Well Done Woman – Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters

Carolyn Thomas writes an award winning blog My HEART SISTERS on women’s heart health.  I “discovered” Heart Sisters when I was diagnosed with atrial fib and have reposted many of her informative posts.  

At the height of her career Carolyn had a “widow-maker” heart attack, named FOR the fact that most having this type of cardiac incident die.  To our benefit, Carolyn survived and is a patient advocate, speaking, writing and listening, to hundreds of women with their own stories on My HEART SISTERS.  

Carolyn is the author of A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease*

Carolyn Thomas, a WELL DONE WOMAN** with a BIG HEART

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Here’s Carolyn, in her own words (with a few edits, rearranges & colors by me, JW):

“. . . 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 caused by a 95% blocked coronary artery – what doctors call the “widow-maker” heart attack.”

Until then Carolyn had been . . .   “just your average active, outgoing PR person, a longtime Run Leader at the Y’s marathon clinic, involved in a number of community and professional organizations – all while juggling a fun and busy social life with close-knit family and friends.”

“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.

I call my blogging “cardiac rehab for my brain”

“Since 1973 (when I was just a tiny baby), my work background has been in journalism,  communications and public relations. I’m a refugee from the Niagara Falls area to the balmy west coast of Canada; I’m the author of two 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  (yesthat 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. And that’s just about as much fascinating trivia as the average person can possibly stand knowing about me.”

“I have two grown kidlets who, luckily for me, both live here in their hometown . . . and my first grandchild), the ever-so-sweet happy girl, Everly Rose, born in May 2015.”

Back in 1997, I made what the Victoria Times Colonist called at the time a “riches to rags” career move when I decided to abandon the expense account world of corporate public relations in order to do something socially meaningful for a change. Thus I was able to round out my three decades of PR experience in corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors – ranging from Mercedes-Benz to the Salvation Army.

My very first “Pinot & Prevention” audience, 2008

My very first “Pinot & Prevention” audience in 2008

“I launched Heart Sisters blog 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! “

“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 HeartSisters 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!) “or Order directly from my Canadian distributor, Brunswick Books.

WELL DONE Carolyn! WELL DONE

      *      *      *

We hope you enjoy and perhaps are even inspired by the series to celebrate women who, in our estimation, are “well done”.  

**What’s a “Well Done Women”?

  • She has weathered decades of life experience.
  • She’s navigated life changes – whether by choice, chance or necessity –  learns and continues to adapt.
  • She contributes to the world in diverse ways, small or large, sharing her values through social causes, charities, or caring for people, the planet & animals.
  • She is curious, creative and open to learning or having new experiences.

Sneek Peek into my sketchy, messy life – painting mirrors life

Perhaps because I was a psychotherapist, the human form and face is what draws me (pun intended) as art subjects.

There is an interesting process in painting that mirrors our human progression:  Start with a sketch, fill in the darks and lights, correct, edit, change colors, redo, undo, fill in more detail and continue with more redirection and correction.

Each of these studies has layers and layers of acrylic paint.  Traces of the colored layers are still visible . . .  like all humans . . . 

I should take more pictures to chronicle the changing layers.  Here’s a glimpse into two stages

I finally run out of steam . . . or interest . . .  declare it done and move on to the next challenge.  Like my life

Whoa is me (no complaints, just the facts – parenthetically speaking)

Unbeknownst to you, who read posts, on MAXyourMIND and CURIOUStotheMAX, you occupy an important place in my ever shrinking life. 

I’ll explain:

If you are a recent blog follower you may not know I struggle with a chronic condition – fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue.  I look fine (except for the weight I’ve gained self-medicating on food) and when out and about I am reasonably coherent and polite  Few people would know:

  • I avoid interacting with others and lead a relatively solitary life because normal stimuli is a stressor and triggers even more bone-deep exhaustion, whole body pain and brain fog.
  • My feet burn from walking
  • My gums hurt from chewing
  • I retired largely because I would be out-of-commission for days after seeing clients
  • I regularly have appointments with 4 different medical specialists plus 5 irregularly (the appointments are irregular, not the specialists)
  • When depressed I cry at dog food & laundry commercials.

I was diagnosed in 1986 when the “condition” was considered by doctors to be psycho-somatic – not real, just something I “thought” was wrong with me and psychiatric treatment was needed.   

judy by Judy

As I’ve gotten older (and of course, wiser) my system responds more and more negatively to all kinds of stimuli.  Just reading, watching, listening to strife, mayhem, pillage or plunder (whether fact or fiction) as even pleasurable activities, like being with friends, can trigger days of physical and mental exhaustion.  I could go on and on about all my “symptom-stuff” but it depresses me to write about it (a symptom not talked about because it requires psychiatric intervention, just like all the doctors believed). I’m not complaining (I save that for my husband and close friends – aren’t they the lucky ones, irony intended).

Why then am I yet again writing a post about fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue?  After reading Ron Davis’ story I decided it was a small thing I could do to help raise awareness for National Fibromyalgia ME/chronic fatigue day.   

Click here:

Ron Davis pioneered technology that fueled the Human Genome Project. Now his greatest challenge is curing his own son.

Ron Davis’ son Whitney is on the extreme end of the spectrum whereas I mirror just a teeny bit of his journey on the mild end of the spectrum.  

