What You’re Saying Is…Things Can Just Start Falling Out?

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I have a wonderful job. I am privileged to interview medical professionals and share what they tell me with various audiences. It’s a great way to learn what researchers have discovered and what medical breakthroughs are on the horizon.

However a recent interview is giving me nightmares. Not because the doctor wasn’t congenial or helpful (he was an extremely intelligent and polite man). It was WHAT he told me that I can’t stop thinking about.

Hold Onto Your_________

The physician is a urogynecologist, meaning that he not only specializes in female reproductive mechanisms, but also in the urinary system. It takes a special person to want to deal with all of that nasty, so my hat’s off to anyone who chooses that field.

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If only it were that idyllic!

 

He wanted readers to know about Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). I had a flashback to the time when my 83-year old grandmother had some sort of female surgery because something was out of place. Is that what she was dealing with 20 years ago?

Indeed it was. My grandma was losing her battle against gravity. The bones, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons that were supposed to fight this downward force and hold her organs in place were failing her. Specifically, her pelvic floor muscles were calling it quits.hammock-68010__340

The doctor told me that the pelvic floor, or the group of muscles and supporting tissues that act like a hammock over the pelvic opening in women, can become injured and weakened over time. As a result, the bladder, uterus, small bowel, and rectum can start to “prolapse” or slip down into the vagina.

WHAT??? Stuff can just start falling out? 

Evidently, a difficult birthing experience can injure supporting tissues which can further weaken as a woman ages. But other factors overstretch these muscles, ligaments and fascia–factors such as obesity, chronic coughing and pressure from chronic constipation.

I didn’t have any trouble when I gave birth to my daughter, and I don’t have these other issues, but I remained concerned. The doctor reassured me with the following stats:

  • Though more than 40% of women over 40 experience some form of prolapse, only about 3%-6% require treatment
  • Most patients who undergo a surgical procedures are in their 60s
  • The peak incidence of symptoms is when a women is in her 70s or 80s (you live long enough and things start to shift)

So I have a bit of time before I worry. But I started telling every woman I know that if she starts to feel something protruding into her vagina, she might have this condition. Interesting topic to discuss at dinner parties, but I wanted women to be prepared!

How to Keep It All In

According to my source, minimally invasive procedures can “rebuild” the pelvic floor hammock with native tissue or mesh (though some physicians stay away from mesh now with problems that women have encountered with it). But even better news is that we can do things to help prevent POP from happening by: appetite-1239056__340

  • Staying active and physically fit
  • Continuing a regular practice of pelvic floor exercises (like those suggested at http://www.voicesforpfd.org)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Addressing conditions that aggravate muscles such as chronic coughing or constipation.

We’re all in this together gals. Let’s make a daily practice of strengthening those muscles. Let’s stay active and drop the extra weight. Let’s look into natural things that help chronic coughing, (like doTERRA’s Breathe blend) and constipation (like doTERRA’s Digest Zen blend). Don’t go from bad to worse by using over-the-counter remedies when so many natural options are out there.

No more nightmares about walking down the street as organs pop out all over. I’ll be fine and so will you. Just keep doing those Kegels.

 

A Siren is a Siren…Isn’t It?

Even though it’s mid-winter, the tornado practice siren peals every Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m.

Since I know that with snow on the ground the likelihood of a tornado is slim. And yet every time I hear that darn siren, I get a burst of adrenaline.

And it always reminds me of the first summer I lived in this house.

Lilapsophobia:  irrational fear of tornadoes and hurricanes

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First, let me set the record straight.  When I was growing up 20 miles northwest of here, when you heard a siren, it meant serious business. Living in tornado alley means you don’t mess with warnings–you simply take action immediately.

I can count half a dozen tornadoes that came through our area when I was growing up.  The first, I was told, occurred when I was an infant.  The rest of the family ran for cover in the “under the stairs” closet.  Meanwhile, I was left in the bassinet in my parent’s bedroom.  I guess that comes with being Bonus Child No. 7: totally forgotten in everyone’s haste.  My parents still refuse to apologize and often say, “We would have figured out you were missing at some point.”  I think not.

The next time, I was a toddler.  Thankfully, my oldest sister remembered that I existed and shuttled me to the closet, along with my other siblings and our German Shepherd.  Shoved together with several kids in this small space, I got stuck with the butt end of the dog in my face.  Pepper kept smacking me with his tail, dealing with his own canine version of lilapsophobia. When my parents came home from the store, they said the car lifted off the ground as they were driving.  Yikes.

