The questions you don’t ask your doctor

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters     July 14 , 2019

Let’s say you’re a woman recently diagnosed with heart disease who wants to know if it’s “normal” to feel crushing fatigue every time you take a shower.  Or you’re a woman living with rheumatoid disease who needs advice on which shoes are best for people who suffer joint pain like yours. Or you’re a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who is trying to make sense of the new emotional extremes you’re struggling with.

Who you gonna call? Continue reading “The questions you don’t ask your doctor”

Start a symptom journal, and solve a mystery

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    June 30, 2019

I regularly hear from Heart Sisters readers who contact me because they’re having distressing symptoms that might be heart-related, and they want me to help solve the diagnostic mystery. (Please don’t do this, by the way. I’m not a physician so cannot comment on your specific symptoms. That’s all I will be able to tell you if you ask for a medical opinion). But besides my standard “See your doctor!” advice, there’s one thing I do recommend to readers worried about strange new symptoms, and that is simply to start a Symptom Journal

Here’s how it works:   Continue reading “Start a symptom journal, and solve a mystery”

When you ignore pain because you’re used to it…

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    June 23, 2019

I can’t be completely sure, of course, but I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that I am a world-class stoic when it comes to putting up with pain. I survived a ruptured appendix and a near-fatal case of peritonitis that kept me hospitalized for a month as a teenager. I popped out two babies the old-fashioned, drug-free way. I suffered a broken bone in a bicycle accident while commuting downtown, but still somehow climbed back on that bike in order to show up on time for the meeting I was heading to. 

And I put up with two long weeks of increasingly unbearable symptoms (including being unable to walk more than five steps at a time) after being initially misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack with acid reflux.

So I sat up and paid attention when I happened upon the Despite Pain blog post called The Problem with Being Used to Pain or Illness.  
Continue reading “When you ignore pain because you’re used to it…”

Women’s heart health: why it’s NOT a zero sum game

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  April 7, 2019

In the game of poker, zero sum game theory suggests that the sum of the amounts won by some players equals the combined losses of the others. So if one player wins big, then other players must lose big.

It struck me recently that it’s possible our healthcare system functions as if it were a zero sum game, too.
Continue reading “Women’s heart health: why it’s NOT a zero sum game”

Dear Carolyn: “Adapting to adaptations?”

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.

Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “Adapting to adaptations?””

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

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