The Mind-Body SHIFT

Nourishing the Body, Feeding the Mind, Nurturing the Soul


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Heeding the Call to Teach the Healing of Yoga

EasyPoseI still remember the day I sat in my then-rheumatologist’s office more than a decade ago, fatigued and broken, seeking yet another treatment, desperate for solutions. Seemingly helpless in the fight against insomnia, suffering from daily migraines, brain fog and digestion problems and saddled with excruciating pain, numbness and pins-and-needles sensation of misbehaving nerves, I was so physically fatigued that it was hard to even walk to the mailbox some days. Though we’d tried a couple of medications, physical therapy and trigger point injections, we’d exhausted this doctor’s toolbox of treatment (which naturay didn’t include yoga or tai chi, at the time). 

“I don’t know what more can be done,” he said. “I can’t see you getting much better than you are now.”

This essay, Dr. F., is dedicated to you

After hearing this from a “trusted” medical professional, some patients might have sunk into a whirling pit of despair and sorrow. I’d already been there, done that and had the scars to prove it. This time, I was angry and defiant—I would not let this autoimmune disorder get the best of me for any longer. I would do everything in my power to regain my health.

Namaste, Yoga

Around this time, my mother and I discovered an incredible TV series called Namaste, starring the well-known Canadian yoga teacher Kate Potter. With breathtaking scenery and dynamic sequences, I looked forward to every “class” I could take with Potter and he fellow practitioners. The former athlete in me thrived on the challenges of new poses, and even if I kept tipping over, I would try again and again until I was strong and steady in an asana.

There were some days when I was in too much pain or too fatigued to do yoga. There were other days when I couldn’t get through an entire class, needing to take frequent breaks. And there were times when I repeated classes with reruns because they felt so delicious to my body.

During that time, I felt strong and pro-active, knowing I was using my body in a healing way, even when there were physical repercussions later for overdoing it. It was also fun to have my mother joining me in the classes. Unfortunately, the show stopped running—and I think the channel shortly went off-air.

A Return to Yoga

Handstand in Lotus PoseIt wasn’t until a couple years ago that I seriously returned to yoga. By this time, I had learned to manage pain and sleep, but I was dealing with the baffling neurological phenomena of a movement disorder, dystonia. During episodes of dystonia, I was very much not in control of my body, and it left me feeling frustrated and impotent. On the mat, I discovered my true self again.

While struggling immensely with balance and endurance at first, continued practice paid off, and I found myself in the wonderful world of IG Yoga. Here, numerous yoga challenges were posted on Instagram, inviting people to participate. Unsurprisingly, I jumped right, constantly challenging my body to form new poses or improve old ones.

Over the past couple years, photos turned into video sequences, friends and random strangers turned into more than 700 dedicated followers and my yoga inspirations turned into contemporaries. I won two IG Yoga challenges, and I was pleasantly surprised to turn up in Anacostia Yogi’s Top Ten Inspirational Instagram Yoginis.

While all this was flattering and it felt good to be appreciated for my dedicated practice, my mind was always focused on the mantra—if I keep showing up to the mat, I will heal. I also loved having tangible evidence of my progression physically—how my balance improved, how my flexibility increased, how my endurance and strength grew, and how my spirit and confidence lifted.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

Life, not love, was my battlefield, and I was gradually having more days where I was winning instead of losing. What also encouraged me through some of the tough days and weeks was how many people told me I inspired them with my journey, when I felt like all I was doing was surviving and thriving as best as I could. Then friends asked if I was teaching, and followers asked my advice for beginning, or maintaining, their own practice.

The Call to Teach Healing Through Yoga

Bird of Paradise Pose VariationEver the educator, the seed was planted that I was called not to just teach people about nutrition and lifestyle changes as a certified health coach. I was also called to teach the practices—yoga, tai chi, qigong, etc.—that would help others heal their own bodies and minds as with me.

Two months shy of a year ago, I began my journey to become trained to teach yoga. Despite major relapses, I kept showing up on the mat. I kept striving to learn and improve. I started studying how others taught students how to get into and work within the poses. Even when I was unable to leave the house, I took online classes and courses.

I have to admit I had my doubts: Who says I’m good enough to teach? How am I going to have the endurance to teach an hour-long yoga class? How will I find (and keep) clients? What if I start teaching and relapse?

While I tried to find answers to these questions, I kept plugging away. My practice continued to improve. My knowledge expanded, thanks to a diverse slew of sources.The flame of passion continued to grow. I honestly faced and challenged what Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, calls Resistance , and finally my dream seemed within reach.

