My blogging friend Nancy Stordahl, author of several books about breast cancer, including (best title ever!) “Cancer is Not a Gift and it Didn’t Make Me a Better Person”, as well as the excellent breast cancer blog Nancy’s Point, sent me a little nudge this week. Perfect timing for an invitation to participate in her 4th Annual Summer Blogging Challenge. It’s hot outside, I’m cranky, I’ve attempted writing half a dozen blog posts this week yet abandoned all of them – maybe Nancy’s challenge will help me feel unstuck.
Her invitation: just answer the following 12 questions about being a blogger (or about the blogs you enjoy reading). Feel free to accept her challenge yourself.
2018 Summer Blogging Challenge Questions!
1. How long have you been blogging (or reading blogs)?
I started Heart Sisters in 2009. By then, I’d been doing lots of my 90-minute free Pinot & Prevention presentations on women’s heart health, based on what I’d learned while attending the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium for Women With Heart Disease at Mayo Clinic the year before. I decided I needed to launch a little website just to answer the frequent “How do I book one of your talks?” questions that I’d been spending way too much time on the phone answering.
2. How has your blog changed?
It’s no longer just three little pages! We’re now at about 14.4 million views from 190 countries (which still sounds unbelievable to me!) and I’ve written over 700 Heart Sisters blog articles since 2009. Most of these focus on the experience of living with a heart disease diagnosis, but sometimes I write something just for fun (e.g. I still laugh out loud reading this one about the time a national TV news crew showed up in my kitchen to interview me about hospital food!) My most popular blog posts continue to be the ‘Am I having a heart attack?“ topics (or, what I call the panicky 3 a.m. Google search for women’s cardiac symptoms). In the early days, I used to write blog articles like a crazed maniac (in 2009, for example, I was on fire – averaging one new blog post per day for a while!) But I’m generally not feeling well enough these days to even think of coming up with more than one post per week (typically that runs on Sunday mornings).
My blog writing took a significant downturn in 2016 when I started working full-time on writing my book for Johns Hopkins University Press – a book called “A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease“, based on my blog. I knew that I wasn’t well enough to write a 70,000 word book and still write a weekly Sunday morning Heart Sisters article. I began selecting some of the most popular posts from my archives to re-run every week so that I could focus instead on finishing my book in time for my publishing deadline. My stats pages showed an almost-immediate drop in visits that year.
3. What is your biggest blogging challenge/frustration?
A combination of time AND feeling okay impacts every choice I make. On the days when my cardiac symptoms (coronary microvascular disease) are really bothering me, there’s no writing going on. Minimal breathing, maybe, but really just enough to maintain consciousness… But on a (rare) good day, I can sit down and write non-stop for two hours!
4. What is your favorite blog post that you’ve written (or read)?
I think my post, “The New Country Called Heart Disease“ post sums up many of the distressing post-diagnosis psychological pain that so many of us suffer in the early days, weeks and months – the kind that few healthcare professionals even talk about. Feeling like you’ve somehow been deported to a strange country you never wanted to visit turns out to be remarkably common among the freshly-diagnosed.
5. What are your goals for your blog? (or why do you read blogs?)
At first, my goals were to become a better “knowledge translator” for other women like me – those freshly-diagnosed heart patients! I don’t know when I started writing about what’s known as the cardiology gender gap. So, as I’ve become more alarmed by the differences between how men and women are studied, diagnosed and treated, my blog posts more often reflect questions about those concerns.
6. How many blogs do you read on a regular basis?
Depends. I love to read, typically several blog posts every day from many different bloggers, especially the ones I follow on Twitter.
7. How do you determine what to share and what not to share; in other words, do you have blog boundaries? (or comment boundaries)?
My blog boundaries include things like protecting the privacy of the heart patients I interview unless specific permission is granted. Speaking of boundaries, although the majority of my readers live in the U.S.🇺🇸 (followed by the U.K.🇬🇧 and then Canada🇨🇦), I steer clear of covering healthcare politics because I’m happily living in 🇨🇦 (aka commie-pinko land of socialized medicine), and can’t even pretend to understand what the hell is going on in American healthcare. Or politics.
My reader comment boundaries are based on my fondness for evidence, and include deleting all spammy mentions of ‘miracle cures’, particularly tacky if people are using my blog to try to sell them to my readers; more is spelled out on my disclaimer page.
8. When things get hard, what keeps you blogging (or reading blogs)?
I’ve written for both therapy/self-reflection (my personal journals) and money (my 35+year career in journalism and public relations) so it’s pretty well all I know how to do. I like to remind myself that, unlike all those pre-heart disease years, my deadlines and editorial decisions are now entirely self-imposed.
9. What is your biggest pet peeve today, right now, this minute?
My pet peeves are all classic First World problems (e.g. didn’t get the outdoor veranda table I really, really wanted at Afternoon Tea!) In my blog writing, I’m quite peevish about two things: physicians who fail to refer their heart patients to cardiac rehabilitation, and the lack of mandatory reporting of diagnostic error.
10. What piece of advice would you offer to a new blogger?
Spelling and grammar are important.
11. Share something most people do not know about you. A secret sort of thing.
Not exactly a secret, but. . . Nine years after I had to retire from a 35+ year public relations career I loved following my heart attack, I started a new “jobette” last year. I auditioned for the role of narrator for a 5-part series of Canadian documentary films for VISION TV called Ageless Gardens (which are so gorgeous that I wish the series were available to non-Canadians everywhere!) I just learned from the producers that the series has been picked up for a second season that’s being filmed this summer, so I’ll be back at work in the recording studio to tape the narration of the finished product next spring! We record early in the mornings (7:30 a.m.) because that’s when my brain is working. . .
12. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Oh, have I mentioned the love of my life, our darling grandbaby, Everly Rose (or “Munchkin”, as I like to call her)? ♥♥♥ Luckily for me, this 3-year old lives just a few blocks away and I get to walk her to daycare in her stroller most mornings (a 90-minute round trip, uphill both ways, so now a regular reason for heart-healthy exercise!) I can no longer think of my time as “spare”. Everything I put in my calendar now needs to be intentional. Most of my other daily activities are planned for mornings when I’m functional (and surprisingly perky!) – even things like ‘go sit by the ocean this morning’. That’s when I do my writing and thinking, participate in two weekly walking groups, plan social outings with friends and family, book medical appointments, attend my weekly Toastmasters club meetings at 7 a.m. every Thursday, or book my public presentations on women’s heart health.
I also love handmade paper, and love working with it to make greeting cards for family and close friends. (In fact, why am I sitting here at my computer writing this when I should be finishing the card for my friend Patty’s 65th birthday in time for her birthday brunch on Sunday!?!)
If you’re a blogger who decides to participate in Nancy’s Summer Challenge by answering her 12 questions on your own blog, YAY! Thank you Nancy for the nudge!
Here’s how Nancy answered these questions about her own Nancy’s Point blogging.
Q: Even if you don’t write your own blog, can you pick one of Nancy’s 12 questions and comment on some of the blogs you follow?