The Shape of my Heart – Valvular Heart disease and April’s Heartaches

This April, like the many Aprils before this, has been notoriously and expectedly damaging to my heart. I don’t know why so many bad things happen to me in April but it does. However, because I am now aware of April’s intentions, I find myself more prepared to deal with it so that I can shelter my heart from more damage. Well… at least I’d like to think that I protect my heart. Sometimes there’s just no way to shield yourself from the pain that hurts your heart.

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April is the time of year when seasons change and Spring arrives. It is a new beginning.

April 8th was the day that we lost my mother to cancer.

April 11th was the day that we lost my brother.

April 17th was the day that Eddie Arguelles was hit and killed on his bicycle by an intoxicated driver.

April was when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. I could go on and on about death and heartache… but here’s the truth about April. It’s when bad things happen that the opportunity to make good things happen from them arise. Events like this can either make you or break you. It’s your choice.

Now, don’t get me wrong, misunderstand my words or try to turn this whole thing around. The pain of the loss from all these mentioned above is still agonizing. I don’t want you to think that it’s all ok now. Because it’s not. I doubt it ever will be ok. That pain will always be there.

However, watching the way Monette gracefully and eloquently handled the one year anniversary of the loss of her husband, Eddie Arguelles, was so inspirational and uplifting. I have so much yet to learn!!! My mother died on Easter Sunday and I haven’t been able to keep a dry eye even thinking about an Easter Egg hunt. This woman bravely goes out on a celebratory 5am morning bike ride along the route that took her husbands life. She was able to hold her head up high and celebrate his life in the way that he loved to spend his life doing… cycling. It’s times like this that make me question my strength and courage and validate to myself that I still have so much more to do, to grow, to achieve.

It was an emotional day as the UTPA family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of Eduardo “Eddie” Arguelles. This picture montage video was created in loving memory of Eddie. He will truly be missed by all whose lives he touched and everyone that had the pleasure of knowing him.

Posted by UTPA – Division of Information Technology on Friday, April 25, 2014

Considering all that was happening, it was understandable that there was a lot of emotional drama that not only I had to live with but many of my other family members and friends dealt with as well. Too many of these issues interfered with my training and state of mind. For now and until some of these personal matters become better managed, I am stepping down and out of all of the events I had prepared to do. There is no way that I can properly train for the big events I had hoped for. I’m not quitting… I just know better than to risk my body and health for the ego of the finish line. My time will come. I’ll see the sign when it’s ready.

It has been hard to train on my own. I am not the self-motivating type… in fact, I’m pretty self-defeating. I’ve written several times about the mean voice in my head… she’s actually worse in person. I’ve had to edit much of the language here in the blog that she actually says to me. and quite honestly, just between me and you… I think she really needs a life. 😉

I am very much a goal oriented person. I see a finish line and I work myself towards it. But in this case, today, there is no more finish line. The ironman I was looking forward to is no longer there. I won’t be attending CapTexTri for family reasons. And it’s just too late to sign up for other races without proper training… so I’m basically just going through the motions.

But isn’t that the goal?

Tada!!! Helllloooooooo!!!

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sigh So, I’m having a hard time dealing with not going for that gold star on my head, not having accomplished something and putting a check mark by it to note that it’s done. What I’m working at is never ending… and I’m having a hard time adjusting my thought process around it for proper motivation. This is my struggle today.

I need to find it in my heart. Last thing I want to do is quit on myself after all this hard work has been done, with or without the support I’ve had thus far.

So in my search for motivation, I figured I needed to start with my heart. If I can’t find motivation in my heart.. then were else would it be??? Coincidentally, a symposium was being held by my running guru and a group of cardiologists that are experienced marathon runners. There it is!!! Answers to my heart 🙂

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I attended the meeting, late of course, and stood in the back of the room listening in awe to those doctors who ran the courses all over the world that filled my bucket list. They gave advice that, for the most part, I had already been following.

Dr. Paul Manoharan and me as he gave me my  cardiology exam results. Yes, that IS his happy face :)

Dr. Paul Manoharan and me as he gave me my cardiology exam results. Yes, that IS his happy face 🙂

Prior to taking my initial first steps towards my marathon journey, I went to Dr. Manoharan – my cardiologist who also worked with my baby brother, Donny Cardenas, and knew better than most other doctors about my family history and my personality when it came to accomplishing a goal. After several exams, stress tests and even went so far as to offer me the option to choose the dye that my brother sold to him (my brother was his pharma rep for this product), he discovered that my heart had a malformed valve.

My grandmother and grandfather on my father’s side both died of heart disease. My grandmother had this same heart defect. My father and my brother have/had heart disease. My brother died of it. My father is living with it.

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Dr. Manoharan carefully went over all the pros and cons of this genetic oddity with me and after all the discussion, we decided that I would continue cautiously while he monitored me closely and often. After the first year of running, he removed the cholesterol medication I was on. After the second year, he was sarcastic (his normal self – whew! – that’s a good sign) and I think pretty stunned that I stuck with it and kept improving. Now into my third year, I’m curious as to what his numbers show.

So… long story longer… and getting to my point: Your body doesn’t have to be perfect to do amazing things. You can have things wrong with your body and still do some pretty neat things you thought you never could. I did. However, you do have to be brave enough to ask the right questions and do all the right tests to know all the right answers about your body. You have to communicate correctly with your doctor, not just once in your life or once a year – because your body isn’t what it was 10 years ago, 10 months ago, 10 days ago. You aren’t supposed to be the same. You change and change often. It’s knowing if you are changing for the better or for the worse that’s important.

Know what’s in your heart. And know what’s in your heart.

Now, go run and set up that appointment with your docs.

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