Menopause

Building Your Resilient Self: A Writing Workshop at RambleRill Farm

20151110_110706

For those of you who live locally, my friend Judy Brown and I are leading a workshop at RambleRill Farm here in Hillsborough. We’re talking about resilience for women!

Here’s the workshop description, and if you come, you’ll get a fun notebook like the ones above:

Building Your Resilient Self:
An Afternoon of Wellness and Words

“The oak fought the wind and was broken,
the willow bent when it must and survived.”
Robert Jordan

Come join an intimate group of women for an afternoon at RambleRill Farm in
Hillsborough as we explore writing techniques and how they can be a tool for
resiliency. Whether we are the oak or the willow, life hands us many challenges.
Writing is a strong tool for guiding us to bend when we need to, and to help us
bounce back to physical and emotional wellness.

Judy Brown, a certified holistic health coach, will explain how our emotional,
spiritual, and relational lives can impact our resiliency and our health.

Barbara Younger, an author and writing teacher, will lead us in writing from the
heart to reach the strength within us.

The afternoon will include guided meditations, relaxation exercises, and an
afternoon tea.

Date: Saturday, January 23, 2016
1-4 pm

Where: RambleRill Farm, 913 Arthur Minnis Rd., Hillsborough

Cost: $45 (Early bird discount $40- through January 15)

Please contact Judy Brown for more information and to sign up for the workshop.
Jfrances40@earthlink.

Do join us! Learn more about beautiful RambleRill Farm here at their website.

RambleRill Farm

Check out Judy’s website here and her blog here.

cropped-header2

My writer’s website is here.

cropped-header1

Menopause

The Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Eight

More doors! The leaping figure above graces the ladies room door at The Vendue Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. I love her exhuberance! Here’s the lobby door at the Church Street Inn. This Charleston lady is a bit more demure. Fancy Lady from Inn Fleet Landing in Charleston features a nautical porthole, with frosted glass, of course. Some elegant glass at the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse in Charleston. Photos were taken on a post-Christmas trip with my son-in-law’s parents. The kids abandoned us for Argentina. No worries! The parents had a great trip together. Finally, from that holiday adventure, the roped sign on The River Room in Georgetown, South Carolina. Let’s hear it for the South Carolina Coast. Ya’ll really know how to do ladies room doors! Daughter Laura sent the door below from a cafe in Buenos Aires called “Sans.” Thanks, Laura! I love the young lady’s confident yet casual pose in her striped sweater. And Laura found this cute guy and gal at Los Pizarros Bistro.   This door, from San Juanito, a tapas restaurant, could do with a touch of tidying up. Damas Blog reader Susan sent this crazy number from her holiday trip. She found it along the A1 Hwy between Montego Bay and Negril, Jamaica. Jamaica Back home again, I attended January classes taught by my friend Judy Brown of Judy’s Wellness Cafe. Below, a mandala, on the bathroom door at the wellness center. A mandala represents the universe. 20150105_105936 I’m grateful as I write this for the whimsy of the universe, including bathroom doors that add to the fun of a visit to the loo. Keep searching, wonderful blog readers, and send me the doors you discover in your travels.Thanks!

Menopause

My Theater Debut: The Dixie Swim Club

Auditions

 

Menopause makes us braver!

But did it make me brave enough to try out for a play?

Yep.

Too chicken to try for parts in high school and college, I’ve been toying with auditioning for  Orange Community Players, our local theater group. Then last month, my friend Bernie urged me to try out for their upcoming production of The Dixie Swim Club, a five woman show.

Bernie had no clue I was thinking of acting. I took this as my sign!

I warmed up by using dramatic motions as I gave the children’s sermon one Sunday at church. “You were so theatrical–good job!” Judy said. I fessed up about the tryouts. “I’m not telling many people.I have no idea what my chances are.”

I bought the script and Audition by Michael Shurtleff, a book recommended by Marci Rich. I met Marci through The Women of Midlife, a wonderful Facebook community.

