I survived…

Friday 7th June 2019:

I’ve been back at work for a week, joined the gym, bossed my longest run post heart attack…and survived!

No-one made a massive fuss as I returned to the grindstone, which was lovely as I was able to hold it together emotionally. That’s not to say they were an uncaring bunch…far from it. I got flowers, a card and many hugs as I visited colleagues in both the Southampton and Dorchester offices. But I was able to remain in control. It’s also like I was never away. I feel more “me” than I have ever felt. And that’s the thing about life-changing shit…it makes you reassess! Clears your head.

Ok…so next week might be more of a shock to the system as I go back to full time hours as opposed to half days…I’m such a skiver!

Anyway, that’s back to work done and I am exactly 13 weeks post heart attack. WOWZERS!

Now I just need to see all of my family and the long-serving friends in Preston I’ve not already caught up with….you remember…the ones I was first to text when I went into hospital, despite them being 300 miles away…Lucie, Jenny, Kate, Andy, Dan, Emma, Laura, Liam, Leanne…

However, my gran…my only remaining grandparent…the one with dementia…she’s the one I miss the most. But I missed her long before my heart attack. Thank God she has no idea! I wonder what she had for tea tonight…and if she remembers me at all?

Enough of that maudlin nonsense though…my thespian daughter is in her first proper play this weekend – Annie Jr. There’s so much to be thankful for!


The final countdown

Friday 31st May 2019:

It’s been a couple of weeks since I blogged…the days keep running away with me.

There have been afternoons out at the seaside and a reunion with one of my oldest friends, Kate, who trekked 300 miles south from Preston for a post-heart attack cuddle…mind you I do make a cracking curry and I think that may have been her true motive.

I’ve also had my long-awaited cardiac MRI, the results of which should come back next week…oh, and I also did my best Bart Simpson impression by managing to stain my face bright yellow. That’s what you get for re-dying your hair on the same day you head to the gym!

Although I still miss my cardiac rehab buddies, at least there’s a chance I might form some new allegiances now I have my GP gym referral. I’ve got my first session with a personal trainer on Sunday…I sense some John Wayne swaggering come Monday.

My fitness is definitely improving though as I’ve just finished my longest solo run…three miles in just over 30 minutes, and that includes stopping for a chat with my lovely friend Bex.

Given I’m now on my ninth UTI since Christmas – as kidney stones hell continues – and I was struggling to motivate myself and dropping off to sleep at any given moment last week, this feels like somewhat of a triumph.

Hopefully the half a stone of water retention I gained in just three days will jog on soon too as I need to look good for my return to work NEXT WEEK! Yep, you heard it right. I got the ok from occupational health last week so I’m almost back in the game and it can’t come soon enough.

Tick, tick…BOOM!


Lasts and firsts

Sunday 19th May 2019:

I had to say farewell to my remaining heart buddies at rehab on Monday as I reached my final session, which I’ll admit was particularly crushing. I now feel a little lost. In a selfish way, I hope they do too. It would be great if I’ve been as important to their recovery as they have to mine. I know they’ll miss my cakes and, more so, my hair changes. I think though we will all miss instructor Matt’s synonymous phrase when he wanted us to march on the spot: “Juuuust pacing”.

My sadness has, however, been balanced somewhat with emotional reunions with old friends who I hadn’t seen since before my attack. Seeing Seren in Bath was possibly the most surreal as I’d only met with her the last time on what was to be the day before I ended up in that ambulance.

I still have a few more of these get-togethers to go with my long-distance chums and they never get any less momentous. Immediately I am transported back to that rather rigid bed on resus awaiting the results of my CT scan, not knowing if I’d ever see any of them again.

Before the tears roll, though, I also think about the drug addict in the next bay who was surrounded by police officers and my jestful concern about being caught red-handed with the security tag still attached to my dressing gown.

The stupid thing hadn’t set the alarm off at the shop I’d bought it from as I exited the door a couple of weeks before. It had, however, made the buzzers go off in every other store I’d trundled to and from that day…but could I find the bloody thing as I rummaged through my bags? No!…because it was hidden under the damned lapel. I made sure it remained that way that night. This still makes me smile.

Where there is dark there is always light relief if you look hard enough for it.

This week I also found my dancing legs for the first time post heart wobble. Now this form of exercise is definitely my drug of choice…way better than clopidogrel and aspirin…and it felt great to reach the high before hitting the hay well before midnight. I might not be completely back to normal but I’m getting there. I’m definitely a cheap date these days that’s for sure…a couple of glasses of wine and I’m anyone’s. If they’ve heard about my dickie ticker though they’ll probably give me a wide berth.

