Apologies that this is only partly about running. In particular, why I was afraid to run and what I did about it.
Just yesterday, I found out that I am at considerable risk for heart disease due to a previously-unknown heritable heart defect in my family. Turns out one of my biological parents had a heart attack at 36 caused by this problem (I had no idea). My 36th birthday is in a few days.
I am pretty understandably concerned. I am scheduled for an ECG, ordered by my doctor *prior* to getting this news, because of an irregular heartbeat coupled with mild difficulty breathing (presumed to be "exercise-induced asthma"). I've had both symptoms for ages. In the case of the arrhythmia, I had been told it was nothing to worry about. In the case of the "asthma", it was prudent to use an inhaler during exercise if I needed it, but also totally safe. (Turns out the two could be connected and indicative of something else altogether.) So I guess I am doing what I am supposed to, getting checked out early next week. I will definitely be letting my doctor know about my new family history information, and will probably press for a more comprehensive set of tests, which is rrecommended as appropriate screening for first-degree family members (kids, parents, siblings) of those with this disorder.
I have been truly glad to be starting C25K again, and enjoying my return to the trails. So I was really conflicted about running today. Is it safe? Am I just being silly, paranoid or avoidant? Is it just an excuse to skip, saying I am worried a short run could cause a heart attack?
Then I remembered that running is one of the ways doctors diagnose various disorders under a condition called a "stress test". They hook you up to a bunch of machines and get you on the treadmill, seeing how you respond to the exercise. Knowing this, and buoyed by the information I read about how very critical exercise is for those who *definitely* have heart disease, not to mention all the rest of us, I decided it was probably ok to go out again.
I am glad that I did. Of course I was just fine. All the "risk factors" have been there all along, even if I didn't know about them, and exercise is super-important for continued health regardless. I felt generally good, and in fact, the running itself helped me manage my anxiety about this whole heart-health business.
Allow me to go on record and say this: no one should ever, ever ignore their concerns about heart disease, or make light of any symptoms of a heart attack. Nor should any of us put off appropriate screening or treatment.
I chose to go out because I *am* getting doctor's oversight and care, because I generally felt ok, and because I realized the things that got me worried had always been there without causing a problem so far. AND because I have my testing scheduled, but can't get it done any sooner than next week, and my doctor knows about the running and the schedule and is ok with it. I will continue to be modest with my exertions, go slowly on my runs and follow up with my doctor to be sure I am healthy (or at least get appropriate treatment if I am not.)
Here's to hoping I am totally fine after all, and the worst thing I will experience is the worry until I hear back!
***Update: later that same day (night, actually)
My (extremely mild) chest pain returned, and I began to be very nervous about not having already told my doctor about the new information about my family history - I hadn't known it at the time I went a few days ago. I ended up calling a 24-hour hotline run by the medical establishment to find out if I should see my doctor right away again, or if I could wait a few more days and just have my planned tests.
The nurse on the hotline told me to get into my doctor ASAP and in case be seen by a doctor today, even if I can't get into my family doctor's clinic. Which was pretty worrying.
So I saw my family doctor, who was also not super reassuring. He ordered a bunch of additional tests and sent out an urgent cardiologist referral. To be clear, it is still possible that my heart is fine, perhaps more than 50-50 chance I am fine. But there is still a pretty big chance I will need some treatment, depending on my new tests and new cardiologist's assessment.
(Somewhat ironically, one of the extra tests he ordered was a stress test. A proper one. At least I am trained up in preparation!)
And - no running, doctor's orders. No exercise of any kind actually, for the time being. Hopefully it will only be a very short diagnostic break while we discover that I am totally healthy and fine!
So my return to running is going to be very short-lived this time, not quite two weeks! But if things go well, I will be back again, for a third attempt.