Thursday, January 26, 2017

Of high blood pressure and gratitude

Reading Underground Railroad at Dana-Farber
during light treatment in order to avoid the news
A post that I came across in a blog-sharing group struck me as something helpful to share. I want to get to the part about going on blood pressure medication and not wanting to, and how it got to be this way, but first, an interview with Maya Angelou and various sources on how keeping a gratitude journal is a key ingredient to happiness.

This could be especially helpful these days when the irrational behavior of a certain individual can threaten our own equilibrium.

I did something like this a while back, sending to a friend, and a friend sending to me, five things we were grateful for on each day. It was great for a while but was hard to keep up. This one seems easier. Just three things.

The end of Avenue Q when we saw it way back when concluded with an applause-generating phrase, George Bush is only for now, which was changed when he left office. You could substitute Donald Trump is only for now, but that might not have much of a calming effect because he and his minions are so terrifying.

I would put him third on a list of the reasons for my high blood pressure.

1. It started with the Mohs surgery three weeks ago, and with the knowledge that they were going to remove a larger than usual squamous cell cancer from my ankle and cut a slice out of my stomach, while I was awake, to use as a graft in the hole. A couple more pieces of me chipped away. As I wrote, it wasn't as bad as the anticipation. But the pain was intense enough for about a week that I took double the usual dose of pain medication.

2. My routine was disrupted, the source of my endorphins gone. I was unable to play tennis or go to yoga or even walk very far. The doctor said to limit it to 20 minutes, just for walking the dog, not an exercise walk. I did that gingerly. I also did a little stretching and tried to meditate, but it was hard because I was either in pain or falling asleep from the drugs.

3. Donald Trump. Nuf said.

After the high reading at the Mohs center and another at a local doctor's office, both of which seemed to be variations of White Coat Syndrome, I got a prescription for Losartan (and instructions to drink less coffee.)  But when I took out my old blood pressure monitor the next day and the numbers were normal again, Melissa said it was OK not to take the pill. She said to monitor it, though.

I then made the mistake of sitting at the computer for a long time, writing with breaks to read all sorts of bad news, and remembering that I hadn't taken a reading that day. I should have sat quietly before I did it, but I didn't, and it was 202 over 118. I usually run normal (120 over 80 or so) or even lower.

I paged Melissa, who always gets back to me quickly. (Thank goodness for Melissa, and for caregivers like her.) I asked her if I was having a heart attack. But I wasn't having chest pains, so she said to take a pill and relax and call her in an hour. By then it was back to normal. But she said that after three high readings I should take the pill.

We are going to reevaluate after I am back to my routine. I started with tennis Monday and yesterday.

The nurses at ECP yesterday said to pay attention and make sure it doesn't go too low. This morning it was lower than usual, 106/75. I texted the friend who I've been discussing this with, "Better drink some coffee." We had also been discussing the impact of salt, and she texted back, "Or eat salami."

Today, it was good to get back to yoga. I took it easy, knowing how sore my arms would be if I did every down dog and plank. I left the Northampton Y feeling calmer. But in the car I turned on NPR and listened to a story about the Mexican president canceling his US trip due to Trump's insane claim that Mexico is going to pay us back after we build the stupid wall. I fumed. I do not want my tax dollars to go to that wall.

I definitely wasn't going to take my blood pressure after that.

That gratitude journal could be a wall between sanity and insanity. Tomorrow I will start by writing that a certain big sweetie is bring a little sweetie to South Hadley for lunch.


susan said...

For so many reasons, I hope our 'long national nightmare' will soon end. You, Ronni, are high on that list of reasons. With so much dignity and resolve, you manage your cancer battle. It is very nice to think that one day soon you will turn to the news to learn that our government is supporting scientists - including medical science - to double-down on cancer research - prevention and treatment, and that healthcare for all is the law of the land as well as so many other, humane, pro-active initiatives. You, and all of us, deserve a government that reflects the best inclinations of humanity: intelligence, respect, empathy and principled action.
And, this may not be useful, but I like to listen to Etta James when I am stressed, angry, despondent. At Last is a favorite, of course. It is melancholy but it somehow helps.

Scott said...

Wow this is really relatable and insightful thank you for sharing!