I loathe taking medications of any kind. It doesn’t matter what it’s for…I’m very skeptical of putting things in my body just because.
With that said, menopause had my belly looking like a three-month pregnant woman, and that’s no bueno. It wasn’t until I spoke with Karen Cerezo, the Midlife Coach, that I realized what had to be done. It was time for a probiotic.
I thought I was doing well with the probiotic in my Kefir, but I was wrong. A probiotic should have at least 16 strains. My digestion improved within a week of taking one a day. And I just happened to have chosen one that has a mood stabilizer called Ashwaghanda. Let me tell you something…this has saved my life. I’m a much calmer version of myself, not in a zoned-out kind of way, but in a not-going-off-on-everyone kind of way. It’s been a nice, unexpected addition.
The second thing I did was listened to my primary care doctor. A couple years ago, she said I was Vitamin D deficient. But like I said, I’m not one to readily accept that I need to take pills for something.
Guess what? Vitamin D has both a direct and indirect role in the regulation of sleep. Who knew?
At first, I bought just the Vitamin D pill itself. It seems that when I take it independently, it increases my insomnia. So, instead, I bought a multivitamin. Again, I thought my Vega One had enough vitamins, but I was wrong. Waaay wrong. This multivitamin had the right amount of all types of things, including Vitamin D. And kind of like the probiotic, this one was a two-fer. It also improved metabolism, so it was another win-win. I’ve lost ten pounds by doing nothing different other than taking this multivitamin, and my sleep quality has dramatically improved.
So, that’s it for this month. I’m happy to report that my menopausal health is coming together quite nicely.
*I’m a Dr., but not that kinda doctor, so this is not medical advice! Go talk to your physician!
I was introduced to Dr. Mindy Pelz, last year when I searched ‘Fasting During Menopause’ and saw her YouTube video that suggests women over 50 add some feast items once a week to a Keto diet. I had been eating Keto since 2019 and fasting some days. It felt great to find someone who appeared to understand my issues. I was happy to see she’d written a book just for women like me, and I am excited to have this great information for living a healthier rest of my life.
What I LOVE:
This book provides the following:
Dr. Pelz explains the metabolic process of autophagy, which is fascinating. To think our cells can recycle and repair themselves is an awesome and remarkable discovery. Dr. Pelz describes the autophagy ‘sweet spot’ for aid in slowing down the aging process. I am already adding this method of fasting to my routine.
I also discovered I can make good hormones on my own, post-menopause, without added therapy. Dr. Pelz outlines the specific roles our hormones play and how low levels of some hormones can cause the issues we suffer with during and after menopause.
To be honest, the last four months of fasting 14 or 15 hours and eating two meals had not been working for me. The Menopause Reset describes how eating too much protein can raise insulin, prompting a change in protein consumption. Mindy adds that it is important to eat clean protein.
Lastly, like many people, since COVID-19, I found myself eating things I craved. Dr. Pelz explained the microbiome and the need to kill off pathogens that may cause cravings, plus she offers a few solutions.
What I NOTICED:
I have nothing negative to share about The Menopause Reset. All the information is good, and it all makes sense.
However, there is one thing I noticed. Some women may be able to afford the book but won’t be able to afford some of the steps involved in the reset due to their financial situation. Yes, women can fast for 18-24 hours but how can low-income families eat clean, or afford a visit to a hyperbolic chamber, the latter of which I can’t even manage myself?
Being economically strained is stressful; however, alleviating stress is one reason some women need a reset the most. Processed low-quality food is affordable, unfortunately, and there are many food deserts in America. What would these women do? I hope a reset is possible for women who may only be able to tweak their diets with conventional protein and vegetables, provided they eliminate sugars, excess carbs, and bad fats, but The Menopause Reset doesn’t show how.
Overall: The Menopause Reset is a highly informative read. I am even more aware that we have the power to heal our own bodies and not rely on pharmaceuticals. Dr. Pelz offers many tools most women can work with. However, she could include ideas for women who are menopausal and in a lower socioeconomic status.
Navigating the Change Rating (per Marina Jacobs):
Marina Jacobs is a busy 57-year-old, who is working hard in her new career in real estate. Her heart lies in her roles as a devoted Christian, wife, veteran, and mother of three adult boys. Marina is always seeking sound guidance on how to live healthy and independently, and to age gracefully.
*Mindy Pelz didn’t pay for this review.
