Two years. And nine months.
It’s been just over two years and nine months since I updated this blog.
Before that, I had a brief stint of a couple of months at the beginning of 2013 where I was going to the gym regularly.
I have to admit, after we had kids, I fell off the exercise wagon hard. In the last three and a half years, I’ve barely worked out at all. My entire exercise routine consisted of biking to and from work, and then only between the end of April and the beginning of October. This summer, thanks to an injury, I didn’t bike to work even once. My physiotherapist advised me against it. My eating habits have gotten out of hand. And now I’ve gained back almost all the weight I took off before we had kids.
But today I went to the gym again. Why? Let’s just say I had a serious wake up call.
Last Wednesday, I had my first date night with my wife since before our second daughter was born. (Oh yeah, we had another little girl last year. Just FYI) I didn’t want to be late, so I ran the couple hundred meters to the end of the street to catch the next streetcar home. Not a sprint, more of an easy-ish jog. When I got on the streetcar and sat down, I noticed a tightness in my chest, which didn’t seem to want to go away. I soldiered on and had a nice dinner with my wife, but all the while I was feeling kind of crappy, and in the back of my mind I worried.
The next day at work I felt worse, so I took half of the day off sick, left work and went to see my doctor. He wasn’t sure if it was my heart, but told me that he’d get me booked in for some testing in a few weeks, and in the meantime, if I felt more pain I should get to an ER.
Friday morning I felt like crap. Serious tightness in my chest, shaky, walking seemed to make it worse, so off to the ER I went. Four ECGs, two rounds of blood work, and 8 hours later I finally went home. Other than a couple of little anomalies in the first two ECGs, everything looked A-OK, but they put me on low-dose aspirin and booked me a test appointment with the cardiac department for this past Wednesday. And again, same advice. Any chest pain, get to the ER.
Fast forward through a mostly okay Saturday, to Sunday morning. I went downtown around 10:00 am to get our family and my sister-in-law’s family good seats for the Santa Claus Parade. Lugging four folding chairs. Not heavy, but not insubstantial, either. Walk up a few flights of stairs from the subway, walk a few hundred meters up the street to get a good spot, and park myself for a few hours.
All the while, tightness is starting to build in my chest again. Around 11:30 my sister-in-law got there, but I put on a brave face and said nothing. Shortly after noon my wife, our girls, and her sister’s family got there. Again, brave face, sit quietly, do nothing. Around 12:45 I could no longer ignore it. My chest felt like it was being squeezed. My breathing had become short and ragged. I felt shaky. I had to go.
Now, this is the part where I’m dumb. There are at least 3 hospitals along that stretch of University Ave within walking distance that I could have gone to, but in my mind, I needed to get back to the hospital I went to on Friday, because they saw me before and I thought I should go back to them. A 12 km trip via the absolute fastest cab ride I ever took. Got a funny look from the nurse when I told her where I’d come from, let me tell you.
It’s amazing just how urgent ER department staff don’t get when you tell them you think you’re having a heart attack. No rushing, no urgency at all, even though in your mind, you’re dying. I was panicked. I had tears running down my face. I was worried. They were calm and collected.
That’s probably because most people coming in claiming heart attacks likely aren’t having them. Especially 40-year-olds. Chest pain, yeah, angina, maybe. But unless you’re in cardiac arrest, there’s no rushing around.
Another two ECGs, two more rounds of blood work, a set of chest X-rays, and another 6 hours in the ER, and I still know nothing. ECGs were perfectly normal. Ditto the blood work and X-rays. And I felt fine when I left. What the hell is going on?
Monday and Tuesday came and went with minor tightness in my chest, but nothing like Friday or Sunday. So yesterday I went to the cardiologist for my cardiac stress test, which would hopefully give me some answers. A cardiac stress test involves hooking you up to an ECG machine while walking/jogging on a treadmill. This made me nervous as hell, as walking down the street seemed to set my chest off prior to this point. I’ve seriously been walking around in an old man shuffle since last week, I’ve been that paranoid.
Ten minutes, and a heart rate of over 180 later, and the test is done. And oddly enough, I felt terrific during it. No sense of the tightness I felt prior to stepping on the treadmill. It returned shortly afterward, but I wasn’t lying dead on the floor like some part of me expected. After reviewing the results, the doctor said my heart performed phenomenally during the test, and that chances were slim that my heart is the issue. If it had been, the pain/pressure should have ramped up during the test, not the opposite. Still, I’m going to have an echocardiogram, or heart ultrasound, in a couple of weeks just to rule out heart damage for sure.
Once I got the result, I asked the doctor if it was safe for me to head back to the gym, and he said ‘Absolutely, I recommend it’.
And so here we are. Two years and nine months since the last time I typed here, back at a gym I barely recognize (they’ve had renos since I was last there), trying to use equipment I’m no longer familiar with. I feel lost.
I’ve gained back all but one of the pounds I lost on these blog pages. Four pounds away from my peak weight. My body fat is back over 30%. But I’m going to do something about it. Because over the last week I’ve had reason to imagine a world in which my daughters don’t have a father. That can’t happen.
I’ve had a wake-up call.