The Grinch’s Guide to Women’s Heart Attacks (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

by Carolyn Thomas    ♥   @HeartSisters

(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)


Chest pain can make women WORRY a lot,

Yet when women seek help, some are told they should not.

Anxiety, maybe – you’re stressed by the season!

“Your tests all look fine!”  No one quite knows the reason.

It could be that these tests weren’t researched on them.

(And, really – aren’t women small versions of men?)

It could be that Grinch docs think women are lying

Or making up symptoms, without even trying.

When we do share our cardiac signs with these docs,

Some Grinches can’t quite think outside of the box.

Often our symptoms seem so vague or small

And some women don’t mention chest “pain” at all.

It’s pressure, or fullness, or a weird sort of ache

And awful fatigue might be what we can’t take.

Shortness of breath, arm hurts – we’re a wreck!

So much is happening from navel to neck.

We think we might vomit, it’s getting worse now!

This does not feel right, we need help – but please, how?

“Acid reflux!” My Grinch doc declares, loud and grim.

My Grinch nurse warns, Stop asking questions of him!

Embarrassed and shamed, I just want to go home.

Made a fuss over nothing, now feel quite alone.

Emergency Grinch, as I leave: “NOT YOUR HEART!!”

So no way I’m returning when symptoms restart.

But back to the ER I go, two weeks later.

Now desperately ill, damned GERD pain is much greater!

But this time, when Emergency staff look at me,

I can tell they’re now taking me seriously.

No Grinches today, the staff leap into action.

Cardiologist summoned, then swift satisfaction!

He can tell from my tests I have serious heart woes

In a fully blocked artery, stainless steel stent goes.

Just two weeks before, I’d been misdiagnosed.

I’d somehow survived fate more deadly than most!

Emergency Grinches delay diagnosis,

But watch for that other Grinch voice – barely noticed.

Our own voice is whispering, “It’s nothing! Relax!”

Stop making a fuss! Just go back to your tasks!”

We put others first (it’s how women are raised)

Even a heart attack leaves us unfazed!

Yet you know your body when something feels wrong!

Speak up and be brave, and do not wait too long.

Treat YOURSELF as you would your own sister or mother,

Then learn about heart health, and share it with others.

Some things never change, I can just hear you say.

But the real Dr. Seuss used to put it this way:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not!”

Some Grinches aren’t green, and they wear stethoscopes

But some are our voices inside, crushing hope.

Don’t be a Grinch voice, whatever you do!

Trust what women say – and that starts within YOU!

© Carolyn Thomas

Wishing a happy, heart-healthy, Grinch-free holiday season to my wonderful readers. . .


Find out as much as you can about:

– women’s cardiac symptoms (both typical and atypical)


– our unique cardiac risk factors


-myths and facts about women’s heart disease

NOTE FROM CAROLYN:  In my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press), I wrote much more about how to help yourself get an accurate cardiac diagnosis. You can ask for this book at your local library or favourite bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from Johns Hopkins University Press –  use their code HTWN to save 30% off the cover price.

13 thoughts on “The Grinch’s Guide to Women’s Heart Attacks (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

  1. Carolyn, I always look forward to reading your blog and today enjoyed the poet in you. May you enjoy all the blessings of the season and I wish you a happy & healthy new year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was wonderful!
    Now that you have a diagnosis and a stent… do you feel you are taken more seriously? I feel like having multiple documented cardiac diagnoses….Everyone jumps to attention when I report symptoms.

    I hope the situation progresses … with the help of people like you… so that we can get proper treatment before we are deathly ill. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy has a similar problem as coronary artery disease, in that it is underreported and underdiagnosed.

    Though it only took me about 7 years to get diagnosed instead of 30.
    Heart Healthy Holiday Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jill – Well, that’s a good question. Before I was appropriately diagnosed, I was just a middle-aged woman complaining of ‘acid reflux’ symptoms (according to the ER doc who sent me home) – and further humiliated by the Emergency RN who warned me to stop asking questions (“He is a VERY good doctor, and he does NOT like to be questioned!”). The question I had dared to ask was: “But doc, what about this pain down my left arm?”

      But now I have an “official” diagnosis and treatment history (sort of a shorthand for future doctors to lend credibility to any “complaints I may have – hate that word!!) But that is a two-edged sword, as many of my blog readers have told me about physicians who tend to blame new symptoms on existing diagnosis, no matter what that may be. Case in point: one of my longtime readers had been MISdiagnosed with a cardiac condition for years, but it turned out that her actual longterm problem had been a thyroid issue.

      Oh, and SEVEN YEARS is way too long to wait for a correct diagnosis!


      1. Yes, I had to step out of the box and defy my PCP and refer myself to a cardiologist.

        My pet peave is having EVERYTHING blamed on my weight and not exercising regularly. I have found no matter what the studies say… if I am too tired to get out of a chair, going to the gym or forcing myself to take a walk, only makes me feel worse.

        I am convinced my cardiac output changes hour to hour and day to day…. when I am in perfect balance I have a spring in my step and I am delighted to walk for miles… if I’m not…. Please just leave me be ..LOL!

        I just emailed my cardiologist that I don’t feel right waiting for my annual check up until May because of my tiredness and occasional shortness of breath. I can’t believe he answered on a Sunday and already scheduled me for an Echo in January followed by an appointment!!

        I LOVE this Doc!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, a cardiologist who responds to a patient’s request via email on a SUNDAY! That’s merely a dream fantasy for most heart patients… 🙂


  3. Good one, Carolyn! Excellent representation of what happens. It took me almost 30 years to get an accurate diagnosis after my Father’s heart attack and death.

    Liked by 1 person

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