Book reviews

“This is the very best book of its kind, a must-read…”

Dr. Barbara Keddy, Professor Emerita, Dalhousie University, Halifax

Want to purchase your own copy of my book? You can ask for it at your favourite bookshop (always my own preference to support our local booksellers!) or order it online (please take a moment to leave a Customer Review online afterwards, too!):

  • Amazon (This book spent its first week as Amazon’s #1 NEW RELEASE in the Medicine/Public Health category!) – and it’s now in its second printing of both hardcover and paperback editions! Thank you, readers!
  • Barnes and Noble
  • IndieBooks
  • Johns Hopkins University Press (mention this  code HTWN to save 20% off the list price)

Early Reviews:

“If you are a woman, or love a woman, this is a book for you! Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of women. Here is a book focused on women’s cardiovascular health. It is all here – prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Read it for the people you love.”  

Edward K. Kasper, MD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, co-author of Living Well With Heart Failure: The Misnamed, Misunderstood Condition

“This work is an important contribution to the discussion about heart attack and misdiagnosis in women. Thomas’s personal story—alongside the stories of millions of other women—provides a needed reminder of recognizing one’s symptoms, avoiding denial, and seeking medical attention. This elegant book is a unique addition to women’s health books and a necessary read for women and the people who care about them.” 

Roger S. Blumenthal, MD, Director, The Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease

“A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease is an excellent book that will not only benefit any woman living with heart disease, but also physicians and other health professionals caring for women. It gives a unique perspective on heart disease that has really not been heard until now–the patient’s perspective.

“Thomas is a woman who lives with heart disease. As a result of her personal experience, she has become the voice of many patients in the world through her blog, her writings, her public speaking, and now through this book. As a woman who experienced a heart attack, was misdiagnosed, and deals with everything that living with heart disease entails, Carolyn uses humor wrapped in practicality and common sense to help women navigate their disease and all the overwhelming emotions that come with this diagnosis. Additionally, she has provided useful information for health care teams to appreciate what patients need and expect from their practitioners. To paraphrase the above quote from Osler, the great physician will treat not just the disease but the patient. As a physician, I feel that that is also the message Carolyn sends to us. And it is an important one for the health care team to remember.

“I am so grateful to have her as someone I send my patients to connect with on the Internet. Her thoughtful comments on her experiences, combined with her interviews of others and her reflections on research, have made her the voice of the heart patient. Hers is the voice I hear when I look at my patient and realize that everything I said was not absorbed because my patient is still recoiling from the diagnosis I handed her. She is the person whispering in my ear, asking me to remember to introduce everyone in the room. She (and her blog) is the reason I insisted that the gowns in my women’s heart center open in the front and are warm and cozy.

Carolyn has given a voice to the female heart patient in a way that few others have been able to. I am grateful that she decided to write this book, because I believe it will improve the dialogue between heart patients and their physicians. She empowers women to improve their health, their life, and their ability to communicate with their doctors effectively. She also validates what many patients feel but have not been able to express. This book will allow women living with heart disease to know they are not alone and, I hope, will help them find their own voices.”

Martha Gulati, MD FACC, Chief of Cardiology, University of Arizona and Editor-in-Chief, CardioSmart – American College of Cardiology (and author of the foreword to my book!)

“This is an important book – in fact, indispensable for women and their families whose lives have been affected by heart disease. It should be required reading for student health professionals as a lesson about listening to and taking seriously the voices of female patients. Carolyn Thomas interprets research in an easy to understand language and her writing style is elegant. Significantly, much of the information is based upon many of her own experiences living with heart disease and the many comments of other women who are avid readers of her blogs.

“She writes about my journey as a survivor myself of a heart attack. For weeks and months after the crisis I followed her blogs on Heart Sisters. The support I received from the many comments and Carolyn herself was and remains invaluable.

“This is the very best book of its kind, a must read for health care professionals to better understand the challenges of women facing the trauma of living with heart disease.”

 Dr. Barbara Keddy, Professor Emerita, Dalhousie University, Halifax

“Heart disease is still perceived as a ‘man’s disease,’ and men’s symptoms are taken more seriously. This gender gap in the treatment and management of heart disease and stroke translates into faster, better treatment for men than for women, even though the mortality rate for women, especially younger women, has been higher than that for men since 1984. Heart disease now kills more women every year than all forms of cancer combined, writes Carolyn Thomas in A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease.

“When she walked into the emergency room of the hospital where she worked and exhibited classic symptoms of a heart attack, Thomas was examined and told that her test results were ‘normal’, and her questions were annoying the doctor. Feeling not only worried, but embarrassed and humiliated, she was misdiagnosed and sent home with instructions to see her family physician for a prescription for antacid drugs; her question about the pain down her left arm went unanswered.

