Friday, March 09, 2007


I had my biennial echocardiogram last week, and saw the cardiologist yesterday for the results. Good news! My heart is stable. That's four years in a row of stability. The murmur first appeared when I was 41. Then for a few years, it was a little worse each time I went in, but now it appears to have stabilized. My blood pressure is under control, and the leakage is mild.

I guess I should confess that I started training for marathon last summer based on how I felt, and never actually checked in with the cardiologist. I wanted to see how things went, how I felt when I pushed the distance, and I was afraid if I asked first I'd get a "no" response without a discussion. This cardiologist is the fourth one I've seen since the problem was found. The first one died of a heart attack (!), the second one I really liked but lost when my health insurance changed, the third one was an out-of-shape, heavy, older guy who thought I should stop running and told me that "everyone feels short of breath when they run". He wouldn't listen when I explained that I had been running for nine years and these symptoms were new. I changed to my current one two years ago (there are only four choices in the managed care plan I am in, I picked the one that listed a sport as a hobby - tennis).

Sometimes I wish I could get back to number two - he was very clear about everything that was happening and what I should expect. He gave me straight answers. I like the current doc, but he doesn't explain things very well. Anyway, when we talked about running, he asked me what I meant by "running". We talked that through, and I mentioned marathons. He thought it was fine to keep doing them. I was thinking about it later and realized he probably doesn't know the distance of a marathon, or that it means I'm at it for six hours. No matter, because I know my set of symptoms well, and know when to stop. He did warn me that running is hard on the knees and I'd better be careful or I'd ruin them.

I've mentioned before that I've had all the symptoms of a heart attack a number of times while I'm running, and that I've had multiple tests that have not shown anything but the leak and the skipping. The cardiologist doesn't think the leak causes the symptoms, but admits that he doesn't have other patients that run like I do. He says that it is idiopathic - meaning from an unknown cause. He has said that we may never find the cause, that there is likely some other minor defect of the system that wouldn't be found without invasive measures, if then. Apparently there is some kind of spasm that can occur in the arteries or veins or something, and it could even be something like that. Who knows? Since I can manage the onset and relieve it if it does happen, I am just moving on. If I start having problems again, I'll reassess.

On another note - I had to look up biennial. I couldn't figure out the proper term for "every two years" - I was pretty sure biannual was not it, nor was semi-annual. Fortunately, when I was typing in biannual the google toolbar fed me biennial, which was the correct term. Cool!

And finally, I ran yesterday morning for five miles with Barb, but played slacker last night and skipped the track. For some reason - probably a week of 6.5 hours a night of sleep - I was too tired to move. Eric was stuck in traffic and wasn't going to make it in time either. He went to coffee anyway, I just flopped in front of the TV. Reruns of Friends and American Idol. Then I managed to fritter away the time till once again, I set myself up for a short night. I don't have to be in to the office today till noon, and I don't have to go by any of the next on my agenda is a nap!

MM #402, signing off from the Evergreen State, where the nights are short, the mornings are early and the runs grow ever longer!


Journey to a Centum said...

So what would be so wrong about using the phrase "every other year" instead of a fancy schmancy word like biennial? My god woman you're blogging to the running community. People who fall down on a muddy rocky trail while running full speed and laugh about it. I suppose now they can say that statistically they only fall on a biennial basis. I think I'll just stick to doing a dirt dive every now and then.

I'm glad your ticker is checking out OK. It's a part of me you know!

E-Speed said...

I find it interesting he warned you about your knees. It is so frustrating that more medical people aren't truly aware of how running affects the body.

Oh well.

Glad that everything is stable. You obviously are listening close to your body and that is probably worth more than what any doc is going to tell you.

olga said...

Glad doc approved the "unknown distance of a marathon" for your heart...but not your knee. Didn't you know running ruins every joint, makes your lungs collapse and skin look older, not to mention your arms get fatiqued by waving too much at the spectators?
Crazy. I've been thinking lots if it ever be possible to change the nation as a whole, not one person at a time. I know, I am a socialist, but sometimes I think a hard "ruller" (leader) would work. Forbid fast food and soda, bann sigarettes (yeah, I know about illegal business, but c'mon, at least it would stop many "easy goers"), diss the advertisement on TV...stuff like that. Alex is reading a "Fast food nation". We talk a lot about it lately.

Kendra Borgrunner said...

I'm with Olga! Olga for President! :) Seriously- my nonrunning general practitioner doctor, whom I picked because in her picture she looked sort of athletic (!), told me "running is not natural." Huh?? But more to the point, I am glad to hear your heart is A-OK. Murmurs are not fun unless it's your loved one whispering in your ear. Take care, BackofPack!

Wes said...

I suppose that back during the times of the cave people, food just fell at their feet and they didn't even have to get out of bed to eat. Lazy Neanderthals.

