Life After Recovery: Learning to LIVE All Over Again
Managing chronic health conditions often means making changes that seem restrictive. Some changes don’t seem as bad because it requires modifying a behavior, not stopping it completely. For instance, heart failure patients who receive left ventricular assistance devices (LVADs), or heart pumps, are initially told not to take showers. As time passes, they are taught how to take a shower safely. On the other hand, others are a definite “no” going forward (or at least they should be). For LVAD patients, NOT swimming is a restriction that very rarely changes. Over time, we learn to live with our condition, but it doesn’t always feel like “LIVING.” Sometimes, it feels like just surviving. What’s more interesting is that after being restricted for so long, those of us who recover must learn to LIVE all over again.
Doing things that are familiar
My recovery came from very unexpected circumstances. So, when it happened, I didn’t realize how unprepared I was to live again. Something as simple as soaking in a bathtub to bathe now seemed foreign. Why? I wasn’t allowed to do it for almost three years. Yet, I remember wishing that I COULD do it just days before I found out I recovered. How strange is that? It took me a few months to “work up the courage” to sit in a tub. Now that more time has passed, I also decided to try something else I could no longer do with my LVAD – DANCE! I must recondition myself (both mentally and physically) to do something old that I loved all over again. For me, dancing was a vital part of my LIVING. Now I can LIVE all over again.
Finding new sources of joy
Another thing I must do is be open to new things! All of us, whether healthy or health-challenged, can benefit from trying new things in life. Part of living life to the fullest is doing things that bring us joy. It’s hard to focus on that when your focus is survival. Now that I’m in recovery, there is no excuse. Something new that I started was expanding on my role as a mom. Before my LVAD, I was simply a “team mom” when it came to sports – you know, the one with all the signage and snacks cheering from the sidelines. After recovery, I found myself actively training my youngest AND his teammates in T-ball. I’ve also investigated other activities that improve both physical and mental health, like mindful meditation. I’m LIVING all over again.
Enjoying life to its fullest
“Living” looks different depending on where we are in our journey. It does require you to choose to enjoy the life you have. When I had an LVAD, I chose to live again by things I already enjoyed like writing and cooking. Additionally, I found new things to enjoy, like advocacy and painting. I may have found more things, but I was implanted shortly before the pandemic and recovered during it. So, unfortunately, I can’t give too many other examples of how I LIVED again with my LVAD. On the other hand, living again after recovery isn’t always simple as it seems. Recovery takes time and comes with its own limitations. You don’t go back to normal overnight, and people forget that you are still fighting to survive. So, if you’re reading this – no matter where you are in your health journey – life is still worth living. Make the choice to LIVE all over again!
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