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The Unexpected ER Trip That Finally Got Me Living

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At 48, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. That was over 30 years ago. Back then there were few answers about her prognosis. I spent a lot of time worrying she would die. As years went by, growing research indicated that factors raised my own risk. 

I went on to have three children and, like many parents, I worried about their safety and health. In the back of my mind, I worried who would take care of my children if I were to get breast cancer. 

But this story isn’t about breast cancer. It’s about something I never worried about, something that kills more people annually than breast cancer, AIDS and motor vehicle accidents combined

One day I developed lower back pain that wouldn’t go away. The pain started radiating down my left leg, which became numb and swollen.

The ER doctor told me I had an extensive blood clot, and the deep vein thrombosis (DVT) could become a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Sudden death is the first symptom in about one-quarter of people who have a PE. They started treatment immediately. After two failed surgical attempts, the third worked, and 18 inches of titanium stent was placed.

The doctor diagnosed me with a factor V Leiden and May-Thurner syndrome. I had two vascular stenting surgeries and am on Coumadin for life. There’s no knowing how many times the vein can be re-stented. I precisely calibrate my dose of Coumadin between too much, which can cause a hemorrhage — and too little, which can cause a clot.

So, what have I learned? All those years I spent anxious were wasted moments. Worry has no control over what happens or doesn’t happen. Every day brings every one of us risks and challenges. That is life.

When things do go wrong, we can only face our challenges one moment at a time and do the best we can. Worrying about things before we have to face them doesn’t help a thing. And so much of what we worry about never happens; it only steals our joy in the moment.

So, the next time you are worried about the possibility of something happening, make the choice to live in the moment. Find joy in the moment. 

Lorilyn Geiger

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Originally published: February 16, 2015
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