If I only had a Brain!

- oops, I mean, Heart!

Well, here I am, 2 1/2 months after my last post, to say I'm still alive and doing well (save for a pretty bad cold right now; it seems impossible for anyone to stay healthy this winter) and anxious to share some of what's been happening in the last few months. I do apologize that it's been such a long respite, but with the holidays, plus beginning work and singing again, plus a little bit of rough health (non-Ross related), my cyber life simply got left in the breach. I'm happy to be back in the swing of things.

In looking at my last post, I'm amazed at how far I've come in 2 1/2 months. I've never really stopped to think about it until now. I've been making steps, slow and simple, yet steps indeed in the right direction. When I've needed to make big steps, I've simply held my breath and hoped for the best, and so far, I've not been disappointed.

With the reduction of my Atenolol intake, I did begin to notice (in due time) a heartening (if you'll excuse the unintended pun) difference in my bounceback time after walking up hills. I changed my walking routine from two 1.2 mile walks per day to one 2.5 mile walk, which included at least one more decent incline. Almost as soon as this happened, though, I came down with a cold and virus which kept me indoors for two or three days. To add insult to injury (again no pun intended), one time when I sneezed, an activity which still hurt at that point, I wrenched myself so badly that I reactivated an old muscular/skeletal hip injury that has plagued me for years. For two days I could hardly get out of bed. Needless to say, my walking suffered, and when I got back to it, I basically halved what I was doing prior to the illness.

But for every drawback, there seems to have been at least one corresponding positive experience. Mid-November brought a road trip to friends in Plymouth, Mass., a 3 1/2 hour car trip during which I did a substantial part of the driving. And to think that two weeks before that I wasn't even driving! I had been doing a little bit of driving after Halloween, locally mainly, so this was a challenge, and one which I was glad to overcome. On this trip, I stayed in a hotel with an indoor pool and decided to take a stab at swimming; with great pleasure I found I could bring my arms over my head with at least enough of a reach to keep me afloat!

Around this time, I started walking the dogs again. For so long they had given up on me as being a source of their most fun activity, their daily jaunts. So it felt good getting back into that, as those dogs had been such a great source of pleasure for me during my convalescence, and I certainly was keen on returning the favor. It was a while before I decided to tackle one of their favorite routes, which takes us up quite a big hill to the precipice of the condo development in which we live. Since starting that routine, I've been thrilled that my ability to catch my breath after climbing that hill comes much more quickly than it did after performing the same activity before the surgery. Hooray for the Ross!

Then came the big return to work. I was scheduled to go back 11/16, but with the illness and the slight drawback of having had the atrial fibulation episode, I opted to take two more weeks off. When I returned to work 11/30, it was on a three-day-per-week schedule, working Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the month of December. I did well with that schedule, and really relished the days off in between. As it was before the operation, the most taxing part of my work day was the commute, so after that and a full day of work, I was pretty beat. The days off gave me the opportunity to rest up and enjoy the Holiday season more fully than I have for a long time. I actually made some home-made gifts (with some cheerful help from our friend and fledgling Martha Stewart, Kyle), which went over very well. The actual Christmas weekend was lovely, with the family, friends and neighbors abounding. I pulled back on a few of my traditional visits so that I wouldn't tire too badly; it all worked out although I still have a few friends I have to catch up with. I had a lot to be thankful for, and the holidays meant more this year than they ever have. It was good for the soul.

I started singing again on New Year's Eve, with a 4-hour gig from 8:30 to 12:30. It went very well, and I was glad to hear the voice was still there after so long a layoff. With the deep breathing needed to do the kind of singing I do (Big Band, Jazz and Pop), I felt a bit of strain on the muscles around the incision, but nothing to be alarmed about. As always when that is the case, a few Ibuprofen (whoever invented that stuff should be enshrined somewhere) pretty much took care of that.

I am now on a split-week schedule at work, with Wednesdays off to break it up. After a few weeks of this, I've found that my stamina is beginning to approach normalcy. I'm hoping to go full-time next month. Knowing how much better I felt the last time my medication dosage was lessened, I'm going to see if my cardiologist will agree to do the same thing again. She doesn't want to take me fully off the meds (Atenolol and Lanoxin) because of the a-fib episode, but did indicate that if I felt they were holding me back from normal activity, to give her a call and she'd take stock of my physical situation and make a decision. We'll see what happens. I would hope that this would give me even more energy to tackle the full week.

Another argument I have for lessening the dosages is that I went to the gym for the first time this week, and felt I could do better if the meds weren't holding me back. Granted, the walking I've been able to do lately, with the weather being so bad, and having less time for it, has not been up to my hoped-for standard. So the jump from that to getting on the treadmill and bike for the first time in four months would seem a bit steep. But I feel I could do better. I've been advised that I should make my target heart rate about 50% of its maximum capacity, which would make it about 100 beats per minute. That's about what I was doing before the surgery. However, again, I was more winded at that rate than I expected. Of course, in time, I'll probably do better anyway, but I think cutting the meds would really open things up for me. I'm jealous of people who had the operation at about the same time I did, who are completely off medication. I don't think I'm overzealous in wanting things to get back to normal. But whatever the doctor says, goes. I just have to remember -- Patience, patience!

So here we are again! All things considered, I feel pretty good and pretty close to normal. I still have that tingling feeling in my right hand, which is becoming more of an annoyance now, since I type a lot at work. But I'm confident that this will straighten itself out. I've just got to hang in there while all of the smaller bits and pieces fall into place, probably a much more lengthy process than the rapid comeback in the first few months following the surgery. I certainly don't want to undo any of the good things that have happened to me. I'll just continue to do what I think is the right thing, and that should get me through. It has so far.

The photos you see are from Halloween, for which yours truly dutifully made my own costume and portrayed the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz," at the behest of my ever-enthusiastic and ever-crazy Larry, who made the costume for and portrayed the Cowardly Lion. Our next-door-neighbors Tommy and Linda were a spirited Scarecrow and Dorothy, respectively, and our great friend John-Michael was the Wicked Witch of the West. We got a lot of praise for the costumes and had a ball!

Speaking of Larry, I'd just like to say Thank You for all the support, humor, consideration, and love you've shown me throughout these not-so-easy months leading up to, during, and after the surgery. I couldn't have done it without you.


P.S. -- I talked to my cardiologist, and I'll be weaning myself off of Atenolol for the next two weeks, then finally getting off of it! I can't wait to see how that works. This week, I'm one day on, one day off; next week it's every third day, then nothing! I went to the gym today, and seemed (even with the cold) to have a goodly amount of energy; I hope this is a good sign. This will be our cliffhanger till the next time!

email Ken: Ken@KensKollectibles.com


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