It happened again. I had a second pulmonary embolism. I had very different symptoms this time and I’m beyond frustrated. So, this is number two for a PE and number three for clots in general (I had a self resolving stroke: TIA 9 years ago.) I did everything that the doctors told me to. They said my risk was 1-2% to have another clot. So, what is this? Russian Roulette? Reverse lottery (where I lose everything if I win?) I seem to defy the odds.
I tried to see a silver lining in my cloud last time. This time I see endless days of blood thinners and all of the restrictions and symptoms those bring. Last year in January I had a pulmonary embolism, from what my doctors assumed was estrogen supplements and a prolonged illness.
This time… There’s no excuse to be found. I just make clots. And aspirin therapy did not stop this from happening.
About two weeks after I had my first PE: my best friend, since middle school, died. We were both in our mid 40’s and facing long and difficult illnesses, only she didn’t make it through hers. I spent much of last year mourning my friend and struggling to get healthy enough that the PE that I had wasn’t completely ruining my life.
It was hard. Like: the hardest thing I’ve ever faced recovering from. Now. It’s January again. Almost to the day: I ended up with another clot. This time it’s much more complicated. I’ve ended up in the er three times in the last week and was inpatient for a few days after my diagnosis.
AGAIN! Again. Again.
How is this fair? I guess the obvious answer to that is: it’s not fair. But I learned a long time ago that life doesn’t deal fairness cards, it just deals life. If I were younger, I’d lament my situation and probably try and blame God for not making my path smooth and easy. But I’m not a kid, and I know, from experience: that my God has given me choices in life. Even now, the choice of how I react to this is mine and mine alone.
Russian roulette or a backwards lottery? I have defied the odds. I was a part of the 1-2% who get a second clot. I was the “two” of the two thirds that survive a PE. I am also demoralized. Struggling. Angry and frustrated.
I am struggling to see the silver lining, but I am alive, and that is the most important thing. Recovering from my last PE took most of the year. It’s a lot like a heart attack. This clot has killed off some of my lung tissue (infarction) and it hurts to breath (pleurisy.) I have the beginnings of pneumonia. I am incredibly tired. But the worst part is that I’m scared.
I’m scared that this is a signal that I need to get my affairs in order. That I need to actively face my mortality, and plan for that event if it happens. I have two small children. I don’t want to leave them. I don’t want to fail in my most basic job as a parent: being around to raise them. But I am not stupid. If two out of three people survive a PE my odds are not good that I will survive a third one.
So here we go again. Step by step, I force my way forward. Step by step, I heal. Step by step, I walk away from death and face towards the prospect of a normal life.
It’s just this time I know what I’m in for. I know how hard this is going to be and I know that I have more complications this time, which means more time and work to recover.
I’m trying to be grateful. And I know this feeling of impending doom will not last forever. I will recover, but I’ll be on blood thinners for life. I’m just hoping that life includes watching my kids graduate elementary school, middle school, high school and college. I’m hoping I get that chance. And for that: I would be immensely grateful.
Read about my first PE and recovery here. It’s definitely possible to recover from a PE, but it isn’t easy. I am leaning on my faith and family. I know that I am not alone in this struggle, which definitely makes healing easier.
Update: I am now three months out from the PE. I recovered much quicker from this one. I am basically back to normal. This clot came out really close to the original one. I’m guessing, because that area was already damaged, this wasn’t as hard for my body to adapt to. They are watching me for cancer now. I guess that can cause clotting, even before they can detect a tumor. I’d rather just have an unknowable reason! I guess we’ll see. I am now sort of a medically induced hemophiliac. I can’t bruise myself, cut myself or fall or I’ll be in big trouble! It’s definitely no fun. But I am really grateful that I’m still around. I must be part Timex watch: “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”