So there has been something going on that is a very big deal that I have wanted to talk about for quite awhile in here, but until now, I didnt have my husband Nick’s permission to do so. Why his permission? Because the “something” is about him and his health. Unlike me, when something significant happens to him, his first instinct, oddly enough, is NOT to run screaming and posting on his Facebook page about it and tell the world. Therefore, lots of times when things are going on in my life that directly involve him or my parents or my brother, all of whom are way more private than me, I have to keep quiet about it.
Well, now I have permission. He told me I can write about it here. It helps me to write about it here.
So, some of you may be aware that when I married my husband Nick, I became aware that he has a LOT of heart disease in his family/genes. Both of his parents died fairly young (their early 60s), and both from heart-related issues. His sister was born with a rare heart defect that led her to having 9 different surgeries in her short life. She died on her 33rd birthday. So, Nick carries these genes with him, as well as being diabetic. Upon hearing all this when we first met, it scared the shit out of me, honestly. To get involved with someone who could also die of a heart attack, like Don did? To allow myself to care about someone, knowing he might be facing a similar fate, and that I might be widowed young – twice? To allow love into my life again, only to maybe lose it all over again? That seemed slightly insane. However, love is slightly insane, the heart wants what it wants, and love is more powerful than any other thing on earth. If I really believed these things, which I do, then I had to allow love in and allow my heart to fully expand and take in and give this great love that was being placed before me. And now, here we are. Five years together so far, and our two-year wedding anniversary will be coming up this New Years Eve.
And here come the frightening triggers.
We found out a couple of weeks ago that Nick will be needing a triple bypass. Soon. As in, this month – July 20th, just one week from the death anniversary of Don Shepherd, who died from a massive heart attack on July 13, 2011. Because of course the universe would line this up to happen in JULY out of every month on the calendar. The universe finds it to be fun to mess with the widow. About a month ago, Nick had some testing done on his heart, because of his family history and his age. That testing revealed blockages, and they scheduled him to have a stent put in. We went to the hospital for that procedure, and once he was in the procedure room, the doctor came out to talk to me, and the first thing he said was: “I was asked by your husband to be very gentle with you. Your husband is okay, but we didnt put the stent in, because its most likely going to be a bypass instead.” The next day, we had a consultation with his surgeon for the bypass. SHE (I love that the surgeon is female) answered all our questions and was very informative and wonderful. Then some tests were scheduled to make sure his body is a candidate for surgery, and as long as those go well, surgery is on the 20th.
Im doing my best to be brave. Im doing my best to stay calm. Im doing my best not to panic every time he makes a noise like hes in pain, or simply says on a random Wednesday “I dont feel so good today” (that is apparently what Don said to one of his coworkers at the volunteer animal shelter, about 30 minutes before he collapsed on the floor while I slept at home.) Im doing my best not to be too “naggy” by reminding him to please rest until the surgery, because he is walking around with blockages everywhere and the smallest movement could be too much for his weak heart. Im doing my best to combat his stubborn nature of wanting to DO THINGS with patience and love, when most times I want to cry my face off because Im seconds away from a panic attack. Around every corner, I see him lying there, collapsed. I keep picturing him collapsing , just weeks before the surgery. I keep seeing in my widow traumatized brain, various versions of finding him lying on the floor – the same way I found our Sammy cat on Mothers Day. Im trying like hell not to go there, but my brain is in control and I cant stop it. Its exhausting.
I tell myself to focus on the positives. Focus on the fact that we caught this. Focus on the notion that with Don, we had ZERO warning, zero preparation, zero chance to do a damn thing about it. He was alive and well one second, and the next second, he was dead forever. Im trying to remind myself that this is different. We have the chance this time to have a different ending. We have the opportunity to have this surgery, which is life-changing and life-saving for lots of people, and to possibly add years to Nick’s life. He will probably feel better too, once the extensive recovery process is over. Maybe this will lead us both into getting healthier and living improved lives together.
These are the things Im trying to focus on.
If only the widow/trauma/don’t get too happy because it will all fall apart part of my brain would shut up.
After talking with the doctor and with ourselves, we have decided to go ahead with my trip to San Diego for Camp Widow, and his trip (the same week) to go fishing with a friend. He is going to bait-fish only, and just be near the water and nature and rest, and me being with my widowed tribe the week of Don Shepherd’s death anniversary will help me to be in a good space in my head when I return home the day before the surgery. Family members will then stay with me for a day or two while Nick will be staying in the hospital for a few days post-surgery. When he returns home, I will take care of him as he recovers, and work less hours or not at all for a month, if that seems necessary. As a widow of sudden death who has never been able to PLAN anything like this, it feels very foreign and weird to be planning something like this, and I keep second-guessing every single decision and wondering if we are doing it right.
Im trying to stay calm.
But if Im being completely honest,
Im completely and utterly terrified.