Today, a friend reached out on their Facebook to me with a common concern, looking for advice.  Given my many years of transplant life experience, I often find myself faced with such questions and feel both humbled and blessed to be able to share advice that may alleviate or at least lessen their concern.  I offer it here for anyone else who may benefit from it and may not be on Frank’s Facebook friends list:

Frank wrote: “Hey Jim, I will be transplanted ten years out in May. The last angio they found a little inflammation in the left descending artery. They will do an echo this month to see if they need to add another med. I seem to be worrying about the ten-year mark and the progression that can happen in transplant. Any advice on how you deal with this?”

Jim today, relaxing by the river

Jim today, relaxing by the river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My response:

Frank, when they find such things for me (now out 18 years with this heart) I count it as a blessing since most are without symptoms and if undetected, as they would go unnoticed in most people, they can be life threatening if left unchecked. With the close attention our transplant teams pay to us, such things are typically caught early when still treatable, unlike the average person who dies from them when they go undiagnosed until too late to treat. Personally I can cite several such “catches” which have turned potentially dangerous happenings into minor fully treatable one given their early detection. With such care, today’s (and that includes you “10 year out newbies” (BIG smile)) transplant recipients had better be planning for the long haul because once you get past that first two year survival mark, most of what I hear (and see) is a long life of normal health challenges everyone sees with advanced aging. Of course given all our focus on our extended life health, we tend to blame everything on the post transplant meds, which while they do increase such incidents (cancers, etc.), we still lead an amazingly healthy “normal” life.

So you are blessed to have discovered and undergoing treatment for that early on. Keep doing what they tell you (after all, that’s given you ten years of life extension so far) and focus instead on living today to its fullest and when that final day does come, which it will for everyone, we can face it without regret, having done our best and having used that life gift the best we could.

At least that’s how I face each day, getting up (with or without pain depending on the day) and looking down to say: “Wow, another day above ground! This is going to be a great day to be alive…”

Lest anyone think that is just rose-colored denial of reality, let me assure you, it’s not.  When they discovered cancer on one of my kidneys last January, my response was simply, “Ok, what are we going to do about it?” (no fear, no worry – really!)  They offered surgery, expecting a simple tumor removal given it was early on that the routine and careful preventative tests had caught it.  I had a great month leading up to that surgery, even hosting a major cooking event at our church the night before the 5am surgery even though I was fasting and could only prepare my dish and look over the rest of the cooking delights everyone else got to enjoy.  That 5 hour surgery that removed 2/3rd of my kidney turned out to be “totally curative” and now a year later I look back upon it as just another small “bump in the road of life” living today and every day to the fullest (sometimes with an afternoon nap to keep up with this busy life!).  Someday that will come to an end and I will have no regrets and am very curious as to what life will be like in “the next life”…

My prayers go with you Frank, as you deal with that latest challenge and face the next decade with that strong gifted heart.

Beautiful heart shining over the lake

Beautiful heart shining over the lake

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