Menopause

Clinical Trials and Older Adults

In 2014, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. A scary heath diagnosis can make you turn inward. You become focused on saving your own life.

A few days before my first appointment with my oncologist at UNC Hospital, I received a letter explaining that I would be invited to join clinical trials. The letter talked about the importance of clinical trials and the role UNC, a research hospital, plays in them.

My first reaction was annoyance. I didn’t need anything else to think about, and I didn’t want to participate in studies that might be time consuming and inconvenient. Wasn’t  it enough that I had cancer and was about to undergo major surgery?

At my hospital appointment, I was introduced to the clinical trials coordinator. He explained each trial to me clearly and told me exactly how I would participate. My attitude shifted, and I readily agreed to participate in four trials.

  • I agreed to have tissue from my tumor sent to a cancer tissue bank.
  • I allowed my surgeon to inject dye to detect further cancer in my lymph nodes. Five years ago, the dye was used in breast cancer surgery, but was undergoing study for its use in endometrial cancer surgery.
  •  I said yes to participating in a study that accessed my quality of life before and after surgery.
  • The last study measured my legs over a two-year period. I was in danger for lymphedema as a result of the lymph node removal. The measurements assessed leg swelling.

I’ve recently learned that older adults (especially those over 65) are under-represented in research studies. This is especially disconcerting since older adults have a large number of health challenges, and many medications are developed to help them in particular.

My friend Kristen Sawyer spent 25 years as as a clinical trials research coordinator.  I asked her why older adults are often excluded from studies. She writes: “By the time a person is old, they often have so many pre-existing conditions that they don’t meet the eligibility requirements to participate.” Older adults may be on medications that can affect a trial’s results as well.

Kristen reported that cognition and hearing difficulties can complicate a patient’s ability to understand the trial and give consent. And adult children sometimes come into the situation with their own biases and discourage their parent from participating.

Happily, health advocates are working to change the number of older adults in clinical trials. In an article in the New York Times, Paula Span writes that “Critics of age exclusion had reason to celebrate in December, when the National Institutes of Health issued new policy guidelines for the research it funds. Starting next January, grant applicants will have to explain how they intend to include people of all ages, providing acceptable justifications for any group they leave out.”

Clinical Trials in Older Adults is on online booklet published by the National Institute on Aging that gives excellent information on clinical trials. I especially like the set of questions on Page 9 that you can bring along to your health care provider. The questions will help you figure out if you should agree to a specific trial.

Participating in clinical trials was easy, interesting, and most of all, helped give deeper purpose to my cancer. As my friend Dr. Sean Bailey, a project leader in Duke University’s Department of Surgery, said to me, “Clinical trial participation can have an impact for generations to come.” And that thought makes this grandmother very happy!

Em and Maze

I just celebrated five years cancer-free. What a happy checkup that was. You can read my cancer story in a series of post I wrote for Friend for the Ride, archived above under “Endometrial Cancer.”

I received compensation from CureClick to write this post. CureClick is committed to supporting patients, caregivers, patient advocates and life science companies through education about health, science and clinical trials.

 

Menopause

Calm Cuffs: A Kickstarter and a Giveaway

I received an email from Elizabeth Paulson with news of an innovative new product. Here’s the scoop, and thank you, Elizabeth!

Our mother is a saint.

Except when she gets too hot. It’s always been like this. This sweet woman would be lovingly sewing our Halloween costumes one day, and then the next, she’s hurling a spatula across the kitchen because the oven is on and the pasta is boiling and it’s too hot. Guess what menopause was like in our house? Yeah. Bad.

One day, instead of fleeing, we raced to the freezer and put a bag of frozen peas on our mom’s wrists. It was as if we’d switched the “off” button. She felt better instantly and was back to her old self in seconds. “Someone should invent ice packs for wrists,” she said.

So we did!

Calm Cuffs are perfect for quick relief from discomfort related to:

  • Hot flashes
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Overheating

Based on the science of using temperature to change your emotional state and body chemistry, Calm Cuffs are cooling wrist bands to help you calm down and reach your zen place, even when life gets heated.

unnamed (1)

This product may just help your family as much as it’s helped ours. Our mom is now one cool woman, we’ve been enjoying peace from life’s stressers, and we hope you’ll help make our dream of Calm Cuffs a reality by supporting us on Kickstarter. This is the link to our Kickstarter campaign: http://e.fnd.to/calmcuffs

Giveaway: We’re giving away a pair of Calm Cuffs to a Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment by November 1. We’ll ship the Calm Cuffs once we go into production.

