Category Archives: Menopause

Fencing with Breast Cancer (and a Book Giveaway)


En Garde

A post by writer Ronnie Hammer:

I shivered in my thin, standard hospital gown as I lay on the table in an oncology ward, awaiting my first radiation treatment for breast cancer.

Everything I saw as I looked around terrified me: the huge, cold, threatening machines and the gowned, gloved, masked hospital doctors and nurses.

I felt alone and outnumbered. If only I could see a familiar face, hear a friendly voice or squeeze a supportive hand I’d feel so much better.

But no humans are permitted in the radiation room.

A sudden thought popped into my mind; if I couldn’t have the company of a real person, why not take a lesson from nursery school children and do what they do?

 I could invent my own private friend and protector.

Who should it be modeled after? Who should it look like? What should it do?

Perhaps my enchantment with “Upstairs Downstairs” influenced my choice, but I decided my pretend friend would be a six inch tall British gentleman. “I’ll give him a funny name that will force me to smile whenever I think of him.”

And so Percy Puddlethorpe was created.

Then I designed an outfit for him: a little waistcoat, ascot and appropriate bowler hat. He carried an umbrella under his arm.

And then it happened; the radiation machine was turned on. It was a startling, loud, irritating sound.Those noises seemed to Percy’s call to action. He sprung up and stood on top of the radiation machine. I was astonished as I watched Percy open his umbrella and float down on it.

At the point before my face , he paused, tipped his hat, smiled at me, and continued on his way. His sweet smile was so warm and infectious that it caused me to reflexively smile back at him.

His destination was to the cancer cells, where he joined the radiation rays in their partnership to defeat their common enemy.

Percy closed his umbrella, transforming it into a long, sleek shape of a sword. With the “umbrella sword” in his hand he assumed the “En Garde” position.

He jumped into action, stabbing the cancer cells, as he parried left and parried right, lunging, thrusting, advancing and retreating until all the cancer cells were gone. Defeated. Decimated. Percy emerged victorious.

I might be the first cancer patient who smiled, almost laughed and practically cheered when the machine was turned off.

I was elated; I felt like hugging Percy in appreciation for his victory.

And he came with me to every treatment. I never even had to call to remind him!

If you can believe a woman smiling at a pretend person that she invented, then you understand the reality that this vision had for me.

 Months later, when all the treatments and follow up doctors’ appointments were over, my husband and I were eating breakfast one morning. He looked up from his newspaper and said, “You were talking in your sleep last night.”

Really? What did I say?”

You said, ‘I love you, Percy.’ ”

Giveaway: For a chance to win Ronnie’s book, En Garde: My Battle with Breast Cancer, please leave a comment by May 1 saying you’d like to win! 


Ronnie Hammer’s essays have appeared in the Metropolitan Diary section of the New York Times. She has written for the Jewish News, The North Jersey Orchid Society Journal and Executive Female Magazine. She leads the Madison branch of Women Who Write and is co-editor of Goldfinch, the annual literary magazine it publishes. It has published three of her stories.

Ronnie was director of Power Presentations, a public speaking company, for 22 years. She lives in Morristown, NJ with her husband; their three grown children sought greener pastures.

Guppies? Menopause? Yes!


Guppy Female_1

Wikipedia has a lot to say about menopause. Check out the article here.

Of all the menopausal tidbits, the one that splashed me right in the face is this:


And I quote:

“Menopause also has been reported in a variety of other vertebrate species including elephants,[129] short-finned pilot whales[130] and other cetaceans,[131][132] the guppy,[133] the platyfish, the budgerigar, the laboratory rat and mouse, and the opossum.”

Bless their tiny guppy hearts.

I had to find out more. to the rescue!

In this post, “Do Guppies Go Through Menopause?” the blogger writes that his/her guppies definitely live another year or so after they stop reproducing.  (This fact has only been verified for guppies living in fish tanks.)

Now take in THIS tidbit, oh Friend for the Ride readers:

Menopausal guppies are bigger than guppies who are still reproducing.


Guppies in menopause grow longer  NOT fatter.  Their bellies stay the same size.

I’ve thought it might be nice to be a flying fish. Perhaps a stunning rainbow fish.

But I’ve never once wanted to be a guppy.

Now I’m considering choosing guppy for a next life.

Imagine gaining height in menopause (instead of shrinking) while maintaining one’s midsection.