The third time I remember most vividly because I was older, and the tornado came through our back yard and had the nerve to take my swing set with it.  The concept blew my mind (pardon the pun).  The weather can TAKE STUFF FROM YOU?  What kind of world was I living in?

There were several other pretty scary storms that likely contributed to my fear of tornadoes, so what happened in 2002 shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Check the Fine Print

I remarried in 2002 and moved into my husband’s home with my then-seven-year-old daughter.  Life was peachy, and we looked forward to our first summer in a great new neighborhood.

Then it happened.  One July night at 11:00 p.m., I could hear the city’s sirens going off.  Adrenaline shot me out of bed so quickly I wasn’t sure where I was…and where the closet under the stairs was…and where Pepper was…and where the swing set…wait a minute!  Where was my daughter?

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I ran into her bedroom and picked her up, trying not to wake or scare her.  This was, of course, impossible, considering I was stealing her from sleep and acting like a maniac.  I grabbed the first things I thought of to protect her:  a pillow, her gym shoes and her bike helmet.

She was half asleep as we ran past my husband, who was sitting quietly in the living room, watching television with the front door open.  The wind was whipping the trees into a frenzy and rain was shooting down in anger. Out of the corner of my eye I caught that menacing scroll at the bottom of the TV screen.  I knew it must be describing the peril coming our way.

“What in the world are you doing?” he hollered as I scampered down the basement steps.  I ignored him.  It was every man for himself.

Once in the basement, I found the nook under the stairs and, as swift as could be, put the bike helmet on my daughter. By now, she was fully awake and terrified that life in the new house came with such nightmarish circumstances.  As she was asking me questions, I quickly put on her gym shoes (“We may have to run if the tornado picks up the house”) and then grabbed the futon mattress to put over us.

“What is going on?” My husband was now standing at the top of the stairs.

Was he deaf?  Could he not hear that we were going to die?  The sirens don’t lie.

“There’s a tornado coming,” I yelled up the stairs from our bunker. ” You need to take cover too!”

He had the nerve to chuckle.  Probably just like the tornado that stole my swing set. “It’s just a watch,” he said.  “It sounds once for a watch and two times for a warning.”

I didn’t believe him.  Who changed the rules?  Why was I not consulted?  Why wasn’t a national memo distributed?

Evidently a letter had come from the city a few weeks prior indicating they were putting a revised warning system in place.  Well that explains it.

How Does One Move On?

That was 15 years ago, and try as I might, I can’t control the adrenaline when I hear the siren go off.  Even the test one every Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. It fools me every dang time, takes me several minutes of wondering why I would be hearing that screech when it’s a sunny day.  Was it one of those creep-up-on-you-and-it-sounds-like-a-freight-train-before-you-know-it kind of storms?

Phobias don’t die easily.  But they are spread easily.  Even at college, my now-22-year-old daughter instinctively panics at the sound of the siren or the annoying beep on T..V. indicating a need to watch the skies.

And yet I still can’t convince her to grab a bike helmet and a pair of gym shoes before she runs to the basement of her dorm.  Silly girl.  Doesn’t she know how ingenious that is?

Even My Eyes Are Going Through Menopause?

I’ve worn glasses since I was ten years old, so in my time I’ve seen a fair amount of optometrists.  My first was a freckled leprechaun of a man who always pinched my cheek and told me how cute I was, quite the ego boost for a chubby adolescent with glasses.  He would be my optometrist for a couple of decades until he retired and I had long outgrown the need for affirmation from a mythical creature.

The doctor I’ve been seeing for the last eight years has to be my all-time favorite.  It has little to do with the fact that I love his name, Dr. Christ (rhymes with “mist”), but more likely because I feel like I’ve graduated cum laude from optometry school each time I leave his office.

I’m confident I’ve gotten my  money’s worth at these appointments because I always learn something new that makes a difference in the way I see my eyes (pun intended).  Which in turn feeds my insatiable desire to take my new found knowledge and then impress someone who is not as learned in the field of ocular health.  So here goes…doll eyes

Did you know that a woman’s eyes change during menopause?  As if it weren’t difficult enough to navigate the raging torrent of physical, mental and emotional fluctuations, now we have to pay attention to what is going on with our eyes.