Family Photos:

Top: Elizabeth and her sister Jennifer and mom Shirley back in the day.

Bottom: The dynamic threesome now.

 

 

Menopause

Menopause and vFit

A post by Dr. Sarah de la Torre that highlights vFit, an at-home device that improves sexual wellness for menopausal women. Take it away, Dr. de la Torre:

Menopause has historically been one of those hush-hush topics often only discussed over a glass of wine with girlfriends. However, with 38 million women at or reaching menopause, we need to open up the dialogue. September is Menopause Awareness Month, making this the perfect time to highlight advances that are helping women welcome this phase of life!

Menopause no longer has to be the overnight aging experience synonymous with declining estrogen, sexual dissatisfaction and bladder leakage. A promising new study on red light therapy, also called photobiomodulation therapy, confirms these aren’t your mother’s menopausal and post-menopausal years.

In fact, many women report feeling more vibrant than ever. After years of insecurity and self-consciousness, many menopausal women note that they finally begin to care less about what others think and most importantly, they start to put their own health and wellbeing in the spotlight.

However, menopause is not without its challenges. It’s all about knowing how to manage these changes. Changes in estrogen levels due to menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, leaving women feeling less comfortable and confident in the sex department. I recommend vFit by Joylux (www.getvfit.com), an at-home intimate wellness device, to my patients to help improve sexual function, sensation, natural lubrication, and confidence. Joylux products use a combination of red light, gentle heat, and sonic technology to safely and effectively address the changes to a woman’s body with menopause and aging.

Sexual wellness is critical to a woman’s overall health and well-being and affects every aspect of her life- including social, emotional and psychological. To have a tool that improves wellness, from a patient’s home, at a fraction of the cost of other solutions is life-changing for my patients.

I recommend women try vFit before opting for other procedures that are more invasive and may have side effects. 95% of women reported improved vaginal wellness after 60 days of use. Many of my patients are so pleased with the results that they find vFit is all they need.

Other tips for managing menopausal symptoms include lifestyle factors, like eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, managing stress well and staying sexually active. For some women, alternative medicine such as plant estrogens, supplements, yoga, and other forms of exercise have been incredibly helpful in alleviating the symptoms of menopause.

Avoiding hot environments, beverages and spicy food can also help alleviate some of the common symptoms of hot flashes. If you have any questions about the right treatment for you, schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk through your options.

Dr. Sarah de la Torre is a board certified Ob-Gyn and women’s wellness expert who has been in conventional Ob-Gyn for 20 years and has specialized training in Functional Medicine. She was a partner in a private group practice for over 15 years where she excelled at caring for women of all ages. She has delivered over 3000 babies and helped countless women have successful pregnancies and improved their gynecologic health.

Dr. de la Torre is on the Clinical Teaching Faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine, has spoken internationally and is a published author of clinical and research articles in women’s health.  She is a certified NAMS provider and a Fellow of ACOG.  Dr. de la Torre is also a Femtech entrepreneur and thought leader who consults for health-related start-ups and female health device companies. Her singular driving goal is to help women obtain optimal wellness.

 

 

Menopause

Grandma Update: Five Tips from a Semi-pro

I haven’t done a grandma update in ages.  Here goes!

I’m on my way next week to Charlotte, North Carolina, to await the birth of my fourth grandchild. I’ll be in charge of Laura’s daughter, Emerson. You can see Em in the middle photo, making an Angelina wand. She is happily nuts at the moment over the Angelina books.

Mazen, the first grandchild, is at the top of this post. The photo was taken on the first day of first grade.

At the bottom is Birch, Maze’s baby brother. Birch and Mazen are wild about each other, which is way fun to watch.

In my seven happy years of grandmotherhood, I’ve learned a few things I thought I’d share with you.

  • This is not your child. My friend Mary’s husband told her this when she was gleefully walking about the house with their first grandchild. This is the best grandma advice I’ve received. The trouble is you love them like they are your baby. But no, this is NOT your child. You get to play. You get to help. You get to give advice if welcomed. But you are not the boss.
  • You will get tired. Pace yourself. When my friend Lisa talked about how tired she got taking care of her young granddaughters, I was surprised. Lisa is the type who starts to paint a room at ten PM.  Now I get it. It took me a while to figure out I had to pace myself. Luckily my girls appreciate my help and thus far, how much I help doesn’t seem to be an issue.

