In two weeks Phil will be "cardioverted." It sounds like an optional amenity, something you pay a little extra for, like a sunroof or heated seats. But it’s not a turbo button beside the gears. It’s electric shock via paddles that are taped to his chest. The hope is that they can shock his fluttered heart back into normal rhythm. I like very much the idea of referring to said cardioversion as his "electric shock therapy," inferring that it’s to do with what a head case he can be. The thing is, though, he’s not a head case. He’s not neurotic. He’s rarely anxious. He’s opinionated. Deeply opinionated. Passionate. Stubborn. There’s his way, and ways that aren’t as good. He’s a family man, an immediate family man. He unloads the dishwasher, does laundry, and would manage just fine in life if it was just us. And a few beers.

It’s not the way you imagine health should work, with trial, error, and failed attempts. The ablation got him out of atrial fibrillation, but since certain parts of his heart are "highly diseased," they had to be careful. Which means, since they couldn’t fix it completely, he’s now in atrial flutter. The cardioversion is an attempt to break him free of flutter. Last time he was cardioverted, they discovered he was in complete heart block and had to immediately put in a pacemaker. Also, the "normal" rhythm only lasted a day or so, so the actual cardioversion didn’t keep him in normal rhythm. It got him to normal rhythm, but in a few days, his heart went back to its old ways.

You just grow up thinking it should work until it doesn’t. It shouldn’t be so gradual. So eventual. So, "my sight isn’t what it used to be." When I was younger, I thought aging was something that happened over night, emerging from the shower, drying off, wiping the fog from your mirror and suddenly seeing your mother in your face, neck, and hands. I couldn’t imagine my grandparents young any more than I could imagine myself with a medicine cabinet filled with orange cylinders. I think we always see ourselves as young, trapped in a mutinous body. And I don’t know that most of us can pinpoint the exact moments that made us "old." The day we stopped shopping for spike heels and became women who say to other women in heels, "How do you wear those things? I can’t do that anymore."

You grow up thinking it should just work, this body of yours. Instead it’s "Keep living your life, but don’t go too far away. We need you to come back for more tests." After his surgery, Phil said he understood, now, the people who say, "No more surgeries!" They give up because no one knows if it will even work for sure, and you could spend the rest of your life recovering instead of living. Yes, people will tell you you’re a "fighter," that you have to be strong, "so brave," but I don’t know that it’s giving up, choosing to live instead of choosing to recover.

A YEAR AGO: Time Machine Isn’t Always About Apple
2 YEARS AGO: Psychological Thrillers and All Things Fucked Up
3 YEARS AGO: Stress Test
4 YEARS AGO: Caffinerded



  1. John Irving said, "In good company, one can be brave."

    I love your writing and your spirit Stephanie, and what you share on your blog is part of my own "good company" I rely on whether things are happy or stressful so many thanks.

    You and Phil and the beans and Mr. Bikini are in my prayers.

  2. My best friend recently told me that when you have children you give up the right not to fight. I speak from long experience when I say the tests, the surgeries, the medicine,
    the fear, the waiting. The never knowing if you have a year or 30. It goes away… it comes back… I have had many thoughts of just wanting to throw in the F-ing towel and live out whatever I get without Iv ports, fights with Insurance companies over whats not covered and not ever being able to say "Hey how about going to Ireland in a YEAR" Illness-It's like a relationship that you want to work out so badly but are always so disapointed by, the passion is there but so is the uncertainity, you start to wait to for the worst instead of hope for the best. But then a milestone happens with your children or something so simple and pure that you can't imagine not watching them grow, not being a part of it all and if you focus on that it gives you the strength to put one footstep in front of the other. In heels,flipflops or flats. Getting older, even 30's 40's older ain't for the weak. Encourage him even when you don't think he needs to hear it or when it irritates him, for him, for you for your beautiful beans. You are all so often in my thoughts. I will continue to cross my fingers & toes for you.

  3. I LOVED this post. This really hits the nail, Stephanie.

    Last October I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I am 38 years old. What surprised me the most – and what continues to surprise me – is how long it takes to recover from a major illness, both physically and emotionally. I thought I would have a quick surgery and get on with my life. Six months later I am still in the middle of my treatment and there are times when I am just SO sick of being sick.

    Does it ever end? I would imagine it does, eventually. It's the "in the meantime" that is so hard. Peace to you, Phil, and the little ones.

  4. I am so very sorry you're going through this. I don't know you at all but think of you a lot. I have been through similar (with my child) and I know the feeling of wanting to give up, just stop. The thing is that you won't stop because you can't stop and you will somehow manage to keep going. You will draw upon reserves you didn't know you had and would frankly have preferred never to have needed. You will perservere. But it sucks that you have to do it at all and I'm sorry.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Thank you. I know exactly what you mean. Of course he'll keep getting surgeries and do what doctors tell him. He has Lucas and Abigail to think about now. I will get through, too, also KNOWING that the struggles in our lives often lead to our greatest treasures.

  5. Choosing to live instead of choosing to recover. That line really hit home for me, my husband has been battling MS for over 7 years now….he has good days and bad days, but mostly I feel like sometimes he let's his disease get the best of him. I am going to show him this tonight, in hopes that maybe – just maybe it will speak to him. Lots of love to you and the fam.

  6. Stephanie, is Phil a candidate for a heart transplant, or will he be at some point?

  7. Stephanie, is Phil a candidate for a heart transplant, or will he be at some point?

    FROM STEPHANIE: Yes, one day he will be a candidate… or rather he can be a candidate. I don't want to sound pessimistic. He does not have amaloid, which is a type of cardiomyopothy that rules out heart transplant. His cardiologist tells me, "Yes, he can have a heart transplant, but it hasn't come to that yet."

  8. Keep chugging along, Stephanie, it's all you can do right now. Keep thinking positive. Keep reminding Phil that you both have a lot of people pulling for you guys because you do.

  9. Thoughts and prayers are with you — and Bee and Mindy too. Wishing all of you strength, more good days than bad, and restored great health at the end of your (and Phil's) grueling journeys. I hope it helps, just a little, to know how much others care.

  10. Beautiful post Stephanie.

    Lately I've been surprised to find that my parents are getting old. Neither of them is able to read the paper without glasses anymore. It's a weird feeling.

  11. I so know what you mean. I had to have a pretty big surgery when I was 19, and even though I had accepted that something was really wrong with my health and I wasn't perfect (haha!), you still expect after the surgery, things will be fixed, returned to relative normalcy, and you've overcome it. Afterwards though there were minor complications, little aches and pains, tests to see if it was an infection they needed to re-operate on, inconclusive MRIs, well you get the idea. The result being that they didn't really know what was still amiss and there wasn't anything to be done. I still remember how much of a shock that was: no solution, even from the best doctors you could find. I think most people with long-term conditions go through this kind of thing.

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