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A Real Scare…


Book Club Readers: The MIP Reading Plan is up for November’s book! Click here to see it!

Warning: Get your favorite beverage first. 

What I’m about to discuss is not even known among a lot of my friends and family. Perhaps I should send them all smelling salts by FedEx first? If I am blessed to call you a friend or a family member, just do me a favor–sit down first, okay? And if you have a heart condition, take your meds first. But, I promise…it’s going to be all right.

In April 2013 I did my annual check-ups. Yes, plural. I have to do one for my heart condition and one for the female stuff. I have been doing the former ever since 1999 when I first discovered I had Prinzmetal Angina. The latter I should have been doing all along, but honestly, like a lot of women, I had lapsed on that exam for several years.

Enter my best buddy, Kim. Kim, like me, grew weary of the annual exams where our doctors usually chew us out for weighing too much, not exercising enough, and not eating right. Thus, when she felt a lump in her breast, she ignored it. If Kim were here, she would tell you that is the stupidest thing she’s ever done and she paid the ultimate price for that neglect: her life.

Thus, I resolved to be a better medical patient and started going to my annual female appointment again. This includes a routine mammogram due to my age. Normally, these come back just fine, despite having the very common, usually “no-big-deal” fibro-cystic disease.

This year, I got a very short report saying that they needed to re-do the test. That was it. I kept reading the report to try and discern whether the “re-do” was because they hadn’t gotten a clear pic of the “girls” or if they suspected a tumor. Even when I called to schedule this new mammogram, the receptionist wouldn’t specify why I was doing the test again. However, the scary part is that the radiologist would give me the results right away–I would not have to wait 10 days to hear whether or not everything was okay. I considered this both good and bad news.

They couldn’t schedule the re-test right away. Not good for a woman who can make mountain ranges out of an anthill. I considered whether I wanted to relay this to my family for prayer requests or whether I just wanted to “go it alone” with my husband and a few close friends who understood all too well the ramifications of what this test might mean for me. I decided on the latter. The friends told me this was very common and that often, women’s breasts calcify as they age and most of the time, these calcifications are not harmful in any way.

Finally the day came for doing the re-test. The technician did finally confirm that my breasts were calcifying and that these calcifications had grown considerably since my last annual exam. Not only did I have to redo the original scans, but now I had to endure even more uncomfortable positions for this test. Basically, they tried to wring out my breasts like a dish rag and since I’m a C cup, this was not exactly my favorite thing to do on a Monday morning. But, I survived, probably because my other health adventures have taught me a lot about surviving stupid medical pain.

As I waited with the lovely enormous pink paper towel (I didn’t know the Jolly Green Giant had breasts.) over the top part of my bod for the technician or the radiologist to return, I was actually calm. All I can say is that faith in God and the prayers of my family and friends intervened there.

The technician came back and said that the questionable spots on the mammogram appeared to be just calcifications and I needed to confirm this again with another mammogram in late October. I scheduled the appointment and returned home.

Being the researcher that I am, I got on WebMD and discovered that 98% of the time the re-mammogram of such calcifications proves to be nothing to worry about. That was even more calming news. I let those who had been praying know that all seemed to be okay for now.

Enter the health adventures of the last 4 months. Let me just add that my annual heart check-up went extremely well, so I was not prepared for my heart to go berzerk in June and then to create a clot in one of my ventricles this past August. As I recuperated from all of that mess, my mind periodically remembered the eventual October appointment. Again, I thought, “Should I tell more of my family and friends?” Most of them were in rather large transitions themselves and it seemed silly to tell them about something that was probably going to be okay. However, I had seemed to be okay heart-wise as well. And look how that turned out! My luck was pretty much non-existent!

I decided to only tell a few more people about the situation and proceeded with last Monday’s test. Again I lived through the “booby-trap” process I had endured in the original re-test. (I’m thinking a vise grip would have been kinder to my poor left side.) And this time the radiologist saw no reason to re-test until my next female exam in 2014. Yay! Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!

In the meantime one reader friend has also had to deal with an actual diagnosis of breast cancer. It is just scary how many women I know who face these rather unnerving, somewhat painful experiences every day and seldom tell a lot of people simply because they just don’t want to worry people unnecessarily.

