Tuesday 8th March 2022
This year, as part of International Women's Day 2022, we asked our patient advocate, Livvy Gosney, for her thoughts on the unique challenges women face while undergoing heart valve disease treatment. Here is what she said:
"I take great pride in being a mum, and I’m good mum, but when my symptoms got bad I didn’t feel like I could be a good mum. That was really hard for me psychologically and also practically, because my husband and I had to find ways to make it work around the house while he was at work. That was not an easy time for any of us.
Women also have to cope with the scar and the impact of that on our bodies. I have always been proud of my scar, it’s part of my journey. However it isn’t just aesthetic, it affects your recovery too. Before the operation, I read a lot about specialist bras for post treatment, that help your scar to heal. They’re quite expensive, but I felt like I had to have one. Looking back I don’t think I would have got one - if I was to do it all over again. It wasn’t right for me and my body. I would say to any woman reading this, to listen to your body, and prepare for it the way you think is best.
Immediately after my treatment, I also went into full menopause, which is a rare side effect of open-heart surgery for women around my age. That was quite a lot to deal with on top of everything else! I wasn’t able to go on any menopause medication while my body recovered from the surgery, and with everything going on I didn’t really have the headspace to research how to deal with it. Those night sweats were really hard, and getting my head around what was going on was a struggle. Thankfully, 11 months down the line I am on the right medication and it's much more manageable. But it’s just another example of the challenges women face when going through something like this.
My advice to any woman preparing for treatment is to listen to your body, and speak openly and honestly to family and friends. If they offer help, take it. I always felt I was coping, but looking back I can see I was being overwhelmed. So accept the help when it's offered.
Advocacy is important to me because I want everyone to feel supported, and it means a lot to feel like you’re not alone in this. Women do face unique challenges in this, and if I can help them feel like it's a problem shared, or that they’re not alone, then I will."