A friend asks how my family is doing
I ponder the word, for if I had children
I’d probably share their progress and accomplishments
But instead I try to make sense of the word
For, what I hear is a question about the relationship
I have with my family
It’s not always easy to quantify
Different ways my loved ones show up for me
Are they here? Are they there?
But I know I am loved
Distant—social—near and far
Diminishes not the fact
I am blessed
I am cursed
Feeling too deeply, acute awareness
And increased empathy come at a price
A loved one with flu means pneumonia for me
(it’s not about me)
A relief from not having to shoulder every problem
Yet I scream in my dreams
I wake up tired in the mornings
From fighting creatures that wrestle me into believing
That I should, and I must lend a hand
I drag myself
The right shoulder has locked itself
“How did you strain your shoulder?” the doctor asks
“I’ve been playing tennis.”
‘cause it’s easier to say
Than to explain about monsters lurking in the shadows
The doctor sees through the lies
Stings me with a shot of cortisone
I clutch my arm and run home
I take my body for panel-beating
Another ear irrigation
“Ah, at last all that dirty is out!”
Proclaims the nurse extremely proud of her work
I do not respond
But simply stare at small balls of build-up wax
Coming out of my ears
Within seconds a sense of dread overwhelms
Social media reveals more than we care to share
Thoughts race and compete
For, without protection of my build-up wax
I’m too much, I hear too much—
“We’re all mad here!”
Words of a character in some story offer clarity
As I wake up drenched in sweat, in the middle of the night
Menopausal? There’s that too!
I take my body for panel-beating
My physio is a magician and a mind reader
He dulls down the pain and advises me to rest the arm
“I have deadlines,” I protest
“Fight those demons with your left hand!”
I’m surprised but relieved he knows
A friend asks how my family is doing
A question remains unanswered
Hands hover over the keyword
My father-in-law has cancer—
A friend asks
Phew, what a relief!
My husband’s medical tests come back negative
He reaches for my hand, squeezes it
And we gently smile into each other’s eyes
I reflect once more
“My family is FINE,” I respond.
Khaya Ronkainen is a South African-Finnish writer. Her work is largely inspired by nature but often examines the duality of an immigrant life. She is now embracing aging in this youth obsessed culture as she deals with changes and challenges brought by the natural and inevitable menopause. Learn more at Khaya Ronkainen: Life in Verse, Prose & Visuals.
Laine Nixon (born in 1970) is an abstract painter based in Sarasota, Florida. She had solo exhibitions at Gallery 221@HCC and Alfstad & Contemporary. Nixon’s work is in the collections of RBC and HCC. In 2017, she won the John Ringling Towers Fund fellowship and a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat. Her core aim is to find the gap between visual perception and physical object, between “what is” and “what could be.” She pays homage to the bigger picture, hope, and possibility.
View Laine’s portfolio: Laine Nixon
Follow Laine on IG: @lainenixonstudio
Navigating the Change has partnered with photographer, Sorcha Augustine to curate images of women who are thirty-five or older being their full selves.
Sorcha Augustine is a dance and theatre photographer from Sarasota, Florida. She creates dynamic stage and promotional photography for performing arts organizations, as well as authentic portraiture of performing and visual artists, helping them communicate their skill, personality, and passion to their audiences.
Follow Sorcha on IG: @sorcha_augustine
Book Sorcha for your photos: https://sorchaaugustine.com/
Like many women, my younger life was pretty uneventful as far as my health was concerned. Then, everything changed in 2001 when I got pregnant at age 35. As my pregnancy progressed, the doctor became concerned that I had a growing fibroid. It was near the exit area where the baby is delivered, so I was monitored with monthly ultrasounds to determine if it was best for me to have a C-section. By the time I was ready to give birth, the fibroid was the size of a baseball. Nevertheless, I did have a vaginal birth, and during the following months, my fibroid shrank. So clearly there was a hormonal connection to how the fibroid developed.
I began having terrible backaches on my lower left side. As time passed, I noticed my backaches were worse the week before my period. My new gynecologist told me there was a fibroid on my left side. The same one that grew when I was pregnant returned to haunt me. She suggested I try physical therapy (PT) to strengthen my pelvic floor.
Well, long story short, ibuprofen gave me more relief than PT. But as the year progressed, the pain worsened. The pain was so bad that one day I had to leave work because I just couldn’t concentrate, and the pain relievers weren’t helping.