The good news? Even if diagnosed, your chances of surviving are awesome today, particularly if you are diagnosed at Stage 1 and Stage 2. In fact I just learned that a vaccine is expected for breast cancer in 10 to 15 years. The friend recently diagnosed said that our country is full of great resources and support, often only a phone call or web site away.

So, dear lady readers: Is it time for a check-up? If so, make that appointment today. Don’t let cost deter you. Many places make mammograms and other female appointments free throughout the year. It never hurts to ask! All they can say is no. But, keep asking.

And gentlemen readers: Have you checked on your favorite person of the opposite gender to make sure she is having those appointments regularly? Be a man and stumble through it, if you have to. At least she will know you care. And that may be the very thing that gets her to the enormous, pink paper towel. You may even save her life. And just for the record, men get breast cancer, too. So, make sure you’re going to YOUR appointments, too.

Yes, friends, it’s that important. The life you save may be your own. And I am always here for support any way you need it. Why? Because I made the decision to keep my appointments. 🙂

Friday’s Post: The Patron Saint of Writers…and???

You might also like: Lessons Learned from the 2009 Dallas Breast Cancer 3 DayHow I Cope with a Heart that’s a Ticking Time Bomb, and 8 Women Who Changed My Life


The Weirdest Diet on Earth: The Coumadin Diet…


Warning: War & Peace was shorter.

Whether I like it or not (and I don’t!) I am now being forced to change the very eating plan that led to me losing nearly 40 lbs. My doctor has placed me on Coumadin (generically known as Warfarin or Jantoven) in order to try and dissolve a blood clot that is apparently lodged in one of my heart ventricles. It is important for this drug to work, since I am at an increased risk for stroke if this clot doesn’t “evaporate” of its own accord.

Basically, Coumadin is an anti-coagulant of the nth degree and Vitamin K can hamper its ability to help me dissolve this clot. Most people can simply avoid leafy green veggies (I hate salad anyway) and avoid any Vitamin K interaction with Coumadin.

Unfortunately, it is starting to appear I am not one of these people. And finding out exactly which foods are high in Vitamin K is a bit like doing a study in contradiction. One medical source said that alcohol is okay in moderation; another completely contradicts this. One reliable source says that cranberries are not okay and another says they are. So, what’s a girl to do?

Enter The Coumadin Cookbook by Rene Desmarais, MD. Even cardiologists seem to respect the opinions in this book, so I’m trying to live by the list of foods it recommends. But, if you are trying to live on portion control and eat heart healthy foods, this diet will make one shake his or her head. Here are some of the foods that are actually okay on this diet:

Skinless apples (And here I thought the skin gave me more fiber…sigh)

Cinnamon raisin bagels (Oh, and I can put cream cheese on them, too.)

Beans and franks or baked beans with bacon (This would have made my mom happy, but she died from eating a heart healthy diet.)


Biscuits (And yes, gravy with the biscuits is okay. I just made all Southerners happy.)

Bologna (No word yet on whether the bologna has to have a first name, like O-s-c-a-r.)

Bread (of all kinds)

Fruitcake (Yes, the commercial kind, but I prefer Grandma’s more Scottish, refined, tasty and alcohol-free version.)

Twinkies (So glad now for that comeback of theirs.)

Caramels (This will not sit well with my dentist.)

Fudge (Guess what I will be making for Christmas “cookies” this year.)


Hard candies (But if I eat green apple Jolly Ranchers, do I have to take the “skin” off of them first???)

Jelly beans

Plain M & M’s (Never liked the peanut version anyway!)

Starburst Fruit Chews


Cola beverages (The Pepsi-Cola Company just breathed a sigh of relief. So did its stockholders.)

Lucky Charms (They’re magically delicious!)

Trix (And you thought Trix was for kids.)

Apple Jacks

Cocoa Krispies (I banned these from the household the day it required a crowbar to get them off my kitchen floor, thanks to the kids.)

Froot Loops (I suppose this variety is the colorful circular cereal variety and not the politicians in D.C.? I sure hope so, cuz I really don’t want to eat politicians, even if it would be a public service.)

Cap’n Crunch (This will give the hubby an excuse to return to his youth.)

Regular cream

Swiss cheese

Chocolate syrup

Nestle Quik

Cocoa mix

Coffee (yes, even with caffeine)



Corn oil


Regular egg noodles (Spinach noodles are bad)

Egg yolks


Hot dogs


Jell-O (I suppose there’s always room for Jell-O, particularly if it’s endorsed by my favorite comedian.)