“Bringing her experience as a woman living with heart disease together with dedicated research, she explains the most common symptoms, but warns that 10 percent of women having a heart attack ‘experience no chest symptoms at all,’ though 95 percent of them had suspected a problem during the weeks or even months leading up to their heart attack.

“Shining a light on what is often an invisible illness, Thomas shares the stories of women survivors as young as twenty-six and as old as sixty-three, some who had been experiencing symptoms for as long as two years before being correctly diagnosed and treated. Her book gives women the knowledge they need to become their own advocates in a health care system that continues to be weighted against them.”

Foreword Reviews, reviewed by Kristine Morris

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Carolyn Thomas, a journalist, public relations specialist and heart attack survivor, draws on her experiences, those of other women, and research to describe heart disease as experienced by women. Relating the story of her own heart attack and its aftermath throughout chapters, she outlines the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, why women delay in seeking treatment, cardiac misdiagnosis in women, male-pattern vs. female-pattern heart disease, recovery, depression and heart disease, living with an invisible illness, the doctor-patient relationship, coping, and emotional reactions to a diagnosis of heart disease. 

©2018 Book News Review

“Carolyn Thomas has given the world the gift of knowledge and personal experience, for sure, but it’s her down-to-earth writing and compassion that makes for compelling and essential reading.”  

Kathy Kastner, Toronto author/patient advocate


“Carolyn Thomas writes with the empathy of one who has experienced heart disease herself. Her personal story, as well as comments from other heart disease survivors from her Heart Sisters blog, are all interwoven with commonsense advice and guidance to help the heart patient and her loved ones advocate for the best care possible at every stage. The author includes a wonderful plain-language glossary of medical terms, and her detailed notes section is a testament to the depth of research that backs her work.

“This book brings a needed focus to a leading killer of women today, and offers insight regarding the patient’s perspective. It is a must-read for women and their loved ones. For all women’s health practitioners and collections. 

 Library Journal, reviewed by Crystal Renfro

“I just finished reading your book and I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it – every last little bit of it! I’m no longer a practicing physician and I don’t have heart disease, but I am a person who lives with chronic illness, as well as a person who just lives. I think anyone on this earth can get a lot of out of your book. It is incredibly well written, with great humour and intense honestly. I especially love the part where you “teach” health care professionals how to relate to patients.

“And in terms of Chapter 7 – that reviewer doctor who didn’t like it clearly has never been a patient with a serious disease. It was right on, and I’m so glad it was there.

“Carolyn, you did a great thing by putting out this book. I know it cannot have been an easy thing to do, but you have left a wonderful legacy for all women as well as the medical profession. I am very happy to have read it and I wish you much success with it.”

 Dr. Ruth Simkin, retired palliative care physician, Victoria, BC

“Your book is stunning. I will be picking up several copies and giving it out like candy as a perfect gift to women friends. I admire your work. Beautiful success, Carolyn!”

 Thelma Fayle, author, Victoria, BC

I do need another copy. Mine is getting dog-eared with all the avid reading it gets!

Pauline Johnson, heart patient, Victoria, BC

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A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease is a wonderful blend of accurate, valuable information about heart disease in women. The book is also part memoir with Carolyn Thomas candidly weaving in aspects of her personal experience, including being misdiagnosed, as well as experiences of other women.

“Heart disease is different in women. Women experience different symptoms. More importantly, too many women do not seek out treatment and often when they do, they are misdiagnosed. Thomas is on a mission to educate women about all things heart health related.

A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease is an important, much-needed book that sheds light on a host of topics directly impacting women’s heart health.

“Some of theses vital topics are:

  • recognizing early signs of a heart attack in women
  • The danger in delaying seeking treatment
  • The link between pregnancy complications and heart disease down the road
  • Why so many women are misdiagnosed
  • The importance of cardiac rehab
  • What to expect during recovery from a heart attack
  • How your life is forever impacted going forward
  • Depression following a cardiac event (it’s common)
  • How to become a more skilled and confident self-advocate

“My very favorite chapter has to be Chapter 7, “One-Downmanship: You Think You Have Pain?”  In this chapter, Thomas addresses some bumper sticker platitudes and societal expectations. You know the ones. Everything always works out in the end. This was meant to be. Life doesn’t give you more than you can handle. There’s a lesson in this. Thomas prefers to translate them like this: Blah, blah, blah…there is no Fair Fairy in life.”