The Beginning of a Dream Come True

Certified Sports Yoga Instructor

This past Thursday, I passed the certification as a sports yoga instructor! I still find it hard to fully grasp. I supposed that will come when I start with my brand-new clients and class. I will teach one-on-one and small group, personalized yoga sessions (in-person and remotely), as well as group classes.

I’m also finishing up my 200-Hr Yoga Teacher Training, which will be followed by Restorative Yoga Teacher Training. Never stop learning and growing. Never run out of tools to help others (and myself).

I told my friends:

Those of you who know my journey can appreciate that this means so much more to me than just a piece of paper. Your support through all this has sustained and energized me!

Thank you all for reading. And I look forward to hopefully teaching (and learning from) some of you in the near future!

You can learn more about my healing journey by typing “dystonia” and/or “lupus” in the search engine to the right of the page.

Renée Canada of The Mind-Body Shift can be reached at healthwithrenee@gmail.com and at 860-468-9588 for more information about individualized yoga sessions and group classes.


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Former WCW wrestling champion Diamond Dallas Page breathes new life into fitness with DDP Yoga

DDP Yoga program

Src: DDP Yoga Page

If you’re going to describe Diamond Dallas Page’s signature workout program, whatever you do, don’t just call it yoga. Despite its moniker, DDP Yoga, the former pro wrestler wants to make clear that “It Ain’t Your Mama’s Yoga.”

“When people hear yoga, they think humming and chanting,” Page said in an interview. “This is made for people who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga.”

Before a crippling back injury at age 42, in the prime of his professional wrestling career, Page was one of those people. When he ruptured two discs in his back and doctors believed he had come to the end of his career, his wife suggested rehabilitating with yoga. Initially, Page resisted.

“I learned from a yoga tape and was really frustrated,” he said. “It was a flow-type yoga, and no one was modifying the position. Everyone was a Gumby-like stick figure.”

However, after three weeks of steady practice, Dallas began to notice positive changes in his body. “I was blown away by how much flexibility and strength was coming.”

Eventually, he began to add calisthenics, working in pushups with side plank, cobra and downward dog. While in lunge position, he added in flies with dumbbells. Over time, he developed his own yoga-inspired workout program.

“I learned a piece from every yoga teacher I’ve been around, and I made it my own,” he said.

 

 

DDP Yoga combines yoga, traditional fitness, dynamic resistance and sports therapy for a “kick-ass” cardio workout that increases flexibility and core strength conditioning with minimal joint impact.

Less than a year after beginning yoga, Page was back in pro wrestling at age 42. He went onto to become a 3-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion.

After using DDP Yoga to heal himself, Page was called to share it with others. Professional wrestlers, MMA fighters and football players practice DDP Yoga, as well as everyday people and de-conditioned folks.

The workout program stresses dynamic resistance and engaging the muscles through concentric (contracting) and eccentric (lengthening) movements to build muscle strength and elevating the heart rate for efficient fat burning. Within the warrior position, for example, DDP has students reach out to grab a ball and pull back for three breaths, engaging the lats and biceps. “When you’re flexing or engaging the muscle, your heart rate is going up,” said Page.

Whether students are doing flies with dumbbells in a lunge, moving from catcher squats to regular squats in slow burn or throwing punches, DDP Yoga focuses heavily on countdown breathing.

“When you are counting like this, doing this is in an uncomfortable position, the heart gets bigger beats with the holding of the breath,” said Page. “Where it comes to a runner’s lunge or twisted lunge, and you’re breathing into that position, you’re engaging all those muscles while doing it. Take a deep breath…5-4-3-2-1. I may even be breathing out for 10 seconds. If you can do that in an uncomfortable position, twisted shape or lifting, you get in crazy shape.”

Page prefers using the word position for yoga’s poses or postures. “A man doesn’t want to get into those,” he said. Athletes play a position or get in a position, so that lingo is more familiar.

Along the same vein, Page encourages people to “take a knee,” which is the cue for going into a neutral, safety zone, such as child’s pose.

“I never stop talking the whole workout. I’m making them have fun with it,” he said. “I’m trying to shift their mindset over to make this fun instead of grueling.”

Through his videos and upcoming fitness app, Dallas speaks to viewers as if they are in the same room as he is. With other people working out behind Page, it feels like a communal fitness experience.

