Experience 2015: Massage!

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Daughter Laura treated me to a massage when I visited Dallas last month (a belated Mother’s Day gift.) My one and only massage was fifteen years ago, and I’d long forgotten it. This felt like a new experience, so I’m counting it in my Experience 2015 series.

While we were shopping that morning, the spa phoned Laura. “Bad news,” Laura said after the call. “The female massage therapist you were scheduled to see is sick. They want to know if you’re alright with a man.”

“Sure,” I said.

If you’ve had male doctors do all that doctor stuff to you, how intimidating could this be?

When we arrived at the spa, Cemetria, Laura’s massage therapist, pulled her aside. I watched Laura smile and nod. She reported later that Cemetria whispered, “Is your mom still okay with this?”

Score one for Barbara being chill!

Except for needing to tell Eric he was pressing WAY too hard into the area below my shoulder, the massage was excellent. I loved the spa atmosphere too: the herb tea, the lavender oil, the robe, the fountain in the waiting area, the robes and slippers.

Thoughts on the actual massage?  Two impressions remain strong:

  • What does it mean to be in a dimly lit room with a complete stranger who is rubbing you almost everywhere? Although I wasn’t afraid or even creeped out, on some level, this did feel odd/weird/slightly invasive. But there’s an expansiveness to it, too. The touch of a stranger, in a safe situation like this, allows you to focus on your physicality. With no real emotional connection to the massage therapist, it’s you and your body. Your body right now. The age it is. The shape it is.
  • The best parts were when Eric worked on my fingers and toes.He massaged each digit, and in the days since, that sensation has stayed with me, whispering,” All of you is important. All of you can be healed. Every inch. Your whole body. Your whole being.”

Between my cancer and my mom’s death, it’s been a tough year. I’m not complaining, as I’ve been embraced by great love. But something about this year and my massage experience, convinces me to try massage again. That it’s worth the money, now and then. My friends have recommended a massage therapist in our town, a woman, and I’m going to call this week for an appointment.

What about you? Is massage part of your life sometimes, never, or on a regular basis? Is it a simple pleasure or do you think it aids your body and spirit beyond that?

Being Sexual? I’m Just Glad to Be Alive!

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A post from Jane Silverstein of Soul Source:

You’ve survived cancer, with the help of great medical care; perhaps consisting of surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. At first you just wanted to make it through the treatments. Now life is starting to get back to normal, except for one big area of concern: your sex life.

Many cancer patients are reluctant to discuss this topic with their doctors. Years ago physicians would tell their patients, “You should be glad just to be alive.” Times have changed, and today we know how important sexuality is for intimacy, stress reduction, sleep, and self-esteem. Most health care professionals are now comfortable discussing sexual issues with their patients, and there are many options and treatments available.

Many women cancer survivors report feeling less sexual. Fear,decreased self-esteem, and loss of desire may be compounding the problem. The key is open communication with your partner. Don’t forget that the brain is a very important “sex organ.”  Setting the mood can definitely help. Candles, music, massage oils, and sexy lingerie can’t hurt. Keep in mind that intimacy does not mean intercourse. Start gradually, touching  and caressing enhances our relationships and gets our pleasure receptors firing.

Many women report experiencing  vaginal dryness and tightness after undergoing cancer treatments. Ask your gynecologist for advice on using over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers, such as Replens. Try using a vaginal moisturizer at least two hours before intercourse. Using a vaginal moisturizer during cancer treatments can also help reduce vaginal discomfort. Some women may also benefit from low-dose vaginal estrogen in a cream,tablet, or ring form. These localized hormones help the vagina regain moisture and elasticity, with less hormones getting into the bloodstream.

If vaginal tightness is a problem, talk to your physician about the use of progressively-sized vaginal dilators. Dilators are used at home to gradually stretch the vaginal tissues. Soul Source vaginal dilators are unique because they are soft and flexible, and more closely resemble body tissue.

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A women will usually start with the largest size she is comfortable inserting and then gradually move up to larger sizes. Lubrication is the key to a more comfortable insertion. Use a water based lubricant on both the dilator and the vaginal area.  While lying down, insert the dilator. This is the time to relax. You can read, watch TV, listen to music, etc. The dilator should be left in place for about 15 – 20 minutes. Some women will need to dilate every day, others less often. Check with your health care provider regarding the frequency and duration of dilation therapy.

The key to regaining your sexuality is open discussions with your partner and your medical team. I just returned from the ACOG  (American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologyconference  in San Francisco, and I can tell you from my experience that doctors really want to help their patients regain their sexuality. There was even a lecture called “Sex/Pain/Desire.” and it was a full house, standing room only!

It may take some relaxing  music, a nice glass of wine, and some medical advice, but please ​don’t give up – you can get your “mojo” back!

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Jane Silverstein is the owner of Soul Source Therapeutic Devices, a company specializing in vaginal dilators.She has lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years but still can’t lose her native New York accent. She has been married to her best friend and business partner Lloyd for almost 33 years. They have 2 grown sons who know more about  menopausal issues, vaginas, and dilators  than any 20- something young man  ever needed to know!

