Listen up, ladies: 16 things I’ve been meaning to tell you

by Carolyn Thomas

These days, I like to ask women in my heart health presentation audiences what they imagine I would have done had it been my daughter Larissa suffering the same heart attack symptoms that I’d been doing my best to ignore while on that cross-country flight from Ottawa.

Would I have patted her nicely on the head and urged her to just hang in there for nine more hours?  No, my heart sisters, you can rest assured that I would have been screaming blue murder to get immediate help for her.  Yes, even if it meant turning the damned airplane around during this medical emergency.

I was lucky. I managed to survive a heart attack that night on that plane – despite my very foolish determination to “not make a fuss”.  Ever since, I’ve been trying my best to bonk women on the head with reminders to put themselves first on their priority lists, and to be their own best health advocates. But this is an uphill battle that is being waged throughout all levels of women’s health care. Apparently, not even surviving a cardiac crisis is enough to convince some women that they need to start carving out “me-time” every day for the sake of their physical and mental health.   Continue reading “Listen up, ladies: 16 things I’ve been meaning to tell you”

“Seeking Social Solace”: why aren’t heart patients online?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

See that microscopically tiny little purple sliver near the top of the pie chart? That’s heart disease – and the sliver represents how many heart patients are going online to engage with others about our shared diagnosis. As you can see, we make up barely 2% of all diagnoses discussed by patients on social media, the second smallest slice of this very big tasty pie.  You might wonder why that is given that, compared to every other disease included in this study’s findings, heart disease is our biggest killer. Continue reading ““Seeking Social Solace”: why aren’t heart patients online?”

Does surviving a heart attack make you a better person?

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Here’s what happens when a PR person (like me, for instance) survives a heart attack, but is no longer well enough to return to work. During extended medical leave, that PR person continues to do just what she knows how to do: she writes, she does public talks, she looks stuff up.  She  launches a blog and gets invited to attend cardiology conferences to speak or to write about the proceedings for her blog readers.

And all around her, people then respond by gushing things like:

“You have taken this catastrophically bad thing and turned it into a wonderfully good thing!”

The late Dr. Jessie Gruman would have likely recognized this not-so-subtle expectation that good patients will somehow take the lemons that life curveballs at them and make deliciously noble lemonade.  Continue reading “Does surviving a heart attack make you a better person?”

A heart film to watch before the “Pink Season” gets here

We’re approaching the Pink Season, my heart sisters. It’s that time of year when breast cancer awareness campaigns and their accompanying corporate marketing shills rev into high gear. Last Pinktober, we saw pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, pink-handled Tasers, and (yes, seriously) pink Smith & Wesson handguns, each somehow helping us to be more aware of breast cancer. What could possibly top what breast cancer survivor and author Barbara Ehrenreich calls this “cult of pink kitsch” again this year? (See also: Think Before You Pink for some important questions* to ask about that pink ribbon).

From my perspective as a 37+ year veteran in the public relations field, I have to say that the breast cancer folks have done a fabulous job in raising awareness of their cause. So fabulous, in fact, that they have erroneously convinced women that breast cancer is our biggest health threat.

It is not, of course.  This year, heart disease will kill six times more women than breast cancer will.  In fact, heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.  Yet heart patients and those who care for us seem to be oddly content sitting quietly on the back burner of that massive pink stovetop.

So in the interests of offering some balance here amidst a torrent of pinkwashing, I invite you to watch this 3-minute film called “Just a Little Heart Attack” from the American Heart Association.  Continue reading “A heart film to watch before the “Pink Season” gets here”

“All the SCAD ladies, put your hands up!”

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Heart attack survivor Laura Haywood-Cory, one of my heart sisters and a fellow “graduate” of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at Mayo Clinic, emailed me with great excitement last week:

“The Wall Street Journal interview with Katherine, me and Dr. Hayes is now live!!”

This WSJ piece tells the inspiring story of how heart attack survivor  Katherine Leon, with Laura’s help, convinced a world-famous hospital to launch research on the rare and deadly heart condition they had each survived: spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD. (See also: When Your Artery Tears).  

Continue reading ““All the SCAD ladies, put your hands up!””