and then my head exploded

The average gestation period for a puma (aka mountain lion, aka cougar) is 91 days. In 13 weeks, the puma can get knocked up, carry a baby puma to term and deliver.

To show you in comparative terms exactly how big a slacker I’ve been, please note that my last blog post was on February 11th.

13 weeks ago.

Some poor puma is out there today, surveying her stretch marks, hunting for food, and trying to keep her newborn from being eaten by predators, all while I pat myself on the back for finally publishing a few words. #winning

I won’t offer up excuses, because the truth is we’re all BUSY. Suffice to say two things have had the most impact on my writing schedule:

  • Travel: I have been away from home 14 of 19 weeks since the first of the year. Now, I’ll admit that I don’t do well with maths, but I know that works out to being away from home 3/4 of the time.
  • Workload: A re-org at work saw my role grow from managing a specific part of the business (approximately 10 direct reports) to one where I manage every aspect of our sales organization, with some 38 individuals rolling up, through their managers, to me. Giddy up.

There was also the small matter of a massive hell scare in January.

While most people were out celebrating New Year’s Eve as NORMAL people do, I was ringing in the new year at the emergency room.

Check that one off the ole’ bucket list.

The night started out great. After a lovely dinner out, Mr. Enthusiasm and I returned home with plans for a quiet evening of fireside movie-watching.

What happened next is as crazy as it reads. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

One second we were relaxing, laughing, just chilling out.

The next second, mid-sentence, I froze, a searing pain shot through the base of my skull. It felt like a hot knife had just stabbed right through my brain. I couldn’t speak. My right hand shot backwards to clutch my head. He hadn’t noticed yet, so I tried to say something to alert him that I was in distress.

I managed to squeeze out, “my head…. my head” as my eyes welled up with tears, the pain so hot and so intense.

He bolted towards me, moving my hand to see what was wrong. Confused when he could find no sign of trauma, he ran to grab a cold compress.

I sat, frozen, crying from the pain.

We made the decision to head to the hospital.

By some amazing stroke of luck I can only attribute to a karmic alignment of the stars, I found myself in an examining room within 10 minutes of my arrival. Not typical for Canada, as you no doubt learned through the nonsense known in these parts as, gallbladder-gate.

The doctor gave me a shot of morphine for the pain and then lined up a CT scan. His concern was aneurysm. Which freaked me the fuck out. My blood pressure was 236/139. Which also freaked me the fuck out.

My CT came back inconclusive, which the doctor predicted could happen since only an MRI would reveal an aneurysm deep in my noggin’. And this is where the Canadian healthcare system decided to punk me. Again.

I asked if I could get a rush on the MRI since I was scheduled to fly out to Santa Barbara, CA on business 6 days later. I was told that, yes, they would try to get me in quickly, but that there were no guarantees on when that would be.

I was also told unequivocally by both the ER doctor and later my family doctor that there was no chance in hell I’d be flying anywhere that week.

Two and a half weeks later, an MRI confirmed no evidence of aneurysm. HURRAH! Giant weight lifted off my shoulders. However, my blood pressure was still raging high.

As an aside, that crazy thunderclap of pain that sent me to the ER was likely caused by the ridiculously high blood pressure. A warning sign from my body, telling me to go get looked at. Had I not gone to the ER that night, my alarmingly dangerous blood pressure would have gone unchecked.

And who knows what could have happened. I shudder to think.

Since then, my doctor has been working diligently to adjust the medication and dosage to something that my body will respond to. I monitor my BP twice daily – morning and night, and even travel with my BP cuff so that I can capture all my readings, even though I’ve been traveling 14 of the past 19 weeks.

After 3 changes in medication and dosage, we’re still not there yet, but things are improving. I’m in normal (or slightly above normal) range MOST days lately. But now, a new development, because my body clearly hates me. My resting heart rate is inexplicably off the charts high. I’m talking 90+ range all day, every day. I have no clue what’s up with that.

I’m determined to be as active as I can while I’m here at my place in Vegas for the month. Hoping I can get everything regulated and normal through much more frequent and intense exercise. And hoping I don’t kill myself in the process.

I need to be alive for at least 3 more weeks because I’m heading out for my next big adventure the week of 05/23. Details to follow. Suffice to say it will be physical (this I know for sure) and it will be awesome (this I hope).

