Tag Archives: living with heart disease

Living with heart disease – and your whole family

12 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

For more than 30 years, Dr. Wayne Sotile was the director of psychological services for Wake Forest University’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program. Which is to say that he’s spent a lot of time talking and listening to heart patients and their families. In 2008, while recuperating from my own heart attack, I discovered his must-read book called Thriving With Heart Disease.*  That title, by the way, has always bugged my Alaskan friend Dr. Stephen Parker (a cardiac psychologist and himself a heart attack survivor) who once made this comment about the book’s title:

“Just as soon as I can gather myself together, I am planning on writing a book called ‘Thriving After I Lost All My Body Parts’…”

Despite that small quibble about the title, Dr. Sotile is a terrific writer who really nails it when it comes to guiding those who are freshly-diagnosed with a chronic and progressive condition like heart disease.  Another of his many books expands that guidance.  It recognizes that it’s often the patient’s entire family who need help coping with the stresses and changes brought on by a cardiac diagnosis. Such help, he claims, can actually be the key to recovering.   Continue reading

Little social support: a big gap for younger heart patients

19 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥ @HeartSisters

I used to offer to sell to my non-Ukrainian friends the guest list from our big Ukrainian wedding. Imagine 450 names, all of whom were raised in a wonderful Slavic culture that knows what to do when hard times strike. No sooner do they hear of a friend or neighbour’s problems (like a family tragedy or a serious health crisis) – and they start pitching in to help. Such support often starts with baking, cooking and getting the casserole dishes lined up on the kitchen counter for imminent delivery to the freshly-stricken person’s fridge. Researchers know that having social support like this from others following a heart attack (or any serious health crisis) helps not only with physical recuperation, but also with emotional and psychological recovery, too. Yet virtually all published health research on the important quality-of-life issue of social support so far has been done on men.

White men.

White men, almost all of them seniors.

So lots of old white men studied, but very few women – and very few patients of either gender who were younger than 55 years of age.  But the VIRGO study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finally attempts to address this gap.(1)  . . .
Continue reading

The day I made peace with an errant organ

3 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Here’s my theory: few health crises in life are as traumatic as surviving a cardiac event. I developed this theory while I was busy having my own heart attack in the spring of 2008.

For starters, heart attack symptoms often come out of the blue (in fact, almost two-thirds of women who die of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.(1)  Having a heart attack can feel so unimaginably terrifying that almost all of us try desperately to dismiss or deny cardiac symptoms. And according to a report published in Global Heart, the journal of the World Heart Federation, women are twice as likely to die within one year even if they do survive a heart attack compared to our male counterparts.(2)

So if – and each of these is still, sadly, a great big fat IF for too many women – we survive the actual cardiac event, and if we are near a hospital that’s able to provide an experienced team of cardiologists/cardiovascular surgeons/cardiac nurses, and if we are correctly diagnosed, and if we receive timely and appropriate treatment, and if the resulting damage to our oxygen-deprived heart muscle is not too severe, we get to finally go home, safe and sound.

And that’s where the real trauma starts.   Continue reading

A “crazy-making vicious cycle of stress and discontent”

24 Jun

circle of concern

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters

The best business management lesson that Jen Thorson ever learned may well be a lesson worth learning for all of us – particularly those of us living with heart disease (or any other chronic and progressive diagnosis).

Early in her business career, Jen (now a 30-something mom, distance runner, heart attack survivor and blogger), took a management course called “Dealing with Difficult People Without Losing Your Cool” (and who among us has not signed up for such a course at work, usually with a verrrry specific person in mind?)  Continue reading

There is no “Fair Fairy” in life

27 May

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

In the year 2000, I started working in the field of hospice palliative care.

That experience was more profoundly educational than any university course I’ve ever taken, any book I’ve ever read, any personal growth workshop I’ve shelled out money for.

And the biggest lessons I learned over these years stemmed from one simple truism:

“There is no ‘Fair Fairy’ in life.”    Continue reading