In other news, I bought a ridiculously expensive pair of shoes because…well, just because….and I’ve booked myself onto a neuro sarcoidosis seminar at London’s Royal Free next month. It’s the only UK hospital that specialises in the disease. I’m scared what I might find out but I’m prepared to fight.


The “heart attack card”

Saturday 11th May 2019:

For how long is it acceptable to play the “heart attack card”?

Leaving hospital in a Wonder Woman dressing down – “It’s fine, I’ve just had a heart attack. Let them judge me.”

Screaming, argumentative kids – “For crying out loud, Mummy’s just had a heart attack, so unless you want to give me another one please kill each other quietly.”

Picking up the kids from school/general errands – “Pretty please can YOU do it today. I’m tired. I HAVE just had a heart attack you know. I might have a nap on the sofa.”

Getting a new car for yourself when it’s actually your husband’s car that needs replacing – “You can have my car. It’s a good car. I NEEEEED a new one. I’ve just had a heart attack. I nearly died.”

Midlife crisis complete…maybe!

P.S. If you fancy a 17-year-old VW Beetle, I know a decent one going for a good price. Erm…have I mentioned I’ve just had a heart attack?


Screw you sarcoidosis!

Wednesday 8th May 2019:

I’ve actually just thrust my fists in the air and “whooped” out loud, twice – once while plodding along the main A30 through Sherborne – on completing a 2-mile run in 22 minutes and 29 seconds, with one mile sub 11 minutes!

I may have got some funny looks but I don’t actually care one bit. Send the men with the white coats if you like.

Sarcoidosis, you will not take my heart, you will not take my lungs, you will not take my bloody kidney and you will certainly not take me.


I feel more alive than ever, plus I had my last life coaching session earlier because I’ve “taken back control”, as Chris my coach put it, and I’ve got a meeting with my boss, Michael, and occupational health in two weeks.

I’m heading ever closer to my goal of going back to work.

I’ve almost cried happy tears more than once today.

Today has been a great day!


Back to netball

Tuesday 7th May 2019:

OK, so after a weekend spent in and out of hospital it’s been confirmed I’ve got two stones in my left kidney but that doesn’t explain the ache in the right side of my lower back.

To cut a long story short, I’m now awaiting an appointment with a urologist and I’ve also been referred for an urgent colonoscopy after an ultrasound found my gallbladder to be in good shape. The doctors are keen to rule absolutely all possible causes out. All dignity lost…mind you I have had kids so the bench mark was already pretty low.

Funny how it’s taken a heart attack to make the professionals sit up and take notice of stuff that’s been giving me gyp for years. I know you’re supposed to have a full MOT health check at 40 but this is frankly ridiculous.

Though not as insane as my seven-year-old having to slow the pace of a 15-minute run yesterday so I could keep up with him. It was his first ever run and although it was probably one of my slowest one-mile runs at 12 minutes and 32 seconds, Huey-Jay was thrilled so I guess I should be too. We smashed it!

In fact, it’s been a bit of a winning start to the week all round…I played my first netball match tonight, on the eve of the two-month “anniversary” of my heart attack, and we beat the other team by 13 goals. My friend Abi plays for the opposition so it always feels a bit weird…well, for about five seconds until I remember WE WON! Sorry Abi…


What a pain in the bladder!

Saturday 4th May 2019:

I managed another short run yesterday morning, interspersed with some walking, with Sophie, Ruth and Ness the dog. But now I feel like I’m peeing razor blades.

I called the GP surgery on Thursday and the nurse practitioner prescribed yet more antibiotics for what is now my 8th UTI. She also advised I book another appointment with my GP to see about the possibility of going on a lower dose of antibiotics over a much longer period of time.

She then reiterated my kidney and urinary tract scan a week ago was “normal”, except my left kidney is slightly larger than my right. I’ve been told this before in recent years as this isn’t the first stretch of recurrent infections and lower back pain I’ve had.

By Friday morning I was in absolute agony…almost as bad as childbirth but without the reward, unless you count the cloudy, pungent, spit spots of wee.

Suffice to say I ended up in A&E…twice.

The doctor looked back at my ultrasound and then had the nous to revisit the CT scan I had the night of my heart attack. “It doesn’t quite go down low enough for me to see them more clearly but it looks like you’ve got stones in your left kidney and your bladder,” he said. I questioned why this hadn’t been picked up at the time. “I think they had much more important things to worry about,” he replied.

