What to get the heart patient who has (almost) everything. . .

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  

Oh, sure, you can do last-minute Christmas shopping for another scented candle, or a lovely piece of pottery that might end up on the yard sale table together some day. Or you can decide to shop for a truly useful gift for the woman in your life who has been diagnosed with heart disease. Here’s why, in my admittedly biased view, that gift should be A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease  – along with some simple and painless ways for you to make that happen in time for Santa’s arrival. You can even save 30% off the list price if you order from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press!)


If it’s a gift, you can also ask for it at your favourite bookshop (please support local independent booksellers!) or order it online (and please take a moment to leave a Customer Review online afterwards, too!)   And remember that most public libraries carry my book so you can read it for free – ask them to order it if your local library branch doesn’t have it in yet.

Amazon (This book launched as Amazon’s #1 NEW RELEASE in the Medicine/Public Health category!)

Barnes and Noble


Johns Hopkins University Press – (Mention the code HTWN to save 30% off list price)


Just a small sampling of the reviews (and a sincere thank you to all readers who have shared so many truly lovely responses so far!) The ones that really meant a lot to me came from other women like me. For example. . .

  •   “I immediately recognized myself in the first few pages! I highly recommend this book for all women even if you don’t have heart disease.”  Laura Mishefske
  • I need another copy. Mine is getting dog-eared with all the avid reading it gets!“  Pauline Johnson
  •   “I couldn’t put it down. Funny, highly informative and well-written.”  Rae
  •   “It was as if she were sitting in my living room talking just to me. I love this book!”  Carolyn Parkes
  •   “Thomas writes with a compassionate, engaging tone filled with sharp wit, loads of humor and a healthy dose of cynicism thrown in. A terrific read.” Nancy Stordahl
  •   “The chapters dealing with the emotional aspects of our heart conditions were so helpful and validating – far better than any other literature I’ve read.”  Linda Seegmiller

I was also thrilled to see so many terrific reviews from healthcare professionals:

  • ♥  “This is the very best book of its kind, a must-read. . . ”  Dr. Barbara Keddy, Professor Emerita, Dalhousie University, Halifax
  • ♥ Every woman over the age of 40 and every healthcare provider who works with women should read this book.”  Dr. Gina Oliver, University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, Columbia, MO
  •   “This elegant book is a unique addition to women’s health books and a necessary read for women and the people who care about them.”  Dr. Roger S. Blumenthal, Director, The Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease
  •   “Carolyn has given a voice to the female heart patient in a way that few others have been able to. I am grateful that she decided to write this book, because I believe it will improve the dialogue between heart patients and their physicians.”  Dr. Martha Gulati, Chief of Cardiology, University of Arizona and Editor-in-Chief, CardioSmart – American College of Cardiology (and author of the fabulous foreword to my book!)
  •   “For heart patients, it offers a lifeline as an effective resource.”  Nursing Times Journal, UK
  •   “This book is required reading, not only for heart patients but for every ER doc and cardiologist.” Burt Cohen, Angioplasty.org
  • “An essential read. Thomas’s voice is calm, practical and patient-centered.”  Dr. Anne Stohrer

And one of my favourite reactions when my book first came out last November:

Six lucky women are getting a copy of this book for Christmas, wrapped and ready to go. I’ve been working in cardiology for 35 years and have been waiting just for THIS!”

Dr. Kelli Roig, Ed.D, DNP, CDE    

Next, here’s how to make sure your gift arrives on time:


Each of us is different in a thousand different ways, and each heart patient I’ve met and learned from experiences her cardiac diagnosis in a way that’s unique to her. Yet underneath each story runs a recognizable vein of lived experience we share that seems to ring true for so many of us.

I didn’t really get that until I went to Mayo Clinic and met the other 45 women who, like me were heart patients accepted to attend the annual WomenHeart Science & Leadership training program (Class of 2008). Suddenly we heard story after story from each other. I thought that my experience of being misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack and sent home from Emergency was uniquely dramatic, until I heard virtually identical stories from over one third of our class. 

I cannot begin to count the number of times a first-time reader, for example, starts her note to me with, “I thought I was the only one feeling this way. . . ” 

One of my readers simply wrote: “OMG. Are you me?”

