In all likelihood, I have a right atrial myxoma: a (hopefully) benign cardiac tumor attached to the septum separating the two upper chambers of my heart. They rarely see such a thing on the right side of the heart. Had it been located on the left, it would have created serious symptoms long before now.
The cardio doctor called it a “serendipitous finding;” I call it a nightmare.
Yesterday I went into the clinic to have a stress test and an echocardiogram (ECG) to give the doctor a better idea of the extent of the structural damage from my recently-diagnosed atrial fibrillation.
I “passed” the stress test just fine, with a little huffing and puffing on the uphill treadmill, but no chest pains whatsoever. I thought I’d gotten all green lights on the ECG as well, but this morning I got the call that puts ice water into your veins: “The doctor needs to see you today, and you need to clear your schedule for a hospital procedure tomorrow morning.”
So this afternoon I saw for myself the ultrasound images of my 1.4 x 1.6 centimeter tumor flopping around inside my heart like a little ping-pong ball. “The biggest I’ve seen in 20 years,” said the cardio doc.
And tomorrow I’ll have a “TEE,” a transesophageal echocardiography, which means they’re going to sedate me and put a scope down my throat to get a closer look at my “alleged” tumor, although the doctor said in his estimation it’s a 99% chance of tumor and 1% chance of being a blood clot.
If it turns out it IS a tumor, then it’s likely I’ll be scheduled to meet a heart surgeon in the very near future, with open heart surgery the most likely option. While they’re in there anyway, it might be possible to do a surgical maze at the same time, which would correct my A-fib. I’d still have to take blood thinners and blood pressure meds for the rest of my life, but those 6 to 8 unnerving daily episodes of my heart doing a wild variation of the jitterbug would cease.
Naturally, I’m scared spitless about THE GREAT UNKNOWN. I keep trying to focus on ONE DAY AT A TIME, and not get the cart too far out in front of the horse, but Holy Shit—Open heart surgery??? On ME??? How could this possibly have happened?
The doctor said it’s likely I was born with this tumor, but that now it’s grown to a point where something must be done to prevent it from interfering with the valve it’s precariously close to. IF it’s a tumor, it needs to go.
And on some level, when I’m feeling just a little bit “spiritual,” I’m wondering if perhaps Rick sent me the A-fib so that I’d get off my fanny and into the doctor for these tests that have “serendipitously” pointed out a much deeper heart problem than I could have ever imagined.
Meanwhile, there was also some undeniably “good” news. There is NO fluid around the heart, the valves all look good, none of the chambers are significantly enlarged, and (at this time), I do NOT have congestive heart failure.
So tonight while I’m breathing a sigh of relief over the good news, I’m also terrified about all the “what if” and “what is” possibilities coming straight at me. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing…