Friday, November 7, 2008
I never thought I’d live to see the day......
My grandmother’s favorite phrase was always accompanied by a huge sigh that rattled her slight frame., usually over something that disappointed her greatly. Usually over one of us. To me, it epitomized what “old” was about. It was continually being disappointed in life. It was cynicism, and the lack of a sense of wonder. I could elaborate on the dangers of “thinking old”, but will save that for a future blog - its too important to gloss over.
I’m echoing Grandma’s one line credo myself these last few days, not sighing but weeping - tears of joy. Regardless of your political persuasion, whether you’re a Boomer, Gen - Xer or Millennial, it’s difficult not to be moved by this history making election. Yes, I worked my arse off on Obama’s campaign helping to turn Nevada not just blue but indigo. (oops, my arse is still there - how’d that happen? Oh yeah, menopause.) Door to door, person to person, American to American.
How did we get here? A single perfect word: HOPE. Hope ignites, hope inspires, hope infuses us with the energy to do the hard work ahead of us. It’s time to shed old labels: Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, and just remember that we are all citizens - of America and of the world. President - elect Obama will challenge us to sacrifice and contribute, to truly manifest government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Hope will provide the fuel and we’ll provide the labor.
I never thought I’d live to see the day - and I’m so grateful that I did!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Support Access to Bioidentical Hormones: Join Us In National Call Congress Day on Wednesday, September 10.
Okay, menopausal goddesses, here’s a call to action from our friends at the nonprofit Women in Balance - www.womeninbalance.org. Their email is as follows:
“The estriol battle continues and we need your support.
Here's how you can help:
If you know who your Representatives and Senators are,
Dial 1-202-225-3121 and the receptionist will direct you to your Congressional Offical's office.
If you are unsure of your Representatives or Senators, you can find out who they are by entering your zip code at Congress.org Home Page
Once on the call, you may share the following points:
1. Encourage your official to support Resolution Senate Concurrent Resolution 88 or House of Representatives Concurrent Resolution 342
2. This resolution calls upon the FDA to stop their new policy of restricting women's access to prescriptions containing Estriol. This drug has been available in the United States for half a century and is chemically the same as natural estriol made in a woman's body
3. Protect women's access and preserve the choices women have for hormone therapy. Allow the continued availability of compounded bio-identical hormones like estriol that women need for quality of life.
4. Request that congress support this resolution and restore the rights of physicians and health choices of millions of American women.
5. Don't forget to add your personal experience.
Here's the background
In 2005, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals issued a Citizen's Petition to FDA urging them to stop compounding pharmacies from preparing bioidentical hormone replacement therapies (BHRT). In early 2008, FDA finally responded to the Wyeth petition about compounded hormone medicines with a set of new policies. Most critically, FDA announced that it will "halt" compounding of hormone treatments that contain estriol.
What is estriol?
Estriol is a common component of many compounded hormone treatments prescribed by doctors. Estriol is one of three estrogen hormones produced by a woman's body, and has been used in Europe and Asia for decades.
What are the Congressional resolutions calling on FDA to reverse its policy on estriol?
The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate each have resolutions-H. Con. Res. 342 and S. Con Res. 88, respectively-calling for FDA to reverse its policy on estriol. The resolutions also call on the need for FDA to "respect the physician-patient relationship" and recognize that doctors, not FDA, are in the best position to "determine which medications are appropriate for their patients." They also point out that "FDA has acknowledged that it is unaware of any adverse events" associated with the use of estriol over the past three decades.
These Congressional resolutions are a key tactic to send FDA a message that its estriol policy is not in the best interest of women's health. However, not all Senators and Representatives are aware of FDA's new policy and the effect it will have on women's health. On Wednesday, Sept. 10, the BHRT National Congressional Call-In Day will flood Capitol Hill with phone calls from concerned constituents who will urge their elected members of Congress to sign on to their respective Congressional resolution. We appreciate your support on this important women's health issue.”
Join the Venuses along with hundreds of concerned women and physicians this week. Make your voices heard on Wednesday, Sept. 10. For more background on this issue, see previous blog entries on our mothership blog at www.menopausegoddessblog.org “Help Protect Access To Bioidentical Hormones” dated June 14, 2008 and “Bioidentical Hormone Access Threatened - Act Now” dated Feb. 7, 2008. The stakes are high - the time is now.
Friday, July 18, 2008
I’ve been spending the last several days photographing and looking at flowers. In all stages. Buds, opening blooms, full-on vibrant blossoms, fading flowers. All different. All beautiful.
Since the advent of the Big M, I’ve suffered some confusion as to whether we goddesses are blossoming anew or beginning to wilt. Certainly, for me, the answer depends on the day. Or the hour. I sometimes feel like I’m the subject of one of those time lapse films where the flower goes from closed to open. Then in a diabolical turn, the film reverses and I go from open to closed. Closed, open. Open, closed. I don’t know if I’m blossoming or going to seed.
But what if it isn’t one or the other? What if it’s both? It seems that the nature of the menopause transition makes us more comfortable living with paradox. It sure makes us more comfortable dealing with change! Each of us may be growing and blooming into a new form, a new “me”. At the same time we have seeds of wisdom that we disseminate to ourselves and one another. Like the rosebushes in the garden, we are budding, bursting forth into the sunlight, flashing our brightest colors and dropping a few petals here and there. All at the same time. All different. All beautiful.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I had my mammogram the other day. And since the x-ray technician performing my exam was a menopausal goddess, we struck up an instant rapport. Upon finding out about the Venus group, she asked me to distill what we’d learned together - sort of a 25 words or less synopsis because other mammos were waiting to be grammed. I summed it up this way. “Every woman is different and has to conduct her own risk benefit analysis to decide what is best for her. And the way we get wisdom is through woman-to-woman sharing.”
