Can AFib be a gift?

Medical conditions are never welcome, but sometimes they have unexpected positive consequences. I'd be interested in whether others have had this experience. Why? Because it is inspiring to hear how others have turned this lemon into lemonade. My story is that I had to give up squash in my early 50s when I developed paroxysmal AFib. I take flecenaide daily and feel I'm walking on egg shells trying to keep my heart steady. Squash is a game I love and played for over 30 years. It was part of my identity, and still is. However, in hanging up my squash shoes and reducing stress levels I now have the time and mental space for pursuits that were previously in the background as something "I might take up in the future." Once I stopped squash, I took the time to pursue writing, and it turns out I get great joy from writing based on personal experiences of childhood, adolescence, family and friends. I've also slowed the pace of my work (and, paradoxically, my productivity has increased, perhaps because I am less stressed), and I'm more grateful for each day. Yes, it's a hugely difficult transition, but sometimes the life changes prompted by AFib can be a gift.

45 Replies

  • Well said Thomps95. Very positive. Because of my PAF I am eating more healthier options and walking more to keep fit. Cheers.

  • You're right, Tomps. I'd agree with Ewcia too. AF certainly makes you live a healthy life and eat sensibly. And on the alcohol front ...

    I found having high blood pressure led to annual blood tests which is no bad thing.

  • That's a very interesting and thought provoking take on things Thomps95 - thanks for that.

  • I agree. I didn't realise I had AF, but was lucky enough tobr told and medicated accordingly, thus hopefully reducing the risk of stroke or heart attack. Like wistful I dont run for trains or buses, use lifts and escalators where available and still work as as Consultant Engineer, under serious pressure most of the time.

  • Exactly right Thomps. What are you some sort of clone of myself! ! It's amazing how we all are very similar and yet very different.

    In my case tennis not squash (that stopped regrettably prematurely around 40) and not writing but table tennis, and investment clubs with more time on my smallholding. My work experience and more focus on each day is the same.

    Anxiety is present for many including myself and I am trying various new ideas….currently I am half way through Ariana Huffington's new book 'Thrive' and can definitely recommend it for tips.

    In short, I have been pushing myself over a 12 month period since hitting a hot spot of AF last March to upgrade my whole being mentally, physically and spiritually and whereas I can't say I am glad AF pushed me here, I can say I am enjoying the results.

  • Positive attitude seeing the cup half full and not half empty is a start. Acceptance of what is - embracing the moment good or bad and recognising that you need to make changes is definitely the way to go. Confidence is key and it can take time helped by stability of symptom free and meds that control this horrible and scary problem. So pleased to read some inspirational stories it really help. Thank you.

  • Yep, it can be a gift. Having come down with AF I realised I couldn't continue with my high-stress job that was my life. I couldn't imagine doing anything else. But I did something about it, gave up the job and started farming instead which I have found to be a much better, healthier and happier life.

    Koll :-)

  • I think that's a great attitude to have, and it's wonderful that you can look back and see the positive things that have come out of AF rather than the negatives. I'm a glass half full person naturally, but it did take me some time to get over that initial terrible fear. Now, what I find is that I treasure each day and don't take others for granted nearly as much.


  • Dealing with AF for many years gave me the strength of mind to deal with cancer when it arrived.

  • Good morning Bob, there we are thinking about the positive aspects of having AF and you have to be greedy and have something more than we have. Stay safe. J.

  • This post is just what I needed to read right now, so thanks for that Thomps95. I feel like I am struggling to deal with the symptoms of AF and how it's changing my life at the moment so it's good to read some positive comments, some which maybe I can incorporate into my own life.

  • Yes indeed, always look on the bright side. In my case after spending Christmas in hospital l returned home to find 3 books that my daughter in Arizona had sent.

    Recommend reads by Bill Clinton for anyone that had heart disease.

    Had a TIA in the November 2013 and my first AF just before the Christmas.

    The books recommend a plant based diet and no oil or dairy with an exercise regime.

    After a year I am sat here on the morning of my 70th birthday.

    AF free after a cardioversion in September.

    My weight is unbelievable at 150 lbs which I haven't been since I was a teenager.

    I'm looking forward to going to the see my daughter and family in late March and have tagged on a trip to Hawaii, to get the full value out of the the exorbitant travel insurance of £1340 for up to a max. Of 24 days.

    Still to keep in a positive vein, last year I couldn't get insurance and the 12 month interval was the secret and being under 70 on the day that I applied kept the cost down.

