This past year has felt in turn like the most agonizingly slow year ever, and at other times like a runaway train threatening to throw me off at the next turn. Just this week during our family’s Christmas Eve dinner, for example, my daughter Larissa commented wistfully about her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Everly Rose, whose only goal in life lately is to be a big girl: “Last Christmas, we had a baby in the house, but this year I have a kid!” Why is she growing so fast? Where did that whole year go? But slow or fast, my Sunday morning blog posts continued throughout 2017. Thank you, dear readers – here are some of the Heart Sisters highlights for the past year:
- The Martha and Carolyn Show! In February 2017, I was thrilled to welcome a cardiologist I like to describe as “one of the rock stars of cardiology”: Dr. Martha Gulati, Professor of Medicine and Chief of Cardiology at The University of Arizona in Phoenix (and also, like myself, a proud Canadian). Dr. Martha had generously offered to fly up to Victoria to join me for my annual Heart-Smart Women talk. She wowed the crowd (a full house with a waiting list!) with her knowledge and passion about women’s heart health. (And she also wowed me by agreeing to write the beautiful and thoughtful 4-page foreword of my new book). Here’s what I wrote about Dr. Martha’s first ever visit to Victoria!
- Just living life. No awesomeness required. Barbara Westfall tells her compelling story about what she calls “life-living” that spoke to me – and many of you, too. She writes about those magical moments when we just try to live life as if we didn’t have a life-altering medical condition, thank you very much – no matter what our diagnosis.
- A plea for the return of the classic bed jacket for patients: Just to show my readers that I’m versatile enough to write about not only heart stuff, but the often-overlooked topic of hospital fashion, I ponder the sad demise of a delightful cover-up for that hideous hospital gown.
- My medical diagnosis means more to me than to you: This popular post explores what happens to the doctor-patient relationship when patients living with chronic illness know more about their diagnosis than their physician does. As the late Dr. Rosamund Snow wrote in her published research on this important issue: “Patients who have in-depth knowledge of their condition encounter problems when their expertise is seen as inappropriate in standard healthcare interactions.”
- Women’s heart disease: is it underdiagnosed, or misdiagnosed? There’s a straightforward yet distressing answer to that question: the more that misdiagnosis happens to individual women, one after another, the more likely we are to continue seeing underdiagnosis of women heart patients as a whole. Read what these heart patients say about what a diagnostic error can feel like.
- “Refrain from operating a chainsaw after your cardiac procedure”: Why are female heart patients receiving outdated hospital discharge instructions, clearly written for male patients, as if hospitals are unaware that women have heart disease, too? Consider the official instructions described to me by an astute blog reader who had just undergone a radial (wrist) access angioplasty/stent procedure: “Refrain from operating a lawnmower, motorcycle, chainsaw, or all terrain vehicle.” She added: “I knew this was written for MEN, not women.” This – and other examples of patient communication that just make no sense.
- The “big disconnect” in women’s heart health: Cardiologist Dr. Holly Andersen believes that increasing public awareness of heart disease can save lives, and this must start with women. She likes to say that “if you can educate a woman, you educate the family.” This post contains her sobering take on what she calls the “big disconnect” in women’s heart disease awareness, prevention and treatment compared to men.
- Premenopausal women and cardiac symptoms: In this intriguing research, more than half of the women studied had a heart attack within six days after their periods started. There’s even a gynaecology term called “menstrual angina”. Here’s what scientists are saying about how our hormones affect our hearts.
- The shock – and ironic relief – of hearing a serious diagnosis: This may sound crazy if you’ve never experienced it, but for some of us who have failed to get an accurate diagnosis for distressing symptoms, even bad news can feel like a relief, because until we are believed, a treatment plan cannot begin.
- A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease: my blog-turned-book project! As you might imagine after two long years of work, the publication of my new book by Johns Hopkins University Press in November represented a huge milestone! This post offers an insider’s look at the good and the not-so-good process behind the scenes. Thanks so much to all of you who have read the book, recommended it to your friends, families and colleagues, written reviews, or sent me so many kind and supportive notes.
I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, for the past 34 years, I create a new vision poster every New Year’s Eve. My vision poster is a framed collage covered with words and images representing everything I want to include in the year ahead. I display my vision poster in a prominent place I see every day to remind me throughout the year if I’m on track.
Q: What would be on your own vision poster for 2018?