I’m sure most all of you who know me have heard the story of my near-death experience in some form or another (if not, read it here). The short of it is this – for some odd reason, I’m still suffering from periodic chest pains. I’ve visited ERs and Urgent Cares, been told nothing is wrong with me, and been sent home no better than before I visited. It’s been a frustrating last few years for me regarding my health. The pain persists, yet every seems to tell me I’m fine. So here I am not any better than the first day I stepped foot in that ER.
With all that in mind, I consider this fall to have been the best stretch of time for my health. No chest pain, flare ups, or any run-ins with doctors. That is, until this weekend. Saturday night I started feeling a bit “off” (I went to bed at 6pm for goodness sakes). Around 8pm I started getting bad chest pain, and I knew, that persistent feeling was back. I grabbed the pain meds and waited for them to kick in. The relief took longer than normal, but I ended up feeling slightly better and fell asleep around 11pm.
So today I had a conversation with a friend of mine who’s a nurse. The convo went something like this (via text):
Me: Ever heard of costochondritis?
Her: Yeah, who has it??
Her: Whoa, I didn’t know that.
Me: Yeah, long story. Had it for 2 years. Still suffering from chest pains every so often. Why isn’t it going away?
Her: Oh, it’s a life-long thing. It won’t go away. What it means is that the blood vessels in your chest are too small and whenever your blood flow increases, the cartilage around your sternum/heart area inflames causing pain.
Me: No doctor has ever told me all that. Wow. So is there some pill I take to help?
Her: You’ve never been told that?!?! And no. Most people I know who have it just treat the pain with pain meds when it acts up.
Me: Okay, so what do I avoid to keep it from acting up?
Her: Avoid stress.
Telling me to avoid stress is like telling me to drop everything in my life, move to rural Tennessee, and live the simple life. (Honestly, that sounds awesome.) I’ve always had stress in my life….I’m always going, always juggling responsibilities, always busy. That’s just my life right now. And the fact I work in politics and have planned to do so for the rest of my life means I’ll always have stress.
So that short and somewhat informal conversation has produced a number of questions in my life. #1. Why has no one told me all that before? #2. How do I work around stress in such a stressful career as politics? #3. Do I give it all up and chose a less stressful career?
Needless to say, I’ve got some heavy thinking to do over the next few weeks. This isn’t so much about avoiding stress as it is about avoiding spending tons of money and time at an ER for the rest of my life. Believe me, those places aren’t fun, and even less fun is the crippling chest pain that can sideline me for days at a time.