You could do last-minute Christmas shopping for another scented candle or pottery vase (that just might end up some day on somebody’s yard sale table together). But if you have a woman in your life who has been diagnosed with heart disease, you could choose a truly useful gift this year. Here’s why, in my admittedly biased view, that gift could be my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease. And Santa can even save 30% off the cover price when ordering from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press!) *
I wrote about my own earliest days as a new heart patient in the preface to the book:
“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 patient. But I’m also a woman who, like far too many other women, had a heart attack misdiagnosed despite textbook cardiac symptoms.”
The book includes my own story, but more importantly, it’s also a comprehensive women’s heart health resource. It contains, for example, a jargon-free, patient-friendly glossary of weird cardiology terms to help translate what your cardiologists are telling you. Most books on women and heart health are written by cardiologists, not patients – but mine includes enough medical journal references to reassure even the most cynical physician. In fact, because this book was published by Johns Hopkins University Press, every word had to be reviewed before publication by a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Heart & Vascular Institute to ensure accuracy.
Regular blog readers already know that I like evidence! So when I was writing this book, I look to cardiac researchers to help me understand why women continue to have worse diagnostic, treatment and recovery outcomes compared to our male counterparts – and what women can do to help themselves. I believe that knowledge is power, and that our most important job after a cardiac diagnosis is to become a world expert in our personal diagnosis. That might be a bit of a stretch, of course – but the more we can educate ourselves as informed adults, the better prepared we’ll be at each follow-up appointment – and in making smart decisions about our own heart health.
Each of us is different in dozens of different ways, and each heart patient I’ve met and learned from will experience becoming a heart patient in a way that’s unique to her. Yet underneath each story often runs that recognizable vein called “becoming a patient” – along with the serious psychosocial fallout that I also love to write about.
I didn’t really appreciate how a diagnosis changes everything for patients until I went to Mayo Clinic for the first time and met the other 45 women who, like me, had been invited to attend the annual WomenHeart Science & Leadership training for heart patient advocates (Class of 2008). Suddenly, we were hearing story after story from each other describing what that lived experience is like. It’s actually a remarkable relief when we realize that we aren’t alone. Until then, I’d never met women who had shared my own experience – never mind all in the same room together!
A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease covers what I learned both in that room and since. It’s now in its second printing (hardcover and paperback editions – thank you, readers!) You can also find reader reviews here from both heart patients and healthcare professionals. One of my favourite reviews from that second group comes from Dr. Kelli Roig, Ed.D, DNP, CDE:
” 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!”
You can find my book at your favourite bookshop (please support your local independent booksellers!) or order it online. And remember that most public libraries also carry my book, so you and your family can read it for free; just ask your local library branch to order it if it’s not yet there. Meanwhile, here’s how to order your own book:
* Johns Hopkins University Press (mention the code HTWN to save 30% off the cover price)
Amazon (This book launched as Amazon’s #1 NEW RELEASE in the Medicine/Public Health category!)
Q: What other books do you like to recommend for heart patients?
Happy Christmas, dear reader!
“Very different from other heart books”: my author interview with my Johns Hopkins University Press publisher
“Best narrative I have ever encountered on this topic” (Cardiac Health Foundation)
When an illness narrative isn’t just about illness: the preface to my book
Happy, Healthy Heart Month with Carolyn Thomas (a review written 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 – and thanks again for the lovely advent calendar! ) ♥