It seems my helpful body is now trying to pass the stones so I’ve been given an emergency CT appointment to check them out properly this morning and have also been referred for an urgent urology appointment, which frankly beggars the question why I have never been sent for either before.

I was also told to read up about kidney stones on the NHS website. I got as far as reading about calcium stones and the fact they can be caused by “a rare condition called sarcoidosis” before I had all I needed.

I think I must have been Genghis Khan in a past life! Now where’s that hot water bottle my buddy Birdie lent me?…I left mine in the cinema after the last bout!


“Mummy’s Big Heart”

Thursday 2nd May 2019:

It’s only now that I’m beginning to realise the impact my health scare has had on my children.

Ever since I left hospital Huey-Jay has left me a different cuddly toy beside my bed each night “to look after you and keep you safe”, he says.

Dakota-Skye had to prepare a “show and tell” for school, exhibiting something to her peers that was important to her. My incredible eight-year-old didn’t just go into her room and fish out any old tat she could lay her hands on, no she actually crafted something…a book with four chapters, no less, entitled “Mummy’s Big Heart”, telling the story of my attack and time spent in hospital. “Everyone asked me lots of questions,” she told me afterwards. My personal favourite: “Did she die?” Kids…adorable creatures.

Something that really impressed me…and I’ll try to make this sound as un-middle class as I possibly can…was DS’s purchase in a National Trust shop on Sunday. There were the usual rubber eggs(?), sticky slugs and binoculars…but my girl bought a first aid kit. “I want to be prepared, just in case,” she said. Sure enough when HJ took a tumble while playing basketball on the driveway a few days later, she was first on the scene with antiseptic wipes and plasters.

She wants to be a vet but perhaps I can convince her to look after humans instead. In fact, I’ve decided I’d quite like to do a bit of that too.

All being well I hope I can volunteer at Yeovil Heartbeat once I stop being a patient. I’m northern, so make a decent brew. I can bake….as they’ve discovered over the past few weeks…and I reckon my experience could prove helpful to other young cardiac patients. It will also enable me to remain within the club I’ve grown quite fond of.

Nothing quite beats last week when Piers, who started on the same day as me, wore a vest top with a fella’s six-pack on it. As if that wasn’t enough to raise a few titters he then threatened to wear the “matching shorts” this week.

They haven’t yet materialised and I’m not entirely sure whether I’m relieved or disappointed.


First run, post heart attack

Sunday 28th April 2019:

Excuse the bed head and lack of make-up in the video but…I did it!

My first 10-minute outdoor run following my heart’s wobble seven weeks ago…and on London Marathon day too.

That feeling of freedom is nothing short of immense.


“Big lungs” and goodbyes

Thursday 25th April:

My weeks are getting busier.

On Tuesday, I underwent respiratory function tests…I was told by Matt, my cardiac gym instructor who carried out the tests, I have “big lungs”. I reckon I could report him for that!

I won’t get the results until July when I finally get to see the respiratory specialist, who will then decide whether or not to treat the pulmonary sarcoidosis.

Interestingly, I assumed when it first showed up on my CT scan, last month, it must have been there for ages, but now I’m not so sure.

Since Christmas, I’ve had a recurrent cough that no-one else seems to catch. I’m also now getting bouts of breathlessness, usually when climbing a hill…but it’s sporadic. Some days I get it, others I don’t. It’s not stopped me from exercising though and I joined in my mate Harriet’s Zumba class the other night. It’s been a couple of years since I did the old grapevine and hip gyrating routines but I wasn’t completely hopeless.

Next week…road running I reckon. My heart is slowly becoming my pal again.

My kidney infection has finally disappeared and blood tests and an ultrasound have confirmed both are functioning normally. So no sarc there. Result!

I’ve also spoken to my boss and set a date for a phased return to work. All being well I’ll be back to the monotonous routine of daily working life in June, and I honestly can’t wait.

Yesterday was a bit emotional though as we said goodbye to James, the true youngster of our Yeovil Heartbeat class. No, he’s not dead thankfully…but reached the end of his 12 sessions and well on the road to recovery. I made a mega full-fat chocolate cake and rocky road bites as my baking frenzy continues. Although we joked it might provoke another cardiac arrest so we could keep him for a bit longer, I really do hope it won’t be the last time we hang out.

It’s dawning on us all that eventually we’ll be fully fledged and set free from our new family…our safe space.