His app will also offer live workouts. “You’ll see when I screw up and put right hand down instead of left,” he said. “When people screw up, they laugh. I screw up all the time. Won’t be perfect.”

There are four levels of DDP yoga: beginner, intermediate, advanced and extreme. Unlike the first yoga video Page worked with during his rehab, he always has someone in a modified pose.

An 80-year-old Ted Evans is one of DDP’s advanced students, whom Page helped to regain flexibility and strength after a knee replacement. Most folks on Facebook will also have seen and shared Arthur Boorman’s “Never, Ever Give Up” video, documenting the tremendous transformation from obese, disabled vet to a mobile man 140-pounds lighter. DDP Yoga helped fuel his path to better health.

 

 

Boorman bought the first DDP yoga videos, so Page sent him a note of thanks for believing in his product. Boorman responded in a way that deeply moved Page. He said Boorman described himself as a disabled vet, broken down, beat up and relegated to thinking of himself as a piece of furniture.

A former paratrooper in the Gulf War, hundreds of jumps over his career had done incredible damage to his back and knees, gained a lot of weight and was ready to give up. At 47 years old, 297 pounds, his doctors wanted to operate on his back. With knee braces connected to back braces that took 20 minutes for his wife to put on this morning, the man was desperate for change, said Page.

DDP was moved to call Boorman, first addressing his eating lifestyle by having him eat real food and cut out wheat and dairy. “I don’t need to have that MD at the end of DDP to tell you if you keep living this lifestyle, in five to 10 years you’ll be dead or completely disabled,” Page said.

Boorman changed what he ate and practiced DDP Yoga, despite the falls and other challenges. After he lost 34 pounds in the first couple months, he began the journey to believing in himself again. Down 140 pounds in 10 months, Arthur drastically improved his flexibility, strength, and biggest of all, mobility. While doctors said he would never be able to walk again without canes, Boorman proved them wrong–and can run.

He continues to inspire and help others. Page encourages a pay-it-forward attitude with his clients. With deep gratitude, Boorman is more than happy to teach others what he’s learned.

“Everyone wants Arthur Boorman results, but few want to put in the Arthur Boorman work in,” said Page. He believes mindset is key.

Positivity is what led Page to move from running nightclubs to serving as a wrestling manager for Ted Turner to heavyweight champion—despite a late start in the sport and his pivotal crippling back injury. “It can be so depressing to have that kind of injury after signing a multi-million dollar contract,” he said. “I took that negative and turned it into a positive.”

Stuck in a downward spiral, Page believes any exercise helps. “Nothing is greater than dealing with stress than exercise,” he said. “If you find yourself getting depressed, get on the mat. I’ve never gotten off the mat and said wish I didn’t do that.”

Whether he’s working with recovering drug addicts or people addicted to sugar, Page helps people to embrace a new lifestyle and surround themselves with positive people. With the online community Team DDP, clients receive infectious encouragement every step of the way.

“A lot of people don’t have the support, and it’s really hard to stay motivated,” Page said. He and DDP Yoga provide the motivation and the path.

Learn more about DDP Yoga at ddpyoga.com


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Are folks living with lupus and RA at greater risk for heart disease?

Systemic LupusIn autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system misfires by erroneously attacking healthy cells as if they were foreign agents, or antigens. Normally the immune system defends the body against antigens—like viruses, bacteria and toxins—that can cause damage to the body after invading it. In autoimmune diseases, benign and healthy parts of the body also become victims. Therefore, when autoimmune disease is systemic, affecting the entire body, it has the potential to attack the joints and organs of the body—including the skin, kidneys, lungs and heart.

Lupus and RA can cause inflammation of the heart muscle, arteries or the lining of the heart (the pericardium), as well as abnormal heart rhythms. People with the inflammation of these autoimmune diseases are thus at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease or suffering from strokes.

In 2012, Karen Costenbader, MD, MPH–a rheumatologist who co-directs the Lupus Center at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass.–and two colleagues performed a review of 28 studies analyzing the association between lupus and heart disease. They found strong evidence for people with lupus having at least a twice to three times the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, compared to those without lupus. For those under age 45, people with lupus also had a significantly higher risk for these cardiovascular events.

How Lupus Affects the Heart

Src: healthwatch

Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences also found that people with lupus and RA have a greater risk for developing the heart condition linked with stroke, atrial fibrillation (AF).

