Chest pain. It can be so many things, and our mind always jumps to the worst possible conclusion.
But despite being a short, pudgy kind of gal who loves wine and peanut M&Ms I am pretty healthy overall, so this was something new for me.
Those who know me know I have a lot on my plate. As do we all. Mom. Wife. Editor. Author. Caregiver to an elderly FIL who needs full time care—but no one has 24 hours to give him. We are with him as much as we can be and paid caregivers help with the times we cannot be. Modern technology fills in the gaps—there are times when I may not be there in person but I have eyes on him via camera pretty much anywhere inside or outside the house. If anything happens I am a short drive away. I have a husband who is getting older and dealing with his own health issues while also caring for said elderly parent. I home school my teenager, who also helps with his grandfather’s care. My older son has taken a year off from college to sort things out in his head and help with his Grandpa’s care, as well and he helps me as much as he can.
I am also self-employed. In recent years I have found it necessary to add an e-commerce store to supplement my income in a post pandemic world where filling my gas tank alone can wipe out half my grocery budget, and my grocery expenses rival my mortgage. On top of that FIL’s money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to with expensive prescriptions, pay for caregivers and meals for his special dietary needs, so there are times when my already straining budget must stretch even farther to make sure he has what he needs as well.
Life is hard.
In the past two years it has gotten much harder for many of us.
The last few weeks have been rough for me, with my “to do” list growing longer from week to week and the demands on my time and energy increasing.
I love my husband, but he has a tendency to dump as much on me as he can. In the past it hasn’t been an issue, I work from home, sometimes it’s just easier for me to handle appointments for my FIL and other odds and ends of things that come up. But when those things start coming back-to-back-to-back on top of the other hundred-and-one things I do in a day, it can really cause the stress to pile up. And sometimes he is so busy thinking about moving things from his to do list to mine that he doesn’t stop to realize how full my list already is.
Which brings me back to the chest pain. And the gratitude.
So there I was with this horrible pain in my chest. I looked up heart attack symptoms online—I know, I know. Don’t do that! And I usually don’t. But I was really getting worried.
Numbness in the arm? Duh, I type all day, I have carpal tunnel, my arm is numb and tingly most of the time. Sweating? Uh I’m a 54-year-old female, put me outside in an ice storm—naked—and I’d still be sweating.
I had none of the other symptoms though.
Well that was inconclusive. I also saw some scary stuff about a certain vaccine many of us have had to get recently (whether we really wanted to or not) and the increased risk of heart attack. Oh boy. That was an even scarier thought.
So I did what I always do.
I IM’d Kim.
Kim Turner, amazing author and nurse extraordinaire. And one of my BFFs.
I didn’t want to bug her with this-I bug her with so many things-- but I had to know if I should be worried.
She wasn’t there.
So after a bit when Kim hadn't seen my message yet, I phoned my friend Kat. Also a nurse.
Got her voicemail.
I don’t know about where you live, but where I am, vaccine mandates have caused a lot of staff shortages in hospitals. So trust me the last place you would want to be right now is an ER. People can wait for days just to be seen, let alone treated. So the thought of heading to one was not welcome at all.
I finally decided I’d take a swing by the urgent care center near my FILs house and if the parking lot wasn’t overflowing, maybe I’d take a stroll inside (my oldest son was driving).
Kim IM’d me back while we were in the car. And calmly asked me some questions and basically talked me down.
Was I having a heart attack? Maybe. Maybe not. We talked some more. Kim is my person, my bud, we chat off and on all day. I would be lost without her. And in those moments I was so grateful for her. Even though we were texting, her very calm and caring demeanor came across loud and clear and really helped to calm me.
So rather than urgent care I went to my FIL’s house and got him his breakfast and his morning meds and took care of him. Kim stayed with me via IM and long story short helped me see that anxiety and stress—and maybe lifting some heavier things than I should have been recently—were more likely the culprit. I slowly began to breathe easier and as the panic began to subside so did the pain in my chest. Once my mind stopped imagining all sorts of scary scenarios, it was easier for my body to settle down.
I was on my way home a couple of hours later when Kat returned my call. I was feeling somewhat better by then but told her why I had called, and she talked to me in that calm, no nonsense way of hers (it's a tone that comes from years of being a nurse, that’s the only way I can describe it) asked me a bunch of questions, talked to me for quite a while and reassured me as well. I have know her for more than twenty years and hearing her voice always soothes me. She is the sister of my heart.
I went home and got some much-needed rest, not sleep, just rest. Some things on my to do list for that day didn’t get done because I chose to rest instead. And you know what? The world didn’t end because I didn’t do them. Go figure.
My oldest son didn't leave my side the entire afternoon, he talked to me, made me laugh a lot and hovered like the mother hen he is until he was sure I was okay.
But I began to realize how blessed I am to have two such wonderful friends in my life--not to mention my amazing son-- and I am pretty sure I don't deserve any of them.
And that was what got me thinking about gratitude.
My chest still hurts somewhat, and the more I think about my “to do” list the tighter it gets. But I am taking it a bit easier, doing a bit more deep breathing and praying a bit more, not to ask for the things I don’t have, but to say thank you for the things I already have.
And feeling grateful. Not just that I didn’t have a heart attack, but that I am blessed in so many ways.
As we head into November, my favorite month, I am going to focus on the things I am grateful for. And that includes the things that worry me. The freezer is full and there is food in the pantry—groceries may cost more right now but we won’t starve anytime soon. And my FIL may be a pain in the arse, but the Good Lord put us in each other's path for a reason, and if He decides taking care of FIL is what I do in this season of my life, so be it.
Best of all I am still here.
For a few hours the other day I wasn’t sure I would be.
Gratitude really does change everything.