After agreeing wholeheartedly, she shared that two of the gynecologists at the big medical center in our nearest city offer no other recommendations for women suffering menopause symptoms than HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy.) “And they are young! In their 30’s still.” Proving what I’ve always suspected: that hardening of the attitudes is not an age-related phenomenon.
Although menopause is not a disease, it is still important to be followed by a physician. Notice that I say “followed” by a physician. It’s all too easy to find ourselves being be “led” by our health care providers. You and your primary care provider must work together. If you cannot form a partnership with your doctor, then find another who will work with you. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. You are responsible for your own healthcare. Educate yourself.
My professional training in nursing school covered the area of women’s health as the “Reproductive” module. We learned a great deal about fertility, the birth process, and diseases of the reproductive system. We learned almost nothing about menopause. 1200 pages of textbook and virtually none of it dedicated to the second half of a woman’s life.
Even today many health care practitioners have learned little more, or they have only learned some standard practices that may exclude some of your choices. In all fairness, so little research exists on The Big M that it’s no wonder there is a dearth of expertise among health care personnel.
We must become our own experts in the areas of women’s health and menopause, and more specifically on our own individual bodies. Thankfully, there are a great many menopausal goddesses out there willing to share all they’ve learned and to offer support and laughter as we travel this journey we didn’t choose.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I was getting my hair done a couple years ago at my favorite salon, along with five other women 'of an age', when talk turned to the Change. Most of us were loudly proclaiming our favorite natural remedies and fixes. The woman in the chair adjacent to mine finally spoke up apologizing to the roomful of menopausal goddesses for having “caved”, finally starting HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)..
“It's just that I couldn't sleep,” she told us shamefacedly. “I couldn't sleep at all. I was so tired I couldn’t function. And nothing else worked.” We all leapt in to assure her that there was no need to feel guilty. The risk-benefit ratio seemed pretty clear to all of us. Underscored for us was that we women need to support one another through this process rather than judge anyone, including ourselves.
But I have to admit that I was feeling pretty smug and blessed that I was coping without HRT. My symptoms were manageable. What’s that thing they say goeth before a fall? Oh yeah, pride. I no longer have a surplus of that. I eventually ended up on low dose HRT myself. And honestly, I wish I’d taken it sooner.
First welcomed as a godsend, now seen as a terrifying, politically incorrect alternative for menopause symptom relief, HRT may actually be neither. In deciding whether we wish to consider HRT as a viable option, we really need to evaluate our personal risk-benefit analysis. In other words we need to list pros and cons, and then weigh those pros and cons in order of importance.
History of breast or other reproductive cancers in your family would cause you to rate your risk higher. Family history of blood clots, stroke, or heart disease also put you at higher risk. If you have or have had any of these conditions yourself, the risk may be too high and you'll want to look elsewhere for help. And if you are a smoker? HRT is not a great idea for you; your risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease spikes.
On the benefit side, if your hot flashes are 30+ per day, so intense that you are nauseous, or your sleep deprivation from insomnia is making you psychotic, then HRT may be a valuable help in the short term. More risk is associated for all women with long term usage of HRT, so taking it to “get over the hump” may be an option. Above all, do not feel guilty if you decide that the herbal, natural route didn't work for you and you need to avail yourself of HRT. Our own Beej-Venus tried herbs and immediately stopped using them because they “gave me a rush”.
If you should decide to consider HRT as an alternative, be sure to stay aware and re-evaluate periodically whether you might be ready to slowly decrease and ultimately discontinue your hormones. Above all, be gentle with yourself and choose what’s right for you. (Next blog entry, we’ll examine briefly both bioidentical and synthetic hormones. Material partially adapted from our upcoming book -to be released very soon. We’ll keep you posted. For the latest, visit our mothership blog at menopausegoddessblog.org)
Sunday, May 11, 2008
For just about a year, my hot flashes, insomnia, and mood alterations were down to a dull roar thanks to my natural progesterone cream. And then I started down the next dip on the Menopause roller coaster.
Early in perimenopause, progesterone levels drop. Later in the transition, estrogen levels decrease as well, causing a resurgence of hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, vaginal dryness, and more. The progesterone cream that worked initially is no longer enough. We may feel the need for estrogen supplementation. I surely did. Following the rules and guidelines for remedies, I wished to start with the least heavy duty, most “natural” remedy first. Enter natural remedy #1: soy.
Natural Soy - The Good News
I decided to do a little research - here’s what I found. Soy has been touted as a healthy food alternative to almost everything: meat (tempeh, tofu), milk (soy milk), cheese (yep, soy cheese), appetizers (edamame soybeans), snacks (soy crackers and chips.) and so on. Soy is also a phytoestrogen or plant estrogen precursor. Ergo, if you want to have “natural” symptom relief from your hot flashes, insomnia, and the like - eat soy. Still have symptoms? Eat more soy. Don’t like the taste or texture of bean curd? You can ingest soy in the form of pills or capsules. A number of popular products can be found in the health food aisle of your grocery store, such as Estroven. For many women, soy has made the transition much milder.
Needless to say, this sounded like THE ANSWER. (However, in my excitement, I forgot the all important rule that “There Is No Silver Bullet” or single panacea for the menopause maladies.) I started taking a natural soy remedy and switched to soy milk.
And I got worse. My hot flashes increased. I couldn’t sleep. I was REALLY cranky. Add to this bloating, stomach aches, and nasal congestion and you have the makings of a Menopausal Monster. I decided a little MORE research was in order. And here’s what I found:
Soy Vey - The Bad News
While soy is a healthy choice for many people, it makes the list of the top 8 food allergens, along with milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and wheat. (source: Mayo Clinic.com) The FDA now requires that all food be labeled if it contains any of these.
Although it is estimated that only 1% of the population has true allergies to these foods, a large number of the population may be intolerant or sensitive to them. What “intolerance” means is that they can ingest small amounts of these substances with no ill effects, but with larger doses symptoms appear. (Those who have true allergies cannot tolerate even a tiny amount of the reactive food without a serious allergic reaction: difficulty breathing, hives, swelling of face, neck, tongue, or shock).
In a nutshell, many of us are unknowingly sensitive to soy. When we increase our intake of soy, we may develop symptoms consistent with food intolerance such as cramping, diarrhea, bloating, dizziness, nasal congestion, and flushing. If we are soy-sensitive, we may actually find our hot flashes and other Change symptoms increasing, as we stress our body beyond the already overwhelming stressors of menopause. Luckily, those of us with soy intolerance have the option of soy-free herbal preparations that contain phytoestrogens, which we’ll touch on in the next blog.
For those who are not allergic or sensitive to soy, ingesting tofu, soy milk, and soybeans might be a godsend. Beware, however, of taking too many soy pills which contain high levels of soy isoflavones. More is not better. There is concern about interference with thyroid function (which translates to even more symptoms for a menopausal goddess). Monitor yourself and your response along with your trusted health practitioner. (See April 3 and March 28 blog entries for guidelines in “Choosing The Right Menopause Remedy for You.”)
So what happened? I stopped the soy. And while my menopause symptoms continued unabated, they decreased slightly while the bloating, stuffy head, and abdominal pains disappeared. (My MD tested me for food intolerances - the only one I was sensitive to was indeed soy.) I tried various other remedies: black cohosh, dong quai, primrose oil. None of them seemed to have any effect (except some flushing and heat sensations with the dong quai.) Yet, I knew women where each of these remedies had worked like magic.
What next? My estrogen levels were subterranean. My thermostat was in the nuclear zone. How was I going to cool off literally and emotionally? The saga continues in the next blog entry where we’ll discuss [ominous drum roll please] HRT, also known as Hormone Replacement Therapy.
(material adapted from our upcoming book “Venus Comes of Age”)
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Early in perimenopause, I was complaining to Lei-Venus that I was feeling heat crest in waves over me, but even more upsetting to me was the change in my sleep patterns. Having always slept soundly, I was now waking every hour or two and experiencing nights of restless, broken sleep. Without a word, Lei grabbed me by the hand and pulled me bodily down the street to the health food store. She plunked a jar of Natural Woman progesterone cream in my hand, declaring “Buy this now - it may take up to two weeks to help, but you’ll be a new woman.” I felt the difference in two days. After a week, I was sleeping through the night again.
In the beginning of perimenopause, progesterone levels drop which can begin the annoying symptoms of hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings. Natural progesterone cream is a good first step and may be all you need to weather the storm of symptoms. I can report that it was a godsend for some of us goddesses during this transition - and, sad to say, didn’t work much for others. Remember rule # 2 from March 28 blog entry on “Choosing The Right Menopause Remedy For You”? What Works for One Venus May Not Work For Another. You’ll have to try it and monitor your own response to see if it helps you.
Emerita’s Pro-Gest (www.emerita.com), and Natural Woman (www.prodnature.com) are the Venus group’s favorite natural progesterone creams but there are others on the market. A cautionary note: Mexican wild yam cream is not as effective as natural progesterone cream, as it is a precursor to the hormone and not in a usable form for our bodies.
Dong Quai, Burdock Root, Red Clover, Black Cohosh, Evening Primrose Oil, Cod Liver Oil
Studies show that women in Japan and China have much lower incidence of PMS or menopausal symptoms than do Americans. This could be due to DNA, but also could result from the facts that the usual Japanese diet is high in soy and dong quai is taken by many Chinese women from the time they are young.
Black cohosh, primrose oil, red clover, and burdock root are also time-honored remedies for menopausal symptoms. Blog reader Jacqueline has alerted us to cod liver oil as a remedy (Many thanks, J!) She recommends lemon flavor to overcome those nasty childhood memories of fish oil.
However, side effects do exist for these remedies and some women cannot tolerate these herbs. Natural does not necessarily mean completely harmless. Black cohosh and dong quai have been associated with high blood pressure in some women. Cod liver oil has been known to raise blood sugar and cholesterol, although it appears to be a dose dependant effect. It is also very important to assess whether there might be potential interactions with other medications that you are taking, before you take ANY supplements.
There are plenty of products that contain more than one of these herbs, however many also contain soy so read the labels if you are soy sensitive. (We”ll focus on soy next blog entry, since that’s a longer story.) Emerita makes a popular multiherbal supplement that contains no soy called “Menopause Plus Formula” (www. emerita.com). Remifemin is a popular black cohosh remedy. (www.remifemin.com) Both are sold in health food stores and many grocery stores as well.
Whatever remedies you choose, go slowly. Try one at a time and allow it sufficient time to work. Run all your choices by your trusted health care partner. Good luck and happy herbals to all goddesses in search of cooler days, restful nights, and emotional balance!
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Remember those cartoons with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other tormenting some hapless soul who is struggling to make a decision? Usually the battle is between something she wants vs something she should do. Well, I can relate. I have my own little menopause advisors perched on my shoulders who go at me every day. I even have names for them: the Fitness Freak and the Sloth Bear.
