In retrospect I got my first hint of heart disease about nine months ago when I purchased a gym membership. My work is sedentary but high-pressure and my predecessor, Jill Replogle, had advised me to find some way to burn off stress. I took to pedaling on a recumbent bicycle, so I could read while I exercised
I usually spent 20 or 30 minutes on the bike and didn’t push myself too hard. Nevertheless I often noticed a burning sensation in the center of my chest. It felt like a mild case of indigestion. But I soon quit using the bike and took up yoga instead, and forgot about the chest pain.
Until about two months ago when I went on a hike near Lake Tahoe. Every so often my "heartburn" got so bad that I had to stop. I knew something wasn’t right. But it only took a brief stop here and there for the pain to go away and I finished the hike. I decided it was nothing more than a combination of being out of shape and the thin alpine air.
The final clues came shortly after that hike when I bought a bicycle. I needed the exercise and I needed a way to get around town. Cycling made sense. Most of the places I went were on the flatlands, just a few miles apart. Even so, the mildest incline or headwind aroused that burning sensation from my belly to my throat.
Fortunately I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled. I had a good idea of what the diagnosis would be. What I didn't realize was the urgency of my situation and how lucky I had been to have all of this fall into place.
(Next: The diagnosis.)