According to U.S. News, a 2011 studyfound that patients with lupus or RA were 1.6 times more likely to have atrial affribrilation than people without these autoimmune disease. A study of 416,786 American patients older than age 65 treated for AF revealed those with autoimmune disease had a 60 percent increased risk of developing the heart condition.

Atrial fibrillation (also known as afib) is an electrical disorder of the upper chambers of the heart that causes arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. Having afib increases the risk of heart-related problems and stroke. As it tends to affect a greater number of older adults, an aging population has seen a sharp increase in afib diagnoses. Yet due to potential involvement of the heart, blood vessels and clotting mechanisms, people living with lupus and sister condition antiphospholipid antibody syndrome have a greater risk of developing heart disease at an early age.

Lupus Foundation of America, states the approximately 1.5 million people living in the U.S. have lupus, and the Arthritis Foundation estimates that  1.3 million have RA. According to the Cleveland Clinic, more than two million Americans have afib.

Healthline.com offers a more in-depth explanation of Afib:

Atrial FibrillationThe Effects of Afib on the Body

Afib affects the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria. It’s an electrical disorder that causes rapid electrical signals in the heart that may reach hundreds of beats per minute. The rapid-fire signals interfere with the ability of the upper chambers to contract in an organized way.

This leads to decreased pumping action and passive blood flow. Blood can even pool within the heart. Some people with afib have no symptoms, while others experience a wide range of symptoms. Afib increases the risk of heart-related disorders and stroke.

CirculatorySystemCirculatory System

When the heart’s electrical system is out of whack, the heart chambers lose their rhythm. A common symptom of afib is the sensation that your heart is flopping around inside your chest, or simply beating irregularly (palpitations). You may become hyper-aware of your own heartbeat.

Over time, afib can cause the heart to weaken and malfunction. The heart’s ineffective contractions cause blood to pool in the atria. This can increase the risk of clotting. As a result, you may experience shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and chest pain. During an episode of afib, your pulse may feel like its racing, beating too slowly, or beating irregularly.

Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to circulate enough blood throughout the body.

Central Nervous System and atrial fibrillationCentral Nervous System

Afib increases the risk of stroke. When the heart fails to contract properly, blood tends to pool in the atria. This increases the risk of forming a clot. When the heart pumps, the clot can travel to the brain, where it blocks the blood supply and causes an embolic stroke.

Early warning signs of stroke include severe headache and slurred speech. If you have afib, your risk of stroke increases as you age. Other additional risk factors for stroke include diabetes, high blood pressure, or history of other heart problems or previous stroke. Blood thinners and other medications can lower that risk.

Respiratory System and AFRespiratory System

The lungs require a steady supply of blood in order to function properly. Irregular pumping action of the heart can also cause fluid to back up in the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, difficulty performing physical activities, and fatigue.

General Health

Some people with afib may have a build-up of fluid in the legs, ankles, and feet. Other symptoms include weight gain, lightheadedness, and a general sense of malaise. Some patients report irritability and exertion during previously routine activities.

Healthline Sources:


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Relishing a Mother-Daughter Girls Night Out at Foxwoods

Menopause The Musical at Fox Theater

Menopause The Musical at Fox Theater

The highlight of my weekend was to have my mother accompany me to see Menopause, The Musical at the Fox Theater on Saturday afternoon at Foxwoods Resort Casino. It was a great time to connect with my mom and better understand her experience with menopause. Having many of the most common symptoms of menopause, she could relate extremely well to the dialogue and songs.

“They had creative lyrics that were familiar to menopause-age women,” she said.

Few aspects of menopause were left unexplored. Subject matter ranged from hot flashes and night sweats to weight gain and wrinkles, from sleep problems and memory issues to mood swings and midnight hunger. Scenes also dealt with changing physical beauty, confounding and critical mothers and sexual frustrations.

With witty, menopause-centric lyrics set to classic songs of the past, the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” becomes “Staying Awake,” their “Night Fever” becomes “Night Sweatin’,” and “The Great Pretender” by The Platters is made over to reflect how the women mask their forgetfulness, “pretending there’s no brain collapse.” Each of the four woman is on some form of pharmaceutical or herbal medication for depression and sharp mood swings, turning the Beach Boys lyric, “I wish they all could be California girls,” to “I wish we all could be sane and normal girls.” Referring to menopause as The Change of Life, the tune “Chain of Fools” is rewritten with lyrics such as:

Chain Chain Change
Change of life.

