Want the truth about what we eat? Ask our girlfriends…

4 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

More reports from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious, my heart sisters. Last year, a group of 45 international nutrition scientists launched a campaign to end the use of one of their most commonly-used research tools: the self-reported food diary.(1)  These scientists now claim that “dietary recall is skewed towards healthier behaviour.”

In plain English, it means this: people participating in nutrition studies lie to researchers about what they actually eat, preferring instead to enter foods into their daily food diary like “kale” and “quinoa” before submitting their self-reports.

And let’s face it, a person who has volunteered for a nutrition study may be too embarrassed to officially record for posterity something like: “I ate half a box of Turtles today just to get them out of the house.”*  (And really, I can’t be the only woman to ever admit to this, can I?)   Continue reading

Invisible Illness Week – seeing what others can’t see

28 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Once a week, I show up bright and early for my 7 a.m. Toastmasters meeting, just as I have been doing every week for 28 years. (I did miss several meetings after being freshly diagnosed with a heart attack in 2008 – the year that, sadly, I lost the coveted Rise and Shine Attendance Award to my pal and archrival, Jim). But because early morning is almost always my best time of day (e.g. minimal cardiac symptoms), if you met me for the first time only during that very early weekly meeting, you would not guess that I live with something called inoperable coronary microvascular disease (MVD). 

I don’t wear a neck brace or leg cast or any other visible sign that something is wrong. Because this debilitating heart condition is invisible, I often look and sound relatively “normal”.  And if you’re lucky enough to live with healthy privilege, it can be almost impossible to understand what having an invisible chronic illness is like. Continue reading

Mandatory reporting of diagnostic errors: “Not the right time?”

27 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that the Emergency Department physician who misdiagnosed me with acid reflux and sent me home despite my textbook heart attack symptoms (central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm) did NOT voluntarily report his diagnostic error to his supervisor or to anybody else after I was correctly diagnosed much later by a different emergency doc. Continue reading

Most common heart attack signs in men and women

20 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Simple. Clear. Easy to understand. Each of these symptoms could be a warning sign of a heart attack. Notice that the unique symptoms listed on the right of this CardioSmart infograpic excerpt are most commonly seen in women.

But there’s more . . .   Continue reading

Exhaustion: the ‘leaky emotion’ of chronic illness

13 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Like most of you, I’ve experienced my fair share of garden variety pain over the years (caused, in my case, by things like a ruptured appendix, broken bones, knee surgery, or popping out two babies the old-fashioned way).

But none of those even came close to the chronic pain of refractory angina caused by my current diagnosis of inoperable coronary microvascular disease (MVD).  The chest pain caused by this disorder of the heart’s smallest blood vessels is episodic, intense, frightening and resembles what my “widow maker” heart attack symptoms felt like in 2008. Except this kind of pain happens almost every day.  It’s generally well-managed most days by meds (including my trusty nitro spray) and the non-drug, non-invasive TENS therapy recommended by my cardiologist as well as my pain specialist at our Regional Pain Clinic.  But sometimes, it’s alarming enough that I clutch my chest and wonder:

“Is this something? Is it nothing? Should I call 911? Is today the day I’m having another heart attack?”

As you already know if you live with chronic pain like this, pain can literally change your personality. If it’s chest pain, it can also make you feel anxious and worried in a way that having pain from knee surgery never can. No wonder pain is so utterly exhausting!
Continue reading

Oneupmanship: you think YOU have pain?

6 Sep

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Have you ever been in the middle of telling somebody something important to you, only to be interrupted because what you’ve just said has reminded them of their own (far more fascinating!) story that clearly outshines yours? It’s a scene-stealing moment of oneupmanship. Or as author Stephen Covey once lamented:

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Oneupmanship is perhaps most memorably represented in the iconic Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen skit (pictured above) in which the lads sit around and argue about which one of them had endured the worst poverty in childhood. “A house? You were lucky to live in a house! We lived in one room, all 26 of us!”
Continue reading


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