Jane is passionate about helping women regain their sexuality. She also has a  passion for helping  refugees in the Congo and Darfur. She loves to travel, spend time with her large extended family and friends, and rescue dogs. The latest rescue is Sunny, a skittish golden retriever. Skinny was abandoned by a puppy mill but has now  found her forever home.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers articles for patients. Check out their patient pages here.

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Eleven

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Habitat Store

I found this charming sign at the Hospice Flee Market Store in Haw River, North Carolina. I can’t complain about the bossy sign though, because I found some boss trucks for grandson Mazen at a great price.

From reader Susan, the door of  Zibibbo 73 Trattoria & Wine Bar, located in Stafford, Virginia. Susan wondered why the 73 on the sign. She reports: “Zibibbo is an ancient wine grape, according to the restaurant’s website.  It was taken to Italy in 1773, so maybe that’s why 73 is in the name and on the doors.”

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Susan sent this door from the Spinning Wheel Diner in Lebanon, New Jersey. She reports that the diner’s decor is Art Deco, and there’s lots of shiny aluminum everywhere.

Lebanon, New Jersey

Reader Judy found this door in Ireland!

Women are always right

Carol, famed for her Potty Trip of Potty Trip posts, sent this lovely sign from The Villages in Florida.

Bradenton Recreation Center

Another from the Villages. Elegance!

Nancy Lopez Country Club

I found this handpainted unisex door at the Pie Chest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Great door and YUM to the pies!

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I snapped this photo at ACAC, daughter Kath’s gym in Charlotteville. (The sign is actually shiner and prettier in real life.)

From the Citizen Burger Bar in Charlottesville

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And the Toys R Us , where I bought Mazen the Peppa Pig Camper Van. The rich purple color reminds me of Jenny Joseph and her poem “When I am Old I Shall Wear Purple”

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Last but not least, someone in my family has even created a ladies room door! I didn’t realize it until we visited the bakery that my son-in-law Matt owns and runs (along with Kath) in Charlottesville, the fabulous Great Harvest Bread Company. Kath did the door. I keep mulling bread related bathroom doors they might do, but have resisted making any suggestions.

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Doors, doors everywhere! Keep those cameras ready this summer. Thanks so much!

Perimenopause and Sleep: The Latest from the Endocrine Society

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This post, sent to me by the Endocrine Society, focuses on sleep. The images are from their Menopause Map. Check out the map after your read the article! Click here to access their excellent guide to menopause.


Hormone Fluctuations Disrupt Sleep of Perimenopausal Women

Study finds sleep interruptions worsen during certain phases of menstrual cycle

Women in the early phases of menopause are more likely to have trouble sleeping during certain points in the menstrual cycle, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

During perimenopause – the earliest stage of the menopausal transition – women may have irregular menstrual cycles due to the body’s fluctuating hormone levels. Symptoms such as sleep disturbances and hot flashes typically begin three to five years prior to the onset of menopause, when a woman is in her 40s, according to the Hormone Health Network.

The study examined how hormone fluctuations affected sleep during the luteal and follicular phases of the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase occurs prior to menstruation. The follicular phase refers to the two weeks after menstruation.

“We found that perimenopausal women experience more sleep disturbances prior to menstruation during the luteal phase than they did during the phase after menstruation,” said one of the study’s authors, Fiona C. Baker, PhD, of the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International in Menlo Park, CA, and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Measures of electrical brain activity found that the hormone progesterone influences sleep, even at this late reproductive stage in perimenopausal women.”

The laboratory study examined sleep patterns in 20 perimenopausal women. Eleven of the participants experienced difficulty sleeping at least three times a week for at least a month, beginning with the onset of the menopausal transition.

The women each slept in a sleep laboratory twice – once in the days leading up to the start of the menstrual period and the other time several days after the menstrual period. Researchers used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to assess the women’s sleep and brain activity. Each participant also completed a survey regarding their sleep quality in the month prior to the laboratory testing and underwent a blood test to measure changes in hormone levels.

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Researchers found women had a lower percentage of deep, or slow-wave, sleep in the days before the onset of their menstrual periods, when their progesterone levels were higher. The women also woke up more often and had more arousals – brief interruptions in sleep lasting 3 to 15 seconds – than they did in the days after their menstrual periods. In contrast, sleep tends to be stable throughout the menstrual cycle in younger women.

“Menstrual cycle variation in hormones is one piece in the overall picture of sleep quality in midlife women,” Baker said. “This research can lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms behind sleep disturbances during the approach to menopause and can inform the development of better symptom management strategies.”

Other authors of the study include: Massimiliano de Zambotti, Adrian R. Willoughby, Stephanie A. Sassoon and Ian M. Colrain of the Center for Health Sciences at SRI International.

The study, “Menstrual-cycle Related Variation in Physiological Sleep in Women in the Early Menopause Transition,” was published online at http://press.endocrine.org/doi/10.1210/jc.2015-1844,

About the Endocrine Society: Founded in 1916, the Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest, largest and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Today, the Endocrine Society’s membership consists of over 18,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. Society members represent all basic, applied and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Washington, DC. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit their site at www.endocrine.org. Follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HormoneHealthN