    Yes Thomps95 every cloud has a silver lining. Mike

  • Very positive post. Great to hear. X

  • Exactly right - being diagnosed with AF made me adopt the lifestyle (no alcohol, low stress etc) that I knew I should have lived decades ago. :)

  • I like to think that sometimes the things that would destroy us, us the things that would save us. Having AF certainly helped me to stop drinking and smoking. I now lead quite a virtuous life. Who knows, had I continued in my former course, I may have developed a lung cancer or alcoholism. Both worse than AF arguably.

  • I taught and competed in semi contact Martial Arts ( Bronze medal in British Open ) and had a very physical job strongroom/safe engineer. Due to medication and worsening lung condition had to stop both. I moved into IT. At that time there was profit and a good living to be had with low levels of stress but I had a passion for technology so learnt new things all the time. As people became more IT literate and a huge increase in IT companies offering support and services it became very competitive with profit margins a little higher than an ISA today. It became more stressful but I still had the passion to learn new products and services. Unfortunately my health has just got worse and it is impracticable to work now. But I agree that you have to seize the day. I was interested in the fact you confirmed that less hours made your productivity rise. If only the managers could see that the right working environment is the way people work to their best!

    Be Well

  • Hi Offcut, don't mind what the managers think, it's how you are and feel is important. My Dad always told me "if work was any good, the employers would keep it for themselves". Stay positive and SAFE. J.

  • Look ahead Boys and Girls and grasp the mettle. It's good to hear all those fit guys moaning!

  • Absolutely. My story is the same. I have owned ridden and competed horses for my whole life. I couldn't have imagined my life without them and wouldn't have given them up voluntarily. My husband shared the same interest and my friends and social life were all connected to the hobby. We were just about to retire from teaching and were looking forward to around 10 years of uninterrupted riding bliss! Then I was diagnosed with A.F. and bang... our whole world and dreams collapsed as I had to go on warfarin and hence would be unable to ride.

    We decided to change our lives completely. We sold our country cottage land and stables in lancashire. We moved to south Wales to be closer to our only child .He and his wife now have a lovely son and I can not imagine how I could have coped if I still lived in Lancashire and 5 hours away from my grandson.

    We have both taken up hobbies that we would previously have had no time for e.g. Bowles dancing choir archaeology book club and we are also members of a choir. We spend ages walking along the coast with our dogs and have many more holidays than before. Also I have been forced by A.F. into becoming much healthier generally. My wieght blood pressure Tec have all improved. So in spite of me being a cup half empty person I can honestly say that in all these ways A.F. has been a blessing. (Still wish it would go away though ). X

  • yep positive for me as if i hadnt got it the tumour in my heart wouldnt have been found during AF investigations. Recently returned to gym after 4 yrs absence with help of my pacemaker. Still taking the tablets to keep arrythmias in check and pacemaker doing a grand job fingers crossed.

  • Hi ! I've been giving some thought to this but afraid that I've come to the conclusion that if AF is a gift then it's a b-----y awful one , thank you !

    22 years ago , when little was heard about AF, it frightened the life out of me & robbed me of confidence to get back in the job market due to my ever increasing debilitating episodes. Who would want to 'take me on? '

    Similarly it prevented me from flying & other pursuits.

    BUT, I don't dwell on the past. i believe in the present & make the best of that.

    A gift? -- I don't think so.

    That said, I have had a good life despite, not because of, AF.


  • I hear you, and I get the realist approach! I'm also sorry AFib has had such a negative impact on your life. To put this into perspective: for the first 5 years all I focused on was the negative, and a "poor me I have this awful condition" mentality, which affected my mood and stress levels. Adjusting my perspective in a positive way seems to help, makes me feel more resilient, happier, better able to cope. But I don't have rose-coloured glasses on either. Let's hope treatments for this difficult condition continue to improve.

  • This has to be looked at in the bigger picture. Of course we all could do without AF, but once we manage to live with it, it does put a steady hand on the remainder of our active time on this wonderful planet. Furthermore one must never forget that 'NO ONE' get our of here alive and of course there is also the positive aspect to this end.

    (a). We won't have to listen to Politicians anymore and

    (b). We won't have to pay tax anymore.


  • This has to be looked at in the bigger picture. Of course we all could do without AF, but once we manage to live with it, it does put a steady hand on the remainder of our active time on this wonderful planet. Furthermore one must never forget that 'NO ONE' get our of here alive and of course there is also the positive aspect to this end.

