The familiar self, the unfamiliar self and the recovery of self

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters   

As Bruce Springsteen once sang, “You get used to anything. Sooner or later it just becomes your life.”(1)  Bruce was right. Since being diagnosed with heart disease in 2008, I’ve observed a bizarre and surprising change in my ability to adjust to ongoing cardiac symptoms. My symptoms have not changed. But at some point, I just got better at adjusting to them.

In fact, I suspect that the chest pain which just feels “normal” to me by now would make most other people head straight to the Emergency Department.      .       .      Continue reading “The familiar self, the unfamiliar self and the recovery of self”

The “handlebar gripping” cardiac symptom

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

When the Emergency Department physician misdiagnosed my “widow maker” heart attack as acid reflux, I actually felt relieved at first.  I’d much rather have indigestion than heart disease, thank you very much. His confident misdiagnosis meant I was temporarily willing to ignore the obvious cardiac symptoms that had propelled me to Emergency that morning: central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm.

Even I knew that arm pain is NOT a symptom of acid reflux, yet somehow that first plausible answer seemed preferable to the far more serious real answer I would receive much later.      .      . Continue reading “The “handlebar gripping” cardiac symptom”

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful…”

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters     August 17, 2019

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

This reminder about the amazingness of life from author L.R. Knost has always rung true for me.(1)  And so do these words of a local Kindergarten teacher who tells her kids: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”

But we do get upset. Really upset. Especially when we observe that we’re getting not nearly enough “amazing” and way too much “awful” . Continue reading ““Life is amazing. And then it’s awful…””

“Doing Harm”: Maya Dusenbery’s new book

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    March 11, 2018

Author Maya Dusenbery interviewed me while I was neck-deep in final copy edits of my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease. She wanted to talk about why women heart patients are more likely to be under-diagnosed than men, and then – worse! – more likely to be under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed. Maya was writing her own book at the time, and it’s finally out this week. Its pithy title sums up the focus pretty succinctly: Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick. Here’s a 10-word summary of her book:

My own review of Dusenbery’s book starts with this warning to my heart sisters: “Do NOT start reading Doing Harm unless you have first taken your blood pressure meds!”    Continue reading ““Doing Harm”: Maya Dusenbery’s new book”

Good news: your story is not yet locked in

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    February 18, 2018

I’ve been thinking about storytelling lately. I encounter a lot of patient stories from my Heart Sisters blog readers here, as well as from the women who raise a hand during my Heart-Smart Women public presentations. (I’ve learned that even the briefest of questions often hides a story behind it). I also tell stories – both my own, and other women’s. A heart patient’s story often kicks off with a profound this-can’t-be-happening-to-me sense of disbelief as we try to make sense out of something that makes no sense at all. Telling the story to others helps us do this at first. “How did this happen?” demand our worried family and friends while we lie there, overwhelmed, and thus our storytelling begins.

I’ve also learned that the way we tell that same story to ourselves and to others changes over time. And as NPR broadcaster Glynn Washington (of Snap Judgment) said in a recent interview, when you start changing your story, you change the storyteller:  Continue reading “Good news: your story is not yet locked in”