Audition Books

I read the play three times and devoured the acting book.

Audition night!

Lisa, the director, gave me parts of the script to look over. I snapped a photo. If I didn’t get a part at least I could blog about the experience. I was so nervous, I have a hunch I forgot everything I learned in the acting book.

Script

But guess what? This won’t be my last theater post.

I got a part! I’m Jeri Neal McFeeley. As the play opens, Jeri Neal, a former nun, is now pregnant, really pregnant.

Yikes!

Not only do I go into labor on stage, I wear a skimpy dress in another scene, and in another, talk sexy on the phone to my brand new husband. And I’m going to age from my forties to my seventies.

Dixie Swim Club

Menopause courage, I beg you, step onto that stage with me.

At least, despite the play’s title, I don’t have to wear a bathing suit.

That would take more courage than this Jeri Neal McFeeley could muster.

 

Menopause

My Cancer Story: The Recovery

 

Cards

The next morning,  my friend Dwight,who’s on faculty at UNC, dropped in on the way to his office, followed a few hours later by his wife Susan.  Fun!

A Resident came to discuss the pathology. I asked her to write down exactly what type of cancer I had:  Grade 1 endometriod adenocarcinoma. I still wonder how those little buggers got  in there.

Cara unhooked me from the catheter and IV. I passed all of my tests:  Walk. Pee. Eat. I was homeward bound!

This is when it got hard. Not horrible, but hard.

I didn’t have any acute pain, but I began to just feel sick. Maybe something like a case of the flu after someone drops a bowling ball on your mid-section. My belly had swelled up overnight like I was six months pregnant. The only way I could sleep was to brace it with a pillow.

Scary symptoms related to the node removal appeared too (see below).

“You should get better every day, ” the doctor told me before the surgery. “If not, we want to hear from you.”

“You ARE getting better,” Cliff told me, every day.

One night at bedtime, he pulled the covers back, and I climbed in. “See that!” he said. “Look how you moved your legs. You couldn’t do that last night.”

Over and over again, he announced I was getting better. I needed to hear it because many days, I couldn’t feel or see my progress.

Despite a few meltdowns, my mood was good, bolstered by Cliff’s kindness and cards, food, visits, and presents from friends near and far. My surgeon and oncologist, Dr. Gehrig, phoned me twice, which I very much appreciated.

Seven weeks later, I feel great (and very grateful). Post-op check up on Monday.

For those of you who may have a hysterectomy, I’ve listed some specifics below. If you’ve got any questions, email me.

And if you need a hysterectomy due to prolapse, endometriosis, fibroids, or another condition and are hesitating, I say go for it. You’ll feel better fast, and those nasty issues will be gone.

Here’s the scoop:

Pain:  Unlike many patients, I had great luck with oxycodone. Half a pill eliminated my pain, gave me energy, and improved my appetite. Over the counter meds, especially the recommended Ibuprofen, didn’t do much. Most disconcerting was waking up in the middle of the night in pain.

In Weeks Two and Three, my discomfort would disappear for a few hours. I’d announce to Cliff, “I feel normal!”  Two hours after that, I’d reach for pain meds and be back on the couch. I have no clue why pain comes and goes. My doctor explained that the pain usually increases as the day progresses, which was often, but not always, the case with me.

Happily, I never experienced any sharp pain or pain that made me want to scream or bite whatever people used to bite in olden days movies.

Incisions: Zero pain with these, which amazed me. They were closed with steri-strips. As they healed, the incisions itched, but not horribly. Per instructions, I pulled off the strips after 14 days. Seven weeks later, they are just small marks. Photo to come!

Pelvic Floor:  The uterus is removed through the vagina, which is then stitched closed at the top. For two weeks, I was shocked I felt no pain there.  But then it set in. At the time I was up to walking two miles a day. I retreated to the couch for the week.  By Week Four, I once again felt no pelvic floor pain, and I can now walk my regular miles pain-free.