“A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease offers practical, doable tips on how to find your patient voice, how to handle fatigue, how to ask for (and accept) help and more. In addition, there are suggestions for doctors, nurses and other hospital staff members on how to treat patients. The included checklist on exam room etiquette is priceless. Whether you are a heart patient or a breast cancer patient, sitting on that exam table with your chest exposed countless times while being examined, poked and prodded, means you are far too often in a vulnerable state, and as Thomas states, courtesy and good manners in medicine should not be too much to expect.”

Nancy Stordahl, author, breast cancer patient, blogger at Nancy’s Point

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“Thank you, Carolyn, for your wonderful book! And especially Chapter 6, “I’m What a Person with an Invisible Illness Looks Like” – which opens with such a great description of the daily “events” we experience and the frustration of being told how well we look. I sent a glowing review to both my cardiologist and my PCP. My cardiologist says he’s going to order a copy right away. Your book has empowered us to think not just for, but of ourselves, and that is a major, major accomplishment. I wish I could put a copy of your book in the hands of all the people I know — but since that’s not possible, I can at least hope that a lot of women here in Boston will read it. “
Sandra Sizer, heart patient, Boston

“I immediately recognized myself in the first few pages! I highly recommend this book for all women even if you don’t have heart disease. This is a must read.”

Laura Mishefske, heart patient, Muskego, Wisconsin

“A major risk factor for your heart health is being a woman who develops heart disease and goes to a doctor who is not familiar with heart disease in women.

“But what you can do about this problem is to buy this user-friendly book for yourself, your sister, your mom, your doctor, and your female friends. If we can’t educate every doctor today, we can educate ourselves, and Carolyn Thomas has given us the tools to do that. ”

Deborah Bors, Senior Production Editor, Johns Hopkins University Press

“As someone who has heart disease and has also experienced depression, I find Carolyn’s sharing of her own experience with the situational depression that’s so common among heart patients one of the best narratives I have ever encountered on this topic. 

“This is a well-referenced book that details the personal story of one woman’s heart attack misdiagnosis and survival, plus the emotional roller coaster that ensues during recovery along with helpful suggestions to all of us to both manage this process and thrive. It also provides an impressive glossary of complicated cardiology terms in creating user-friendly, jargon-free translations for heart patients and their caregivers.”

John Sawdon, Cardiac Research Foundation, Toronto, Ontario (Winter Bulletin, Volume 5, Issue 5, February 2018)

Thank you for the book. The chapters dealing with the emotional aspects of our heart conditions was so helpful and validating! Advice for any woman or her partner dealing with heart disease. You addressed the emotional aspects far better than any other literature I’ve read.”

Linda Seegmiller, heart patient

This unique book discusses issues from the pre-hospital setting to recovering at home to the overwhelming feelings and stress that occur after such a major diagnosis.

“Any woman who is concerned about heart health would appreciate this book. The writing is clear and the book provides a wealth of information in the personal accounts of the author and other women who have experienced a major cardiac event. This book also would be useful for all healthcare providers who work with women post-MI, to increase their understanding of the female experience so they can improve the quality of care.

“Women experience heart disease differently from men. This book explores, from the female perspective, the experience of a major cardiac event and the trials and tribulations of emergency, hospital, and home care. The book is an easy read and is full of helpful tips for women who may have cardiac events as well as healthcare providers who provide care to women. The topic is covered with fascinating stories that will make you laugh, yet bring you to tears.

“Every woman over the age of 40 and every healthcare provider who works with women should read this book.”

Gina M. Oliver, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC, CNE, University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, Columbia, MO

May 12, 2018: Featured in the 4th Annual ‘Emerging Local Authors’ event!

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Reviews on social media:

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 Dr. Victor Montori, Mayo Clinic, author of Why We Revolt

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  Burt Cohen, journalist and founder of Angioplasty.org

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Marie Ennis-O’Connor, Digital Health Strategist, patient advocate, Ireland

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Dr. Kelli Roig, Cardiac Specialist, Oregon

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JacquelineWehmueller, former Executive Editor at Johns Hopkins University Press (who first contacted me in 2015 to ask if I’d consider writing a book with them based on my HEART SISTERS blog articles!)

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And then came this response to Kathleen’s review . . .

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  Susan Kjos, kidney transplant patient

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Reviews on Amazon

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Reviews on GoodReads

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Here’s the back story of how my blog-turned-book project came to be. . .

Thanks so much to heart attack survivor Jodi Jackson (quoted not once but twice in my book!) for organizing a Facebook contest way back in April – seven months before the book was even available! – that offered a copy of the book as the prize!
Visit the Facebook page for “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease”

See also:

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