Tag Archives: resilience

Dear Carolyn: “I’m having the time of my life!”

6 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As part of my Dear Carolyn series of posts featuring my readers’ unique stories on what it’s like to become a heart patient, this one involves a woman with not one but several medical diagnoses. When distressing symptoms were initially diagnosed by her oncologist as lymphoedema (a condition sometimes associated with cancer treatments), her first response was: My future looks positively bleak.” But when she finally heard the corrected diagnosis of heart failure from an internal medicine specialist one year following her chemo treatments and radiation, her surprising reaction was this:

“I just about hugged the internist when he told me it wasn’t lymphoedema after all – it was just my heart!  I thought he’d given me my life back again. And he had! Like receiving my own Magna Carta. And in a single week, with the help of my new cardiac medications, off came the 30 extra pounds of fluid I’d been hauling around.”

That was certainly a first for me (somebody thrilled by a heart failure diagnosis!?) Today’s Dear Carolyn letter focuses on a favourite subject of mine: resilience in the face of a medical crisis, and it starts with a woman known to us simply as Honey BeeContinue reading

Oscillating narrative: the learned art of re-creating ourselves

17 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

“We all re-create ourselves; it’s just that some of us use more imagination than others.”  ~ Madonna

Whether we want to or not, we often end up re-creating ourselves after a significant medical diagnosis. Researcher Dr. Kathy Charmaz calls this phenomenon the loss of self after such a diagnosis, a loss experienced while we’re learning to adapt and adjust to this strange new life as a patient. When we try to talk about this painful loss to others who haven’t ever experienced it, most have trouble taking us seriously, or they may want to jolly us out of our current reality.

Yet how we talk about this matters to how we get through it. Continue reading

Resilience: it’s hard to feel like a victim when you’re laughing

18 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Somebody recently described my presentations on women’s heart disease as “part stand-up comedy and part serious cardiology talk!” I think she was right. I now believe, in fact, that some parts of my own heart attack story are downright hilarious. In hindsight, of course.

They weren’t one bit amusing when they were actually happening.

Authors Drs. Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin would likely say that this ability to see humour in a catastrophic health crisis can be a key ingredient in healing resiliency. In their book The Resilient Self, they describe creativity and humour respectively in this way: “they turn nothing into something and something into nothing.”   Continue reading

Why we keep telling – and re-telling – our heart attack stories

21 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

A woman in the grocery store calls out from the neighbouring checkout line: “Hey! You’re the heart lady, right?” She continues, in what seems a much-too-loud voice, that she had been in the audience at one of my annual Cardiac Café presentations at the university. But “heart lady?” Is this really how I want to be known and recognized for the rest of my natural life?   Continue reading