I was standing in my kitchen on a Thursday evening in March when my doctor called with the results from my recent stress test. “There’s something wrong with your heart.” I stood motionless while he proceeded to share what they’d found. I had what’s called ventricular tachycardia, extra heartbeats that disrupt your regular rhythm. My doctor had already spoken to a cardiologist and a cardiac electrophysiologist on my behalf and my first appointment was for the following morning. It all felt so fast and overwhelming, but I tried to find comfort in his words (that I wish he’d led with): We were lucky we caught it and more importantly, I was going to be fine.
It all started last year during my morning walks. I’d usually go for about an hour, slowly winding my way along city streets. And then one day, my heart felt like it was fluttering out of my chest, rapidly out of sync, despite my leisurely pace. I was dizzy and light-headed and sat down in the middle of the sidewalk on Ventura Blvd. It happened again only days later (and then almost each time thereafter) and I’d always come up with different explanations: dehydration, lack of sleep, stress, walking in a mask, anxiety—I got really creative with my diagnoses. It wasn’t until a particularly debilitating episode, on another morning walk, that I decided to get in touch with my doctor. And I’m so glad I did.
From what I understand from my own doctor (and there’s still a lot I don’t), arrhythmias are mainly dangerous if there’s existing heart damage. Over the next couple of months, I underwent a series of tests with heart rate monitors, an ultrasound, and a cardiac MRI, and luckily, my doctors determined that my heart was otherwise healthy. But since my episodes were happening frequently, my doctors recommended I get an ablation, the procedure I had last week, to restore a normal heart rhythm. When I woke up afterward, they told me the good news: They’d identified the three areas that caused my arrhythmia and were able to fix them. Besides feeling slightly sore and tired for a few days after, I’m now completely healed from both the procedure and the condition and so, so happy.
I’m also overwhelmed with gratitude—for the incredible healthcare workers who took care of me, but also my support system of friends, family and co-workers, medical insurance, and the ability to take the time from my job to recover. I also took away so many lessons from my experience I’ll carry with me.
When I found out about my condition, I instinctively wanted to hit a pause button on my life. For the first time in over a year it felt like my world was opening up: We were looking forward to warm nights eating pizza in our backyard with friends, an overnight stay for our anniversary, a birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant, and a Mother’s Day brunch. It all felt so closeI could touch it, but was dampened by my diagnosis and upcoming tests. I was crippled by anxiety and initially thought the best solution was simply to delay all of our plans and celebrations until after I was better. It was only when my mom suggested a similar idea, essentially ignoring her birthday altogether in light of everything going on, that I realized how wrong I had been. Life isn’t perfect. There will be health issues (particularly ones that can’t be as easily remedied as mine was), traffic jams, and disagreements. But you don’t have to look too hard to find the good because it’s always there, though sometimes a bit obscured; the way light plays along the surface of water.
We went out for lunch for my mom’s birthday, tucked in a shadowy courtyard and shared braised meatballs, wood-roasted cauliflower, and mussels nestled in a gorgeous tomato broth. It was perfect and not in spite of what I was going through, but because of it. I was given a perspective I’d never had before and staying present and grateful will forever be two of the cornerstones for how I want to live my life.