I don’t know though.

We had guppies when I was little. I won a single guppy for coming in second in the Bible Verse Memory Contest. (I got beat out by the pastor’s son.)

That night, my guppy had babies. “Kids, I’m a grandmother!” my mom called upstairs.

Those guppies produced many generations. From my human eyes, life in the guppy tank didn’t hold many thrills.

We finally gave our guppies away when our newest cat couldn’t keep his paws out of the fish tank.

I think I’ll pass on the guppy life.

Guppy Female_1

But as a member of the Universal Sisterhood, I salute you, Guppy Girls!

Enjoy that fish food!

Limerick: When Losing Brings New Beginnings


My Limerick

We got invited to a St. Paddy’s Day party.

“Bring a limerick,” the invitation said. “It’s a contest.”

A limerick contest!  Surely I could win.

Or come in second. Or third.

“Extra points for bawdy limericks.”

Hmm. A bawdy limerick.

I’d never written anything bawdy.

I pondered.

I let my menopausal mind wander.

A streak!

How funny to picture partygoers tossing off their clothes and streaking, especially since at least some guests would be OF A CERTAIN AGE.

I worked hard on my limerick. The words. The theme. The rhythm. The rhyme.

“May I illustrate it?” I asked our host a few days before the party.

“Sure,” she said.

I had never drawn a naked man before.

At least not an anatomically correct naked man.

On party night, I kept my limerick folded in my pocket until my turn came to step up to the mic.

Then with my best dramatic flair, I read the limerick.

When I finished, I handed my paper to the judges.

Handing over poem

Twenty minutes later…

Time to announce the winners!

After a Bailey’s Irish Cream shot to calm my nerves, I held my breath.

And then I let that breath out with a sigh.

I lost.

I didn’t really lose. I got Honorable Mention, along with a mess of other limerick-writers.


The booby prize I received for being the only partygoer to illustrate a limerick spurred me on to a new venture.

Bawdy cartoons!

Someone told me I didn’t have the boy parts right on my drawing. I’ll need to do some studying up.

Organize your own streak, Barbara!

For the life of me, I can’t get a man to write a post for Friend for the Ride.

Wonder if I can get any men to attend my streak?


Naked Men

When the Bottom Falls Out: Surgery for Uterine Prolapse


Dog Food


 A post by a friend who recently had prolapse surgery:

I have always prided myself on being one of those ladies who could cough and sneeze without incident.

Well, being proud has nothing to do with reality or the fact that a myriad of other ailments occurred without my permission!!

I started having lower abdominal pain. My first thought was bladder infection.

I went to the doctor and no, it wasn’t.

Did I pick up something heavy and pull a muscle??

No, I thought….weeeell maybe.

I do lift groceries at the food pantry.  I do haul furniture around.  I go to Costco and fill my truck with big bags of potting soil, dog food and such.  My 95 year old friend told me last year: “You know, you work like a man!”…. hmmm.

So, I decided it was a muscle strain but, denial is a funny thing because eventually the truth prevails.

Time for my annual visit arrived.

I complained to my nurse practitioner and listed my symptoms- lower abdominal pain, slow urine flow and frequent constipation.

It took her all of 2 milliseconds to give me the verdict.  I had uterine prolapse.

How could my body do this to me??

Yes, I am 58 and so what if I had early menopause (age 39) and so what if I had a long, rough delivery giving birth to our daughter?  My grandmother had prolapse and she ignored it. Truthfully though, I was not going to be able to live with it. I was miserable.

What were my options?

I could use a pessary which acts like a diaphragm to hold the uterus in place, have repair surgery, or have a hysterectomy.

Fix it or remove it and forget it or deal with the place holder?

I was sent to an expert and she asked me the same question.  I asked her to fix it.

Then the she dropped the bladder bomb.

She told me that a high percentage of women who don’t leak when they cough before hysterectomy, will have this problem later.  She proposed to do the bladder sling surgery at the same time.

So be it; a partial hysterectomy, vaginal wall repair and a bladder sling

Well, it’s been 10 days since my operation, and I’m feeling pretty good so far with little pain.

I must succumb to strict restrictions.  No picking up anything heavier than 3 pounds for 6 weeks followed by a lifetime of not working like a man.

I guess we all have our limits.

The pups understand that there is no lap time with Mommy for a while. They are so patient with the patient!!