It also involves a lot of preparation around bear safety.


So, if a heart attack or stroke don’t kill me, a bear might, but hey…YOLO.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

101 thoughts on “and then my head exploded

  1. Oh Nancy, how scary. So sorry you’re going through this. I can’t imagine having to wait so long to get an MRI to rule out an aneurysm. Each day must have been like sitting on electrocuting pins and needles. My thoughts are with you as you and your doctor work to get your blood pressure down. I hope things smooth out for you soon.

    • It was exactly like that, Carrie. I tried to keep the posts light and humorous, but I was terrified. The evening of the MRI, more truth-stranger-than-fiction… I was all gowned up and waiting my turn (they were running around an hour late), when the MRI tech came out to the waiting area and announced the machine had gone down. They had called a technician to come in – but suggested everyone rebook. I sat there defiantly, announcing, THIS IS FOR MY BRAIN. I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE. Thankfully, the machine came back up within 20 mins, and I was able to complete it that night. Scary, scary stuff.

      Right now my systolic is looking really good. My diastolic is still at or above 90 about half the time. But it’s that crazy high resting HR that is freaking me out. Last night it was 105 before bed. This morning it was 93 upon waking up. What in the world???

      • Ugh–to wait that long for the MRI and almost have to rebook? That would send anyone’s blood pressure through the roof. Have you seen a cardiologist?

      • Not yet, Carrie. Years ago I had a scare with racing HR. I wore a holter device for 24 hours. My old (retired) family doctor said something about tachycardia, but never pursued it any further.

        They did an EKG in January (in addition to the CT) and I had 3 or 4 of them during Gallbladder Gate last year. Presumably nothing notable from any of those.

  2. Argh – this sounds horrible! And I don’t know whether to be envious or appalled that you haven’t curled yourself up under a blanket and refused to move until you feel better. For sure that’s what I do, every time!

    • I mostly just tried to calm myself down in that 2.5 week waiting period before I got the MRI done. I felt like if I did ANYTHING, I might bleed out. So freaking scary. After that, I can tell you that I’ve been hyper vigilant about monitoring my BP, and have squeezed in a doctor’s visit every time I notice something (which is not easy to do, given my travel schedule), but I know for sure that the one thing you don’t fuck around with is blood pressure: the silent killer. I’m feeling like I’m getting back on track, except for this bizarre situation with my racing heart rate. Need to see my doc as soon as I get back to Toronto early June.

      • It’s really weird. Also, most of the Canadians I know are annoyingly smug about your healthcare system. I would like to forward your blog posts to ALL of them! I’m all for providing affordable healthcare to all … but it should NOT be in the control of government bureaucrats!

      • The issue is that because it’s not private, it’s not as well funded, and where we feel that most acutely is in the lack of equipment. The hospital I was at had ONE MRI machine. Most hospitals only have one MRI machine. It’s not that they want to make us wait, it’s that there just isn’t enough capacity to accommodate the # of people the infrastructure is supporting.

        For non-emergencies, the system has always worked beautifully for me, and I’m really, really glad that my many visits have cost me nothing. That said, when it’s an emergency (at least in my opinion), the system has really tested my patience.

      • There has to be a better way, though. I mean, great that basic healthcare is freely available … I’m sure Canada benefits in many ways from an overall healthier population. On the other hand, a friend of mine who was a doctor in the UK said that the level of abuse of the National Health System – people calling her out for home visits because they didn’t want to pay for a packet of aspirin – was horrific and VERY expensive. Presumably the same thing happens in Canada. So … I don’t know … Maybe there *should* be some upfront cost attached to medical care – not so much that it’s unaffordable, but enough that there’s less motivation to waste the resource on non-essential needs. And then more resources could go into the serious stuff, like MRI machines. Thoughts?

      • I’ve often suggested just that: a minimal charge per visit to ensure that those visits are reasonably warranted. The CA healthcare system wouldn’t accommodate home visits unless the individual was truly incapacitated (as previously documented/confirmed). If someone was too sick to go to the doctor, a 911 call and an ambulance would be in order. So, I don’t think we’ve got the level of system abuse that it seems may exist in the UK with NHS. Small mercies. .

