Something has been weighing on my heart lately – quite literally. On a day filled with heartfelt gifts, I’ve been thinking about a recent gift of honest, real information that helped change my perspective and most important: it’s helping me course correct.
This week, I underwent a heart catheterization. Since January, I’ve gone through a progression of tests, and the heart cath provided a solid answer: Coronary Artery Disease. Was I surprised? Not really. I had a pretty good idea thanks to a gift from my Aunt Cherie.
My Aunt’s gift was the gift of information. My family history is filled with women who kept their diagnoses to themselves. “It’s fine. I’m fine,” was my mother’s standard answer – until it wasn’t fine and she had multiple strokes. When I ask about other family members, no one seems to know or information is painted in broad strokes like “heart disease” or “she died of a heart attack.”
The women in my family played their health information cards close to their chest – but it wasn’t from a secretive or unkind place. It wasn’t from a we-don’t-talk-about-Bruno place. No, no, no. It came from a place of not wanting to be a burden. My mother didn’t want anyone to worry. These strong, stoic women didn’t want anyone making a fuss over them. Essentially, they sang the chorus: “It’s fine. I’m fine.”
My mother didn’t want anyone to worry.
These strong, stoic women didn’t want anyone making a fuss over them.
Essentially, they sang the chorus: “It’s fine. I’m fine.”
Sharing your health history with your family is a gift. Gather detailed information – especially the age at disease diagnosis – there are even forms you can use. The National Library of Medicine suggests you begin the process by asking questions at family gatherings – like Mother’s Day!
Now I’m not suggesting that you slide a blood pressure cuff on Granny’s arm as you hand her a mimosa (that thing squeezes tight.) Don’t shove your phone in your mom’s hands and ask that she log into her patient portal (she can’t remember her password.) Nor should you to do a glucose finger prick on Aunt Gladys at the crawfish boil. (that burns.) Maybe read the room.
In all seriousness, while these conversations may not seem like polite dinner conversation, they are important. Knowing your family history is a gift to yourself as you navigate a diagnosis. Knowing your family history is a gift to your loved ones – in the event of an emergency, you can quickly pass on information to providers. Knowing your family history is the gift of a roadmap for your physician.
Knowing your family history is the gift of a roadmap for your physician.
My Aunt Cherie gave me and my family exactly that gift. She broke the “it’s fine – I’m fine” cycle and shares her health information. She wants her nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews to know their family history. That information also helps us care for her, too.
Like my Aunt Cherie, I’m breaking the cycle – right here, by sharing my story with you. I’ve never hesitated to share what means the most to me with you, my customers and friends. My hope is that I can impact someone else’s health journey for the better.
Happy Mother’s Day! Now, go have an awkward conversation!