Kage Baker believed her entire adult life that she would die of a heart condition. She was brave, and resigned to what she was sure was her ultimate destiny. She was also wrong, but that’s all right.
Blood tests in her adulthood showed markers for rheumatic fever as a child. (It wasn’t exotic in the 1950’s …) Her mother had no recollection of any such event, but there was a bit of confusion about that due to the Great Year of the Rashes in the Baker household. Two kinds of measles, chickenpox and who-knows-what-else ran up and down the chain of kids from eldest to youngest; Kage caught them all. She used to say she could have had stigmata or smallpox and no one would have known at the time.
However, her blood told another tale. And she had a heart murmur. The heart murmur was the kind usually called innocent, however – it didn’t impart any disability or cause any damage. Not to Kage, at least. It did frighten all of her doctors for her whole life; they’d listen to her heart with its funny harmonic beat, and promptly panic. When they began suggesting EKGs and asking cautious questions about angina, Kage learned to tell them about the innocent murmur. Eventually they stopped bothering her.
Her heart stayed healthy right until the end, when the only thing it did wrong was to stop. But that can happen when you have cancer of the medulla oblongata, when your brain finally forgets how to tell your lungs to breathe or your heart to beat. It’s heart failure, all right, but not the kind where you clutch your chest and fall down.
That’s the kind of heart failure I have.
I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2009, and had a heart attack a few months before Kage’s final illness began. I was as well-behaved a heart patient as I could be, but when your sister is dying and you are her caretaker, that can get kind of sketchy. I had another attack when I moved back to Los Angeles after Kage died; another a couple of years later; and yet another on October 14th of this year …
Where I’ve been for the last 2 months, Dear Readers, is recuperating. As far as possible, anyway; I am in Stage 3 CHF, and persuading my body to breathe has become an intense new hobby. On good days, I just pant and tire easily – pulling up my pants has become an adventure unparalleled since my potty-training days. On bad days, I just can’t breathe lying down. Since I also don’t sleep well sitting up, I am chronically short on sleep, breathe, or both. Strength has been very slow to return in any usable form.
My brain is turning to vanilla pudding. I’m cranky, too.
But! I am trying to soldier on. Just this week, I got marvellous good news from my agent, and now feel newly empowered about the writing. I’ve missed Dickens Faire, NaNoWriMo, numerous friends’ birthdays and festive celebrations; I can’t go Christmas shopping, walk more than 15 feet or sing Christmas carols, but I am trying hard to find my way back to a new normal. So here I am back at the old pop stand.
I intend to pontificate about new good things happening with Kage’s work, and my own as well. I’ll regale you with tales of medical black humour, new horizons in physical ineptitude, and the tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago … so much to talk about, and much easier to write instead of talk right now.
Anyway: I am back, and I will be back. I still live! As John Carter used to announce to himself every morning on Mars.
How can I do less?