“To just be a person, and not a patient anymore”

4 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters  ♥ November 4, 2018

New Jersey oncologist Dr. James Salwitz, in his blog post called Why Is The Doctor Angry?, tells the story of the day that one of his patients had become very ill. Instead of calling Dr. Salwitz, however, his patient emailed a doctor 3,000 miles away in California as he became sicker and sicker. The California doctor forwarded the email back to Dr. Salwitz, who immediately sent his patient to hospital with multiple system failures. Dr. S said that he felt angry about his patient’s behaviour, explaining:

“Did I look him in the eye and tell him that I was upset, that he had neglected his own care by not reaching out and in doing so he violated the basic tenants of a relationship which said that he was the patient and I was the doctor?”

“Did I remind him what I expect from him and what he can expect from me?  You better believe it – I was really pissed!”

My own question to Dr. Salwitz was: “So, did you ever find out from the patient WHY he did not reach out to you?”   Continue reading

Dear Carolyn: “People can change for the better”

28 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    October 28, 2018

We know now that childhood trauma is strongly associated with chronic illness later on, including heart disease. As I wrote in a recent blog post about ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences), researchers warn us that scoring 4 or higher on the ACE test can predict a significantly higher risk of physical or mental illness as an adult. I was stunned when I took the test and saw that my own score was 4; I was well aware of my childhood experiences, of course, but I thought that only marginalized kids from desperately poor families were at high risk – and that wasn’t me! A history of psychological childhood abuse or neglect is not what we expect our doctors to ask us about – but this research suggests that maybe they should start.

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One response to that post really hit home for me. Marie (who prefers not to use her real name here) lives with a type of ischemic heart disease called coronary microvascular disease (as I do, too). With her kind permission, I’m sharing her childhood story with you as the latest guest post in my regular but very occasional series called Dear Carolyn“:

Appropriately confident: what are YOU really good at?

21 Oct

 by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    October 21, 2018

It all started with a little post on Twitter by San Francisco OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter, urging this call to action:

I was hooked when I read an early response from a pediatrician, who (on top of everything else a pediatrician might feel self-confident about) mentioned that she does the New York Times crossword IN PEN. Now, that is true confidence, my heart sisters. . .

I decided to bite, tossing aside all that ‘aw shucks’ false modesty that women are so often socialized to embrace. Here’s how I responded about myself:
Continue reading

Little video, big questions on women’s heart disease

14 Oct

A big “Thank You” to Robyn Unwin Media and her enthusiastic film students who interviewed me about my heart attack and women’s heart disease in general – and particularly for asking important questions like What Needs To ChangeThe crew then turned my answers into this short film, a project that was written, shot and edited by students of the Film Industry Training and Skills course offered by the S.T.A.R.T.E. program and Beacon Community Services here in Victoria, BC.

Well done film students, and special thanks to Rob…  

(P.S. Love that cool Heart Sisters animation the crew came up with!)

Heart Sisters: Heart Health for Women from Robyn Lee Unwin on Vimeo.

Oh, great. Another cardiac risk factor to worry about…

7 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    October 7, 2018

There are lots of cardiac risk factors that increase our chances of developing heart disease one day. Some are beyond our control (like having a family history) and many are not (like smoking or a sedentary lifestyle).

Some other risk factors are less familiar, so are often overlooked. Until two years after my heart attack, for example, I didn’t know that having pregnancy complications (like the preeclampsia I was diagnosed with while pregnant with my first baby) can mean women are 2-3 times more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease years later. But here’s a cardiac risk factor that was new to me until I learned about something called the ACE study. And this is a big one. Continue reading