When my symptoms started, I was 34 years old, a bride-to-be and an avid runner. In fact, I was going to run a half-marathon the week before my wedding. Training had been going well, but as race day approached, I noticed I was feeling unusually tired. To save energy for the wedding, I skipped the race and went to spin class instead. Spin was terrible. I felt light-headed and out of breath. I had to turn the resistance on the bike down to compensate. However, I felt fine again after the class. I figured it was just stress or a cold. I ignored it.
Our wedding day came and went, followed by a quiet local honeymoon. When we got home, I tried to go back to my normal workouts. I hit the wall. At spin, I had to turn the bike down again. I went for an easy run but I was huffing and puffing the whole way. It was like I was suddenly really out of shape. Despite the sudden decrease in exercise tolerance, I decided not to see a doctor. Going to the doctor takes time. I was busy at work. I was sure it was just a cold that my healthy body would fight off. So, I kept working out.
The following week the chest pain started. At times my chest felt tight, like I needed an inhaler. At first the pain was mild enough to ignore, but over the next few days it got worse. I sometimes felt short of breath even when I was not working out. The pain was never acute, so I still thought I was okay. I made a doctor’s appointment just to rule out pneumonia.
When I saw my doctor, she told me I had symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. She sent me to the emergency room, where I was diagnosed with large blood clots in both lungs. Since I was so healthy, my body had been doing a great job at compensating. My heart rate remained low, despite the size of the clots.
After my diagnosis, I started listening to my body. My chest and back were actually quite painful, with aching, cramping, stabbing, and burning sensations. I was often short of breath. I was also fatigued. I took long naps each day in addition to a full night’s sleep.
My good health was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it kept me alive despite my large blood clots. On the other hand, my assumption that I was healthy led me to ignore my symptoms. Blood clots never even crossed my mind, even though I had been on estrogen-based birth control for years. I had stopped reading the warnings on the packaging long ago.
Please take time to learn the symptoms of thrombosis, especially if you are at risk. If you are having symptoms, get medical attention. Do not take your good health for granted. I never will again.