by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

ct-palecolours-photomania.jpgSince 1973 (when I was just a tiny baby), my work background has been in journalism,  communications and public relations, spanning almost four decades in corporate, government and non-profit sectors ranging from Mercedes Benz to the Salvation Army. I’m a refugee from the Niagara Falls area to the balmy west coast of Canada; I’m the author of two west coast travel books and one book about living with heart disease;  my little garden won a national garden contest from Gardening Life magazine; I once had lunch with His Royal Highness Prince Edward  (yes, that Prince Edward); and many years ago while I was a student at Queen’s University, I accidentally smashed our old Buick into the station wagon owned by “The English Patient” author, Michael Ondaatje.

I have two grown kidlets, Ben and Larissa – who, luckily for me, both live here in their hometown with their respective spouses (Paula and Randy).  Everly Rose, my first grandchild and the love of my life, lives two blocks away.

But in May 2008, while working at the Victoria Hospice and Palliative Care Society, I became a member of an exclusive club that nobody ever wants to join:  I was hospitalized for a myocardial infarction, what doctors call the “widow-maker” heart attack.

But here’s the frightening part of this story: two weeks earlier, I had actually been sent home from the same hospital’s Emergency Department with a misdiagnosis of acid reflux, despite presenting with textbook Hollywood heart attack symptoms like chest pain, nausea, sweating, and pain radiating down my left arm. “You’re in the right demographic for acid reflux!” was the confident pronouncement of my E.D. physician.

I left hospital that day feeling supremely embarrassed and apologetic because I’d made a big fuss “over nothing!”  I continued to suffer increasingly debilitating symptoms for two full weeks (but hey! at least I knew it wasn’t my heart!) until symptoms finally became so severely unbearable that I again sought medical help – this time to a revised diagnosis of “significant heart disease”.

I later learned (while attending the WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium at the world-famous Mayo Clinic) that, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women my age and younger are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack and sent home from Emergency compared to our male counterparts presenting with identical symptoms.(1) 

Kits PinotAndPrevention No
My very first “Pinot & Prevention” audience after coming home from my Mayo Clinic training in 2008!

I launched this blog Heart Sisters in 2009, mostly just to help publicize my free “Pinot & Prevention” presentations on women’s heart health I started doing after returning from that Mayo training.  It’s now grown like Topsy, with over 15 million views so far from 190 countries! I call my blogging “cardiac rehab for my brain”. My writing’s also been published internationally, including in the British Medical Journal.  And in 2014, the BMJ invited me to be a Patient Reviewer for cardiology papers submitted to the journal for publication, part of their innovative peer review process.

Johns Hopkins University Press approached me in 2015 to ask if I’d ever considered writing a book based on my Heart Sisters blog articles. Thus began a two-year adventure culminating in my book called A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease(ask for it at your local bookshop or order online and save 20% off the list price by using the discount code HTWN when you order!) Also, good news for bulk orders for Canadian shipping: save 20% on bulk orders (10 or more books, for book clubs, support groups, cardiac rehabilitation programs, women’s conferences) by using the code HEARTAUTHOR.  Order directly from my Canadian distributor, Brunswick Books.


(1)  Pope JH, Aufderheide TP, Ruthazer R, et al. Missed diagnoses of acute cardiac ischemia in the emergency department. N Engl J Med. 2000;342:1163-1170.


Here’s how this site’s annual traffic has grown from 27,000 views in 2009 to over 4 million in 2016 (and now over 14.8 million so far!)



.Here are some examples of media coverage about my experience of heart attack and survival at:




Oak Bay News, May 14, 2018 – my book was included in the 4th annual “Emerging Local Authors” collection by the Greater Victoria Public Library!


♥  ♥  ♥

For those who like to believe that I must have needed a cardiac crisis to add meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence (I didn’t!),  here’s how you might like to view the bright side of my story. If I’d never had that heart attack:

  • I would never have applied and been accepted to attend the annual WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium for Women with Heart Disease at the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota – the first Canadian survivor ever invited to attend this prestigious training;
  • I would never have started what turned out to be an award-winning website Heart Sisters all about women and heart disease.  And I would never have been named one of ShareCare‘s Heart Disease: Top 10 Online Influencers.
  • I would never have been named a Women’s Health Hero for 2009 by Our Bodies Ourselves of Boston – one of 20 inductees from seven countries honoured for women’s health activism in our communities;
  • I would never have been granted media accreditation to attend the annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver in 2011, 2014 and 2017 to interview cardiac researchers firsthand while covering the conference proceedings for my Heart Sisters readers;
  • I would never have been awarded an ePatient scholarship to attend Stanford University’s ‘Medicine X’ Conference in September 2012 in Palo Alto, California – based on my “history of patient engagement, community outreach and advocacy”.
  • I would never have written my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease. It’s available in paperback, hardcover, or e-book (Johns Hopkins University Press, November 2017). You can save 20% off the list price by using the discount code HTWN when you order this book online.    Also, here’s a special 20% bulk discount for orders in Canada of 10 or more books (for book clubs, support groups, women’s conferences) by using the code HEARTAUTHOR (and save on direct shipping from Canada);  just email my Canadian distributor Brunswick Books with order details: info (at) brunswickbooks (dot) ca


But those are the only bright sides. I’d really love my old life back. Please . . .

♥   Here’s how to contact me  



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This page was last updated February 28, 2019