Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack

9 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    September 9, 2018

511724-0211-23Until I had a heart attack, I didn’t know that one of the biggest risk factors for having a cardiac event like mine is having already had one. Heart disease, a chronic and progressive diagnosis, is the gift that keeps on giving. And as I wrote here, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that, although my doctors can “squish blockages, burn rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices”, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place – likely decades before my heart attack struck.  See also: The Cure Myth

In fact, women are twice as likely to have a second heart attack in the six years following the first compared to our male counterparts.(1)  No wonder sobering stats like this can drive the freshly-diagnosed heart patient to an exhausting and fearful state of acute hypervigilance. Continue reading

When an illness narrative isn’t just about illness

2 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     September 2, 2018

The ink was barely dry on the book contract I’d signed with Johns Hopkins University Press on the morning I tuned in, as I like to do every weekend, to Michael Enright’s Sunday Edition show on CBC Radio.

Michael’s guest that morning couldn’t have been more appropriate, given the project I was just beginning. A physician-turned-author named Dr. Suzanne Koven was talking about people who write first-person accounts of their health crises, books that Michael indelicately referred to as “sick lit“.(1)  . Illness, Michael began, is always more interesting to the ill person than to the reader. But Dr. Koven quickly interjected.  Continue reading

The medical apology: have you ever received one?

26 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     August 26, 2018

I’ve been invited to participate in an academic study on an interesting concept: the medical apology. My first reaction was to decline the invitation, explaining that never once have I had a healthcare professional apologize to me when something went wrong. And I’ve had a few things go very, very wrong.

I could have used an apology at age 16, for example, when the infirmary nurse at my convent boarding school repeatedly refused my pleas to call the local doctor for my severe appendicitis symptoms, instead blaming them first on the flu, the next day on my period, and the third day on exam anxiety. I was finally hospitalized with a ruptured appendix and near-fatal peritonitis that required a month-long hospital stay. A little “I’m sorry” would have been nice. . .

But I’m thinking that some of you might have some interesting personal experiences about receiving a medical apology to share on this subject. If you’d like to get involved, here’s how to contact the researchers: Continue reading

First the big change, then the big transition

19 Aug

3quotes-Change-is-external--by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     August 19, 2018

My 30 year-old BREE bag circa 1989

I can’t even remember reading the book when I bought it, hot off the press, back in 1991. It was during the busy pre-Kindle heyday of my career in corporate public relations. In those days, I traveled a lot for work, so on any given day I carried a business book or two in my briefcase to read on the plane. (Remember briefcases? Do people still carry briefcases?)

This particular business book is called Managing Transitions by William Bridges, the “preeminent authority on change and managing change”.  While sorting out old books recently to donate to charity, I cracked open this book to the section called How to Deal with Non-Stop Change. Bill Bridges was writing specifically about dealing with change in the workplace, but his message also made a lot of sense to me as a patient who has seen plenty of changes in my life due to a cardiac event in 2008. The reality is that there is no workplace change – layoffs, restructuring, corporate mergers, you name it – that could possibly compare to the profoundly significant changes that so many of us go through when we are diagnosed with a serious medical condition.   Continue reading

The 2018 Summer Blogging Challenge

12 Aug

Screen Shot 2018-08-11 at 12.19.19 PM

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters    August 12, 2018

My blogging friend Nancy Stordahl, author of several books about breast cancer, including (best title ever!) “Cancer is Not a Gift and it Didn’t Make Me a Better Person”, as well as the excellent breast cancer blog Nancy’s Point, sent me a little nudge this week. Perfect timing for an invitation to participate in her 4th Annual Summer Blogging ChallengeIt’s hot outside, I’m cranky, I’ve attempted writing half a dozen blog posts this week  yet abandoned all of them – maybe Nancy’s challenge will help me feel unstuck.

Her invitation: just answer the following 12 questions about being a blogger (or about the blogs you enjoy reading). Feel free to accept her challenge yourself. Continue reading