The 2018 Summer Blogging Challenge

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by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters    August 12, 2018

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 ChallengeIt’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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 7.03.40 AMNot 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!?!)

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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?

13 thoughts on “The 2018 Summer Blogging Challenge

  1. Carolyn, I really enjoyed reading your responses to the challenge questions! I think your blog does such a service to anyone experiencing health issues, any kind of health issues.

    I think it’s wonderful you are so physically — and I know emotionally — close to your precious grandchild.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Beth, for your kind words. I too think it is absolutely fabulous that I’m so close to our little Munchkin. Being a grandmother is, as all my girlfriends had warned me, SO much more fun than being a Mum!! I didn’t meet my own grandmother until I was 9, she lived 1,000 miles away from me, spoke no English, and was essentially never part of my childhood – which is why I’m so thrilled to have such a close relationship with my own grandbaby… As one of my blog readers told me on the day she was born: “This precious child will do more for your heart than anything your cardiologist could prescribe!” She was right!! ♥


  2. Hi Carolyn,
    I’m so glad you decided to take up my challenge. It’s so much fun to learn more about fellow bloggers and readers too. For instance, I had no idea you now have a narrator gig! I must’ve missed that. Congrats! You continue to do such important work via your blog and terrific book. Enjoy the rest of summer and that beautiful grandbaby whenever you get the chance. Thank you for participating in this year’s challenge.

    Proud to call you a blogging buddy. Onward, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, blogging buddy! Thank you once again for inviting me to participate in your 4th annual Blogging Challenge – as I said, I’ve been in a blogging slump and needed this!

      Onward indeed… ♥


  3. Thanks for taking the challenge Carolyn. It’s always interesting to hear from other bloggers on why they blog and how their blogs have evolved over time.

    I’ve been blogging since the end of 2011 on the website of Psychology Today in the Personal Perspective section. I posted about the ups and downs of my journey with my psychiatric illnesses of borderline personality disorder, (BPD) major depression and anorexia. BPD is one of the most heavily stigmatized psychiatric illnesses. I wrote because I wanted others to know that they are not alone in their struggles.

    I am also a licensed clinical social worker and I wanted others to know that it is possible to achieve a full and productive life following their illness. My blog is titled “From Both Sides of the Couch.”

    Several years ago, as I began to face physical challenges including Prinzmetals Angina (that’s when I found your blog), I incorporated those into my blog as well, how they affected my mental health and how I using my coping skills to deal with them. On Memorial Day weekend, I suffered a stroke and although I am extremely grateful that it was not as severe as some of the other patients in the rehab facility I was also a patient in, there were some residual physical and cognitive challenges – such a memory, hence this second post.

    I made the decision to post under a pseudonym because at the time I started the blog, I was still working directly with clients and I felt it was not ethical for my clients to be able to google me and be able to read the details of my psychiatric history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Andrea for sharing your unique perspectives here. I love reading your blog posts (although I rarely think of those writing regular posts for a prestigious site like Psychology Today as “bloggers”, but more like journalists and columnists!) Your writing captures that exquisitely rare viewpoint gleaned from both your time with patients, and your time as a patient. In my opinion, healthcare professionals who have personal lived experience of a serious and relevant diagnosis are the best. The rest have to rely on academic or theoretical models of learning. BTW, you have officially surpassed your recommended lifetime quotient of distressing diagnoses – you can quit any time now… 😉

      Seriously, a note to my readers: if you’d like to read some really good stuff ranging from mental illness to pain or grief or friendships or SO many other important themes, please check out Andrea’s blog posts.


      1. Thank you Carolyn. I appreciate your support as now we are aware of the importance of the whole person and that we must treat mental illness as critically as physical illness.

        In trying to raise awareness and fight the stigma of mental illness, I feel that in light of the recent news of the tragic suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain – and if you weren’t aware, the cause of the death of actress Margot Kidder in May of this year, was just released and also was tragically a suicide.

        Just an observation: my most viewed post of all time which I wrote in August of 2012 is titled “Contemplating Suicide: No Way to Understand Unless You’ve Been There.”

        Thank you again.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So true. There is simply no denying the body/mind connection, and also the reality that mental health is every bit as important to support and care about as physical conditions that routinely receive immediate and non-judgemental attention.

          Are you familiar with the book by Mayo Clinic professor Dr.Victor Montori called “Why We Revolt“? It’s all about this healthcare movement he’s proposing, a “revolution of compassion and solidarity, of unhurried conversations, and of careful and kind care.” It’s groundbreaking stuff…


          1. Thanks you Carolyn for bringing this book to my attention. “Why We Revolt” is truly groundbreaking. I read what I was able to via Amazon’s “look inside” feature and immediately placed my order. I can’t wait until the book lands on my doorstep.

            Let’s start a revolution!

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you took Nancy’s challenge, Carolyn. I enjoyed learning more about you and Heart Sisters. I only read three blogs on a regular basis: yours, James Clear (who opened my eyes as to how important habits are) and more recently the minimalist guide, No Sidebar.

    I’m pretty focused on the 1,440 minutes I am gifted each day and making the most of my minutes. If I’m going to trade some of my daily minutes to read something that someone else has written, I need to get something for it: information, inspiration, a new perspective, or best of all, insight into how the blogger has tackled a challenge similar to what I’m facing.

    These blogs have consistently given me what I’m looking for. They’ve enriched my life.

    Thank you for creating Heart Sisters.

    Liked by 2 people

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