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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The 1st Anniversary of The Day I Cheated Death

Last year, almost one year ago to this day, I was diagnosed with heart disease. The news came as quite a shock to my system, because, prior to that, I never once noticed any trouble whatsoever with my heart.

However, in many ways, my mind, body and spirit were engaged in erecting the Perfect Storm for Heart Disease.

I had been experiencing a deeply emotional few years. I was broke. I was thought to be a fairly successful writer, however, after several years of hard, blood-letting, soul-robbing work, I was being systemically robbed, cheated at every turn, embezzled out of every single dime due to me for the steady sales of my work; deceived by a publisher that blatantly stole from me, and who didn’t give a damn. Then, to make matters worse, all my efforts to right that egregious wrong had been dashed. Lawyers cost a bail of cold hard cash, and after fighting the good fight, for many months, I was at my wit's and my money's end. People who I thought were friends had been a constant source of disappointment to me. Family members were dying, and it seemed as if life itself was slowly crushing me.

To deal with the stress of all this, I raged, I grieved, I seethed and I smoked like the proverbial chimney. I didn’t eat any of the right foods. In fact, I pretty much ate like a typical teenager. I consumed way too many burgers, fries, pizzas and sodas. Oh my! I treated myself to ice cream on the regular and I lived for desserts… the richer the better. And oh yeah… did I mention that I smoked… a LOT?

Never one to give up on myself completely… slowly I began working on me. The mirror revealed the sad truth that my supermodel figure had gone to pot. My 30 inch waist was gradually expanding to 32, then 33, then 34 inches. Suddenly none of my rather stylish clothes were fitting! To offset this madness, I started to exercise more, to walk more, and to limit my caloric intake. Also, in a deeply revolutionary move of self-preservation, I’d quit smoking… cold turkey.

Mind you, it was shortly after I’d quit smoking that I began to notice some difficulty catching my breath. There was some craziness going on with my breathing, yes, but still not my heart.


Cut to 2011: I was sick every day from January to mid May, and I do mean EVERY single, solitary DAY! The majority of these illnesses occurred above the waist... my stomach would ache like hell and then my throat and then my head would throb from the worst migraine known to man. This became a gut-wrenching pattern where feeling lousy became the norm. I lost my appetite. All food tasted nasty to me... even my favorite things began to have NO taste whatsoever. I lost weight rapidly. Cyber doctors were assuring me that it was all a reaction to the absence of nicotine, and my body crying out for it. Hell, I almost went back to smoking just to rid myself of those hellish symptoms!

But then, to make matters even worse, I soon noticed that my feet, ankles and legs were swelling. Something was definitely wrong and now I knew it! Too many things were happening to me all at once. It had to signify something… perhaps something deadly. Something was definitely ailing me…. but what, exactly? I didn’t want to know. I was afraid to know. My entire body was betraying me. I felt fatigued after walking only a few feet. It was like having a wheezing 90 year-old geezer suddenly living under my skin. Then it became nearly impossible to do the simplest things without getting winded, or to lie on my back without a sense of sudden panic while experiencing this frightening sensation of choking, and finally, not being able to muster the strength needed to put on my shoes… my shoes! I realized I HAD to get my lax and increasingly sick ass to the nearest ER.

It was there at the hospital, after being seated in a wheelchair and rapidly rolled into the ER where a small tribe of nurses began furiously massaging my legs (apparently to get the blood to better circulate) while simultaneously I was brought to a small examination room where my heart was monitored. Within minutes, I received the terrible news that I was suffering from Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).


Fools! I figured the doctors with all their fancy tests had gotten it wrong. Maybe I'd some kind of lung infection, perhaps, but whatever the problem was, it could NOT be some potentially deadly malady that couldn’t be cured. Well, surprise! Yes. They were correct, and no, there is not a cure.

The day became so strange and dark and quiet afterward. It was raining and it had been for days. It seemed to reflect exactly what I was feeling inside. CHF? WTF? I was slowly trying to come to grips with my brand new reality.

I kept hearing my doctor’s voice echoing in my skull… telling me that I now had Congestive Heart Failure.


CHF? For real? But how could this happen and what did it mean? Did I even have a future?

The best they could do was to make me comfortable; give me something to knock down my dangerously high blood pressure. The most welcome news, in fact, the only welcome news was that they would supply the right meds so that I could finally get a decent night’s sleep. Yes! Please! Sleep was what I needed most of all… and I needed it desperately. At the time, I had NOT slept for an entire night in many, many months… and it was driving me absolutely bonkers. It’s more than unhealthy, because, the lack of sleep can begin to affect your mind, your logic and the way you generally function. Hallucinations had befallen me. I had the strangest daydreams. People I didn’t know or rarely ever thought about would come visit me in my bedroom and I’d have lengthy conversations with them. One evening, I was up half the night conversing, then arguing viciously with Joy Behar. WTF was Joy Behar (of all people!) doing in my room, and why was she saying those terrible things about me??? This was all very odd and yet it seemed very, very real-- only... it wasn’t. It was (as the Temptations sang) just my imagination, running away with me.

