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Dear Carolyn: “Adapting to adaptations?”

10 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  March 10, 2019

People living with chronic illness often discover that they must adapt to changes in what occupational therapists like to call our activities of daily living (ADLs).  The basic ADLs typically include eating, bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and moving around independently (e.g. getting up off that couch). Even smaller changes occur: for example, I now wear a medical I.D. on my wrist all day. I never leave home without my nitro spray for chronic angina. I count out all my cardiac meds for the week in labeled pill organizers. These represent a few of the many adaptations I’ve learned to make since my cardiac diagnosis.
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Today, in this Dear Carolyn episode (our eighth in the occasional series featuring Heart Sisters readers sharing the experiences of becoming a heart patient), we’ll attempt to address a related reader question about adapting.

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Why “Call me if you need help…” is not helpful

3 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters   March 3, 2019

Immediately after my heart attack, I appreciated kind-hearted friends and family who said: “Just call me if there’s anything at all that I can do for you!”

But as well-meaning as those offers were, I knew deep down in my heart of hearts that I was NOT likely to call them to ask about certain things I needed help with, like:

“Can you please come over and change the kitty litter?” 

As those who don’t like asking others for help can attest, that request was just never going to happen.   Continue reading

The heart patient’s not the only one in the room

17 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    February 17, 2019

 

Leslie Pitt is a marriage and family therapist whose husband Graham suffered a terrifying sudden cardiac arrest in his sleep while on vacation in Hilton Head Island, North Carolina. In this short and compelling video, she talks about the care they each received from 9-1-1 dispatchers and Fire Rescue personnel – care that not only saved Graham’s life, but significantly reduced her own post-traumatic stress.  Continue reading

Recuperation and a red leather chair

10 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    February 10, 2019

I absolutely loved the questions that Nancy Stordahl recently posed to her Nancy’s Point blog readers:

“Do you associate certain things with certain events in your life? Is there something that always takes you back to that time or place – a piece of clothing, an item of food, a scent or smell, a vehicle or even a piece of furniture? What is a trigger that reminds you of your diagnosis, treatment, or ‘that time’?”

Nancy went on to tell a touching story of getting rid of her much-loved blue leather sofa and matching chair, and the association of those items with her breast cancer diagnosis and recuperation, among many other important family events, both happy and awful, over many years. Inspired by her nostalgic recall of such associations, I answered her questions by describing a piece of furniture in my own home that still reminds me of what it was like when I first became a patient.   Continue reading

Drawing a picture of your diagnosis

27 Jan

 

Part of my latest mandala (a work in progress)

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    January 27, 2019

The late Madeleine Shields was a gifted artist and teacher here on the west coast of Canada. But more importantly to me, she was MY teacher. Her artistic expression of choice was the mandala, a Sanskrit word for “circle”. The mandala practice of Madeleine Shields was not what you might see in adult colouring books or on painted rocks at craft fairs. Hers was based on an ancient spiritual and meditative practice that she compared to “painting a mirror”. I can sometimes still hear her distinctive voice in my ear asking pointedly, “Did you do it well, or did you do it fast?”

A recent study supports what Madeleine had already figured out 20 years before her death, that art can intuitively reflect our deepest emotions in a surprisingly accurate fashion – and that’s especially true when we become patients. Continue reading