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Life after heart attack if you’re a Type A

8 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Shortly after my heart attack, while I was lying around at home on the big red chair wondering when I was ever going to feel like my old self, my real self, my fun self again, I went online to seek help from a cardiac support group I’d just discovered (the WomenHeart online community at Inspire).  All I had to do was type in the question “Does anybody else out there experience this?” and I knew that many of the 32,000+ other women members living with heart disease would have an answer, a handy tip or just some virtual understanding for me.

What was happening to me? I had turned into a person I no longer recognized. That person I used to be – the one who was the last to leave any party, the one everybody else could count on, the one who thrived on juggling multiple deadlines with ease – seemed to have disappeared. How could I get her back?  Ongoing cardiac symptoms and an as-yet-undiagnosed coronary microvascular disorder meant a much slower pace that I did not like one bit. What should I be doing to speed up this annoyingly slow recovery business? I posed these questions to my online group, and among many replies, this one arrived from an anonymous sisterly soul who, like me, had been going through much the same awkward transition. A self-described recovering Type A personality, she wrote me the following:  Continue reading

“Refrain from operating a chainsaw after your cardiac procedure”

9 Apr
As I love to keep saying, my Heart Sisters blog readers are the smartest and the funniest and the most resilient women out there – and remember that most of them are living with various levels of heart disease symptoms all while busy being smart and funny and resilient.
 
One such reader named Jennifer, who also lives with a thyroid condition called Graves Disease, wrote the comment below in response to my blog post about women’s heart clinics. Her hospital experience with the cardiology gender gap is maddeningly common (and yet another powerful argument for opening a women’s heart clinic in every hospital).

Continue reading

My unofficial (but weirdly true) Hierarchy of Heart Disease

6 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

During my first evening attending our “Heart to Heart” 7-week education series for recently diagnosed heart patients, the man sitting next to me leaned over and asked me: “What are you in for?” 

I told him that I’d had what doctors call the “widow maker” heart attack two weeks earlier, and that I now had a stainless steel stent implanted in a major coronary artery that had been 99% blocked.  He interrupted me with a cheery:

I have THREE stents!”

As he went on and on in exquisite detail about his cardiac event, I felt like my own was suddenly pretty puny by comparison. Three stents? How could I possibly compete with that? My previously-fascinating heart attack misdiagnosis story now seemed hardly even worth mentioning, really.

I came to observe during the  following weeks and months that heart patients, consciously or not, seem to slot themselves arbitrarily into what I now call the unspoken Hierarchy of Heart DiseaseContinue reading

Want the truth about what we eat? Ask our girlfriends…

4 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

More reports from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious, my heart sisters. Last year, a group of 45 international nutrition scientists launched a campaign to end the use of one of their most commonly-used research tools: the self-reported food diary.(1)  These scientists now claim that “dietary recall is skewed towards healthier behaviour.”

In plain English, it means this: people participating in nutrition studies lie to researchers about what they actually eat, preferring instead to enter foods into their daily food diary like “kale” and “quinoa” before submitting their self-reports.

And let’s face it, a person who has volunteered for a nutrition study may be too embarrassed to officially record for posterity something like: “I ate half a box of Turtles today just to get them out of the house.”*  (And really, I can’t be the only woman to ever admit to this, can I?)   Continue reading

Confessions of a non-compliant patient

17 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters

Consider this scenario, dear reader:  I’m lying in bed late one Sunday evening, settled in to watch Downton Abbey for the next hour. But this Sunday is different from any other Sunday because I’ve had three new things to deal with during the past week that are utterly separate from my laundry list of daily cardiac concerns:

  1. I’ve been having physiotherapy three times a week because I twisted my right knee (same one I had knee surgery on seven years ago).
  2. I’m using a new prescription ointment for a pesky patch of psoriasis on my left elbow.
  3. I’m wearing a brand new acrylic mouth guard to bed every night that my dentist has just made for me to help treat a longstanding jaw alignment problem.

So. Here I am lying in bed that Sunday evening as our story unfolds . . . Continue reading