The Fitness Freak drives me bonkers. She wants me to go go go. “Lift weights,” she exhorts. “You know those flabby underarms need toning.” “Go walking - aerobic exercise is absolutely necessary for good heart health.”. “Pilates, yoga, dance - let’s get going. Why’d you buy all those DVD’s if you were only going to use them once or twice?” “I only have your best interests at heart.” Oh sure. That and four bucks will get me a latte. I know her (since she is me.) She’s the Queen of Ulterior Motives. Her secret agenda is to get us skinnier as well as more fit. She wants to lose a dress size.
On my other shoulder reclines the Sloth Bear. She hates it when Fitness Freak gets rolling. She stretches and whines, “I don't wanna exercise, we exercised yesterdayyyyyyyy. I wanna read or maybe take a nap. Why do we always have to doooooooo something. I’ll give you some health tips: wine is good for heart health, chocolate is a kickass antioxidant, and REST will keep you young. Most Americans are sleep deprived - I read that somewhere. Take care of yourself - hey how about an at home spa day?”
I have to step in and mediate at some point. “Okay, Fitness Freak, let’s get real. We will never look like 30 year olds even if we exercise all day every day, so relax. We simply want to be healthy, flexible, and active, okay?”
“And Sloth Bear? Girl, you’ll get yours. Only one day a week of total entropy, though, okay?. And of course, we’ll take it easy some between exercisings. Oh and the chocolate and wine? Say no more, I’m all over it.”
Then I speak seriously to both of them. Here’s a couple things I know about this stage of life, from my nursing background, good old-fashioned life experience, and observing the women I want to be when I grow up.
Probably the most important thing we can do to stay vibrant and live fully is to exercise our bodies. I’m not talking ultramarathons or benchpressing big poundage. Flexibility, strength training, and moderate exercise can significantly enhance our present quality of life. A little yoga for flexibility (I like Gaiam’s Yoga DVD’s www.gaiam.com), a little walking, and a little weight lifting of LITTLE weights. Bigger is not better, surely we’ve learned THAT by now. 3-10 pound weights with repetitions three times a week and we’re suddenly much stronger with denser bones to boot. Best of all, exercise is insomnia’s worst enemy.
Maybe equally important is to ENJOY ourselves simply. Quietly. All too often our recreation is as frenetic and stressful as work. Rest, nap, sit on the porch and stare at the yard. It’s amazing what you see when you slow down. Read a novel or listen to music. Paint your toenails and sit still until they really dry. Put on a facial mask and a big fluffy robe and watch a weepy movie. Or a funny one. Not educational or ‘good for you’. And if guilt starts haranguing you? Let Sloth Bear roll over and lie on it till it quits. Still feel guilty? Try SARK’s fabulous little book “Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed”. See this month’s book club entry for more on what she calls “the ultimate nap book.”
You likely have your own menopause advisors. It’s okay to listen to them; just don’t let them run the show or paralyze you with indecision. After they’ve had their say, just get up and go. Or lie down and be. You choose. And be happy with your choice - fling yourself headlong into it and ENJOY. Hey, if not now, when?
Monday, April 21, 2008
Auntie Kauila is a kumu hula - a hula master in Hawaii. She is 84 and can bend lower than I and most of my hula sisters. She passes on her vast repertoire of knowledge of chant and dance to her students, most of whom are midlife and older. Her day job consists of teaching Hawaiian culture to elementary school children. She is active, fit, and a powerhouse of energy. And she was bubbling over the other day about a new hula she had learned. That’s right - “learned.” She is a renowned expert and she’s still learning. I want to be Auntie Kauila when I grow up.
While I admire her accomplishments, grace, and stamina, I mostly want to be her because she is so interested. In everything. And being interested makes her interesting. She gets high marks on the role model scale for the second half of my life.
I read a quote recently from a midlife woman who said “I pay attention to women older than I am. They are my future.” To discover and create our future, we menopausal goddesses would do well to pay attention to older women we admire and hope to emulate.
My mom also pegs the needle on my role model meter. She bought her first home computer about 5 years ago I now refer to her as the Internet Queen. She finds and forwards the most thought provoking, insightful, and amazing sites. Great jokes too. Sister goddess Theresa gave her the highest compliment: “I never delete Lynette’s Mom’s emails.” She’s taken up painting in oils and acrylics recently - her art is unique and beautiful. She continues to explore her creativity. Yep, I want to be Mom, too, when I grow up.
Whom do we admire? And why? That’s a question the Venuses sat down to answer during one of our meetings. Each goddess wrote down two women that she felt were glowing examples of who she’d like to be when she grew up, and listed the traits that made them such shining stars for her. Then we shared our lists with one another.
While the individual mentors we chose were illuminating, the reasons we held these women up as our ideals were considerably more important. Each of us admired different attributes: grace under pressure, living largely, empathy and kindness, strength, optimism, creativity, etc.
The most stunning insight arising from this exercise and discussion revolved around how often the qualities that a Venus admired in her two role models were the very qualities she embodied for the rest of us! And each Venus was unable to see it for herself until her sister goddesses pointed out the obvious. Can it be that what we most admire, we unconsciously already are? We saw it over and over again in our round robin about the women we most esteemed.
While it might be possible that I am already interested/interesting and creative, my midlife growing up is still a work in progress. I expect that Auntie Kauila and my mother Betty will keep me focused and challenging myself. The same goes for the other Venuses and their chosen role models. These elder women are our future. And the future looks very good indeed.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
“Oomph,” grunts my husband lifting my suitcase, as we prepared to leave for a recent trip. “Why is your bag so heavy?” “Maintenance,” I reply.