  3. holy crap Nancy!! get yourself some rest!!

    I really hope you are ok!!! I am so glad it wasn’t an aneurysm or anything brain related but still 😦

    and look out for bears!! Don’t feed them peanuts…although they really like them!

    • Trying, Norm, trying. 🙂

      During my last visit to my doc’s office, as I was rushing out, prescription in hand, racing to the airport, he stopped me and said:

      “Have you thought about slowing down at all?” I replied, well, I’m trying…but I do NEED to work. I don’t do it for my health. He then said, “I know, but just be aware… it is having an impact.” Well thanks for that, Captain Obvious. :-/

    • I think it’s the perfect storm of my stress level increasing while my physical activity decreased and my diet worsened. The latter two I have complete and total control over, and I’m doing a lot better on both now.

      Now that we’ve hired in all the managers we need, my stress level at work has also decreased substantially. I know have 4 managers reporting to me, versus a boatload of individual contributors. Way better for my health. 🙂

  4. Oh, poor Nancy. That all sounds shit. I was actually beginning to worry about you, we hadn’t heard from you in so long. You know your life and circumstances and tolerances better than anyone else, but I find myself wondering if all that work and travel and responsibility is worth it. How about a nice 9-5 job in a cafe or gym or massage sauna that pays a fraction but keeps you at home year round (excluding vacation)? It’s so good that you know about your BP problem and it’s being managed and monitored, but something is causing it. Might be time for a serious de-stress.(38 reports?! I’d have a fucking hernia!) Stay safe and healthy. J.

    • In fairness, I’m down to 4 direct reports now. Those 4 manage the 38, so my life has exponentially improved since all those manager roles were filled.

      With respect to just cashing it all in and doing something way less stressful – yes, that’s the plan, but I need to squirrel away the big pay cheques from the current gig (rather than spend like a drunk sailor on furlough) so that I can fund my stress-free lifestyle. Ideally I would be making that change inside of 5 years, which would still be a decade better than standard retirement timeline. Fingers crossed.

  5. I was really missing your posts! I am sorry that you have had all the health issues and hope you get you BP and heart rate back on track.

    • Thanks very much, Debbie! I think, now that I have the right infrastructure in place at work, that I can get back to blogging on the regular. Appreciate your support!

  6. Omg, that’s terrifying! I’m very glad it wasn’t an aneurysm.

    You do realise that now every time you don’t post for a few weeks we’re all going to worry that something awful’s happened!

    • Actually, it’s that thought that made me FORCE myself to allocate an hour this morning to publishing something. A few bloggers heard about my January nightmare back then, and I worried they might think things had gone south.

      I’m going to try to get something posted at least fortnightly.

  7. Oh Em Gee. I am speechless!

    So glad they ruled out aneurysm, But it seems there are still a lot of crap they haven’t ruled out. I know what a workout fiend you are, so this must be so hard, not to mention the travel from hell. Oh and about that re-org…congratulations?!?!?! Lordy, hang in there and take care of yourself! I hope your upcoming adventure is all you hope! 🙂
    Cheers, Lynne

    • I hope so, too, Lynne. I’m just really looking forward to no cell coverage for 3 days minimum. 🙂 I’m not the most self-disciplined when it comes to policing myself around actually BEING on vacation and not working, with work available at my fingertips (phone). Being in the middle of nowhere will help with that!

  8. I liked this post because (1) you didn’t have a heart attack, (2) you didn’t have a stroke, (3) you didn’t have an aneurysm.
    What you did have however is a wake-up call. Hope you take this one as seriously as you are the bears on your next adventure 😉

    • The adventure is a means of combating the situation: it removes me from work/stress AND it causes me to physically move more than I have in weeks. Win-win. 🙂

      • It sounds like stress is the operative word in your life and has been for some time!
        Take care my friend and enjoy your much needed adventure 🙂

      • Feeling better already since I arrived in Vegas 9 days ago. I just seem to move more here. I’m hoping everything gets regulated after 4 weeks of good behaviour.