Ice Cream (So, I can eat my hubby’s version without any guilt, right?)


Lard (Cousin Vinny would question that with the “ongoing cholesterol problem in the U.S.”)

Milk shakes

Macadamia nuts

Canned peaches

Peanut butter

Canned pears

Apple pie filling (canned)



Ready to eat puddings




Soy sauce


Sugar (Dr. Atkins just rolled over in his grave.)

Maple syrup (Is it Groundhog Day? ‘Cuz I’m thinking it’s time for flapjacks.)


Oh, and using butter (in moderation) is okay, but margarine is absolutely taboo. To be fair, there are some fruits, vegetables, and healthier protein sources than what I’ve listed above. And Dr. Desmarais does advise using the above foods sparingly to take further care of your heart. 

But, I knew my mother was lying when she said I had to eat my vegetables. Thanks for the needless dinnertime torture and emotional trauma, Mom.

Now…you’ll have to excuse me, I have to go fry some bacon in some lard and eat some Froot Loops.

Monday’s Post: Who is a boffin? Yes, that was a hint….

You might also like: 100 Things I Plan to Do Now that I Don’t Share My Home with Teens or Kids 


The New Information On Prinzmetal Angina…


For the last 2 days I have sarcastically witted on about my last 2 heart attacks. But, it’s time to get serious. In 1999 I tried and could not find very much information about Prinzmetal Angina. I had to rely upon the information coming from my cardiologist and personal doctor. Here is what I was told:

  1. Prinzmetal Angina occurs when coronary arteries spasm. If they spasm hard enough, they create a blood clot which then prevents blood flow to the heart. This creates a heart attack.
  2. You can have Prinzmetal Angina without any of the “traditional” heart attack risk factors. This was, and is, oh, so true of me.
  3. In 1999 1 out of every 2 Prinzmetal Angina heart attack victims died.
  4. Negative stress is related to this condition.
  5. Eating right and exercising regularly will not change my risk of having a heart attack.
  6. An EKG and a stress test will often not show a Prinzmetal attack. This is also true of me.
  7. A Prinzmetal patient can expect to have a heart attack every 10 to 15 years. My 3rd and 4th attacks (I actually suspect I may have had a 5th attack that went undiagnosed, based on my symptoms.) came just a little over 14 years after the 1999 attacks.
  8. Prinzmetal attacks often occur when a person is at rest. Three of mine occurred this way.
  9. No one knows why Prinzmetal Angina occurs. You can’t even do an autopsy on a deceased Prinzmetal Angina patient to gain insights.


Here’s the good news: Largely thanks to the Internet, I can now find droves of information on this topic! So, here is the new information I am learning:

  1. Cocaine use is a causal agent of this. (That should be easy to stop.) 🙂
  2. They often occur like “clockwork” between the hours of midnight and 8 am. (The last 2 heart attacks occurred almost exactly a week apart right around midnight.)
  3. Beta blockers, commonly used for treating heart patients, are often “bad news” for Prinzmetal Angina patients. I was on a beta blocker when # 3 and # 4 occurred. Because of this new finding, I am now off this med and have been switched to a newer med.
  4. Exposure to the cold can bring on an attack. This is not good news for my migraines, where colder “climates” often help!
  5. 50% of Prinzmetal Angina patients have no conventional risk factors. Thus, you can be a professional athlete in perfect shape and die from this.
  6. Angiography can be used post mortem to examine the spasmed coronary arteries of Prinzmetal Angina victims. This means the medical community might be able to actually make some progress in figuring out what is causing this condition!
  7. When this occurred in 1999, my mother told me that her grandmother (my great-grandmother) died very suddenly at a young age. She wondered if her grandmother could have had Prinzmetal’s and it just had not been a diagnosed condition in “her day.” Now, there seems to be evidence that there could be a genetic component to this condition. In other words, Mom may be right. In fact my mom was always right, so let’s just go with what she said to save time.
  8. Conservative estimates suggest that 140,000 people have Prinzmetal Angina and most are younger heart attack patients than regular heart disease/heart attack patients.
  9. My new cardiologist has another Prinzmetal Angina patient. She also suffers from migraines. Migraine is a known risk factor for stroke. Migraines are caused by constriction of the vascular system of the brain. Strokes, of course, are related to heart attacks. Thus, there may be some connection here that warrants further study.
  10. The American Prinzmetal Angina Association has been formed in order to educate, support research grants and connect doctors who know things about Prinzmetal Angina!


