For many, June signifies the beginning of summer, a time to get outside, enjoy the weather, work on the yard, BBQ’s, pool time, chasing fireflies, and endless starry nights. For me, June is a month that I dread the other 11 months of the year. As May came to an end this year, my anxiety levels shot through the roof and I have had more than my fair share of panic attacks…..you know, the kind where you can’t breathe, sweating, jittery, dizzy, heart pounding and feeling nauseous. It really is quite amazing how past events can have an affect of your psyche. There have been 3 massive, life changing events during the month of June and as I inch closer to their anniversaries, my breathing becomes shallow, as if I can’t breathe. I really would like to fast forward through the month, but I can not. I will tip toe through each and every day so as not to rock the boat.
You see, it started back on June 12, 1992……my graduation from high school. I know that you are thinking, “What??? That should have been a happy day to celebrate.” And it was, indeed. My family was there; 2 Aunts flew in from OR and AZ to witness the occasion. I had a beautiful pale pink dress underneath my white graduation cap and gown. The weather was perfect and as the sun was setting for the evening, it gently allowed the surrounding oak trees to cast shadows and provided shade from the sun.
I was so, so happy that day……but so, so scared at the same time. My dad was dying and had been very ill the week before the big day. I was sure he was going to miss it. The day before graduation, he received a blood transfusion, which was a game changer for him. It was as if the donated blood gave him new life. He woke up that morning and felt fantastic. He looked full of life…..no longer pale and weak. He looked stronger than I had seen in recent months. He was so excited to feel well enough to attend my graduation. I was elated!! But as the day progressed, the more exhausted he became and when it was time to leave the house, he looked tired and was unsteady on his feet. I had told him to stay and rest, but he refused and insisted on going. During the whole ceremony, my emotions were all over the place. I tried to stay in the present; I tried to listen to all the speakers; I tried to take it all in. But all I could think about was how my dad was feeling. I couldn’t see him from where I was sitting and that was worrisome. After the ceremony, I quickly walked over to where my family was sitting and my dad was smiling from ear to ear. He made it! He was tired, but he was able to watch me graduate.
A few days later, he was admitted to the hospital and on June 23, 1992, he took his last breath, holding mine and my brother’s hand. I continue to miss my dad every day, but he is in my head and every ounce of my heart always. Things and people remind me of him all the time in my daily life……spring daffodils, the never-ending waves in the ocean and the salty air, a beautiful and perfect rose bud, the smile of my kids and the sparkle in their eyes……I often say, “I wish I could just have one more day with dad”…..but really, he gave me all he needed to give me. He is with me each day and I will have another day with him someday.
Fast forward 23 years to 2015……June 6 was a Saturday….. beautiful, cool morning and I went out to mow the lawn. Michael (15) and Alex (5) were in the house watching TV. I had just about completed the front yard when I had a sharp pain that came from my back and down my left arm. It was so intense that I had to let go of the mower with that hand. I kept moving, as I only had one more row to complete. I grabbed the mower and kept walking. As I made my last turn, I began to get dizzy, but kept mowing. I was almost done. I walked all the way back up to the house when I felt I couldn’t breathe, became nauseous and began to vomit. I dropped to my knees and felt like an elephant had jumped on to my chest. I grabbed it with my hand and as quickly as my symptoms appeared, they disappeared. But I felt incredibly weak and was trying to get back to the porch where I could go inside. I had to crawl up my front steps……it was as if my legs wouldn’t work. When I opened the screen door, Michael immediately asked me what was wrong, He told me that my face was white. I told him that I just needed to lay down a minute and asked for a glass of water. I was sure that I just overdid it a bit and needed to hydrate my body. Michael kept asking me what happened and I described my symptoms but explained them away as I was feeling much better by then. Little did I know, he was “googling” my symptoms and suggested I had a heart attack. I completely dismissed that…..there was no way I had a heart attack. I was only 41 and felt fine by then. He had a baseball game that afternoon and I told him I was getting in the shower to get ready. He suggested going to the ER and skipping his game and I refused. I was fine.
We went to his game and he told his friend’s mom what happened…..she came over to talk to me and encouraged me to go to the hospital. Again, I dismissed it. As the game went on, the pain in my shoulder returned with a debilitating and pounding headache. I found myself looking for shade, as the sun seemed to be too much for me. I finally caved and agreed to go the ER after the game was finished. I remember sitting in silence as the doctor told me the blood work indicated that I had a heart attack. What did this mean? Why wasn’t I really sick? How did this happen? What happens now? Shortly after finding out the news, I was transported by ambulance to another hospital, known for their cardiac care. I had a heart cath 2 days later where my cardiologist found 5 blockages that were too much for stents. 2 days after that, on June 10, I was prepped for quintuple bypass surgery. At 41 years of age.
Last year, in June, of course, I had some unexplained swelling in my legs. I had gone to my doctor who ordered an ultrasound to check for blood clots. Nothing was found. My cardiologist then referred me for a CT scan with contrasting dye. On June 27, the scan was done and some sort of infection was found in my abdomen and lymphatic system. Once again, I was transferred by ambulance to another hospital for treatment. I had a drain put in the next morning and on June 30, was entering the OR again for exploratory surgery. My appendix had burst (most likely in April……I felt the pain and was in severe discomfort for a few days but it subsided) and infection had taken over that part of my body. The surgeon removed what was left of my appendix and had to do a bowel resection (12″ of the bowel removed) because if was full of infection. I remained in the hospital until July 6 receiving IV antibiotics and daily blood draws to check my white blood cell count. I was on antibiotics until November, 2016. Pretty nasty stuff!
I just can’t wait to get through this month. One thing I have learned for sure (I think I have anyways) is LISTEN to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. I have dismissed so many of my concerns as normal aches and pains, but in reality, they could have killed me. We know our bodies best….I pray I get through June unscathed this time.