Congratulations, Michelle! That is great news. Undoubtedly your heart is responding to your recent surge in marathons. A strong heart is a healthy heart.

runliarun said...

Donald K. Slayton, one of the first seven astronauts recruited by NASA ("they were the best of the whole population, and the best of them all was he") had an occasional idiopathic arrhythmic heartbeat. No symptoms, but they never let him fly to the moon nevertheles. He was always, always ready.

It must have been so incredibly hard for him, to stay back and watch everybody else go.

runliarun said...

Oh, and the comment you just left on my post made me so happy :). And I am actually writing... two books. And one is finished. And I am looking for an agent. And I will be the happiest girl in the world when it is published :).

robtherunner said...

Glad to hear everything checked out A-ok and please don't start talking about Eric murmuring in your ear either. Maybe I will see you all next week.

Bapp said...

Happy to hear everything is stable - no change is good change, right?!! Keep up the good work with running and the great work with blogging.

Joe said...

Great report from your doc, Michelle. I'm very happy for the cardiac stability you have.

Love your new signoff...I grew up in "Lake Wobegon" and have listened to Keillor for years.

Michelle, you are strong; Eric is certainly good looking and Web and Riley are waaaaaay above average!

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

My doctor gives me suggestions for which races I ought to do! He's long since retired form long distances but still is a runner. He told me the first time he had IT band issues (when I got a cortizone injection from him)he was at Disneyland with his family and had to stay at the hotel! He said most doctors aren't aware of some of the symptoms runners have for specific injuries because they aren't runners themselves!
I, too am glad that everything is going well, and I liked the use of biennial, it makes you sound smart. Plus I am all for using big words and making people (okay, my students) look them up to learn a new word. I used caddywampus the other day and a kid didn't know what it meant. Anyway, See ya soon. Gotta run to pick up Annika from a birthda party.

Juls said...

Michelle, good news on your cardiologist appointment. If you listen to your body, you'll be fine. By now, you know the signs and symptoms to watch for (while you are running and in general).

Anonymous said...

Glad you got a good report. Guess that means you can continue to pursue your maniac ways. It is very difficult to find doctors who know how to factor in one's love of running when making a diagnosis about the body. I would guess that you know your body and capabilities better than anyone else.

And I for one appreciate the fact that you took the time to look up biennial. Because now I don't have to.

TryAthlete said...

Oh, I would go with doctor #5. Thyself.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to hear that your heart is doing well! Happy running! :)

Dori said...

I like your new sign-off's!:-)

Good to hear that your heart is OK. I can't believe that your doc warned you about your knees! When my husband was first diagnosed with high cholesterol, his cardiologist told him to have it checked in a month and to not do anything radical like become a vegetarian. SD figured becoming a vegetarian was better than a life of medication and stopped eating red meat and saturated fats. He also started walking an hour a day and his cholesterol dropped dramatically. He was able to fend off the meds for a few years.

The only doctor I see is my OB/GYN and she's impressed by my running. But then, most of her patients can't touch their toes.

Have you ever considered getting checked at the Mayo clinic? I put a lot of stock in them--they may be able to find the cause.

Finally, Eric is a great guy for signing you up for the Nike marathon. The web site was so overloaded that it took me an hour of constantly trying and I know of someone who spent two hours before she got registered.

Meghan said...

Hey Michelle,

I have a heart murmur, too! I have a hate/love relationship with cardiologists. I love it when they say, "Can't believe that you do so well in running when your heart is working so inefficiently." I hate it when they say, "It's what keeps you from being an even better runner." Grrr. Glad you checked out well. Mine's holding steady also and has been for a while now. Yeah!

Happy running,

Sarah said...

Run on! Here's to many, many more years of healthy running. : )

JustRun said...

Woah, I read this post but I didn't comment?! I must have dreamed it or something! Anyway, glad for your news. Keep going, maniac. :)

Anonymous said...

Congrats on a great check up.

BTW the next time you seen your doc you can mention that there was a study at Standford that researched a group of runners for a 20 or 30 year period (can't remember exactly the number of years - anyway) the had no increased risk of arthritis than the non-runners - its all bio mechanics and genetics. So run strong and well and your knees will be okay.

Anne said...

That's good news, though it's amazing the range of medical advice you get. It's good you aren't *too* fanatical about running and know your limitations.

Chad said...

I hate going to Doctors because you never know what they are going to say, you aren't quite sure how much they know, and just when you find one you like and trust something always changes to where you can't see them anymore (like insurance changes).

Anyway - Lia's right about Deke Slayton, and although he didn't go to the moon he did go into space as a part of the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Take their advice, and listen, but always seek out more information.

Darrell said...

Ahh, the knees, every non runners excuse for not running. That and they never see a runner smiling.

Good news on the heart front. It sounds like you know yourself well.