Tomorrow’s Post: How MaryAnn Survived 4 Prinzmetal Angina Heart Attacks….

You might also like: Lessons Learned from Recuperating, Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 & 4, Thank You, SCC, So, Where Are My Posts?, 2 Heart Attacks Too Soon, Part 1





Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 and 4…


Warning: You may want to get 2 beverages first. 

For a little background on why someone like me would wind up in the hospital with heart attacks last Monday, please go here.

The very last thing a cardiologist should do to a writer is strap her down to a hospital bed for 8 days with medical “leashes”, put her on morphine and Xanax, and then think that she won’t use this “quality creative time” to her full advantage. I hope you’re up for a little gallows humor, because I’m about to explode with what I learned.

  1. Two sips of Merlot and I’m in the ER. I always knew I hated red wine.
  2. I think I now have a phobia about Merlot/red wine.
  3. Nurses have amnesia, particularly when it comes to remembering my birthdate. Thanks to them, I can’t seem to forget it. As a token of my gratitude for helping my memory, I’m sending them Merlot wine.
  4. My scooter still works. I didn’t even know I had one.
  5. Don’t hug and kiss the Careflite nurse.
  6. I got to cross off “Ride in a helicopter” from my Bucket List, but I don’t remember putting it on my List twice. Maybe it’s the morphine.
  7. I also got to cross off “Travel down the main thoroughfare of our fair town with police permission while wearing nothing but a hospital gown on a gurney accompanied by 2 guys who aren’t my husband at 1 am in the morning.” Yeah, I was surprised that was on my Bucket List, too. The hubby was even more surprised.
  8. We need to repave the main thoroughfare of our fair town. Remind me to vote for local road improvement at the next election.
  9. If you’re claustrophobic, don’t ride in a Careflite helicopter. If you’re bigger than me, you may need to become a Cirque du Soleil contortionist to fit.
  10. I have an alter ego. Her name is Mrs. Hook.  And apparently, my alter ego has a different address. She’s smarter—she decided to live closer to our local schools and my church. I wonder what illnesses she has. I hope she is okay.
  11. While attaining my counseling degree, I studied nonverbal client behavior. That is not a good skill to have when watching your catheterization team look at your coronary arteries.
  12. My nurses loved my mani/pedi. Note to self: Always schedule a mani/pedi 3 days prior to your next heart attack.
  13. I have “young skin.” This gives me a new reason to stock up on my favorite Bath & Body Works products, right? Think I could be their “Jared”?
  14. I baffle doctors and nurses because I don’t smoke, drink, eat too much, and exercise too little. They aren’t used to patients who follow their instructions?
  15. I now know why I’ve been reading all these books on Heaven and death. God’s sick sense of humor just moved to a whole new level of twisted. Where were the books on resurrection????
  16. Since I had symptoms prior to the gurney ride, my doctor ordered a nuclear stress test, in which they shoot dye into your coronary arteries prior to making you run on a hamster wheel until you fall off. Thanks to the Merlot, that was cancelled. I consider this a good thing since I only want dye applied to one part of my body—the part with the gray hair.
  17. While scheduling the stress test, the receptionist gave me the following instruction: “No funny stuff between now and then!” I guess heart attacks are serious???
  18. Always chew the chicken in your mouth prior to the next morphine drip.
  19. I neglected my children’s musical education—they didn’t understand my Carly Simon reference when I uttered: “I haven’t got time for the pain.” Of course, it could be that I was morphine mumbling it and trying to chew my chicken at the same time.
  20. I can recite the Lord’s Prayer in my sleep, unless the sleep is induced by morphine. Did you know Carly Simon lyrics are part of the Lord’s Prayer? Me neither.
  21. I know night nurses can get bored so I like to keep them entertained with projectile vomiting every so often just to break up the monotony. Let’s just say my capacity to do this means I coat walls better than industrial spray paint equipment. Guess that will teach them to put that little plastic tub too far from my hospital bed, hunh?
  22. My aforementioned little skill requires the contractor size of a Hefty bag to contain the clean-up materials. Maybe I can be Jared for Hefty??? Okay, so that would be awkward, too.
  23. The hubby can conduct business from anywhere. For his next magic trick, he plans to take conference calls on Mars.