  • You will get your feelings hurt. Brace yourself. It was either Dr. Spock or Dr. Brazelton who said, “Never let a child hurt your feelings.” I’ve been told to stop singing and that my hands feel old and crinkly. And even if I haven’t seen Maze in a few months, I can’t compete with the fun of playing with his best friend, who lives next door. Sometimes he’s gone within minutes of greeting me. Count it all good. The world needs spunky, independent, opinionated kids (as long as they have kind hearts).
  • Some things have changed. Embrace it. I’ve had a blast checking out new products such as those marvelous little pouches filled with horrific sounding combinations of vegetables, fruits, and protein. The kids love them. But other changes are harder to wrap around such as no juice. I used to give my kids watered down apple juice. Juice has no real nutritional value, so I get it. But I’m not a milk drinker or a water drinker, and I find I’m always wanting to give the kids juice to quench their thirst. Get over it, Grandma.

IMG_0203

  • If you don’t live nearby, you will feel sad, some. The first time I left Mazen, I thought my heart had shattered into a million pieces. (And I was going to visit him very soon.)  After about a year, I  told myself I had to buck up and get used to not being with him nearly as much as I wanted. By the time Emerson was born four years later, I was braced. We’re lucky to have the kids, no matter how often we see them in person. No moping aloud.

Old pros out there:  Any more tips to share? Thanks!

Menopause

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Fifty-two

From Becky, here are two signs from the Neuse Sports Shop in Kingston, North Carolina. Love these! (Well, I love all the doors I post and shouldn’t pick favors, but these are extra great.)

Also from Becky comes this sign from El Tiempo Cantina in Houston, Texas.

Candice sent this door from the Dallas Fort Worth airport. It’s interesting to note this bathroom is also a tornado shelter.

And also from Candice, the  Bishop Burger Barn in Bishop, California. Now that trip to the ladies room looks like an adventure!

Paul sent these from Chowboys Cantina in Virginia Beach. Talk about colorful!

Susan found this door a the  Hi Top Cafe in Catskills, New York.

She found this one at the Yellow Deli in Oak Hill, New York.

My Duke friend Derri sent this from Dear Old Duke, our alma mater. Go Lady Blue Devils!

I snapped these at the entrance to the ladies room at the rest area in Johnson County, North Carolina.

Tobacco country…

I found this elegant door at the Glenwood Grill in Raleigh, North Carolina.

And inside I discovered the most elegant hand washing sign I’ve ever seen.

And finally, here’s a neat post my daughter Kath featured on her blog. I just love those wrappers!

I Tried A Toilet Paper Company Called Who Gives A Crap

besttoiletpaper14

That wraps it up for this edition of our Ladies Room Door Art Series! Thanks, everyone!

Menopause

Floss! A TMI Habits Post

I’m on a major kick to break bad habits and add good ones. Read my first post on the topic here.

One vow I’ve made is to spend more time brushing my teeth.

“I read you need to brush for two minutes,” said Cliff a few months ago as he worked away at his own teeth. We have double sinks in the new house. A whole new marriage experience!

So Part One of my tooth habit is to brush longer. I only succeed some, but I am definitely getting there.

And I’ve made a vow to floss more. I use the interdental brushes Those things are fab for teeth gunk.

But my dental hygienist says those little brushes don’t replace flossing. I used to floss about once a week. My teeth are spaced close together in the back. Sometimes the floss would get stuck and then break off, with a tiny piece remaining. I’d always go into a bit of a panic until I got it out.

Then daughter Kath introduced me to Glide.  My flossing world opened up! I love this stuff. It’s like a trip to the spa for my mouth. I’m especially partial to the minted version:

 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes: “It is crucial to make your habits so easy that you’ll do them when you don’t feel like it.”

This is a pretty basic concept, but it’s helping me as I work to make life changes. Thank you, Glide! You glide right along, never get stuck, and feel gentle on the gums.

What about you? Are there products you’ve discovered that have helped you break a bad habit or add a good one?

More Floss Talk: We learned the hard way that dental floss and toilets do not mix. A big plumbing bill taught us that lesson.

How to Floss: Here’s a lesson from the American Dental Association on how to floss correctly. 

 

 

Menopause

Calling All Menopausal Women

Here’s a fun request from freelance writer Mara Santilli. She’s working on a story for Menopause Awareness Month in September and needs our help. I’m planning to share a bit of my experience with Mara, and I hope you will too. 

Take it way Mara!

I’m Mara Santilli, a freelance writer, and I’m working on a story package on menopause for Menopause Awareness Month in September for The Plum, a new US-based site for women over 40.

We’re looking for women of all ages and backgrounds who are currently in some stage of menopause to share a bit about their experience.

We’ll be including first and last names, a quote, and a photo from each woman. Please reach out to maracsantilli@gmail.com if you’d like to participate!