Perseverance: the word I used for finding answers to the disparate changes in my health that limited my hiking, especially at altitude. Three years of declining ability to breath had led us to discuss relocating out of our beloved Rocky Mountains.
One final chance to find answers – go to National Jewish Health in Denver for evaluation as they are a premier research hospital into heart and lung issues. It took six months to get my first appointment with Dr. C there. They thought my case was interesting as I had been told, “you are allergic to altitude and nothing is wrong with your heart” by my Cardiologist and Pulmonologist in my town.
Each of doctors listened intently for AN HOUR to the changes to my health and the high heart rate upon exercise (see below at 171 on lifting weights). It only went to normal after hours of being elevated. It was exhausting and debilitating. I took the doctors an extensive medical history summary, which helped them to see the whole picture. I also had to request all my previous medical records be faxed to them as they were transferring from paper to electronic medical records. It all took time.
Thus began the battery of tests. Many of the same ones I had had two years before, but at least the doctors at National Jewish Health had a baseline. There were many new unique additional tests ordered and two more doctors were consulted
The compassion, validation and kindness shown to me there was astonishing. I was treated not as a problem to be hurried through, but a mystery to be solved. The efficiency with which they organized all the tests to limit my trips to Denver was admirable. I was impressed, and after 30 years in healthcare, that is not easy to do. Three months later the problem was somewhat solved, resolved and treated.
Psalms 25.5 “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior and my hope is in you all day long.” NIV
After seeing a Pulmonologist, Cardiologist and a new specialist Cardio-Oncologist and going through three different days of testing of both lungs and heart, I had answers.
- My heart is amazingly healthy and has not been negatively affected by 12 rounds of chemotherapy. My lifestyle of exercise, hiking, proper nutrition, sleep and relaxation techniques had paid off with a healthy and strong heart.
- I do not have any of the auto-immune diseases, but I have symptoms of some of them.
- I have a weakness in my diaphragm that cannot be fixed except with an extensively invasive operation.
- There are “spaces in my lung” from long term inflammation that look like an autoimmune disease. I believe the breast implants I had for 27 years after cancer created this issue. The symptoms are similar to many people who have had Breast Implant Illness.http://DeborahNottingham.com to find my book “Remarkable Journey“
- There is medication to take to reduce my high heart rate which I experience at altitude, hiking and with exercise. It is a beta blocker. Relatively inexpensive with minimal side effects. I will take it for the rest of my life.
I completed my wonderful experience at National Jewish Health, and I can say, I am not cured, but I CAN HIKE AGAIN!
I celebrated the first week with a small dose of my beta blocker and walked two miles at 9,500 feet at Horsethief Park outside of Divide, CO. My heart rate soared to 145 beats per minute again, but the medicine brought it down to a manageable 110 beats per minute. I AM THRILLED.
Three months later, I hiked at 7,500 feet for two miles (still building back up after another round of Covid) with an average heart rate of 110 beats per minute and smaller elevation of heart rate to 120.
Perseverance is the word. No one knows your body like you do. If something is wrong, you must be your own advocate. The healthcare system in America is not easy to navigate post pandemic (if it ever was). You must persevere.