  24. The hubby has an interesting career. You have no idea what Morphine MaryAnn does with the conference call term, “cows in heat.”
  25. Morphine confuses my sense of direction. I thought my room was in the corner. That may be because I spent a good portion of my childhood there.
  26. Doctors and nurses don’t believe me when I tell them the truth about my medical history. Of course, I’ve always thought my life story would make a good musical comedy. At least it would be more believable than “Cats.” My theory? “Cats” was dreamed up during “quality creative time” while on morphine.
  27. Doctors are finding more Prinzmetal patients these days. Dang. I liked being unique.
  28. However, few Prinzmetal patients actually produce heart attacks from their vasospasms without other heart disease risks. Guess my over-achiever/perfectionistic tendencies apply to my insides, too. Probably need to work on that sometime, hunh?
  29. If you’re “tied to your hospital bed,” you go to bathroom by “committee.”
  30. I never liked committee meetings.
  31. I missed my treadmill. Yes, I missed my treadmill. Maybe I need to check into Bellevue next.
  32. Last time they put me on Demerol. This time they said I would become too addicted to Demerol. (So, you can get addicted with a 14 year absence of Demerol in your system???? That’s impressive. Must add this to my things to do as an over-achiever.)
  33. They injected morphine ad nauseam (literally) and then told me to get off the morphine because I might get addicted. This little “lecture” came 24 hours after the first injection. You can get addicted to morphine within 24 hours of the first injection? Yay—another way to be unique! And I have so much access to morphine living in small town suburbia. And my favorite way to entertain myself on the weekends is to stick needles into my veins.
  34. Does morphine come in Merlot flavor? If so, I’m sending a case to my new favorite doctor, along with a 6 month supply of needles I found at Wally World on sale. I think they were on sale because they were “reconditioned.”
  35. While attaining the master’s in counseling, we talked a lot about projection. See # 33. Dr. Freud would be so proud.
  36. I’m supposed to endure torturous pain without morphine or Demerol. But, Xanax is fine? They didn’t study the same textbooks I studied. Uh, Doc? Xanax comes in pill form, thus eliminating the inconvenient need for needles from Wally World. (It’s so inconvenient to run there when you’re in withdrawal.) I guess morphine/Demerol addicts never take pills too often.
  37. I think I’m beginning to understand why addiction is such a problem in the U.S.  And why counselors (who generally try to help addicts) so commonly abuse drugs.
  38. A heart attack will bring a couple together more than a marriage retreat. Unfortunately, they’re usually more expensive than a marriage retreat. I personally think the reason why heart attacks bring couples closer together is because heart monitoring electrodes look so alluring by candlelight. They complement the IVs  quite nicely.
  39. A heart attack is not enough for me. I like to throw in migraines, anaphylaxis, non-stop nausea and pericarditis just for grins. You know how I hate boring. My doctors and nurses were not amused.
  40. Want to clear your busy schedule for a while? Have a heart attack. BOOM! Schedule cleared. Even your demanding writing schedule lightens up.
  41. In a unit where you’re encouraged to rest, the nurses and patients are pretty deaf. At least that’s my conclusion after hearing them yell at each other. Either that or morphine and Xanax improve my hearing.
  42. To deal with # 41, ask the youngest to fill up your iPod with inspiring songs.
  43. The same child informed me, after heart attack # 3, that I have now had as many heart attacks as children. He said, “No more children, Mom.”
  44. After heart attack # 4, I started looking around for my 4th child. The daughter always wanted a little sister. #4 is my “favorite” since she never required diaper changes, potty training, “the talk”, adolescent tantrums or enormous college tuition bills. She has good skin like her mother.
  45. It really hurts when you fall out of your hospital bed after hearing the Newsboys lyric: “They Don’t Serve Breakfast in Hell.” What?! No IHOP in Hell???? Geez. I guess I really will have to believe in the Big Guy now. I don’t want to miss breakfast.
  46. The youngest apparently has the same twisted sense of humor as God.
  47. I am blessed to have the best prayer warriors on the planet in “my corner” to make sure I don’t miss breakfast—ever. No Merlot necessary.

Next Post: Lessons Learned from Recuperation…

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