However, the reality was, as one doctor told me: “You’re a very sick man.”

To be told you have a disease that will likely be the death of you is not something you can easily blow off, dismiss nor forget. I’ve never been a person to live very long in a state of denial. I’m a fighter by nature, but it’s also been my history to choose my battles wisely. What could I do to fight it?

Well, since there is no cure, at best, you can combat it by eating less, exercising and moving around more, staying away from salt, nicotine, sugar, all the delicious things you’ve grown accustomed to, and maybe, just maybe you’ll have a chance at surviving beyond the general “five year” life expectancy.

Damn! Just damn!

That’s not an easy diagnosis to live with. For the first time in my life, I actually had to THINK about the reality of dying someday. I never really THOUGHT about my death before, at least not in a realistic way. No. I didn’t live inside a bubble of delusion or some cotton candy-coated fairytale that I was immortal, but I wonder now, just how many people go through life, as I did, never considering how much time they have left here, and just what might happen to cause their eventual death.

Long story short: Every day since that fated diagnosis has been a Blessing. Not necessarily a click my heels, tap-dancing like Mr. Bojangles HUGE deal, where I celebrate life, break into gradiose musical routines while walking down a city street, and EVERYONE suddenly joins me... but, a Blessing nonetheless.

I realize that there are no coincidences. Some things, some events, some moments are destined to be. After spending nine days and nights in a hospital being poked by endless needles and asked a myriad of invasive questions, I was told I’d be going home the following morning. Cool. I guess I must be better if they’re sending me home, right?

However, that very night, while sleeping (yes, sleeping, at last!) and still being monitored, Dr. Alexander Delvecchio and a floor nurse rushed into my room, and shook me from my sound slumber to ask if I was “all right?”

“Ummm, yeah. I’m fine. I’m going home tomorrow,” I vaguely remember answering in a groggy state.

“No. You won’t be,” the good Doc Alex informed me.


I was told my heart had been jumping around all over the place, clocking crazy rhythms, displaying an unusual and possibly deadly case of arrhythmia.

I had absolutely NO idea. I didn’t feel a thing.

He then made a quick and life-saving decision that I would require a pacemaker to be implanted in my chest, as soon as possible. That ASAP turned out to be the following day.

This was to be the day I was scheduled to GO HOME!

But… had I gone home, I may well have died the next day, in my sleep from sudden cardiac death, experienced a fatal cardiac arrhythmia or a debilitating stroke. That I didn’t is a complete Blessing. Had the scenario been any different, I would not be here today, living a healthier lifestyle, writing these words, telling my story, advising anyone who reads this to get a check up if anything feels wrong, physically, or any strange symptoms should suddenly nag at you.

There are no accidents. I was indeed, saved, spared to be here for a reason. No idea how much longer this will be, but I’m doing my best to live life with a renewed sense of purpose. I don’t want to cheat myself of the time I have left. I was never a bad, evil, foul or unfair person but I want to be a better one. I want to be better in all aspects of this life, a better son, brother, uncle, friend, lover, writer, and yes, a better human being.

So, on this anniversary of my diagnosis, I am acknowledging this magnificent and most exquisite Gift that is Life. I am choosing NOT to waste it with bullshit or on bullshit people, but to live without falsity or foolery or to abuse it with vanity, or to allow it to pass me by unnoticed, without giving it some meaning. I thank GOD for it.

That’s it. That’s all.


Snatch JOY!



Val said...

Wow, Lin, I am so sorry you had to go through all of that. But I am also so proud of you for overcoming and for not just surviving but for thriving!

Your words always bring inspiration to me, Lin, and your actions are now doing the same.

You're amazing!

Moanerplicity said...

Thanks so much, Val. Maybe these obstacles we face in life are placed in our path to see how well we can cope, or can't cope or how well we LEARN to cope.

I'm learning... & even today I'm very much a work in progress.

Thanks again, my friend.

One Love.

QH said...

Sorry I've been away from the blog for so long. I was glad to read your story of survival & recovery. Keep at it Linn, drink lots of water, smile, breathe, and keep your great perspective. Much luv.-QH

Moanerplicity said...

Thanks muchly, Q. I appreciate the support. Hope you've been busy w/ that new writing gig & continuing to make a BIG NOISE, my friend!

Keep writing! Keep Fighting!


Felicia Pitre said...

Thank you for reminding us to Snatch Joy every day!