    (a). We won't have to listen to Politicians anymore and

    (b). We won't have to pay tax anymore.


  • I agree with you totally Sandra as for me AF has certainly not been a gift.

    I think there are so many different levels of AF that some people have worse experiences than others. When I first started out with AF (tachycardia) it would last barely a day and then would knock me out for a few days more with exhaustion. Now I get periods with my heart racing for months which at the time make me feel quite disabled. I live on my own so have to struggle on and can't help but wonder at times if I had a stroke how long it would be before one of my daughters, friends or neighbours would realise why I'm not answering the door or phone and get help. I believe with a stroke you need attention within hours to prevent the damaging effects.

    In no way am I a negative person and when well I love the life I lead, walking the coast etc and am certainly a half cup full person.

    After two unsuccessful ablations and many long periods in hospital with my heart refusing to calm down, for me it's certainly not been a gift. My EP has said that they can't do any more for me because of the extensive scarring in my heart.

    If AF symptoms are minor and you change your lifestyle and then feel so much better I can see that for some it could help the situation.

    I'm pleased and envious that it has been a gift for you. You lucky thing.

  • Thanks for sharing your story - which is very disturbing. I had wondered about scarring from ablation, but I'd not heard before of someone being told that they have too much scarring and so cannot be treated further. Another factor to consider in all the difficult decisions ahead. I do hope that there are further advances in treatment so that they can eventually do something about your heart. It sounds extremely frustrating.

  • A cardiologist has also told me that the scarring has probably made my heart a bit stiff, hence the problems now with it working properly. At the moment I'm just in my fifth day of my heart racing non stop.

  • Interesting thoughts, Thomps. I was also heavily into squash and basketball in my 50s and if not an obsession, they were certainly hugely important to me. I was fit and competitive and to take a few points off my coach was a huge achievment! However, the old ticker was dormantly keeping an eye on me and waiting for its chance to have a second resurgance - which it did. Time was up. Time for something else to take over. I was really quite happy as there was nothing to keep me away from something I always loved - writing and art. In the event, I wrote and finished a book, took and passed my GCE art exams and discovered a whole new, more relaxed life style, which I continue to enjoy.

  • After reading all the comments, it seems the answer to continuing to thrive in spite of AF (or any negative health issue for that matter) is flexibility and action. Thanks T for a thoughtful positive outlook to an otherwise debilitating condition.

  • What a lovely post:) i have only recently come to reflect on the last couple of years with AF and see things this way Thomps95..I too feel that AF has enhanced my life in some ways. For example, I have episodes every night from about 7-10.30pm. When these begin, I now sit and read story after story to my children and listen in detail to my 7 year old son talk about 'skylanders' as I have no choice but to sit still as my heart goes very fast. Before AF, i was always 'too busy' to sit for a couple of hours a night with my kids...maybe a quick story and brief chat but not like now. Also, my husband has been a rock to me and we have a deeper tenderness and togetherness now. I appreciate things more that I used to take for granted for sure. And i also appreciate my generally good health every time I am i am hospital and realise that my body can withstand this for now. Thanks for the happy post:)

  • Mine jerked me out of a course I was on head long for disaster that was totally unsustainable and made me look at other options and also led to me feeling much more confident with my health so I managed to get another serious condition sorted out as well and pickup on some early cancer warnings. it's not all bad!

  • YES! Still ready and waiting for it to be gone, but...

    My confidence in my own intution has grown tremendously. I have slowed down - finally, and am enjoying it - something I never though possible. My meditation practice is invaluable to me as well now. So, yes we can draw benefits from this warthog of a condition.

    Great book - The Obstacle is the Way....

  • Thanks for the great book recommendation! I'll check it out for sure.

  • Thank you Thomps for new insights. I have been struggling with exersize induced PAF for 9 years. Pace maker and medications. I had to give up two-times-a week tennis training and line dance which I loved and had planned to concentrate on when retired. After AF dg I have tried to find other exersizes to suit my condition: playing tennis with my small grandchildren and walking (which I really don't like), and struggling with heavier and heavier yoga. Now to the point, my tennis playing was rewarded at New Year when my granson won the mastership for 10 year old school children. Now I can go on according to your tips, to art and writing activities. And light hatha yoga. Thank you.

