Saturday, June 1, 2013

3rd Second Chance

So, what do you do when faced with life changing choices?  I'm talking about a serious type of life changing choice.  Not the kind of choice you may make at the grocery store on which cereal is best for your figure.  Nor the choice of brick color for your new mailbox.  But, instead, a choice that actually changes your quality of life.  Even more than a move to another state without any job prospect... Although that is indeed a big choice to make!  No, this choice involves something even bigger.  It's actually probably more like a chance to take, than a choice to make.... Or maybe its a little of both – a second chance at life.

I've already had a second chance at life when I was in my twenties.  That was the chance that chemo and radiation would kill the cancer running rampant in my body.  It did.

Then, just before turning 50, my body decided I needed yet another chance at life with more cancer... Again chemo and radiation to kill it.  Again success.  So that would be my 2nd second chance at life.

Now, 7 years later, I am faced with yet another choice .... Late effect - side effects, from my previous second chance and 2nd second chance cancer treatments, have given me an opportunity for yet a.... What would it be called?  A 3rd second chance at life?  Yes, I believe that may be right.... A 3rd second chance at life.  Instead of cancer this time, its my failing heart.  The collateral damage from the second and 2nd second chance chemo/rads is causing my heart to fail.  There is nothing to fix this type of  damaged heart.   As each month, day, hour passes, my heart will only become weaker and less efficient.  The pace maker/defibrillator I had installed in January this year, was not able to do the trick and increase my heart's performance.  Instead, my Ejection Fraction dropped, making my heart less efficient at moving fluids within my body.  There are meds that I take to help keep blood pressure low, and to aid in lowering heart rate (that one is the hardest to control).  There are meds to thin my blood, reducing risk of blood clots and stroke, plus meds to help my body release fluids it can't do on its own.  I no longer pick up the salt shaker at meals, and aspire to keep my daily intake of sodium below 1500 mg, which btw is extremely hard to do!  I do my best at it.... However, there are times I stray for that favorite food item.... Some things are needed to enjoy life!  :)

Decisions... choices.... only two.  Either allow the heart to decline until it completely fails, which results in a relatively young death.  Or, follow the 3rd second chance choice I may have.  Which is trade in my achey breaky heart for a healthy heart.   This 3rd second chance is not easy for a number of reasons.  One, its my heart.... Seriously.  MY heart.  I only have one, so I wouldn't want something to go wrong, and wind up with none.  That's kinda like the first choice I have.  Another is... its MY heart.... Its not a titanium knee or hip replacement.... its MY heart.... I've had it for 57 years... It's been overflowed with love and joy, filled with pictures I have told my kids I have taken with it in order to always hold them close and not forget their childhood memory made together.  It's full of that special bonding love for my partner, children, siblings, nieces, nephews.... It's been broken a few times over by loves I once had, and its felt the emptiness when those close to me have lost their lives.  That's just to name a few things MY heart contains.

And now for the most discerning of this 3rd second chance concept.  It is by far the one that overwhelms me ..... my heart would be replaced with another heart from a stranger who has somehow lost their life.  An amazing stranger who has made it clear they have pre decided to give the gift of life after their own has been lost.  The ultimate gift of a second life.  How incredibly and totally unselfish is that?  And while that stranger's  family and loved ones are grieving the loss, of their incredible, unselfish, loved one, feeling like their own hearts are ripped out and emptied.... I would be accepting my 3rd second chance at life.  I have no words left, as this concept is bigger than I am at the moment.

So, here's where I am in all this 3rd second chance at a prolonged life.  I am planning a consult with a well known and loved heart transplant surgeon, here in Dallas, who will lay it on the line.  First of all, will I be a candidate for a transplant?  I've already had two major cancers.  I know I am at higher risk for additional cancer.  Will I be strong enough to survive this incredibly difficult surgery?  How much time till my strength beats a chance to be on the candidate list?  I know I would be subject to lots of testing to ensure there are no active cancer cells lingering about.  Additional tests to qualify me in various ways for size, blood type, etc...  And then, maybe, just maybe, fit the criteria to be on the transplant recipient list.  The transplant programs and hospitals do not take risks that would cause their transplant success rate any avoidable harm.  Their programs and funding rely on successful transplants.  Plus, I would not want to be that risk and take away a heart from someone else who needs a second chance at life.

My 3rd second chance of life is still on the shelf...there will be consults and tests.  It has several things hinging on the outcome of both.  It will take time..... and time is not my friend.

This will be the beginning of a series of updates I will post as I go through these next steps for my potential 3rd second chance at life.

A Fighter...

***  As a side note, I had Assignment #3 to do for my friends at The Live Sincerely Project.  Whereby,  we were asked to write what part of the Live Sincerely Pledge we felt akin to.  I actually chose a phrase they have on their home page ( that I first fell in love with.  This is the phrase "If there is one thing to learn from our own mortality, it’s how important it is to live sincerely. ".  I take from that phrase I have one life on this earth to live.  One. And within my one life, there will be times when "Life is unfair and scary and hard and confusing and painful and fleeting and amazing and connecting and fun and wonderful and beautiful".   So by all means, always, and in all ways, it is extremely important to me to live sincerely. I pledge to myself to live it, embrace it, pay it forward.

Throughout my life, people have told me I am strong.  It is indeed a complement.  However, we are all strong in our own ways.  I find it amazing that we actually don't know how strong we are, until being strong is the only choice we have.  But, quite often, strength eludes me.  And although I may appear strong, I'm not really.  I'm no different than anyone else.  All this health shit scares me.  I become totally fearful of what might be next. I lay awake at night thinking about it. But, I will say, if there is one single thing I would want others to think, feel, and remember about me.... it would be "there goes a fighter....". It fits me better.... It is what I do. I fight.  I strive for defeating the opponent.

“Give 'em hell, turn their heads

Gonna live life 'til we're dead

Give me scars, give me pain

Then they'll say to me, say to me, say to me

There goes a fighter, there goes a fighter

Here comes a fighter

That's what they'll say to me, say to me, say to me

This one's a fighter”  - song lyrics by Gym Class Heroes

A Fighter...


  1. My Dear, Dear Friend,
    I have had the opportunity to witness and experience the love and kindness that big heart of yours offers so freely to others who need it. You have always been there for everyone. And you give your sincere love, care, and kindness without a second thought, whether it is a smile when needed most, a text, or even a lawn mower! My friend Claudia and I were working on a more expansive, yet secure organ donation system, until she was suddenly taken by a brain aneurysm, with her memorial service held on my birthday. Because, I was at my dad's, it was not made known to me until over a month later. Despite her small size, she too had a huge heart, and not a day goes by that I do not think of her. For me, it felt as if the bottom of my heart ha fallen out. The person, "the one who cannot be named" that finally allowed me the information to contact you, who for so long had gone to great lengths to ensure that I did not have any contact with you ( and others), has deprived me of time, as well as the opportunity to try to be there for you, when I could have helped, even if it was only more stories of my terror-filled encounters with wildlife. I feel quite cheated. But, I'm here now. And I would drive to Dallas through a tornado if you needed me, even if I had to dump the car and ride the broom! I want to help. And I have a lot of good information. I'm hoping we can put our heads together (a formidable force), along with some help from friends and others, and get you a new heart. And I have no doubt that, no matter what heart you might get, it will be happy to be yours, and honored to hold all that love you share so freely. Cancer is clearly not an option. Put it out of your mind, and use that space for all the happiness you will have to experience in the future. I am glad and admire your fighting spirit, as well as your determination to survive in facing such daunting obstacles. I hope to be there when you are no longer fighting or surviving, but absolutely LIVING with sincerity, in happiness, disease-free, and free to let loose with your wonderful laughter with no fear. I'm sure you have many friends that feel the same. Keep on surviving and inspiring others. But see the brighter life that lies ahead. I know it's there. Keep your eyes on the prize (I feel like the theme from Rocky should be playing in the background). You can do this. And as soon as I get out of this townhouse, I will have plenty of time to dedicate to your health and mine. And if I can help in accomplishing something that was so important to Claudia as well, it's a win-win for all. The world's so much better with you in it! KEEP IN TOUCH!

  2. Cindy,

    This is the second post I've read of your blog, back-to-back. I am so very sorry to read of your heart failure, of the uncertainty of your candidacy for a transplant and the symptoms you struggle with. As you so eloquently illustrated, you have already been through so much. In my opinion, everyone is entitled to as many "chances" as it takes to live -- and live fully. I know transplantation is more complicated than that, ethically and politically, but still.

    I like your perspective on potentially losing the heart that has been beating inside you for your whole life to get another. It's strange and beautiful how an awareness of your heartbeat can make you emotionally attached to that organ and everything it represents. I take medication for a fast heartbeat, so I have a sense of the complexities of this awareness.


  3. Thank you, Ashley, for your kind words.... very much appreciated!

  4. Hi Cindy,
    Gosh, you are faced with some tough choices. I know I cannot completely understand when you talk about giving up your heart. "Giving up" breasts is not in the same league. A person's heart symbolizes so much and contemplating "trading yours in" must be causing so much anguish. I'm sorry. But you'll keep fighting - of that I'm sure. My best to you, no matter what you decided.

  5. Thanks Nancy! Fighting is what we all do quite well!