We love Cynthia Chauhan! Cynthia currently serves on the Board of Directors as our Patient Advocate, and we cannot thank her enough for her dedication, support, and involvement with the society. You may have had the pleasure of encountering her at a past meeting or attending a session where she has shared her experience as a heart failure patient (most recently at the 2017 Comprehensive Review Course & Update in Scottsdale, AZ). She is a wonderful soul, and it is her positive outlook on life, honesty, and hope that inspires all at the HFSA.
- Tell us about yourself!
My name is Cynthia Chauhan. I have stage III heart failure with preserved ejection fraction which was diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago and a number of comorbidities including stage III kidney failure secondary to kidney cancer and nephrectomy. There are very few treatment options for heart failure patients with preserved ejection fraction and 50% of us die within the first five years from diagnosis so I enter every clinical trial for HFpEF for which I am eligible. The heart failure has turned my life into having to take twice as long to do things half as well but I remain an active, engaged, contributing member of society. I have a wonderful son; four dogs and one cat; and love to garden, paint, write and travel. I volunteer as a cancer research advocate and as a heart failure advocate to increase awareness of HFpEF and to bring the patient perspective to the research table and to professional discussions.
- How do you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle?
I am, by nature, an optimist so I view each day as a gift of beauty and opportunity. If I awaken, can see and move, it’s a good day with the potential to be a great day. Mundanely, I exercise every day; try to eat a balanced, low sodium diet and abstain from my beloved pickle juice. I’m not perfect so I practice forgiveness a lot. I don’t ask why me because the only answer the universe can offer is why not.
- As a patient, what advice would you give to a HF professional (ex. physicians, nurses and pharmacists)?
See your patient not as a subject but as the motivating member of the treatment team whose input into decision making is not only valid but essential. Offer clinical trials, they are the key to our future.
- In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge faced by HF patients and their caregivers?
For patients, I think it is learning how to live successfully with heart failure and being sure to seek out the best care possible. I would hope patients would approach selecting a physician as a process in which they are interviewing the physician for a job and know that it is their prerogative to fire applicants for this important work. Ask questions, especially what is your experience with this disease! For caregivers, I empathize with the difficulty of your role, with finding the balance between alert understanding and over- or under-reaction to the patient’s needs and symptoms. You are not a bottomless well of giving, be sure to take care of yourself.
- As a serving board member and patient advocate, the HFSA is very grateful for your dedicated and involvement with the society. How has being involved with the HFSA impact you as a HF patient?
Being involved with the HFSA sustains my hope and optimism. When I am with these professionals and experience their dedication, commitment and intelligence, their focused passion, I am energized and renewed. Every day I live is another day they are getting closer to an effective treatment for HFpEF.
- What advice/words of wisdom do you have for newly diagnosed HF patients or anyone living with HF?
I don’t have any advice just some thoughts to share. I do think a key in living with this dreadful disease, and it is a dreadful disease, is to approach it as a new challenge with which to live and grow rather than as something I’m dying of. It may eventually, hopefully later rather than sooner, take my life but it cannot dim my spirit or my joy in being alive. Paradoxically, through having heart failure, I have met some wonderful people, enriching and expanding my circle of friends, and broadened my understanding of the human condition.
- Is there anything else you’d like to share to our HFSA Membership and/or HF patients?
For patients, I think an important role is to be one’s own advocate, to see oneself as working with the medical professionals, not being worked on by them. See this diagnosis as an opportunity to learn more about oneself and about the disease, to sort out what matters in life. For professionals, I know that you have a very difficult and sometimes thankless job but please know that I am deeply grateful for you and to you. I hope that you can always approach the disease as a challenge not a defeat and keep your patient-centric focus.