In the post-menopausal period of my life, I find that I require a great many products, supplements, and emollients just to maintain a level of adequacy. I’m not trying to look glamorous or sexy; I’m simply trying not to frighten small children. Or myself when I happen to encounter a mirror.
For those of you who’ve followed the “hair thinning” saga, you won’t be surprised that I need to pack my special Nioxin shampoo and conditioner, my wide tooth comb and gentle brush, my two products to maximize curl, gel to help style the improved curls, a purifying rinse to get all the built up crap out of my hair from these tenacious cremes and sprays, and a special every-few-days industrial strength conditioner. That’s several pounds devoted to hair alone.
I need SPF 20 makeup foundation and powder, blusher, eyebrow and lip pencils, and lipstick. An additional special sunscreen is also needed for “outdoor” pursuits. For years, I didn’t wear makeup; now my skin is so sensitive to UV that I wear it for protection. A nice side benefit is that it smoothes out my skin tone and livens me up a bit.
Dryness is always a factor, these days. Even in Hawaii where there is a fair amount of moisture in the air, if I should skip a day of lubricants, my skin vaguely resembles an alligator handbag. (Faux alligator, of course.)
So, I need special non-drying soap and body wash, face cleanser, body lotion, and hand creme. I must take facial moisturizer, eye cream, and my favorite anti-wrinkle cream. For dry eyes, I pack artificial tears and eyelid wash. How many pounds of stuff are we up to now?
Ah supplements. Can’t forget my women’s multiple vitamin, my lo-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack, my Vitamin E, thyroid supplement, acetyl-l carnitine for memory and brain function (this stuff really works when I remember to take it), my calcium/Vitamin D chew, and my SGS defense herbs. And I require a jar of natural progesterone cream as well as my topical glucosamine cream to keep my joints nicely lubricated.
Finally, I’m ready to pack a few items of clothing and a couple of books.
Still, while my luggage may weigh more when I travel these days, I realize that this time of life has allowed me to jettison a great deal of other baggage. I’ve quit carrying along resentment, perfectionism, martyrdom, victim states, feeling inadequate, unfocused longing, feeling responsible for the state of the world, and jealousy. In a sense, I’m now traveling a lot more lightly than I ever have. And I have Menopause to thank for it.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Menopause is not a disease (although it darn sure feels like one to those of us suffering through it.) It’s a normal, albeit intense, transition. It is important for us to keep reminding ourselves of this when searching for relief. Confronted with myriad treatment options, we need to be able to CHOOSE the most effective remedies with the least potential for harm. Here are a few “rules” we Venuses recommend to help guide your choices.
Rules and Guidelines
#1 Try One Remedy at A Time
While this may seem like common sense, I cannot tell you how many knowledgeable, intelligent, and perceptive women avail themselves of several herbs, creams, and treatments at the same time to relieve their discomfort. While we menopausal women understand the desperation of a search for relief, this throw-everything-but-the kitchen-sink-at-it method obscures what really will work. Or won’t.
Try one remedy and give it enough time to work - most menopause preparations are labeled with how long you can expect to wait for symptom relief. If after the appropriate time period nothing happens, you may switch to another remedy or add one that is meant to work with the first. (for example, start with progesterone cream and later add plant estrogens - more about those later.)
#2 What Works for One Venus May Not Work For Another
Although we are strong proponents of learning about relief and modalities from other women who have experienced the wild changes of this time of life, we understand the uniqueness of each woman’s transition. (Transition used in this case is a euphemism for “barely endurable roller coaster ride”.) So as you try remedies and attempt solutions recommended to you by your own Venuses or your health care practitioners, continue to refer back to rule # 1.
#3 What Worked Yesterday May Not Work Tomorrow
Just when you’ve found the perfect balance of creams, supplements, or HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) to quiet the hormonal ebbs and flows causing such disruption and discomfort, they stop working. Without warning, you are plunged back to ground zero, searching for an elusive combination of remedies that will ease your suffering. Alas, this will likely happen more than once. Get used to it. We are hoping that if you are prepared for it, it will be easier to take. Maybe not.
Take heart, though. Eventually each Venus found a remedy or combination that worked for us and our symptoms diminished. We found a new balance and health. There was even a little bonus in that we don’t have those pre-menopausal monthly ups and downs anymore. And we don't miss them one little bit. Stay tuned. We’ll have more guidelines for our sister goddesses in the next blog entry.
(Material partially adapted from our upcoming book "Venus Comes of Age: The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses" )
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Theresa-Venus and I are passionate about golf. We love to play, and we especially love to play together. She observed just the other day how much better our respective golf games have become now we’ve reached our fifties vs how much we struggled and fought to improve when in our forties. (Yeah, we’ve been playing that long and we still have substantial handicaps!) Yet, we seem to be striving less and enjoying more. Is it possible that we are finally relaxing into our pursuits, finding the simple joy and pleasure with less of the internal pressure to “be good at it.”? And in some bizarre twist of fate, we’ve actually gotten better? It sure seems like it. While we don’t have a literal scorecard for our artistic endeavors, but we think we’ve gotten better at those too.
One of the ways we Venuses are growing ourselves in the “heat” of midlife comes down to finding and expressing a passion. As we explore creating a Vision for the second half of our lives, we begin to ask ourselves what we want to do, be, or manifest. What we are passionate about, what excites and moves us? And we discover that passion doesn’t necessarily have to be about doing. We can be passionate about peace or contentment as easily as we can thrill to a project or endeavor.
At a recent annual gathering, one of the goddesses was wrestling with her own search for a passion. “How do you know what you’ll be good at?” she queried. “I’m trying yoga and biking (where I also connect with my husband). I enjoy physical pursuits, but there’s no real passion there. It’s hard to start - every one of my friends is already good at something. So many here [the Venuses] are good at photography.”