For five long years,
I thought I am losing my mind,
but I found out no….
It’s just a part of the change.
My body tried to warn me–
The signs weren’t too cool.
It’s treated me mean,
It’s treated me cruel…

One of these mornings,
the change will be through,
but until then–yeah,
I’ll do what I can do…to cope with
Chain Chain Change…

The fabulous performers in Menopause The Musical

The fabulous performers in Menopause The Musical

The diverse cast featured a commanding, black professional with a shaven head, known as Power Woman; the demure (and dotty) Iowa Housewife in an ill-fitting pastel blue suit; the meditating Earth Mother in long, flowing layers; and the high maintenance Soap Star, who hates to face the inevitability of growing older. The women sang and dance individually, as well in the coordinated style of the vocal harmony groups of the ‘50s as an ensemble.

From one scene to the next, different singers were featured. “You didn’t have to grow weary of any one actress/singer,” my mom said. “There were also entertaining stage and costume changes.”

On the set throughout were the “elevator doors” of Bloomingdales, but set changes distinguished different floors of the store, featuring a dining area, makeup counters, a hairdressing salon, a section of hair and clothing accessories, bathrooms, lingerie department and dressing room.

The women performed country line dancing to “Lookin’ for Food” (a retooled version of Johnny Lee’s classic of 1980 “Looking for Love”) “My Husband Sleeps Tonight,” was to the tune of “In the Jungle,” where the women hammed up the African roots of the song with their dancing styles and extraneous whoops. They played a wooden spoon against a cutting board, salt-and-pepper shakers, a cheese grater and umbrella. “Same and Normal Girls/Thank You Doctor,” ends with the women all playing air instruments, with Iowa Housewife completely rocking out on her drum solo finale. The song to their mothers, “I’m No Babe, Ma” ended hilariously with the girls dressed up as either Cher or Sonny, with the appropriate wigs and singing swagger.

The knockout hit of the show was easily “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” The Tina Turner classic was revamped to address the sexual frustrations of the prim Iowa Housewife. The Power Women donned a spiky Tina Turner wig over her shaven head and slipped into a tight, mini dress and soulfully led the others in encouraging the modest woman to take matters into her own hands. The song led in and out of an altered cover of the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”

While each performer brought something special to her role, Iowa Housewife shone for her expressiveness, fully embodying her character, from the meek yet emotionally open demeanor (including pipsqueak speech) to her transformation into a more confident, independent woman with a deep and powerful singing voice. Power Woman also continually impressed with a big, beautiful, soulful voice that did not waver.

The show wrapped up with the ensemble piece, “This is Your Day,” where the women, clad in black evening wear, sang about positivity and the power of having support during menopause and aging. Approximately 40 women of the audience going through or having gone through the Change came up on stage to do line kicks with the cast.

“I thought the format of the musical was unique,” my mother said. “Part musical, part play, but really not either one.”

It felt like a concert with content-filled context. A musical with an empowering message of solidarity. In sum, Menopause, the Musical was an entertaining, relatable show with great singing, fun dancing and lots of laughter.

David Burke Prime Steakhouse

David Burke Prime Steakhouse

Following the musical, dinner reservations had been made for us at David Burke Prime Steakhouse. The restaurant got everything right—from sleek, yet playful modern décor, very affable and accommodating wait staff to most importantly, amazingly delicious food.

We started off with lobster bisque, where lobster parts had been soaked in the creamy sauce before green apples were added to bring bursts of tart sweetness to the rich and flavorful dish. By far, this was the best bisque I’ve ever had, which is saying quite a lot. We followed that with David Burke’s Pretzel Crusted Crab Cake, with a delicious, smooth, tomato marmalade and poppy seed citrus glaze. These two generous appetizers filled us up, but we still had the entrée coming.

Dinner was Stonington Seared Scallops, diver scallops fresh from Stonington. It was served with a creamy, cheesy side—made up of cheese-crusted breadcrumbs, cream of corn, bacon, green peas, and roasted tomato—that melted in your mouth. While my mother thought the scallops were too salty, I thought they were perfectly flavored and cooked, as was everything else we’d eaten so far.

Fine Dining

crab cake, lobster bisque, Stonington scallops and chocolate lava cake

Dessert was pure indulgence with a molten chocolate cake topped with raspberries, which our waiter confirmed was a brilliant selection. (Our second choice was traditional carrot cake with cream cheese icing, pineapple sauce and a drizzle of white chocolate—yum!) The moist chocolate cake—not too bitter, not too sweet—had a dark chocolate truffle in the middle, which was lusciously gooey by the time we got to it. Instead of coffee gelato, we had vanilla gelato on the side.