Lovebabz said...

((HUGS)) Glad you are with us.

I am glad you are taking good care of YOU!

Moanerplicity said...

@ Felicia:

You're very welcome. And how YOU been, Ms. Pitre? Hope all is Blessed w/ you, yours & the big headz.


Moanerplicity said...

@ Lovebaz:

Yup, I have to take good care of me. Having such a reality-altering experience can not only shake you up, but it can infuse you with a mighty determined LIFE WISH.


AnnaRenee said...

Oh my God, Lin! I remember you mentioned that you had a pacemaker put into your chest, but Lord the ordeal!
Such a rollercoaster ride of an ordeal! Im so glad you made it through Brother Eastside! Thank God you made it through.

I love you brother!

Daij said...

God is good. I'm glad you survived and living to tell the story.

Snatch Joy! That's what you do. That's what we all need to do.

HoNeyBlikk said...

OMG Congestive Heart Failure!

Ohhh my brotha-twin.. I am so sad to hear this. I know that you are a figter and I am honoured to know you and feel your words and love you endlessly.

Glad you stopped smoking now I have to do the same- What ever time we have left know this the tears that come to my eyes is the love I feel for you and the amazing man that you are.

In our next life time it's you and me kid.. holding hands from birth. Thank you for writing what you have been going through it must be hard and scary. You have a pacemaker which is awesome for you it will help you more.

Sigs... okay my twin soul you stay comfortable and keep writing.

Love U endlessly

HoNeyBlikk said...

OMG Congestive Heart Failure!

Ohhh my brotha-twin.. I am so sad to hear this. I know that you are a figter and I am honoured to know you and feel your words and love you endlessly.

Glad you stopped smoking now I have to do the same- What ever time we have left know this the tears that come to my eyes is the love I feel for you and the amazing man that you are.

In our next life time it's you and me kid.. holding hands from birth. Thank you for writing what you have been going through it must be hard and scary. You have a pacemaker which is awesome for you it will help you more.

Sigs... okay my twin soul you stay comfortable and keep writing.

Love U endlessly

Roger Poladopoulos said...

I don't know how this post escaped me. I didn't discover it until today. I must have been off somewhere in a galaxy yet to be known.

Wow, man! Congratulations of a year of survival, a year of coping and a year of making positive changes. May you be blessed with many more years of happiness, health and life. May we, your fans, be blessed with many more volumes of your writing.

Best wishes. My thoughts, prayers and support are with you, my blogger brother.

Moanerplicity said...


Thanks, man. Yes, more than ever the concept of snatching JOY is a regular part of my daily routine. Life is too stressful w/out acknowledging our Blessings & truly appreciating our time here.


Moanerplicity said...

@ Karen aka LST:

Yes, that's the word from the docs. But those words sound so much more deadier than what the disease is. I'm not in constant pain or anything. It means that heart is not pumping blood through my body & vital organs as hard as it should, so I have to do what I can to keep it from overworking, thus, regulating it w/ diet, exercise, taking the right meds & plenty of rest is required. Staying proactive, following doctor's orders & being mindful are a must.

But don't worry. I'm not planning on leaving here, at least not any time soon.

Love You, Sista Twin.


Moanerplicity said...

@ Roger:

Thanks so much, man. I really appreciate your support. As you know, life often hands something hard & unexpected that tests our reserve & we find out the kind of people we are internally. Suddenly we are called upon to rise or fall & we learn whether we will sink or swim.

You're a swimmer... & so am I.

And the swimmers shall inherit the earth!



Moanerplicity said...

@ Anna Renee:

Yup. 'Ordeal' would definitely be the right word for that entire situation. Well, that & the words: CRAZY! FORTUNATE! & BLESSED! I'm just glad, grateful & give all Glory to The Creator that I'm still here & able to speak on it.

For realz!


Wiz-Woman said...

For one- i'm happy you are still here and that you were blessed with the opportunity to get the help you needed. I miss you my friend- My apologies for not being around as much- but I think of you often Love to you!

Moanerplicity said...

Thanks so much, Lori. I've missed YOU too, my friend. Yes indeed, this month marks the first year anniversary of my gratitude for being healthier, still existing & still breathing air.

Hope you've been well & that life is Blessed for you, Marcel &
all those you love in Wiz-ville.

Love to you as well. Take care, my Wiz-Woman.




Chet said...

I recall you scribing about this with us, and I must say you're recovering wonderfully, you're strong and by all means there is a winner in you. You've taught us the importance of snatching joy at every opportunity.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Chet:

Sometimes it takes adversity, a deep-seated personal adversity for us to tap into the 'winner' sleeping inside each of us.

Throughout this entire situation, I was pleased to learn that winner really does exist within me.