Karen-Venus jumped in with sage advice. “You need to make a distinction between doing something and having to be good at it versus doing something just for the delight and enjoyment. I tried dancing. I’m the worst tap dancer in the theater group. I’m never going to be good. But I love it and I do it for the passion and joy, not for the achievement. And the more I accept being the worst dancer in the class, the more I relax and the better I dance.”
She went on. “It doesn’t have to be just one thing - it can be many things. Let yourself try things on: are you a beader? A knitter? As we grow older we can open up rather than focus on one or two channels. Try something. Start with a one day workshop. See what takes, what fires you up. Again, maybe it’s not one thing; maybe it’s many. Dilettante is not a dirty word for a midlife woman!”
With that in mind, let’s make a midlife pact with one another. We’ll boldly, passionately do whatever we like. And if we don’t yet know what that is, we’ll jump into something, anything, everything that catches our interest with our whole being. And we sure as heck won’t worry about being good at it! Let’s be divas of dilettantism, practitioners of passion, and mavens of marvelous things!
(Visit our mothership blog and join the community of Venuses at www.menopausegoddessblog.org
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
When my husband turned 50, I gave him a cartoon depicting the Grim Reaper visiting a man on his 50th birthday. “Have a good time,” says Death to the balloon-festooned, party hatted “I just stopped by to remind you that you’re mortal.”
That cartoon seemed a lot funnier before menopause. One of the many shocks that the Change delivers is an acute sense of a goddess’s own mortality. Realizing viscerally that our time here is finite, we begin to consider how we wish to spend the second half of our life. Time alone to just “be”, trying new things, travel, and putting ourselves first become priorities. The Venuses have supported one another in all these pursuits and more as we’ve mapped out our futures.
Yet, we felt that something was still missing. What were we leaving behind? What contribution did we wish to make? With this in mind, we devoted our fourth annual meeting to “Legacy”. It seemed to us to be a weighty and important topic. Webster’s thesaurus listed synonyms like inheritance or bequest. We defined it more simply. Legacy to us meant “that which we were passing on to others whether through advising, counseling, or setting an example.”
Some of us had grand visions like creating healthy school lunch programs or writing/lecturing women to inspire their innate creativity. Others wished only to live simply and to practice kindness allowing their life’s example to be their legacy. And of course, we all wanted to pass on our great stores of knowledge and life experience to our kids. (You can bet that our offspring could HARDLY WAIT for that!)
Honestly, though, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to give back. A great beginning might be microloans through kiva.org. Most of us goddesses aspired to “Think Globally, Act Locally”. Today, with the magic of the internet, “locally” can expand to the size of the entire earth. My husband happened across kiva.org, a website that facilitates making microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries across the globe. (You may have heard about it from Oprah or Bill Clinton). One can loan as little as $25 (and the rest of the loan amount comes from lenders like you). Photos and stories accompany each request for funds. No big surprise, many of these entrepreneurs are women. Kiva doesn’t take any money for their services, but offers lenders the chance to donate to keep it all going. Money goes through Paypal direct to the kiva partner in the country of the prospective borrower. Paypal provides this service free of charge.
You can loan to a tailor in Uganda or a butcher in Togo (yes, I definitely had to look this one up, it’s in Africa). I love Peru, so we have several loans there. (See above photo from kiva website). One of my favorite borrowers is a midlife woman in Tajikistan who has set up an internet cafe because no one has home computers or internet service available in her town. She is following her dreams AND giving back!
And when the borrowers pay their loans back (99% payback rate which is phenomenal), you can lend it all over again to new entrepreneurs. An added delight is seeing the profiles (and pix if they post them) of those who lend with you to a specific person/venture. Building community and giving back: kiva.org is a website with heart. Click link below to find out more.
To comment or join our community of menopausal goddesses visit our mothership blog at www.menopausegoddessblog.org
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Menopause is a schizzy thing. The whole transition has the quality of split personality. It’s difficult and delightful. It’s wonderful and just plain weird. It’s frightening and freeing. This may be why so many goddesses tell me that its been hard for them to read the myriad Menopause self-help books out there. (That and we have lost our mental acuity.) These books are not schizophrenic - they are either irritatingly positive and upbeat or a mind-numbing litany of physiology, symptoms, and treatments. Our search for wisdom ends up exhausting us.
The ‘happy’ books tell us that this is the best time of our lives. Bulldroppings! We are suffering more losses than the stock market. And while we may ultimately transition into the best time of our lives, we have to deal with all the trauma before we can begin to move on.
The “one right answer” books tout their own versions of miracles, bioidenticals, the testosterone patch, soy and herbs. We end up having to read a library full of books and experimenting ad nauseum to find a workable combination of menopause aids.
The everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-menopause books just end up overwhelming us even if the information we might need is in there. And worse yet, they frequently contradict one another. And why is that? Because the simple truth is we have lots of info and knowledge, but little wisdom distilled from them. And the web is no different.
That’s why our Goddess Blog (and our upcoming book) is none of these and all of these, why it’s “schizzy”. Our blog entries mimic real life - doom and gloom stories alternate for position with newfound joys and positive changes. Too many discussions about the great new person we are becoming and we risk the overly perky writings which really grate on our last good nerve. Too much focus on the horrific changes, mental, physical, and emotional and we practically lose our will to live.
Our conversation is tear-filled and joyful, full of the despair and hope that we goddesses have shared together. It’s cranky and hopeful all at the same time. Pretty much like menopause really is!
