Tag Archives: healthy privilege

My open letter to “Patients Included” conferences

6 Mar

different red chair

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Dear medical conference organizers,

Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in your conference later this year. It is a real honour to be asked to help represent the patient voice at your prestigious event. I know that inviting patients alongside your impressive international roster of well-respected physicians is new to you. So congratulations on your interest in the  increasingly important “Patients Included” movement sweeping through medical conferences. By the way, here are the five qualifications your event requires in order to meet those Patients Included criteria.

But as I once wrote to patient blogger (and conference speaker) Carly Medosch:

“I can no longer afford to be ‘honoured’ by any more medical conference invitations.”

Allow me to explain:
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A letter to my pre-heart attack self

22 Aug

Dear Carolyn,

Duly inspired by CBC Wiretap’s How To Age Gracefully(a delightful farewell video letter to their radio fans, e.g. an 8-year old’s wise advice to a 7-year old), I’m sending this letter to my pre-2008 self.  Since my “widowmaker” heart attack that year, and subsequent ongoing cardiac issues, I’ve learned a thing or two about living with a chronic and progressive illness that I wish I’d known BHA (before heart attack).  I think I would have been a nicer and smarter and healthier person had I known these things long ago. So in no particular order, here’s my best advice to a long-ago me:
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When we judge the poor the way we judge the chronically ill

25 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There’s an old joke about a woman who is successfully losing weight by following a very strict diet. But one day, her hubby returns home to find her sitting at the kitchen table finishing off a Hershey chocolate bar. He says to her: “Honey! You’ve been doing so great on your diet until now! How could you eat that chocolate bar?”

And her reply:

“You don’t know how many I wanted . . .”

That response sums up a profound message that goes beyond mere diet-cheating to how swiftly we rush to judgement based simply on what we see.  Mostly, we rush to judge other adults based on actions or behaviours that are none of our business (sometimes criticism is thinly veiled as “caring”I care about you so I have to mention the chocolate bar I see you eating. . . )  We judge others because they are not like us, because they make choices we wouldn’t, or because they make choices we might secretly want to make, too – but stop ourselves from doing.

Dr. Lisa Wade’s provocative essay on how we judge those living in poverty recently reminded me of how those living with a chronic illness diagnosis like heart disease can feel similarly judged.  Continue reading

When we don’t look as sick as we feel

17 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

One morning, I overheard two of my co-workers chatting over coffee at the hospice palliative care unit where we’d worked together for several years. They were talking about one of our colleagues who had been off work on an extended sick leave. One said to the other:

“Oh, I saw ____ the other day. She was out riding her BICYCLE!” 

The way she said the word ‘bicycle’ stuck with me, tossed off with that pared down judgmental tone we use when what we really want to say is: “Hmph… Must be nice!”  The tone somehow implied that anybody who can hop on a bike and toodle around the neighbourhood on a sunny day couldn’t be THAT sick after all. Continue reading

‘Healthy Privilege’ – when you just can’t imagine being sick

13 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas   ♥  @HeartSisters

Have you had the experience of knowing something intuitively, but without realizing that the thing you know already has a name?  For example, have you ever found yourself limping along on the losing end of an argument, yet  only much later (when it was far too late!) you suddenly thought of just the perfectly witty retort that you should have come up with? 

There’s a name for that. The French call this l’esprit d’escalier’, literally “the wit of the staircase”. You’re welcome.

Similarly, I’ve been writing for some time about my niggling frustration over something else that I didn’t even realize had an actual name.  Continue reading