My unofficial (but weirdly true) Hierarchy of Heart Disease

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

During my first evening attending our “Heart to Heart” 7-week education series for recently diagnosed heart patients, the man sitting next to me leaned over and asked me: “What are you in for?” 

I told him that I’d had what doctors call the “widow maker” heart attack two weeks earlier, and that I now had a stainless steel stent implanted in a major coronary artery that had been 99% blocked.  He interrupted me with a cheery:

I have THREE stents!”

As he went on and on in exquisite detail about his cardiac event, I felt like my own was suddenly pretty puny by comparison. Three stents? How could I possibly compete with that? My previously-fascinating heart attack misdiagnosis story now seemed hardly even worth mentioning, really.

I came to observe during the  following weeks and months that heart patients, consciously or not, seem to slot themselves arbitrarily into what I now call the unspoken Hierarchy of Heart DiseaseContinue reading “My unofficial (but weirdly true) Hierarchy of Heart Disease”

The “emotional labour” of living with heart disease

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

“My hubby is stuck with me for another 15 years as long as I keep following doctor’s orders.”

“I told my family that I now had a pig valve in my heart – but I was disappointed when the doctor told me I couldn’t keep the bacon.”

“I am determined to outlive my husband – because I want to clean out his garage!”

Heart patients often use humour* like this to distract themselves from the high levels of stress and fear often associated with a life-altering diagnosis like heart disease – such as distressing symptoms, upcoming surgery, diagnostic tests, or even the ongoing awareness of a significantly increased risk of future cardiac events.  So reports Nicholas Lockwood, whose research focused on how heart patients use humour to help them cope with their condition – but ended up showing some surprising results.  Continue reading “The “emotional labour” of living with heart disease”

Finding the funny when the diagnosis isn’t

Note from Carolyn: “I’m taking the weekend off as we celebrate with family and friends the wedding of my favourite daughter, Larissa to her longtime beau Randy.  So meanwhile, I’ve obtained permission to republish this guest post by Casey Quinlan for you. Enjoy!”

It’s not easy hearing your name and [insert dread diagnosis here]. I know this only too well after having to find the funny in my own journey through cancer. Cancer is, however, most often a diagnosis that you fight to a defined end. What’s it like to find the funny in a chronic condition?

I have a number of friends who are battling MS, one of whom, Amy Gurowitz, shared a link on Facebook the other day to Jim Sweeney’s online empire of improv humor and chronic disease. Jim’s MS journey started with vision problems in 1985, he was officially diagnosed in 1990, and has been dealing with the disease – finding the funny most of the time – ever since. Continue reading “Finding the funny when the diagnosis isn’t”