Foxwoods

We are immensely grateful to Foxwoods Resort Casino for making this Girls Night’ Out an unforgettable experience for my mom and me. The place keeps growing and expanding as the years go by, and it’s a truly lovely, fun-filled place to spend time.Thank you so much for making us feel like queens for a day! I’m looking forward to another Staycation here very soon!

Mother-Daughter Girls' Night Out

Queens for the night at Foxwoods

 

**This is a sponsored post for Foxwoods Resort Casino 


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Sisterhood Helps Women Get Through The Hormones, Hot Flashes, Stress and Insomnia of Menopause

Is it hot in here or is it just me?

Src: Feel Good All Over

Recently, I posed the following question to my friends and family: So what’s menopause really like? What I found was that the breadth of experiences during “The Change” is as diverse as my friends’ personalities.

“Sailing through it,” one friend said.

It’s effing hot,” another added.

Ah, yes, hot flashes! That and weight gain seem to be the most common menopausal complaints of women in my casual survey.

“For me, far and away, my biggest complaint is hot flashes—they are pretty severe and frequent. They persist even after the hormone therapy,” my mom said. “They are much of the reason for my reduced sleep. They sometimes wake me up, but more often, they start once I’m awake, then, are too frequent to allow me to fall asleep again.” Adding insult to injury, she continues to have hot flashes throughout the day, as well.

Menopause Symptoms

Src: trendspig.com

My friend CC also notes sleep disruptions from hot flashes. “And I noticed that I felt more overwhelmed by daily stress,” she said. The prescription medication Wellbutrin has helped her immensely with the latter.

“I think the worst part is the loss of body tone,” said KL. “Someone warned me you get a pot belly and it appears to be true.”

Libby Baughman Doubler, of Integrative Essentials, says, “You can still maintain a nice shape if you exercise.” Many women find that they have to increase their fitness activity or the type of exercise to ward off increasing weight gain.

While the biggest menopausal complaints of clients of Tori Summers—owner of You By Design Health Counseling, Weight Loss, Sports Nutrition, Biggest—are hot flashes and weight gain, she has greater concerns. “Women don’t see menopause as a NORMAL life transition and that there are plenty of natural things to do for comfort measures to get through the transition other than hormone replacement therapy pushed by doctors,” she said.

“Sometimes the hormone therapy brings a new set of issues, like acne, which I never had a problem with as an adult,” my mom said. To remedy that, she uses an over-the-counter cleanser, which is expensive but seems to go a long way.

“I found a topical cream for the hot flashes at a health food store,” CC said, “and it helps, but you need to remain consistent with it or it stops.”

Acupuncture helped my mother monitor hot flashes and improved her sleep. “It seemed to help ‘schedule’ the hot flashes so I could predict when I would get another one. And I think it helped the sleep, too,” she said.

While night sweats caused her to soak through her pajamas in the middle of the night during menopause, Doubler offers reassurance for living through menopause. “I’ve been through it and am now on the other side. There are changes, but if you just go with it, it’s okay,” she says. Doubler agrees with Summers that this period of time for women is “a natural part of life.”

Menopause The MusicalI’m really looking forward to exploring the lighter side of aging and “The Change” tomorrow night at a showing of Menopause, The Musical, at the Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Fox Theater with my accommodating male companion. The off-Broadway hit musical, which debuted in 2001, tells the tale of four women shopping for underwear, who find common ground in lacy lingerie hot flashes, memory loss, chocolate cravings, and sexual dilemmas. The 25 songs parody popular tunes from the ‘60s,’70s and ‘80s. The lively show is more than a tribute to “The Change;” it’s a celebration of women.

“Most women know intuitively that every other woman is experiencing hot flashes or night sweats,” says the writer and producer Jeanie Linders. “There is always a close friend or two who can sympathize or identify with her, but when they are sitting in a theatre with hundreds of other women, all laughing and shouting ‘That’s me! That’s me on stage! They know what they are experiencing is normal. They aren’t alone or crazy. It becomes a sisterhood.”

For a list of Menopause, The Musical showings near you, visit the Menopause, The Musical website.

