Short story version: the HRT likely wasn’t causing my chest tightness and pain, and I’m waiting on a call this afternoon to confirm that I can start HRT again. Hooray!
Long story version: after 5 weeks of ramping up to 2mg/day Estradiol, I was having chest tightness and pain. I stopped taking the medication two weeks ago and the tightness and pain went away.
Coincidentally, the second week of taking HRT I contracted a nasty chest cold that laid me low for a week, made me feel generally not well for three weeks, and even now, six weeks later, I still have an occasional, residual cough.
The tightness and pain was worrying, but I had chalked it up to the cold and didn’t call the doctor. After stopping HRT, I realized that I really should go in to get checked, but hemmed and hawed, and finally set up an appointment that was to be for next Tuesday. Yesterday I was feeling not so well in the chest again, so called the doctor’s office and made an appointment to see a Licensed Nurse Practitioner (LNP), since my doctor was fully booked.
While making the appointment, I had a long, sobering talking-to from the nurse about how if any of my symptoms increased, I should call 911 or go to the ER. Or if any of a myriad of other symptoms she rattled off (numbness or tingling in the arms, blurred vision, disorientation, sharp pains, etc.) that I should call 911 or go to the emergency room (ER). That got my attention.
I went in this morning and had the typical pulse, temperature, O2 saturation level and blood pressure checked. Everything there was in the normal range. The one other test I had was a lung capacity test before I saw the LNP.
After recounting my symptoms history and laying out the timeline, she asked some questions about if I was I getting winded during exercise, was there a history of family heart disease, etc. While I haven’t been feeling winded, my stamina has decreased over the past few weeks, probably due to being sick.
My family has a very low incidence of heart disease, my cholesterol is great, and my lung capacity was a bit better than average for my age and height. The LNP ordered a EKG which took longer to set up and remove than the actual test itself.
Reviewing the EKG, everything looked normal.
So, the resulting diagnosis is that I had (and am still recovering from) a viral chest infection, which probably triggered an asthmatic-like episode to cause the tightness and pain. Since I’m almost completely over the infection, my symptoms have receded and there are no other indicators that there’s anything else going on, the LNP seemed to think that I could start taking my HRT again. She’s going to consult with my doctor before giving me the final go-ahead, but it’s a huge relief all the way around.
In retrospect, I really should have called the doctor’s office much sooner, especially when the tightness and pain was at its most severe. I’m usually very proactive about taking care of myself when things are not going well, but this was an exception. I think what may have been going on is that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take HRT anymore at all, so I procrastinated to avoid potentially bad news.
It was silly for me to do that. I’m very lucky in that I have great health care insurance coverage, but it doesn’t protect me from being dumb.
Even though everything turned out OK and my eventual diagnosis confirmed my initial thoughts that my symptoms were related to my chest cold, if I had been wrong, that would have been four weeks in denial where I could have been permanently damaging my body.
For anyone reading this who is on HRT, don’t mess around with it. If you don’t feel right, go see a doctor or the ER ASAP. Better to be embarrassed or end up with a bill than damaged or dead.