Most of us know that vision changes as we age.  Lenses harden and cause us to have difficulty seeing fine print without readers, bifocals or really long arms.  It seems like the day that I turned 40, I realized that I was having to take my glasses off, or peer through the top or bottom to read things up close.

But I had also noticed lately that my eyes were often red and felt like they had sand in them.  Though I suspected that I had developed a new allergy,  I couldn’t pinpoint the source of the problem.  Dr. Christ told me that as we enter menopause, changing levels of hormones also affect the chemical composition of the secretions of our eyes.

He went on to say that the place where our eyelashes emerge from our eyelids is a breeding ground for bacteria and under normal conditions, our tears help wash away that bacteria.  But hormonal fluctuations cause a change in the one or all of the three layers of our tears (mucus, aqueous and lipid), meaning microorganisms are not kept in check  like they are when we are younger.

He sent me home with a bottle of OCuSOFT Lid Scrub Foaming Eyelid Cleanser.  At the end of each day I pump some of the foam onto a wet washcloth at night and wipe my eyelids.    As a bonus, it also takes off eye makeup, eliminating one step in my nightly routine.  Since I’ve been using it I haven’t noticed any problems with my eyes.

I wonder if Dr. Christ has a magic formulas for hot flashes? Or cellulite?

Big Brothers and the Creature from the Black Lagoon

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There’s nothing I hate more than being chased.

I don’t mean being chased by someone with violent intent.  I mean the garden variety “I’m gonna get you” chase game that we played as kids.

It’s not that I don’t like fun.  Lord knows I’m always up for a game of Twister.  But “tag” and “chase” were never my favorites.  Even now as an adult, if my daughter is running up behind me, I squeal like a toddler.  I blame my brother Tim for this neurosis.

Tim is five years older than me, the third kid in our family of seven (me being the seventh and most adorable).  For some reason, he loved to scare the crap out of me when we were kids.  Maybe it was because he had an older brother who did the same and he was just sharing the McGlinn family brand of love that flowed downhill.

Whatever the reason, he loved to see me scared.

Why You Don’t Let Brothers Control the Television

My parents were too busy with all of us kids that they didn’t pay attention to what we were watching, and really, back in the ’70s, how much trouble could you find on TV?  My parents didn’t think anything of my brother sitting me down in front of “Creature Features”, “Night Gallery” and “Twilight Zone” episodes when I was five.

King Kong

Holy cow.  Imagine seeing The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the original King Kong and Godzilla movies without little kid adrenaline kicking in.  Each film produced such nightmares, that I would crawl out of bed upstairs, go down the stairs in the dark and scare my mom and dad awake and ask if I could sleep with them.  That alone should have tipped them off that something…or someone…was making me a fraidy cat.

But no.  The more scared I got, the more it busted my brother’s gut.  He would chase me up the stairs.  He would chase me down the stairs.  He would chase me around a pretend boxing ring in our living room before church on Sunday morning.

Then one day, vengeance was mine.

Why You Don’t Let Brothers Babysit

In my family, if you were the oldest in the crowd that was running around the neighborhood one day, you were the one in charge.  So sometimes  Tim was in charge of me and my sisters.

On one of many such occasions, we found ourselves in the garage of the kids across the street:  six boys who were always up for adventure and mischief-making.  One of the things they loved best was to tell ghost stories.  Even in the middle of a bright summer day, a ghost story can wreak havoc on a youngster who has seen a giant lizard crush Tokyo with his bare feet.

On this particular day, the story was about the cemetery across the highway that we could see from our neighbor’s house.  One of the boys was telling about how the “Hatchet Lady” rose up from her grave and attacked a young couple who were making out in their car.  (Note:  all of the stories involved teenagers who were kissing in cars.  Why was this the prevalent theme?  Was this a warning from our sweet Catholic school boy neighbors?  But I digress…)

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I got so scared that I ran out of the garage and across the street to our house.  In my haste, I failed to notice that my brother Tim began chasing me, but then passed me so that he could beat me there.  Being five years older and faster, he made it to the back door of the house before me, dashed in, locked it and then stuck his tongue out at me through the plate glass window that I could barely reach.

