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

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters  

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!)

Barnes and Noble


Q:   What other books do you like to recommend for heart patients?

Happy Christmas, dear reader!    

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 author interview with my Johns Hopkins University Press publisher

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

“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! )  ♥

11 thoughts on “What to get for the heart patient who has (almost) everything

  1. Pingback: RN in NYC
  2. I don’t have a recommendation. But tune in next year when I am further along in writing a book about the relationship of the physical heart to the Spiritual Heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Book recommendation for heart/other patients: “How Doctors Think,” by Jerome Groopman. A nurse at my former cardiologist’s office thought I should read it after overhearing that MD disrespecting me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First – bless that nurse for stepping up. It’s soul-destroying to work alongside colleagues who disrespect clients. . .

      Excellent recommendation! I love that book! I’ve written about and quoted Dr. Groopman several times. He’s the Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and writes beautifully about many intriguing topics like cognitive errors in diagnosing (one of my favourite subjects!)

      Thanks for that suggestion! ♥


  4. Dear Carolyn,
    We need to toot our own horn, when we have done something notable and worthy. And you have.

    Your book changed my life. I talk it up to anyone who will listen.

    I actually read it 3x.
    First as a “novel”, then highlighting vital info, and finally scribbling summary words of the highlighted into the margins. In short, making it my own manual.

    I went from confused, self-pitying, defeated to angry, determined, empowered. I too knew no one who had experienced heart problems, but now I did: YOU.

    I had to actively advocate for and pursue my right to cardiac rehab (still gets under my skin!) I found the courage to trust my own instincts about my health and make it my priority. I joined a Canadian women’s Facebook group and read my own story on repeat.

    Wow, we have work to do!

    And your awesome book is part of that education and drive. Thank you from the bottom of my repaired heart ❤️.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Hélène and thank you so much for your kind and generous words. They mean a lot to me.

      I love that you read my book first as a “novel”. That’s a real testament to the power of story-telling – or what Dr. Rita Charon calls “narrative medicine”. We learn and remember stories – not so much stats or facts. And when those stories strike a familiar chord – even better! And you’re my first reader to tell me that you now have your own self-directed manual for living with your cardiac diagnosis!

      It makes me insane that cardiac rehab programs for women are basically seen as an afterthought – not a required part of guideline-based medicine for all heart patients. Classed are offered for the convenience of paid staff – not for patients (e.g. few if any evening or weekend classes). And where I live (west coast of Canada), my government spends millions of dollars on expensive diagnostic tools, hospital stays, state-of-the-art cardiac procedures, and follow-up appointments with cardiologists (for life!) – all free for patients. But we have to pay hundreds of dollars in cash for our cardiac rehab programs after we’re discharged from hospital – even though it’s actually a treatment therapy prescribed by cardiologists – but unaffordable to many heart patients and their families. Arrrrgggh . . .

      Take care, and thanks again for your comment. . . ♥


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