Saturday, October 1, 2011

I'm coming out. I want the world to know.

It has been just over two weeks since I met with my new cardiologist for the very first time and was told that I would probably need to have another open heart surgery in the coming months. While (fortunately) it's not an emergency, it is a serious matter that needs to be addressed. I spent most of that evening in shock while processing the news and telling my parents and sisters, all of whom remembered my first heart surgery nearly 30 years ago. (I was only eight months old at the time, so I clearly have no recollection of that surgery.)

In the days that followed, I took a lot of time to think about and process the news I had just received, did some of my own research and reading online, and selectively told some of my closest friends about the situation. I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing network of family and friends, who all provided words of support and encouragement and offered to help in anyway they could. One of my friends told me about her cousin, who, when he was in his early 30s, had been diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer. He chose to start a blog about his own journey through the treatment and recovery process; and this story was also part of the impetus for the creation of this blog.

As I reflect on the past two weeks and the process of sharing this big news with family and friends, I can't help but comparing it to the process I went through over a decade ago when I came out of the closet as a gay man. While I think more people were surprised to hear this more recent news about the upcoming surgery, I found myself going through a similar set of steps:
  1. Come out to yourself. Deal with the anger, confusion, and questions along the way; but accept and embrace the reality for yourself first.
  2. Share the news with close family and friends. Tell the people closest to you. Get their acceptance, support, and feedback. Then determine how to move forward together.
  3. Live openly. While it's not necessary to plaster the news on a billboard or to work the news into every introduction you have with people, just go about living your life day to day. If the topic comes up, discuss it. If it doesn't, don't worry about.
While I completely understand why not everyone can (or maybe doesn't want to) "come out" in this manner (regardless of what type of news they have to share), this was simply the approach that I chose for myself. I decided to make this blog public as a way of sharing my personal story more widely. If people have the opportunity to read about and understand the personal stories of adults with congenital heart defects, perhaps that increased knowledge can help with the advocacy efforts of organizations like the Adult Congenital Heart Association.That is my hope.

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