My doctor said that since I was 50 and no longer interested in having children, a laparoscopic hysterectomy was an option. But she added that she couldn’t promise that the surgery would provide the relief I was looking for; she was just making an education guess that it might. Of course, there are other ways to remove a fibroid, but I didn’t like the sound of them—especially ones that would send me into menopause. I just wasn’t ready.
I decided that the best non-invasive treatment for me was a Mirena IUD, which includes hormones. The theory was the IUD would reduce my natural hormone levels, thus reducing the pain from the fibroid.
The year went by, my period was lighter, but I still had backaches.
This year was a rollercoaster. Some months were okay; others, the back pain was intolerable. Sometimes my period was light. Sometimes heavy. Sometimes there was spotting in between. Sometimes the blood was very dark and thick.
I wasn’t getting any better. Unfortunately, I had an unrelated surgery in June. But I told myself once I recovered, I’d contact the doctor about the hysterectomy. I just couldn’t take living with pain and inconsistent periods anymore.
Then things took a turn…
I had my usual mammogram, but this time, I was called back for more tests. Long story short, I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ or DCIS. DCIS is the presence of abnormal cells inside one of the milk ducts. I had no idea what this diagnosis meant.
The nurse assured me DCIS wasn’t invasive.
So I thought, no problem! Yet I was still scheduled to meet with a surgeon.
The surgeon told me DCIS comes in different grades, and mine was a Grade 3 … the most aggressive. In other words, I could potentially develop invasive breast cancer. The DCIS had to be removed.
“You can choose to have a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy,” the surgeon said.
Wait…mastectomy? Seriously?! I was not ready.
Then, I met with a plastic surgeon, “If you have a lumpectomy, with radiation, it will be very difficult to reconstruct the breast,” she said.
So, I had to weigh my options.
All I could think about was my younger sister who passed away from breast cancer in 2016. I figured I was probably likely to get breast cancer, too, especially if it ran in our family.
My doctor ordered a genetic test to see if I had the breast cancer genes, and thankfully I did not. But I still decided to get the mastectomy with immediate reconstruction because I just couldn’t live with knowing the DCIS may reoccur and potentially be just as aggressive, or worse!
The surgery went well, and the DCIS cells were examined at the lab, similar to how breast cancer cells are examined for hormone receptors. It was determined that my DCIS was progesterone positive and estrogen negative, which the surgeon said was unusual.
The doctor’s use of the word unusual felt odd. Why would my DCIS be receptive to progesterone and not estrogen? I wondered if the IUD with hormones was the culprit. I mean I did receive this diagnosis just two years after it was inserted. Coincidence?
Both the surgeon and my gynecologist assured me that hormones from an IUD are localized to the region where it’s implanted, and therefore, do not circulate throughout the rest of the body. But I was still skeptical.
We know what a crazy year this was. Getting a doctor’s appointment was near impossible. But I soon needed one, bad!
I started having heavy bleeding. This went on for four days straight. I applied an ice pack to my abdomen, and it seemed to help a little, but the bleeding was relentless. And it worsened.
I would insert a super tampon, and then half an hour later, I would pull it out full of blood, with more blood gushing out. It was only for a second, but it was enough to scare me. Thank God I was home during this time!
After a week of this nightmare, the bleeding did stop, but I’m sure it would have started again with the same intensity, if not worse the following month.
A couple days into this episode, I called my gynecologist and she said I could have a hysterectomy during these COVID days because it was medically necessary. My surgery date was delayed two weeks out. She also ordered a blood test to make sure I was not anemic. I was not, but just barely!
The day finally arrived! With a negative COVID test and mask in place, I got my laparoscopic hysterectomy, with removal of just one ovary since I still wasn’t ready for menopause. My doctor was specialized in performing this kind of surgery, and she did a great job!
I feel great. Once in a while I’ll still feel a little sensation in my lower back where I had the pain before. I’m guessing it’s because I’m still ovulating with my one remaining ovary, but it’s nothing close to the pain I had before! Had I known this in 2017, I would have had the hysterectomy instead of the IUD. But at least the worse is over now. It’s weird to think of how different my body is now, but I’m healthy, I feel great, and that’s all that matters.
Deb is a recovering graphic designer who blogs for her creative outlet and mental therapy. Follow her blog Nuts and Crackers. Her “real” job is transitioning into healthcare, but what remains the same is the love she has for her husband and college-aged daughter.