I read a great quote recently by Austin Kleon, author of Show Your Work, that summed up my personal experience of both writing a blog and writing this book:

Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your heart on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.”

And as I wrote about my own early days as a freshly-diagnosed heart patient in the preface to A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease:

      “I wasn’t looking for books about cardiac risk factors or heart-healthy recipes or bad cholesterol. What I desperately wanted to find were those written for and by women like me.

“The book I wrote is the one I couldn’t find back then when I really needed it. I’m not a physician. I’m not a scientist (although I spent two decades living with one – does that count at all?) As I often describe myself, I’m just a dull-witted heart attack survivor. But I’m also a woman who, like far too many others, had her heart attack misdiagnosed. There’s nothing quite like surviving a misdiagnosis to heighten the high stakes required to make a good story.”

A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease is now in its second printing of both hardcover and paperback editions! Thank you, readers!


See also:

Dr. Martha Gulati’s fabulous foreword to my book

A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease: my blog-turned-book project!

“Very different from other heart books”: my Q&A with Johns Hopkins University Press

Can’t wait to start reading my book? Here’s Chapter 1!

“Best narrative I have ever encountered on this topic”

When an illness narrative isn’t just about illness:  the preface to my book

Happy, Healthy Heart Month with Carolyn Thomas (a review written by somebody who knows every word of this 70,000-word book as well as I do – my own editor, Deborah Bors, who wrote this essay for the Johns Hopkins University Press blog! Thank you, my darling Debby!)

10 thoughts on “What to get the heart patient who has (almost) everything. . .

  1. Just wanted to let you know that my sister stumbled on your blog last month and was convinced by reading this article to give me a copy of your book for CHristmas. What a perfect gift – – I had open heart surgery in early December, valve replacement, and this book was A LIFE-SAVER! I thought I was the only one ever feeling so scared and overwhelmed since then. You helped me realize that it’s just not so by writing about everything the hospital should have been telling me before sending me home, but didn’t.

    I’m now a subscriber to your blog and cannot thank you (and my dear sister) enough for this kind of informed and reassuring support. God bless you in 2019, Carolyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Carolyn – I pre-ordered your book when it first came out, so may have been among the first to get my own copy. I read it in one sitting, as one of your reviewers said, I could NOT put it down. I worked on the cardiac unit for 5 years, yet I learned so much in your book about what life can actually be like for my patients once they were discharged home.

    What might surprise many who have not yet read this book, the psychological experience of going from being a normal healthy person to a “patient” crosses all diagnostic boundaries. I now recommend this book to any woman recovering from any serious diagnosis, not just heart patients.

    Thank you again – you did good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello RN – thanks for your kind comments. I’ve heard that observation (“not just for heart patients”) a number of times. While I didn’t write the book for breast cancer patients, for example, I have a surprising number of readers with that diagnosis. I believe it helps, when we’re in the middle of trying to make sense out of a medical crisis so big that it makes no sense, to read something that makes us feel less alone.


  3. I have a pacemaker and ever since I’ve had it I can’t still go up hills. My chest tightens up, I can’t breathe and all they tell me is to push through it and it hurts so what am I supposed to do if it hurts and they won’t listen to me.

    I want to start exercising, I want to start walking, but if I get to a little hill it’s impossible it hurts and all they can say to me is just push through it and it scares me.


    1. Hi Holly – I’m not a physician so cannot comment specifically on your pacemaker question, but I can tell you generally that sometimes it takes some time and adjustments to get the settings just right, and sometimes starting on walking up hills needs to start with a very slight incline, not a steep hill. Start very slow and gradually build up…

      You might also be interested in visiting online ‘pacer’ forums – filled with other people like you who are living with pacemakers, too. You can ask questions and browse many pacemaker-related topics. Here’s an example.

      Also, check into groups like the Pacemaker Club or WomenHeart’s All About Arrhythmias


    1. Thanks Deborah and the same to you, too. The second printing was awesome news, and that happened within just a couple of months post-launch (which likely tells you that the publisher vastly under-estimated the numbers that would sell when deciding on how big to make the first print run!) And my editor Debby Bors told me later (while she was in Victoria to meet up in person!) that my book is in the Top 5 list of best sellers at Johns Hopkins University Press! ♥

      Liked by 1 person

Your opinion matters. What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s