This is a sponsored post by Foxwoods Resort Casino

 

 


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The ins and outs of breast lumps and biopsies

While covering a touchy subject and including a graphic surgical graphic,  I feel this is important to share, and I wish I had had something like this to read before my procedure. Hopefully it provides helpful information and even a little reassurance in the event you need a biopsy for a breast lump in the future.

benign breast tumor

Ultrasound of a fibroadenoma/Src: EURORAD

A year ago, my OB-GYN or ‘lady doctor’ as I like to call him, declared that it was time for me to get a baseline mammogram, at the age of 35. After the procedure, I was informed that I have very dense breast tissue—not a surprise—so I scheduled a follow-up ultrasound. I don’t remember the specific wording of those ultrasound results, but there was a palpable mass significant enough to keep an eye on, so I was told to get another ultrasound six months later. Having dealt with the long back-and-forth of what turned out to be a benign fibrocystic breast lump in my early 20s, I figured there was no reason for concern and, unwisely, skipped the follow-up.

A month or two ago, after my annual “lady” exam, my doctor insisted I get the follow-up ultrasound. This time, I did, which I’m extremely grateful for, because they found the solid breast nodule, distinct from other cysts (clear, fluid-filled) in my breasts, had grown significantly in the last year. I was quickly scheduled for an appointment with a breast surgeon from a practice that came highly recommended.

When she walked into the office, the surgeon said, “You have a fibroadenoma in your breast. It’s most likely benign, but we don’t like growing things in the breast, so we’re going to remove it.” The surgery would require general anesthesia but would take a couple hours, and I’d be comfortably back home the same day.

Then, she went on to do an ultrasound and manual exam. The mass was difficult for her to find either way, which made her hesitant to do the lumpectomy. “We don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with here,” she said, “so let’s do a biopsy rather than attempt to remove what may not be a fibroadenoma.”

Being the proactive patient from years and years of practice, I looked up the different types of breast lumps, both benign and cancerous. A fibroadenoma is a solid, noncancerous breast tumor. When I got my ultrasound results, I looked up the definitions of “hypoechoic” (does not echo sound waves well), “slightly lobulated” (consisting of lobules, or milk glands), and “periareolar” (which, not surprisingly, means over the areola circle around the nipple). I checked where the size of my enlarged lump matched up with different kinds of lumps. I compared “common features” of benign breast lumps to traits of cancerous ones. In short, I tried to learn the most I could on something about which I couldn’t possibly know anything definitive.

Did it assuage my concerns? Nope. Did it lead to more questions? You bet.

Breast biopsy

Core Needle Biopsy/Src: Mayo Clinic Health Library

From the day of getting my first ultrasound results to the appointment with the breast surgeon was almost two weeks. The biopsy was a week later. The pathology results came two days later. Some days were filled with anxiety—not knowing somehow seemed so much worse than knowing one way or the other. Other days, I packed with absorbing fun and busyness to keep my mind on the positive and joyous.

“I am okay,” I kept telling myself. “No matter what, I’m going to be just fine.” I started to believe it too!

Despite all my reading, I was not fully prepared for the biopsy once it arrived. I knew to be wearing a sports bra, but the intake nurse told me I would have to stay away from exercise for three days (what, no yoga?!), couldn’t swim for 3-5 days (this was naturally over three of the hottest days of the season), and couldn’t shower for 24 hours, which honestly wasn’t that big of a deal. None of these things I knew of beforehand, so all the info at once made me feel rather frazzled.

I had a core needle biopsy, where a thin hollow needle pulls out tissue samples from multiple sites on the breast—it sounded like a staple gun, but I didn’t feel a thing. My biopsy was guided by ultrasound—the mass was ill defined with “tentacles,” covering a broad area. The actual procedure was painless and not too nerve-wracking, thanks to local anesthesia of lidocaine and to my knowledgeable, reassuring radiologist and tech. What I could feel was occasional tenderness under the pressure of the ultrasound transducer, or wand. Afterwards, I had to have a mammogram.

post-biopsy

A close replica of the face I made when I was told no yoga for three days

I showered again mid-afternoon the next day. I didn’t linger long in the water—I was already worried about getting drenched in the sweltering heat from the quickly melting ice used to ward of swelling. After the shower, it was time to take off the band-aid covering Steri-Strips, adhesives used to close the small wounds from the biopsy. With all the medical procedures I’ve endured, blood doesn’t bother me much, but I was surprised by how messy the biopsy site was underneath the strips. They did wind up having to take a good number of samples. While less frequent than the previous day, I still needed to have half-hour icing sessions throughout day 2.

