When we got home from our six hour drive I lay in bed snuggling with my dog, relieved to be somewhere familiar again.
I was really lucky to get into an incredible cardiologist’s office the very next day. They had to run some tests before telling me what was up, so I went home without any answers, but with a new electronic device that reminded me of a really old school iPod.
Something about wearing a holter monitor was incredibly comforting. Despite all of the testing that was getting done being so foreign, I liked the familiarity of the “Panasonic” logo on my side. It almost felt like someone who knew what was going on with my body was with me every time I felt my heart race out of control. Hang in there, Krista, I thought to myself every time my broken heart would jump ahead of me. The monitor will figure out what’s wrong.
After wearing it for 24 hours we turned the monitor back into the cardiologist. He examined it and called us back to his office.
Going into the appointment I wasn’t expecting any sort of crazy news, but I also knew my results would not be normal. I had written a journal for the doctor of every time I felt something unusual, and the pages he gave me filled up quickly with sharp chest pains and a rapid heart beat.
The doctor gave me a warm smile and pulled out my chair to sit down. My mom was still by my side, as she had been the entire time. I glanced over at her and noticed the look of concern and exhaustion on her face. We were both already tired and it had only been a few days.
“Let’s get right to it,” he said. “After seeing your results I think you have something called POTS. I know the name is kind of funny, but worry — it’s not terminal.”
My face turned pale. POTS? What the hell is that? I wondered. Will it go away? Please tell me I won’t feel like this forever. God, are you there? I need you. Please make me better. Please give me good news.
I had a million questions, but I couldn’t speak. He continued by telling me a little about this new demon that was feeding off of me, and where I could go to get further testing done.
“But… Will I get better?” I finally mustered up the courage to ask. I didn’t care about the new doctors or facts about this disgusting illness; I just wanted to know whether I would be feeling like myself again soon.
“It’s hard to say,” he replied, “But my guess is that you’ll grow out of it.”
Your guess? Why don’t you know? Isn’t it your job to know things? Shouldn’t you be giving me more answers?
I was scared, but I didn’t want to hear any more. I thanked the doctor, grabbed the car keys, and went out to the car, buried my face in my hands and cried. It was the first time in my life I felt like I was completely alone. There wasn’t anyone in the world who could offer any sort of comfort or support, and this was a really new situation I didn’t think I’d ever have to handle. The nurse hadn’t helped either, as she told me that I would just have to “get used to my new life” as I was leaving the office.
After having literally over a hundred doctors appointments in the past few years I have learned to appreciate the really amazing nurses, and ignore the discouraging words of the not so stellar ones. She is certainly not someone I hope has to be around anyone who is going through their first time dealing with a chronic illness, though!
I stared quietly out the passenger window as my mom drove us home. I could tell she felt uneasy too, but I didn’t want to talk about anything or deal with this stupid thing called POTS. I had done a quick Google search while she was still talking to the doctor and didn’t like what I saw — I had a lot to process from the events of the day. The only bright side to everything was that I did find that many people do get significantly better. I was just so tired of this already. I couldn’t focus on anything because of the whir I felt in my head. I was always dizzy, my chest hurt, my head throbbed, and my body felt like it was rapidly shutting down on me.
The absolute best advice for dealing with this beast came from my mother. She told me that all I could do was handle each day and each symptom as they came to me and leave the rest for God to handle. This is exactly what I’ve done, and although life was very mundane for a long time, I still had a routine that I stuck to. I worked out every single day on the recumbent bike (The only thing I could do without fainting — because of the “postural” part in POTS), I diligently ate 6,000 milligrams of sodium and hydrated with electrolyte water, and most important, I found something to look forward to every single day. This was mostly binge watching Chopped or Master Chef, but nonetheless I was happy to learn more about cooking while I was couch ridden with the room spinning around me.
Even though my life got completely turned upside down, I still found things to be joyful for and small ways to enjoy my life. Most of my time the first year of being sick was spent on the couch at home or in waiting rooms before dozens of tests would be performed, but I always made sure to have a reason to smile every day.
Today’s lesson: You can always find joy, even in less than ideal situations. POTS has taught me to take each day as it comes to me, and not to worry about the future as much. It has taught me the importance of patience, empathy, and kindness, and has redefined the way I look at love.