Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't Panic

Lori made me call my doctor on Monday morning for an appointment. When I described my symptoms to the receptionist, she made room for me that same afternoon.

Typically, I have to wait a couple of weeks or more to see him.

Here are the symptoms I described:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness in my arms, fingers, and feet
  • Constantly tired
  • Constantly cold
  • A general weakness
  • Sometimes, something in my chest flutters like it's doing the opening drum roll to It's The End of The World As We Know It (and I don't feel so shit-hot)
I thought it was my heart. So did Lori.

Heart disease runs rampant in my family; so does cancer. I figure that eventually one will get me. But these days, I'm hedging my bets on the former. And I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who went at a fairly early age because of heart failure. One of my cousins dropped dead at 42; his brother, a couple of years older, joined him a few years later, at 50.

My dad died of a massive heart attack 10 years ago; he was 62.

That said, I take much better care of myself than my dad did of himself. My cousins were seriously overweight; I think that one, or both, smoked.

Apart from brisk walks on the days that I take the bus to work, I haven't really exercised since I hung up my bike, about six weeks ago. I've also told you about the sleep deprivation that I've subjected myself to over that past couple of months. And I'm currently in crunch this week, at work, trying to put a project to bed. I wrote this post after a 12-hour work day.

So I didn't fight Lori when she told me to call my doctor. Even though the stress of contemplating what could be wrong with me didn't help.

The first thing my doctor did when I met with him was to listen to my heart and lungs: they were fine, both strong. For good measure, he listened to my thyroid. Nothing was wrong.

He took my blood pressure. Often, when I visit my doctor for regular checkups, I take the bus, which means a brisk 1-kilometre walk to my stop and another 1-km or so to his office. I've never been out of breath when I've arrived, and my blood pressure has been great: usually, about 118/60. This visit was the same.

I described the numbness in my arms and hands, suggesting I might have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. My doctor was doubtful: he said that CTS doesn't typically affect the pinky fingers. Both of mine constantly tingle from the tip, up the sides of the hands and to the wrist. And my numbness seems symmetrical.

My skin colour appears normal. I'm not cold to the touch. My doctor said that my circulation seems normal. He asked me questions about my life, my work, my home life. My finances. My overall satisfaction with how my life is going. I answered truthfully, adding that my sleep patterns are awful, but even when I have a decent amount of time to find sleep, I toss and turn.

It's your nerves, he told me. You're stressed out.

Indeed, I've felt a lot of pressure on me lately. At work, I find I bust my ass to meet my deadlines. There always seem to be at least two projects on the go at once. At home, there's the balance of taking care of the kids (school and extra-curricular activities—which suck our weekends dry), the finances, and the housework. And then there's my writing—my blogs and my book (proofs are back but I need time to sit down and go through them). There's my photography—I'm supposed to be beta-testing some software but that has gone by the wayside.

And on and on it goes.

I don't think I'm different from anyone else. I'm sure that some of you are reading this post and thinking, big deal—suck it up!

That's what I tell myself too. And yet, I'm stressed out. And my doctor could see it.

He ordered me a slew of tests, including an ECG and one for CTS. He set up a referral for a neurologist. He was going to write me a note for work, to say that I needed a week's rest, but I said no. I have this deadline this week, and then I'm off until January 3rd.

And I plan to do as little as possible in that time.

So don't panic. I'll be fine. Leave the worrying to me, until I find out what's wrong.

Thanks to my Twitter friends who put up with my whining on Monday, for offering me support.


  1. Sorry to hear. I have been having an assortment of similar health issues for the past few months. 3 blood tests, 2 x-rays and an ultrasound and we are nowhere closer to figuring it out. I hope you have better luck!

  2. Thanks, Jonathan. I hope things are well with you.