That night, I briefly removed my sports bra for a simple, snug, white camisole. A couple hours later, my boyfriend pointed at my chest and said, “Baby, are you okay?” It turned out the biopsy site had started actively bleeding again. In a bit of a panic, I wiped things up as delicately as I could, and put more gauze over the area, securing it with adhesive tape. It continued to bleed for a couple hours longer despite pressure with ice and a pillow. After a couple calls to doctors after-hours, I was confident I wasn’t in any danger, but I lay in a heap of throbbing discomfort on the couch all night.

The next day, I was called to come back to the radiology department, just to make sure the bleeding wasn’t due to a hematoma. The radiologist did a quick ultrasound and was pleasantly surprised to discover I did not, in fact, have a sac of blood collecting in tissue outside the blood vessels. I’ve had one before when I had all four wisdom teeth pulled out at the same time—it was extremely painful and unpleasant. The radiologist and tech also were able to see that the results from my pathology report had come in:

Benign. Thank God.

While I felt that wave of relief spreading over my body and mind, the radiologist reminded me I would get another ultrasound in six months. After that, I should not need another mammogram or ultrasound until age 40—3 years later. A tiny device was implanted during the procedure, marking the spot for future imaging of the breast, letting any medical professional know that area has already been biopsied.

“Keep doing breast self-exams,” the radiologist told me. “Just because this was benign doesn’t mean the next time you find a lump, it will be benign too.”

He said it not to scare me, but to give me a reality check. (Don’t wait a full year for follow up, next time!)

Listen to your bodies, ladies. Feel your boobies on the regular. Be preventative, not reactive—as much as you can be. Take good care of your body, ‘cause it’s the only one you’ve got.


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Find Fitness, Culture and Community at Run or Dye 5K & The Color Festivals

Run or Dye 5K 2014

Run or Dye 5K

The colorful Run or Dye 5K is hitting locations all over the country this summer. The playful fitness event, featuring dashes of colored dye, is open to all—athletes and loungers, old and young. Children aged 6 and under can even participate for free.

The 5 km race is non-competitive and not timed. Participants are welcome to run, walk, or even skip and dance the route at their own paces. There are no winners or prizes—other than the celebration of fitness and community.

“It’s about people coming together, celebrating and sharing an experience with people they care about,” said Run or Dye spokesperson Katie Langston.

The Hindi festival, Holi, a springtime festival of colors in India inspired the Run or Dye event. A Holi festival typically features people playfully chasing and color each other while moving from place to place, singing and dancing.

“People throw colors on each other as a symbol to welcome the arrival of spring and celebrate new beginnings with family and friends,” said Langston. It is a time to cast away bad feelings, move past negative experiences and let worries go.

 

Mirroring that theme, there are five dye stations along the Run or Dye route, where volunteers throw eco-friendly, plant-based color on 5K participants as they pass through. Many participants prefer to wear white for full dye exposure.

“It can get really colorful,” Langston said. “The stations help mark the passage and progress through the course.”

The Dye Festival follows, where this is an MC, music and dancing. Participants also Tie-Dye the Sky—each person receives a color packet, and they can throw dye up in the air. “It creates an awesome visual,” said Langston.

Additionally, participants receive a special swag bag, with a race bib, Run or Dye t-shirt, colored bracelets, and temporary tattoos.  So grab your Rainbow Brite-socks, leg warmers and leopard-print hat and get ready for this fun, fitness event!

For a list of Run or Dye event in locations across the United States, visit Run or Dye online http://www.runordye.com/locations/

The for-profit Run or Dye company has put on 200 Run or Dye 5K events around the country since 2013. Run or Dye will also be holding a 5k in the United Kingdom soon, and France and Germany will hopefully follow, said Langston.

Celebrate with the Color Festival

Run or Dye partners with non-profit companies in every city the event is held. She said that this year, Run or Dye will also be partnering with the Color Festival, considered the largest Holi Festival in the western hemisphere. Caru Das held the first Festival of Colors at his Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah 15 years ago. The attendance to this event has rocketed from 17 people the inaugural year to more than 80,000 people from around the world.

This year, the festival hits the road for the first time, traveling to more than 10 major cities this summer, including New York City; Philadelphia, Charlotte, NC, and Washington, D.C.

In addition to thrown splashes of color, the festival features yoga, dancing, live music (including Kirtan), and fresh vegetarian food. Color Festival encourages you to “[j]oin the throngs of people laughing, playing, dancing, eating, and filling the sky with clouds of bright color.”

Register at www.colorfestival.com

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