  9. If you haven’t already read up on Tachycardia . . . this will be worth a look:

    Among other reassuring info:

    Tachycardia is a faster than normal heart rate at rest. A healthy adult heart normally beats 60 to 100 times a minute when a person is at rest. If you have tachycardia (tak-ih-KAHR-dee-uh), the heart rate in the upper chambers or lower chambers of the heart, or both, is increased.

    In the video on the first page, the doctor talks about people with 300 beats a minute (!!!) and notes that it’s NOT usually life threatening.

    Good luck getting things back on track!

    • Yep, as I mentioned in a reply to Carrie, I’ve been diagnosed with tachycardia – years ago, but hadn’t seen my resting BPM at higher than 78 in many years. Now it’s at or over 100 regularly. Need to discuss with my doc to ensure its not related to the new dosage on the meds, but I can’t do that until I get back from Vegas (early June). Must stay alive til then! 🙂

  10. That was very scary, Nancy. I’m happy you are on the mend and taking care of you. I’ve been thinking of your crazy schedule when you’ve been MIA. And congrats on your new role which

    • It was really scary, Helen. I don’t think I’ve ever been so worried. I feel like things have turned a corner: I’ve got 3 managers in place under me now (bug stress relief) and I’m also squeezing in a lot more exercise. That’s always been key for me: when I move lots, my BP comes down naturally. Now I just need to keep it up even when I’m living in a hotel room for weeks at a time…

      • Happy to hear you have a “buffer” of managers below you now. That should help! I have also noticed that exercise is the key to feel well, adopting Dylan who is a great walker/runner has already made a difference for me…3-5 miles a day does that to one 🙂

  11. I was wondering what happened to you. I figured work and house hunting was keeping you busy. 236/159 is a crazy number. I once arrived in the ER and after they took my BP and pulse (over 150 sitting) I was ushered right in and surrounded by medical staff. I had no clue what was happening but the doctor was not happy I drove myself 45 minutes to get to the hospital (ex-wife did not want to drive me). Turned out I had supraventricular tachycardia in which you can drop dead. The first medication sucked and after a year or so I told my doctor to find something else because I was going to stop taking the drug that made my asthma uncontrollable. I know your frustration all too well. Praying your doc finds the right drug and dose soon! Be sure to take care of yourself before work. If you drop dead someone will just take over anyway. Hoping you feel better soon!

    • Thank Pat! It’s mostly been the crazy workload and nonstop travel that has kept me from blogging. I squeeze in reading quite a bit because it’s a nice break, and doesn’t stress me out, unlike writing, which just feels like more work!

      I’m hoping that now that I have the managers in place under me, my work life balance should improve a ton.

      Thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers.

    • Trying, lovely, trying!
      I hit the mountains today and felt SO out of shape. I need to ease into it, bit by bit over the next week because I’ve got quite the challenge on the 23rd! 🙂

  12. Has it ever occurred to you to take what *Most People* consider a vacation? As in, lying on a beach somewhere with a juicy novel and a drink with a tiny paper umbrella in it? If I were your doctor I would prescribe enforced rest. Sans bears. That said, what a horrible ordeal. It sounds utterly terrifying! Glad to hear you’re on the mend.

    • Just this past weekend, chatting with family visiting from Toronto (here in Vegas) hubby and I talked about how all our early vacations were of the Caribbean variety, but how we just outgrew the whole Groundhog Day nature of those: wake up, same breakfast buffet, pool, beach, lunch buffet, etc., etc. Blech. Then we added Europe to the mix and that was a game changer. Exploring cities with history, architecture, STUFF, became the desired destination vacation. And then – finally – I discovered my love of nature and hiking, and now we plan vacations around those activities. This one coming up will be a particular challenge because it involves “through hiking”, meaning, carrying packs, camping en route, etc. It’s only 3 days, and it will serve to either: confirm that I enjoy it – in which case I can plan more of these – OR – confirm that day hikes and sleeping in a real bed is more my speed. It’s a test! 🙂

      • I am still in the European history and architecture stage. And unlikely to progress to Wild Bear Nirvana. Have fun sleeping on the rocks, and don’t push yourself too hard.

      • Hubby is doing everything humanly possible to convince me to reschedule the trip. With the degree of conviction he is showing, his motivation is either: a) he’s seriously worried about me/my health; or b) he’s genuinely not keen on hiking for 5-7 miles per day with a 40 lb pack, for 3 days straight.

