I was astonished to learn that I was suffering from a fatal heart condition – aneurysm ; which had generated to a kind of high blood pressure. By the time that the condition was detected, I was experiencing some of the weird moments of my life.
It started way back when I had just joined college. The symptoms; which prevailed didn’t speak much of the condition that I was suffering from and I never paid much attention to what was behind the whole strange feeling.
Being a regular smoker, the chest pains and discomfort within me made me think that it was all normal – thought that all I needed was to cut down my level of nicotine consumption. But then there were the rapid heartbeat and excessive fatigue; which I too attributed to my smoking lifestyle. However, as time went by, they became excessive and intolerable and thus I had to seek medical attention.
I went for diagnosis only to discover that I was suffering from a heart condition; which was quiet sensitive. I couldn’t believe it. But I had to live with it. All that was needed from me according to the medical officers who examined me was for me to have a change of lifestyle.
I had to reduce the fat in my diet and had to exercise regularly, my rate of smoking, and alcohol consumption in order to achieve almost too normal heart beat. This was not all that easy for me given that I feared the devastating effects of the condition. But I had no better choices.
I decided to stick to what the doctors wanted. But it only lasted for a few weeks. I didn’t even realize that I had gone back to the lifestyle that was completely detested by the medical staff. Although all the while I took the medical that had been prescribed to me, I started experiencing abnormal symptom. This time, I had periods of high fever, breath shortness and at times would black out.
Upon a visit to the health center, I realized that my condition was worsening. I was admitted to the hospital for around 20 days before being discharged. For the next 1 year and 8 months of clearly observing to the recommendations of the health care providers, I’m a living prove that a lifestyle change is key to helping victims of heart diseases.
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