Whitney was functioning as a photographer for a good portion of his young adulthood until his ability to withstand any outside stimuli increased and his functioning declined.  He is now bed ridden, fed through a feeding tube and all sensory input – sight, sound, touch – triggers an overwhelming, debilitating cascade of symptoms.

These types of “conditions” are beginning to be researched (now that pharmaceuticals have realized there are millions of people afflicted world-wide and million of dollars to be made).  Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions. The disorder affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and 3-6% of the world population. 

I thank you for being a part of my life (a much bigger part than you ever knew), helping me keep my brain working, my sense of humor in tact (if not in bounds) and give me a reason to contribute in some small way.

I say a Baha’i prayer every day and thank God for what he hasn’t given me.  I’ve been blessed and unbeknownst to you, you are all a part of my blessing.

judy

Hysterical Middle Aged Woman’s Syndrome

Difference in reactions to Pacemaker & Fibromyalgia

If you want to know more about these invisible illnesses you can read.

http://www.fmaware.org/

https://medlineplus.gov/chronicfatiguesyndrome.html

Links to WorldWide ME/chronic fatigue Organizations”

 

Freddie’s Friday’s Fantastic Finds

NOT Freddie, Male ModelDear all my dearest fans,

SInce retiring Peggy & Judy (hereby referred to as P & J) have not been able to keep me in the style in which I prefer to be kept.  Gourmet doggie treats, doggie day care and trips to the salon are not, so they say,  in their Social-Security-check budget (Social Security, it seems, is neither very social nor secure . ..  for canines).

I thought about crowd-funding but have settled on T-shirts.  They require no ironing and are user-friendly (the T-shirts as well as P & J).

Please buy my T-shirts. click here zazzle.com/store/curioustothemax.  They make wonderful Canine Companion Clothing for all  dog and human-walking.  I promise to use all the proceeds for MY DOGGONE GOOD.

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CCE

Certified Canine Entrepreneur

https://www.zazzle.com/store/curioustothemax

Struggling to surrender to life

My biggest struggle is to not struggle.   The more I struggle to push through fibromyalgia fatigue, and stay engaged in life, the more fatigued I become.  After over 2 decades of living with a chronic condition struggling has become a self-defeating habit.

judy

Soul Pancake “. . . brought in people ages 0-100 to answer some of life’s big questions. In this episode, we asked people “what are you struggling with right now?” From homework to depression, one thing rings true: humans, at any age, are struggling with something.

What about you, what are you struggling with right now? Share your experience in the comments section if you feel up for it.”

 

Peek into my Painted LIfe – Life Imitates Art

Taking a painting class as well as life drawing.   Because of a class schedule mix-up, the class is oil PORTRAIT PAINTING – a bit more advanced than I am and I use acrylic paint which is a bit trickier for portraits.  Luckily the assignments are using photographs which are already reduced to 2 dimensions, making it a bit easier. 

The teacher, mercifully, explained that paintings go through ugly stages and with each layer of paint the image gets a bit more refined. 

It occurred to me that in life we go through ugly stages before we become more refined.  Like paintings we all have layers and layers of “stuff” beneath the surface of what others see. Here’s a Peek at mine (painting that is, not life):

He’s not quite finished . . . like life, the closer I look the more I find that needs changing, tweaking . . .  and like my hair . . . re-coloring . . .

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Judy’s “Psycho-Logical” Mind – How to live in the present moment

I always smile when people tell me they want to figure out how to live in the present moment.  My response is – it’s impossible not to live in the present moment, the present is all there is . . . this very nano-second in time.   

Full Disclosure

I’m simultaneously blessed and cursed.  I remember very little of my past (including yesterday) and have difficulty thinking about the future. I have to concentrate to plan ahead, only have goals if they have been imposed and my sense of time is . . . if it weren’t for the sun or the clock I’d have no sense of time . . .

My brain doesn’t “think” whole thoughts but rather gathers impressions, patterns, concepts.  When whole thoughts, words, come out of my mouth (or the computer keyboard) it’s the first time I’ve heard them.

It’s not that I practice living in the present moment . . . it’s simply how my brain is hard-wired.  If your brain is similarly hard-wired you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If your brain is wired differently you may be goal-oriented, remember details about your childhood, even be prone to anxiety and stymied about what I’m trying to describe.

Why it’s called “peace of MIND”

It’s our THINKING that focuses on the past or the future.  The measure of our peace of MIND is determined by how much we are able to focus our thinking in the present.

That’s largely why meditation, reading, sewing, exercise, painting . . . doing anything that captures your attention as you experience it creates the “flow” where past and future are not in your thoughts.

 Every time we think “should have”, “could have”, or “would have” we are THINKING about past experience. Every time we become anxious or fearful we are THINKING about a future, which may or may not happen. 

Maybe your reaction is . . .  that doesn’t make sense, for someone who spent decades as a psychotherapist analyzing, dissecting, bisecting life’s experiences, expectations and beliefs.   

“One hours reflection is worth 70 years of pious worship”

Because we are a composite of all our past choices and experiences, thinking, reflecting on the past is important IF our focus is to learn and grow.  Reflection about our past or future, without learning, is not usually helpful when we stay stuck in  “shoulds”, “coulds”, “woulds” or “what if’s”.

Irrespective of what happened yesterday or last year and what may or may not happen tomorrow, the present moment is all you have, however, your brain is wired. 

Reflect on that.