      • Totally. (And I’ll sheepishly admit his logic is starting to sound good to me, especially when he counters with, “just DEFER it to later, and we can use the time to fly to Portland and then explore and hike in Oregon…” The man knows how to play me like a fiddle.

  13. I would like to say that “only you would need a knife to the brain to wake up to what was going on in your body” but the reality is… yeah, it’s not just you that would have that run of luck!!! LOL. I’m glad you survived, as you make my world a better place and I would miss you – and can’t wait to hear about your adventure-slash-vacation-slash whatever mess you’ve signed yourself up for now!!! 🙂 Much Love!!

    • Thanks, gorgeous. Last night, walking through REI, Ed asked me if I realized what we’d signed up for (he’s been reviewing all the paperwork, waivers, etc.) and suggested we should maybe postpone it until my health is 100% sorted out. I looked at him and asked, “Why?”. His response: “um, because we will be in the middle of nowhere, without access to medical assistance if we need it…”. I responded by turning into the next aisle and saying, “Oh look, it’s the dehydrated food we need to bring for our meals!” 🙂

  14. Oh Nancy! I was already wondering what happened to you but hoped you’d only be too busy to blog. Because clearly you already had enough health problems last year… :/ lucky to here you are still going strong though. Hope your BP improves and your work schedule let’s you blog about your adventure!

    • Thanks Vilma! I’ve missed being more active here. I have tried my best to read, even though I couldn’t write. Looking forward to reconnecting here in the blogosphere!

  15. Geez Nancy! I knew work was crazy but I had no idea about the medical scare. I’m glad you’re working to stabilize things, but yeah, would be good to know what’s causing it in the first place. Sounds like a cardiologist appt may be on the horizon?

    As much as our health system sucks here, I’m still grateful for it compared to some socialized programs.

    If I can help or research stuff for ya, don’t hesitate to email me. No wonder that zen list was a good call. 🙂

  16. I like your puma baby better than the puma’s puma baby…just sayin’
    Thank goodness you are okay. You had hinted about your health scare at the beginning of the year and then hopped on a plane within the next breath. We could be sisters. Stop or die, right?
    I’m so glad you’re okay, glad that you’re getting things stabilized.
    Perhaps the two of us can brainstorm around how to make a living in something than a sales organization (I work for big pharma…even though I don’t sell anything).
    YES – you DO need to stay healthy for your next adventure. Your last one got me through a dreary winter.
    So good to hear from you…maybe we will finally cross paths in Atlanta some day. xoxo

  17. Very scary, Nance. I see from the comments that things are better at work… sounds like stress might be the culprit. Make sure you keep stress relief a top priority in your life from now on and stay in close contact with your docs, okay?

    Not so sure that hiking is wise right now, but I’m sure you know what you’re doing and have been cleared by your doctors, (hopefully).

    Add writing to your stress relief practices so we can read you more often! Good to see a post from you, but sorry to hear of these troubles. Hang in there. Big hugs to you! xoxo

    • I’ve been hiking a bunch these past 3 weeks but made the decision to postpone the 3-day backpacking trip until August. Cooler heads prevailed and even I had to admit that hiking with a 40 lb pack on my back, at altitude, in remote wilderness for 3 days was maybe putting me at too much risk. So we went with Plan B. Yesterday was Day 1 of the new adventure. This one involves a flight and then a road trip. Still lots of great hiking, but not the type that puts me hours away from medical attention should I need it. 🙂

      • You sound so wise, Nance. Your decisions are inspirational as well. Hiking with a 40 lb pack at altitude would probably kill me!
        Glad you can still do what you love and I hope things go smoothly at work. 🙂

      • 10 days off (inclusive of weekends of course) should help me hit the rest button, Kelly. Fingers crossed. Feeling pretty great after a restful 8.5 hour sleep last night. That alone did wonders!

  18. Damn, Nancy! When you do shit, you do it up. Climb some mountains, “wrastle” some bears, kick this health junk in the gonads. All that stuff. Sending healthy thinks your way. John

    • Thank John! Plans were adjusted because APPARENTLY the original plan was a wee bit risky given my current state. Doing a different, but still AMAZING, adventure as I type this!

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