a man struggles to carry a giant anatomical heart on his back

The Diagnosis is in: Now What? (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1 is "The Diagnosis is in: Now What? (Part 1)"

The months that followed my DCM diagnosis were challenging both physically and mentally. My energy levels were extremely low, by 10 am already, I felt like I had been sprinting a whole day even if I had only walked from room to room.

Heart Failure advocate Bouba Diemé at the 2013 African Cup of Football - Supporting Mali

2013 African Cup of Football - Supporting Mali

Adjustments

I was still adjusting to the medication. Luckily, in a short time, my body started responding well to my cardiologist’s treatment plan. I also made the necessary adjustments to my diet and my exercise regimen, realizing as I did so that virtually everything I had done previously had to be modified in some way.

It’s not like I hadn’t ever experienced health adversities before.

Heart Failure advocate Bouba Diemé Go-karting at Des’ Adventure Club in 2013

2013 Go-karting at Des’ Adventure Club

Since I had been playing sports all my life and was an active person by nature, I sustained multiple injuries over the years that required surgeries including on my wrist for a scaphoid repair and on my knee for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repair. So, I had faced my share of other difficult circumstances medically as well. But as I weighed my past experiences against this new situation, it became quickly apparent that my heart condition was on a completely different level from anything I had ever gone through. The juxtaposition between my previous life and my current reality made it tough to deal with spiritually, too. Now all of a sudden, my thoughts turned to face death and realizing that all of my life projections would have to change. A week before, I had been living a normal young person’s life with relatively pedestrian personal and professional concerns.My first follow-up visit post-diagnosis was at six weeks, then another at three months.

Heart Failure advocate Bouba Diemé at New Year’s Eve 2013/2014

2013 New Year’s Eve 2013/2014

Steady progress

Happily, in these initial stages, the treatment was clearly on track—my symptoms had almost disappeared, and I was starting to get stronger. I was making steady progress in terms of my health, relationships, and focus. Though still limited in energy, I could keep up with my obligations in my work (as a technology and innovation engineer at a top internet services company in South Africa), my studies (earning a Masters Degree in Technology and Innovation Management from the University of Pretoria), and other commitments (launching and participating in a number of grassroots organizations and communities, including youth empowerment initiatives focused on community development and peacebuilding) without major hardship or significant interruption.

Heart Failure advocate Bouba Diemé on Hoodie Sunday 2013 at the Gautrain Station

2013 Hoodie Sunday at the Gautrain Station

A year after learning about my oversized heart, I would write: “My heart condition has given me an inner strength I would never have found otherwise.” I had not let “the beast”—my not-so-affectionate nickname for DCM—define me, and I believed that despite the odds, I would succeed in slowly getting my life back on track.

Heart Failure advocate Bouba Diemé at his Graduation School Symposium in 2014

End of 2014 Graduation School Symposium

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Heart-Failure.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.