Bleeding and Discharge: I had zero bleeding, which surprised me. But in Week Three  (the same time the pelvic floor pain started up), I began to leak a watery substance. Scared me as I was afraid it was urine. My doc’s nurse explained that pockets of fluid develop and are discharged as the swelling goes down. This lasted about nine days, on and off.

Node Removal: This was the kicker, and the most upsetting part of the recovery experience. When I got in the car to come home from the hospital, for some reason I tried to cross my left leg over my right. I couldn’t do it. That night, I couldn’t lift the leg onto the couch (although I had no trouble walking). “Try,” Cliff said. “I’m trying,” I responded. No luck.

Within 24 hours of the surgery, I also began to experience a burning sensation on the front of both my legs, from the knee up. This only hurt to the touch but was so annoying that the first time I put on denim shorts, I took them off again.

The doctor confirmed both issues were damage from the lymph node removal. She suggested my leg mobility could be improved with physical therapy, but the burning sensation might be permanent. I kept telling myself I could live with it if I had to, but part of me was devastated at the thought. What discouraged me most was that I saw no improvement whatsoever for over two weeks.

On about Day Seventeen, the burning sensation lessened by a tiny amount. Gradually the nerves healed over the next few weeks. Yes!  Now, it’s almost gone except for a patch on one leg.

I can  move my left leg fairly well, although I still have trouble with certain motions. I’m hoping this will continue to improve.

Nausea and Appetite: I never threw up or came close to it, one of my biggest fears! I felt queasy on and off for two weeks.  A neighbor who’s an RD pushed me to eat protein since it’s important for healing.

I lost three pounds and was so pleased that Cliff finally said in a bossy voice, “The purpose of your recovery is not to lose weight. You need to eat.”  Although I liked watching the scale go down, the return of my appetite was a relief.

Constipation: I’ve never had trouble with constipation, so I thought I’d skirt this one, despite warnings from a friend who recently had a hysterectomy. I drank lots of liquids (also because I was afraid of a UTI), ate fruit and salads, walked from Day Two all I could, and took stool softeners. Nope!  I had about three days of troubles, including some bad middle of the night stuff.

Mobility: I was delighted that my incisions never hurt, and despite my swelly belly, I could easily get up and move around without any acute pain (until the pelvic floor pain set in). I had to use my hands to lift my bum leg some, but that was my only mobility issue.

I spent a lot of time on the couch. I felt best with my feet up (and discharge instructions suggest you have your feet propped up plenty).

Energy: I rested a ton and did very little the first week. I had trouble concentrating and couldn’t really read or write much, but I was in good spirits, enjoyed visits (although they can certainly exhaust you), and made what I thought was fairly lively conversation. I took naps for three weeks, but seven weeks in, am back to my normal energy level.

Sleep: I’m not a great sleeper under the best of circumstances.I didn’t sleep at all well until Week Four or so. I’m now sleeping okay (for me!)

That’s about it. Once again, if you’re going to have the surgery or just had it and have questions, email me.

 

Peaches

 

Photo Top:  I treasured each card. They provided a happy splash of entertainment. Cliff enjoyed them too and handed them to me  with great panache when the mail arrived.

Photo Above: We so appreciated every gift of food. Three of my friends brought over a scrumptious lunch that we ladies enjoyed together. This is Judy’s Peachy Delight. Yum and yum! You can find the recipe on her website, Judy’s Wellness Cafe.

 

Judy's Wellness Cafe

 

My Cancer Story: Although I’ve got more posts in the wings, this completes the beginning to end tale. I’ll sprinkle other posts in now and then. Thank you so much for all your good wishes.

Other hysterectomy stories on Friend for the Ride: Check out  Hysterectomy: Leslie’s Story and When the Bottom Falls Out: Surgery for Uterine Prolapse.