How we adapt after a heart attack depends on what we believe the diagnosis means

25 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There are at least 12 commonly used measurement tools available to the medical profession that look at how patients navigate “the search for meaning in chronic illness”. Clinical tools like the Psychosocial Adjustment To Illness Inventory or the Meaning of Illness Questionnaire have been used on cancer and AIDS patients, as well as others living with chronic disease. But research, including this study, has found that limiting factors in the success of such tools included “the infrequent use of some of the instruments clinically or in research.”

I can’t help but wonder why these readily available assessment tools are not being administered routinely to patients who are freshly diagnosed with heart disease – a serious medical crisis that begs to be examined for its influence on our “psychosocial adjustment” to it. I only learned about these long-established tools two years after my own heart attack, and by then my adjustment period was pretty well done.
Continue reading

In praise of solitude after a heart attack

18 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters


“Others inspire us, information feeds us, practice improves our performance, but we need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers.”

This wise counsel is from Dr. Ester Buchholz, author of The Call of Solitude.  She describes solitude like this as “meaningful alone-time” – a powerful need and a necessary tonic in today’s rapid-fire world. Indeed, she maintains that solitude “actually allows us to connect to others in a far richer way”.

She likely didn’t write that as specific advice for those of us living with heart disease, but it struck me when I read her words that, although they are probably very true for all women, they are especially applicable to heart patients.

Indeed, maybe our heart health would actually improve if we were more determined to carve out more ‘me-time’ during the average day.  Continue reading

ChronicBabe: living a kick-ass life despite chronic illness

11 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I first heard about the work of patient/advocate/blogger Jenni Grover Prokopy (pictured at left*) years ago when, coincidentally, we were each named by Our Bodies Ourselves of Boston as two of their 2009 Women’s Health Heroes. She describes her blog ChronicBabe.com as all about how to live a kick-ass life in spite of living with one or more chronic illnesses. Jenni has an up-close and personal relationship with this topic. First diagnosed with fibromyalgia 20 years ago, Jenni was terrified. She felt completely alone – medical resources were scarce, and none of her peers could relate to what she was going through.

“My life was turned upside down. I went from being a hard-charging, super-athletic chick to feeling so fatigued I couldn’t walk more than a couple blocks. Severe pain kept me from pursuing career opportunities and social activities. And within a couple years, I was diagnosed with other chronic conditions, too. I thought my life was over.”

But it wasn’t over. She explains: “As a young woman with multiple chronic illnesses, I get you.”  Hold onto your hats, Heart Sisters – here’s my interview with the wonderful Jenni Grover Prokopy.      Continue reading

Don’t worry your pretty little head over your health care decisions

4 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

My late mother, like many women of her generation, never even imagined telling her doctor that she wanted a second medical opinion, even if she suspected that her doctor’s treatment or advice was lacking. This means that my mother would rather die than get a second opinion. To ask for one would have been rude and insulting to her physician, and that could simply never ever happen.  Whatever her doctor said went unquestioned. He was the boss of her health care.

Many women today continue my mother’s preference for abdicating responsibility for one’s own healthcare. A study of women over 40 done by The Federation of Medical Women of Canada (called the LIPSTICK Survey) reported that only 10% of women surveyed knew their personal cardiac risk factors, versus 64% of women who know how much they weighed in high school Continue reading

How women can tell if they’re headed for a heart attack

28 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

When Dr. Jean McSweeney from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences interviewed hundreds of heart attack survivors, she discovered something surprising: 95 percent of the women she interviewed actually suspected something was very wrong in the months leading up to their attack.

But even these early warning prodromal symptoms didn’t necessarily send women to the doctor, as reported in Dr. McSweeney’s study, published in the medical journal, Circulation.(1)  And for those women who did seek help, doctors often failed to identify their problems as being heart-related.
Continue reading