Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Finish Line is Only the Beginning

My next posting for the ACHA blog recaps my latest appointment with my cardiologist and looks at the opportunities I've had over the past year as a CHD patient. It will be published tomorrow.

Yesterday was the first time I’ve seen my ACHD cardiologist since January. (It was exactly six months to the day after my last visit with him; that appointment was the initial follow-up for the stent procedure I had done in December.) While I like my cardiologist very much, it was great to not have to see him for half a year.

I’ve been feeling great since January; and my only potential concern going into this visit was that, despite having been training for the half marathon for the past seven weeks, I don’t seem to be gaining much speed or endurance for running. However, my doctor was not concerned about this, given the fact that my endurance for cycling has not changed at all. (I have my very first VO2 max test scheduled for next month just to compare it with the results of the stress test I had last August.) He told me that as long as I stay hydrated and avoid running in dangerously hot weather, there is no reason why I should not push forward with the training. I told him that, as long as I don’t have to get picked up by the slow bus before crossing the finish line, I will have achieved my goal!

After my appointment, I took some time to reflect on the past 12 months and to think about how my life has changed since I was suddenly reminded of my CHD after my bicycling accident last summer. I couldn’t help but think back to one of my earliest entries in my blog this past October, “It’s all about perspective. Attitude is everything,” when I was preparing for and fully expecting to go through my second open heart surgery later in the year. Although the road has taken a pretty significant detour since that point—namely that I didn’t have to have my chest cavity cracked open for another surgery—the basic idea that I wrote about then still very much applies today. I really do believe that attitude is everything!

Over the past year, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people and participate in some important advocacy work for the CHD community. I met someone at Lobby Day in Washington, DC, who recognized me as the CHD cyclist and blogger from Chicago. I had a one-on-one meeting with my Congressional Representative in my home district to talk about the Congenital Heart Caucus, and I’ve stayed in fairly regular contact with his staff since then. I’ve been invited to take part in the ACHA Ambassador training this September. And I have my cardiologist now regularly asking me about what lobbying activities I’ve been involved in since he last saw me, followed by a very genuine thank you for doing what I do on that front.

It has been an exciting and sometimes overwhelming journey, but I feel like it is just getting started. There is so much yet to be done and so many opportunities ahead. When I run (or, more likely, jog and walk) the Chicago Half Marathon on September 9th, it certainly won’t be to strive for one of the top awards, nor will it be to break any records (aside from it being the farthest distance I will have ever run up until that point). Rather, it will be to overcome a personal challenge and to defeat my own negative thoughts of “I can’t do it” that I’ve had along the way. I know that I can; and I will! And when I cross the finish line for the Chicago Half Marathon, I’ll find a new one to go after.

Will you join me in supporting ACHA as I take on this challenge?

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