Forget fear.  Anger kicked in.  I was so mad that he was laughing at my anguish over the Hatchet Lady that I started banging on the window.  In no time, it shattered.

By this point my brother was in hysterics.  He couldn’t wait until my parents got home to tell them that I was the culprit.  He was sure that my Dad would get out “the whacking belt” that was reserved for special displays of corporal punishment.

No sooner had he started laughing however, my parents arrived home from the grocery store.  They looked at him.  They looked at me crying. It took them no time to piece together the story.  I was the innocent victim.  Tim was the evil urchin.  He was hauled off to face my father’s wrath (who after grocery shopping with my mother had had enough “merriment” for the day already, so you can just imagine.)

Fair warning:  to this day, I can’t walk up a flight of stairs if someone is behind me.  I get that startle reflex that I hate.  So if you’re coming up behind me and I turn around and slug you, please don’t blame me.  Take it up with my brother.

To Live is to Laugh

“You can always tell an Irishman…but you can’t tell him much.”

I’m 67% Irish.

If my father’s family had anything to say about it, I’d be 100 percent. But somehow my mother snuck in under the radar as a German Swede (and a Protestant at that).

She married my dad before the McGlynns were any the wiser. Our Irish relatives never let her live down her lack of Celtic and Catholic pedigree, talking and snickering behind her back at every family gathering.

Perhaps it was because she’s never been funny, and the Irish place a premium on funny. I don’t mean to overgeneralize, but Germans, at least the ones in my family, were not what you would call humorous.

And the Swedes? Well let’s just say my Swedish relatives were all work and no play. Maybe they were cutting jokes while they were cutting meat at the my great grandfather’s butcher shop, but I never heard any. At least not any REAL yucks.

Come forth, Lazarus! And he came fifth and lost the job. From Ulysses by James Joyce

But my dad’s relatives? It was an adventure every time we saw them. There are no better storytellers than the Irish, and every tale of family intrigue was hysterical. Not because the story was that interesting–in fact it could have been about a tree that fell in someone’s yard. Yet somehow the way it was told, it would leave everyone doubled over and trying to remember every word to share it with the next person. It’s a badge of honor in our family if you weave a yarn that leaves them laughing.

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Laugh to Keep from…Everything

For as long as I can remember, my dad has handled both the good and the bad of life with jokes and laughter. To be serious was to consider that life is difficult and that problems may be overwhelming. Being silly was a happy form of denial that made him feel less helpless and more in control over things that couldn’t be controlled. He truly had never learned any other way to communicate.

The instinct to be hysterical would most certainly kick in when any of my father’s seven children was sick.

In fact, when I had my gall bladder removed at age 17 and almost died, my Dad was the one who spent the most time with me in the hospital in the days following the surgery. Whether sitting next to me, or walking down the halls with me (IV cart in tow), he would tell me funny stories.

Envision busting a gut–LITERALLY. I was laughing so hard it was pulling at my sutures and making me cry in pain. But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. I knew that my dad loved me and was truly concerned because he was trying to make me laugh.

My Dad would be the one to incite a giggling wave throughout our family’s pew at a funeral. My Dad would be the one talking about how the tornado headed towards our house would do a great and desperately needed remodeling job. And my Dad would be the one to joke with the doctor when a prognosis was dismal, causing both doctor and patient to forget that anything was wrong.

Keep ‘Em Laughing…Whatever it Takes

Last month, we had to have my Dad join my Mom in a local nursing home as a resident. Though he’s dealing with several health issues and a wee bit of dementia, he is still trying to be as funny as ever, and using his humor to help him cope. He will call me on the phone and give me the weather report, in the style of George Carlin’s “Hippie Dippie Weatherman” skit. He will make faces as other residents go by to produce giggles. He will pull old family stories out of the shrinking storehouse in his brain to help us both feel a connection to a better time and a funnier place.

He gets frustrated that he is not as quick-witted as he once was. Besides being able to go home, nothing would make my dad happier than being able to be more humorous. So we throw easy joke bait to him and let him take a bite on a fabulous punch line of his own creation.

I’m sure that our combined sense of humor will keep us both going, since making merry is in our blood (or at least 67% of mine). But as his brain slips further away, we will have to resort to finding some new way to giggle, even if it’s simply sticking our tongues out at each other. To see that Irish twinkle in his eyes will be enough for me. Because as long as we’re laughing, we are living life to the full.