Join us for more of the conversation at our main blogsite: www.menopausegoddessblog.org
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Many women use bioidentical hormones from compounding pharmacies for relief of menopausal symptoms. In fact, so many women are turning to bioidenticals that a significant chunk of the menopausal health care dollar has been diverted from the drug companies.
And now we got trouble - right here in River City. The FDA has told seven compounding pharmacies they may not “make misleading claims” that bioidentical hormones are better than the synthetic ones. The impetus behind this decision? A petition from Wyeth pharmaceuticals - yes the people that brought you Prempro and Premarin, hurtin’ cowboys financially since the WHI study was halted due to dangerous side effects.
Now, technically the FDA may be correct that no double blind research validates that bioidenticals are safer (Gee wonder why that is - maybe no real money to be made, so the research was not funded.) On the main page of the FDA website describing their recent action, they also say this: “All patients who use compounded hormone therapy drugs should discuss menopausal hormone therapy options with their health care provider to determine if compounded drugs are the best option for their specific medical needs.”
Sounds like an appropriate measured response, doesn’t it? Then I dug a little further into the FDA website, and found another little part to their action:
“In addition, FDA warned a number of pharmacies that they may not compound drugs containing the estrogen substance estriol without a valid investigational new drug application. Firms that do not properly address violations identified in Warning Letters risk further enforcement, including injunctions that prevent additional violations and seizure of violative drugs.”
I can tell you from my experience as a nurse that getting an investigational drug permit is a BIG deal. You don’t just go to the wizard and ask for one. Think killing the wicked witch was a difficult task? Try obtaining and implementing an investigational drug protocol from the FDA! I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that the FDA is bowing to pressure to limit access to bioidentical hormones and this is only the first step.
Here’s the kicker. It’s not like we can individually call up a compounding pharmacy and order our own hormone therapy willy nilly. A physician MUST prescribe it. And they have been prescribing estriol for decades. Safely. Responsibly. The FDA admits that its action was not a concern for safety. There have been no recorded instances of any adverse effects with the use of Estriol, probably because it is a natural hormone in our body.
There has been a tremendous response from physicians and women like us, filing comments with the FDA and writing our congresspeople. But we need to be vigilant and proactive here. We can’t let the government restrict our (and our physicians) access to bioidentical hormone therapy. For more information, on contacting your elected representatives, download the pdf document at our main blogsite www.menopausegoddessblog.org and/or click on the link below for HOME (Hands Off My Estrogens) Coalition,
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Menopause feels like being forced to attend a horror movie, with unimaginable and terrifying twists and turns. Still, I felt that I did a reasonably good job of keeping my eyes open and not screaming until the climactic “disappearing hair” scene. I was stoic through the storylines of hot flashes, insomnia, memory loss, and more. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
However, when my hair skipped past merely thinning to outright disappearing, I flipped out. Panicked, I ran to my hairdresser for help. She calmly informed me that it was not “unusual”, “probably hormonal”, and that “it’ll grow back.” Ditto from my dermatologist. Only slightly reassured, I surfed the net for causes and treatments for female hair loss. Alopecia. Such a lovely name for such a horrifying experience. I have images of two beautiful (for their age), primly dressed, elderly women with perfect skin and white, thinning (of course) hair sitting comfortably at the kitchen table. One asks the other in her best British accent, “Alopecia, dear. Would you pour me a cup of tea?”
For many midlife women, estrogen therapy and thyroid replacement if thyroid hormone is low will be enough to halt hair loss and promote regrowth. I take bioidentical estrogen and thyroid hormones which have helped with most of my menopause symptoms. Alas not with hair thinning.
It seems I have a common type of hormonal hair loss called AGA which stands for Androgenic Alopecia. (More likely AGA is the sound a goddess makes each time she reveals a little more pretty pink scalp.) The good news? There’s a drug called aldosterone that has been helpful for women suffering from hormonal hair loss- dosage range 100-200 mg. per day. It’s a mild diuretic and blocks the action of testosterone on the hair follicle. The bad news? I can’t tolerate it. Headaches and stomach upset actually trump the hair loss in my case.
However, it is a viable and useful option for a number of women, so discuss it with your physician if you are undergoing menopausal hair loss. (Most health care practitioners are relatively uninformed about this so go armed with info to help educate them- check out www.wegohealth.com for some of the latest internet info on female hair loss. (I had to educate my MD, who is pretty darn progressive and informed.)
So the mourning process over my fragile little hairs leaping off my head has continued. Theresa-Venus claims she went through the same freakout 2 years ago, and while her hair is thinner, she still has enough. Thanks to her and the support of the other goddesses, I’ve been feeling marginally better. I might be able to uncover my eyes soon, but I won’t be wearing any ponytails, that’s for sure.
Scientific explanations notwithstanding, I KNOW what really happened to my hair. My hot flashes fried my hair follicles! I only hope they can regenerate. There is a modicum of good news, however - that bikini wax I’ve been meaning to get for so long? Won’t be needin’ it.
(Adapted from our upcoming book "Venus Comes of Age: The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses". To comment or learn more about our virtual menopause goddess community, visit our main website at www.menopausegoddessblog.org .)
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
About two years ago, I was confronted by the Menopause symptom that shattered my Pollyanna outlook forever. My hair seemed to be thinning at an alarming rate. There was no consoling me when I saw the amount of hair in my brush or around the shower drain each day. So overwhelming was my anxiety over this development, that upon meeting a high-powered, intelligent female friend of my brother’s for the first time, I forgot my social graces completely. I answered her innocuous question “What did you do today?” with a full-blown Menopausal Tourette’s performance. (we’ll address Menopausal Tourettes at greater length in a later blog entry.) “I went to my hairdresser because I’m losing all my hair,” I blurted. “Oh god, me too,” she gasped. We began an earnest discussion and continued it via email. Our cyberspace conversation was joined by her sister. Here is an excerpt:
Aug. 14, 2006, at 8:15 AM
Lynette and Barbara,
Hope all is well with you both.
