One year ago tomorrow the most frightening, yet ultimately life enhancing, event I’ve thus far experience blind sided me while laying in bed at my then east Leeds abode. The time was shortly after midnight, and laying alone spreadeagled starfish-like across the mattress, I was becoming increasingly concerned with a nagging chest discomfort, along with neck and shoulder aches that’d plagued me for an hour or two.
I’d suffered these pains fleetingly on a few occasions prior to and over Christmas 2018, however none of those incidents had disturbed yours truly anywhere near the longevity of the persistent aches afflicting me in the early hours of 11th January 2019.
Being someone who ordinarily loathes wasting the time of hospital Accident & Emergency departments, my initial decision was to grin and bear the discomfort. After all, I notioned, I’d had these pains previously and they’d always eventually abated. At that time concluding if I dialled 999 these multiple aches would no doubt diminish just as the ambulance arrived at my home.
A scenario that, to my mind, would paint me as an attention seeking hypochondriac wasting valuable National Health Service (NHS) resources in an attempt to add a little drama into my turgid existence. Becoming one of the very people I despise, whose munchausen’s afflictions (either by self or proxy) leads to constantly seeking a more absorbing storyline for their personal soap operas.
Mercifully, two hours later I came to my senses; eventually concluding I needed to have these chest and neck pains checked out pronto. Thankfully realising courteousness towards the A&E department in this scenario was misguided. After all, I mooted, what’s the point of being the most thoughtful man in the graveyard.
I dialled 999 and requested an ambulance attend my home asap. The need for their urgency not helped by my earlier procrastination from position considerate not lost on me.
While awaiting the emergency service’s arrival, overly melodramatic visions of a tombstone bearing the prose ‘Gary Strachan 1963-2019. A thoughtful bloke – His mum’s proud’ manifested in my thoughts.
On arrival at hospital, following a raft of tests, it was diagnosed that I’d indeed suffered a heart attack. If I’d have not made that 999 phone call at approx 2am on 11th January, who knows, there’s a decent chance I’d not be here now. Consequently, instead, of tomorrow being an anniversary of a lucky escape, it may’ve been the one year since my passing…. That may seem overly melodramatic, however that doesn’t detract from it’s basis in fact.
You’ll be unsurprised to hear, events on 11th January 2019 were the most frightening I’d experienced in my life. Circumstances subsequently resulting in me having two operations to fit stents, a smattering if X-rays, ultrasounds, two endoscope investigations, along with attendance at several cardio recuperation exercise sessions..
Since that day I’ve also found myself having to consume a list of medications so vast that even savant Raymond Babbit, from the movie ‘Rain Main’, would struggle to recite them all without prompt.
As a consequence of this life event, I decided to no longer live with the toxicity, spite and negativity that swarmed around my marital home; consequently leading to me leaving that residence in July 2019.
The behaviour driving me to this unwanted action underpinned by the misconception from the person causing that odious environment I’d never leave her……. After all, she posited, what sort of a lowlife would leave their wife when they’re suffering from an incurable illness?!
A question I can answer with a defence of:-
- The type of person who was no longer going to put up with being deliberately antagonised (despite having a heart attack),
- A chap premeditatedly deprived of love and affection throughout a 30 year marriage,
- He with a spouse who couldn’t even support him during and following his dad’s death, despite spending 100’s hours in oncology units supporting her illness. Among the disgraceful behaviour he had to endure, having his shin stamped on by the spouse as he spoke lovingly to his father in the last few hours of his life.
- A guy who couldn’t rely on support from his partner after suffering a heart attack, and a gastric bleed.
- A man villianised for a multitude of incidents (many of which were untrue), by someone who’d benefitted from his working of shifts in a job he wasn’t fond of so she didn’t have to seek full-time employment.
- All of these unwarranted and unfair actions despicably taken from behind the assumed protection provided by playing the cancer card. Admittedly, receiving a incurable cancer diagnosis must be the most dreadful news you could ever experience; that being said you cannot use that affliction as a stick with which to beat your carer.
If I’d not have had a heart attack the ‘thoughtfulness’ which I allude to earlier, which nearly cost me my life a year ago, would’ve more than likely meant I’d still be living in my marital home. I’d be utterly miserable there, as I’d been for years, however I’d have probably ‘sucked it up’ as I’d done during my idiotic acquiescence prior to my cardiac issues
However, 11th January 2019 was a catalyst for the first time since my 1988 marriage to put myself first. Finally realising you only get one crack at life, vowing to myself it was time I employed oft ignored acts of self care. Concluding I’m as worthy as everyone else to experience existential happiness; At last, advocating I’ve sacrificed enough over the last three decades.
After all, I’ve done my bit in mentoring my kids into decent, bright, funny, humane individuals; was a supporting husband to an ungrateful, unappreciative, unloving wife, despite getting very little in return.
Leaving my marital home wasn’t a path I sought as 2019 dawned, and to some extent still don’t. However, I called the bluff of the person using their illness to treat me appallingly in the belief I’d not want to cause waves within the family by exiting stage right…. Well front door of my Colton home..
Moving out has made little, if any, difference to my existence. Life residing at my mums is very similar to circumstances at my marital home…… That is I undertake most of the domestic tasks with exception of the laundry which (like my wife did) mater washes for me.
I still can’t move on with my life for a number of reasons, not just my current domestic arrangements, however at least now I can reside in an environment bereft of the toxicity and spite of my Colton abode.
Since leaving the aforementioned home I’ve travelled to Scotland, Canada, Wales, along with undertaking more voluntary work for Marie Curie and MacMillan. I’ve also commenced the previously rare occurrence of more frequently taking myself out of my comfort zone – Including joined a choir, as well as performed readings of a small section of the 1,720 narratives I’ve penned and published on my website writesaidfred.org.
In the process of these adventures, which very probably wouldn’t have occurred if I’d not had that health scare twelve months ago, I’ve become acquainted with some truly wonderful individuals. Inspirational folk whose positivity and love of life are the very antithesis of the toxicity and negativity I’d become conditioned to pre my marital home departure.
After being informed I’d suffered a heart attack, while wired up to cardio monitors in my hospital bed, I pondered over what extent of damage my heart had received from the incident; wondering what the future held for GJ Strachan. In particular would I even get another 12 months before I left this vale of tears.
If truth be told, despite the angst manifesting from the shock, treatment and recuperative aftermath of the incident, that life event a year ago tomorrow was the kick up the ass I desperately needed to start focussing on my own well-being. A lifestyle change that’s led to some truly great times, as well as the detritus that came in it’s aftermath.
For an insight into my state of mind immediately after last January’s health scare, the first narrative I wrote post-event can be read on the following link A Wake Up Call.