  • Agree with the other posts. It does cause you to reassess your life and I too after a few years absence returned to the Gym and have also looked at the way I was thinking about things and made some changes there as well

    I still have a high pressure job which has required me to take at least one long haul flight per month for the last two years but it depends on how you approach it. Am doing a masters degree as well

    I now have as much if not more energy than I had 20 years ago and frankly have not felt this good for a long time

    My 40's may not have been the best time for me but sure as hell enjoying my 50's so far

    For me AF has been an opportunity not a problem

  • I can't say that AF for me has been a gift although I'm one of the lucky ones in that I have permanent/persistent AF and I am asymptomatic which makes me feel a bit of a fraud! The AF came to light following investigation into a bout of intensive chest pain which revealed bi-lateral pulmonary emboli (isms?). So I feel I've had my "throw of the dice" as far as blood clots are concerned and I am therefore very happy to be anticoagulated with warfarin on a daily basis. I find it a nuisance, of course, but being acutely aware of the devastating effects of a debilitating stroke (my father 94 this year) I would certainly not wish to be a stroke survivor. For that reason alone I take my warfarin, my little blue safety harness! Lifestyle changes: I'm a mechanical engineer but ironically run a small electrical shop and repair business (I retired from teaching some 15 years ago) At 72 I now regard myself as semi-retired which really means I go into work as and when I'm needed and to pay the wages! I also run and play in a New Orleans style jazz band and when the weather permits I ride my bike (pedal). So as I wrote before a bit of a fraud but an anticoagulated one. Better to be safe than sorry I think.

  • Great story - thanks for sharing.

  • Not really getting this look upon AF as some way to pick other positives in life, I make no apologies but my life has quickly turned into the proverbial brown stuff in which I see nothing but it getting worse.

    Just turned 55 and on a daily basis getting worse with no relief with any prescribed drugs, all hope pinned on a ablation which as we all know is not the miracle cure we crave.

    Perhaps has time goes by I may be of the opinion of others, but since diagnosis March 2014 unable to share either optimism or enthusiasm for what the future holds for me and my family.

    However there's are some very good posts to take some form of comfort from this awful thing that has been thrust upon us.

  • Your plight, MickN, has reminded me how low I felt 18 months ago with my enjoyment of life in tatters. Not so now! I do think that in time you could well be looking back on your current situation, feeling that you have made huge strides forward. I know ablation doesn't always wave a magic wand, but it can improve the situation enormously and often does. I hope you can absorb some optimism from this forum and if nothing else, it's good to know you're not alone.

  • Thoughts with you and yr family Mick - I hope this support group will be helpful to you, and wish you the best for your ablation. For now, I'm optimistic it may give you some relief. But it is troubling you feel the condition is getting worse on a daily basis. That kind of rapid progression may mean there are other factors involved. Do you have a good electrophysiologist / atrial fibrillation specialist?

  • Thanks thomps55

    TBH I would like to take on one advice on Flecainide, have read that in some instances it can actually make AF symptoms worse, my EP has an excellent reputation but he is very ablation bias, the meds seem to be based on trial and error rather than data i have provided when I have been to see him.

    Really tempted to give up on the flecainide until I at least see him next.

  • Interesting - I am indeed on flecenaide and it seems to work, but I've been worried that it may have long-term consequences for restructuring of the heart-mechanisms - a kind of dependency effect that ultimately makes the condition worse. I'm hoping this is *not* the case but it's a concern. At present I find the combination of flecenaide and occasional beta blocker particularly effective, but beta blockers leave me lacking energy and motivation, so I take them only occasionally and very small doses (quarter dose). Another drug now thought to be potentially harmful for some people with atrial fibrillation is digoxin (my cardiologist prescribed it for me, but the first night I tried it I knew instantly it was not a drug for me - my heart was very wonky - so I stopped immediately). It's always a concern - that treatments may make matters worse.

  • For me AFib has made me realise how fragile life is, so it has made me more determined to fulfill all my dreams and ambitions, and live life to the full.

    It's also helping get rid of a few bad habits, some which I'm finding easier than others.


  • Wise words, Thomps.

    Yes I think AF in ways is a gift, it made me more humble and reminds me of my mortality, there is no permeant home here for any of us.

    There was a time I did not exist and that time will come again.

    But being allowed to BE now is an extraordinary gift.

    The extraordinary genius,creativity and imagination of our minds.

    The wonder of our consciousness

    The mystery of it all

    We travel through the endless universe on this , beautiful, planet at millions of miles per second.

    I do not believe in a God,

    I think my being is beyond human comprehension.

    I accept there will never be an answer and that is humbling

    The wonder of the incredible beauty and, sometimes, pain of being

    AF has made me in many ways more positive and grateful

  • Frien

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