Just saw a segment on hair loss. This is not good! It can be hereditary (Barbara, in our case Aunt Edna is not a good sign!), indicator of medical problems (thyroid), a particular disease, menopause, and 10 other things.
They recommend seeing a dermatologist to find out your particular problem, but the real solutions are injections, plugs, Minoxidil (sp?)....or get a wig.
Aug. 14, 2006 at 1010 am
Hi Janet (and Barbara)
I did a search on the net re: hair loss - came up with much the same. My hairdresser tells me that ALL her menopausal clients that are not on hormone replacement freak out about their hair loss. It stables out (she says) at a certain point, and then hair starts growing back, but never as thick as it once was. My girlfriend Theresa says that was true for her. I AM going to get my thyroid tested again. Also, estrogen dominance can cause hair loss, so a saliva test to check for estrogen vs progesterone in our bodies is a good thing. I doubt that I have this, since I use a natural progesterone cream and no plant estrogens, herbs, or soy. (all of which are natural estrogen replacements.) If you are using any herbs or eat lots of soy, you might want to have this checked.
Bad news with Minoxidil (aka Rogaine) it apparently does not grow nice normal hair but short little hairs that break off, giving one a peach fuzzy look - okay for balding men, not so great for women. Ugh.
I am using a natural shampoo system that was recommended on some menopause blog. Supposedly takes 2-4 months but will grow strong healthy hair. There's a weird "thing" DST or something like that, I forget (menopause again). Anyway, this substance is secreted on the scalp as we age and it screws up the hair follicle so it can't grow. Supposedly, this shampoo system blocks the effect of this substance and voila, hair again. (I found out about the DST one place, and read that it is blocked by the shampoo on their site, so it isn't something the shampoo folks made up.)
My loss seems to have decreased, no big bunches of hair coming out - it's just really thin now.
The shampoo system I'm trying is called Curetage - I got it from Curetage.com. So far no real hair growth, but my husband says my hair is looking much better. so we will see. I'll keep you posted re: results.
Plugs and injections do not sound good to me. Wig likewise. oh well, onward.
Keep in touch.
Aug. 14, 2006 at 1253pm
RE: The Mystery of the Disappearing Hair
(A Nancy Drew thriller for menopausal girls)
I have watched with both horror and humor - humor? I think not! Well, horror, then - as my hair washes down the shower drain. It started about three years ago, and just when I think I'll see no more pink, another batch washes away. I used to have bangs - now I just have one bang. Anyway, I read lots of lit, but outside of the obvious (babushkas), there seems to be not much to do about it. I asked my hairdresser, Pat, what she thought of "hair-in-a-can", but, of course, she pooh-poohed the idea. Sounded good to me.
I've started to use Nioxin again. I really think if I continued to use it for the last three years, it might have done the trick. It keeps the gook from clogging your hair shafts.
It does not pretend to grow new hair; I'm not sure anything can do that. I had my thyroid tested in December, and it's fine. So, I'm going to blame it all on Aunt Edna, and Lynette, you can, too. She's so nice - she won't mind.
Well, enough nonsense. I hate the whole thing, including the vanity that I was unwilling to acknowledge that I had. We could each buy a wig (blond, brunette, red head) and trade them around each month? Oh, every man's dream come true...
Over and out,
Stay tuned for Part Three of the Mystery of the Disappearing Hair - coming soon. (Adapted from our upcoming book “Venus Comes of Age, The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses”.)
To comment or share, visit the goddesses at our main site:
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Great - we’ve entered the “goddess” phase of our life, only to find that we are androgynous. We are growing beards. The first time a Venus feels that coarse “hair” poking out of her chin, she is equal parts horrified and fascinated. Unable to reconcile this new reality with her view of herself as a member of the feminine gender, she obsessively strokes and touches it to see if it truly is still there. Perhaps it is a new mole, a zit, or just a figment of overactive imagination. She can’t believe that she is actually hoping for a pimple. And when she realizes that the hair truly is protruding from a follicle on her own face, she rushes off for tweezers, hot wax, or electrolysis.
All of us goddesses suffered from this, but each of us feared we were the only real (werebeast, until we came together. So while we are still horrified, at least we now know that this is NORMAL. But the hairy difficulties don’t end there.
Sensitivity to Hair
In our youth, we certainly had bad hair days. These were temporary and referred generally to how our “do” looked at a specific time and place. However, now we find ourselves visited by the oxymoronic “permanent change”. Our hair actually turns against us. We are being attacked by our own tresses - in the tiniest puff of wind, individual hairs will reach out and TOUCH your skin! Like a dozen tiny spiders crawling all over your cheeks, forehead, FACE. Some Venuses have seriously considered taking a pair of scissors and just hacking it off. (The scissor attachment on my micro Swiss army knife was inadequate to the task or I might have done it at the lunch table one day.) Much calmer now, I just carry a small pump of hair spray so I can shellac it into a helmet when the torture begins.
My husband observed when we were in a restaurant recently that nearly all the women appeared to be over 50. "Look around at them. What do they all have in common?" he asked. When I shrugged my shoulders, he laughed, "They ALL have short hair!”
(Adapted from our upcoming book "Venus Comes of Age, The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses" If you'd like to comment, share or be part of our menopause community, we'd love you to visit our main blog at menopausegoddessblog.org )