Because stumbling blindly through menopause is less fun than it sounds

The Menopausal Woman’s Greatest Summer Travel Hazard

Posted by Robin Donovan

What else? Losing your luggage.

As I pack my meager little bag in anticipation of a flight back east to visit family and friends I am fraught with mixed feelings.

I want to look the best I possibly can when I see the folks I’m lucky to visit once a year. But do I want to risk losing my prized possessions? The handful of garments that look good enough (at least in my perception) to enable me to put my best foot forward? It’s a huge risk!

precious luggage

precious luggage

And trust me, there are a handful at best!

In my twenties I feared lost luggage because I knew the airlines would not compensate me enough to replace lost wardrobe items. Not that they were all that expensive – especially back then – but rumor had it that airlines barely cover the cost of the actual luggage itself.

The garments themselves were not a big deal. Such a loss would give me a chance to shop and buy all new – I’d like that. I also had enough attractive options back home that I would barely notice the loss of any specific outfit.

Not so now. As I fold my precious jeans and place them in the suitcase my hand trembles. How many painful shopping trips, trying on pair after pair that either aggravated the scar tissue from my hysterectomy, looked like crap or were so loose they would barely stay on without suspenders?  How many purchased pairs that seemed like the perfect solution and turned out to be painful in a sitting position, stretched to clown pants after a few hours?

I had a lot invested in those jeans – would I trust them to the folks who fly the friendly skies?

Then there were my dress slacks. Even after eschewing zippers many years before, the perfect pair – the one that flatters with an elegant look, i.e. never saggy, baggy or bunchy – is just not that readily available. And beyond that, what about that rare pair of slacks that meet all the criteria AND are in a business-acceptable color other than black? So few designers offer those flattering and comfortable styles in anything other than black; and although black is my “go to” color – you can only have so many pairs of the same style black pants without giving the impression that you never wash clothing! There are just not that many fabric choices.

I just can’t afford to take that rare pair of non-black slacks with me!

Even the jammies really matter if a/someone might stop in for morning coffee, b/you’ve had to get up on more nights than you can remember to change because of night sweats (those breathable fabrics can be a lifesaver) or because the waistband is cutting off your circulation even though they were perfectly comfortable the night before!

Are you starting to see a trend here? Finding clothing that works for me, post surgery, post menopause is a major challenge – letting even one piece go is a life changing event. The thought of losing an entire suitcase worth of vacation clothing is terrifying!

I’m thinking airlines will have to start offering the menopausal woman a seat and an accompanying shelf for her wardrobe. When you consider the buying power of the menopausal baby boomers – they damn well should make sure they take care of us! Don’t you think?


Are You One of The Lucky Menopausal Women?

Posted by Robin Donovan

Are you a lucky menopausal woman? Or just a lucky woman? How do you know?

Do you feel lucky?

I feel lucky. Does that mean I don’t have bone crushing business issues? No. Does it mean I am thin and gorgeous and look twenty years younger than my age? No. Does it mean my friends and family are not riddled with some form of strife or another? No. Does it mean night sweats are a thing of the past? Hell No!  Am I wealthy and planning on buying a caribbean retreat? No.

Are you lucky?

Are you lucky?

So how am I lucky?

I have so much.

I have a roof over my head and enough food to eat. I even enjoy my roof and most of my food (dieting puts a damper on the food at times). I have a husband who’s not perfect – but he’s a good guy and I enjoy being with him.  I have three beautiful rescue bulldogs who love me very much. I have a Mom who loves and supports me and makes me laugh. I have a business that makes me proud – not rich, but proud! I have been fortunate enough to have my book published – It’s not setting sales records by a longshot, but at least it’s published!

How much luckier can you get than that?

At this stage of life, when so many of us are questioning the value of what we do have and in some cases contemplating scary changes – it is so critical to stop and think about why we’re lucky.

Some seem to have so much – and some so little. Most of the people I know are facing major challenges of one form or another. I am facing major challenges – but that doesn’t mean I’m not lucky.

Will we ever be completely free of wanting other than what we have? Hell no! Will we ever have most of what we want? How about if we win the lottery? The really lucky ones know that we already have most of what we want – challenges notwithstanding. And the rest will always want something more – even if we win the lottery.

How about me? When I’m candid with myself I know I’m very very lucky. But after that minute passes I’ll always want more!

And I really want that caribbean retreat – dammit!

Underwear Doesn’t Help

Posted by Robin Donovan

It’s a never ending battle. You diet religiously to lose a few precious pounds, and two days later you’re all puffed up like a blowfish. It just sucks. Up and down and virtually impossible to control.


The other day I came to a startling revelation. I bought a three pack of hi-cut underpants. They were cute colors and the fabric was cotton – perfect for the warmer weather to come.

The next morning, I opened the pack and put on the first pair. Oh crap. Were they smaller than the ones I typically buy? Had I added a few pounds unwittingly? Or maybe I was bloated for some inexplicable reason. I pondered the possibilities that cast a slight pall on my day, lamenting the fact that my cool new hi-cuts were a tad more snug than I would have liked.

The next day I approached the package with far less enthusiasm. I grabbed the next pair in line and slid them on. They were fabulous! They fit perfectly and looked great – I could not have been more pleased.

And then it dawned on me. Inconsistencies in an identical product had messed me up the day before! Those bastards! They robbed me of a day when I could have felt this good – because they couldn’t produce a consistent product!

I started to think of all the other times when unexpected product inconsistency had messed with my mind, making me think that my body was betraying me even worse than it actually was. I recalled a recent event where I had purchased a really cool pair of pjs online. When they came, I loved them – but the colors ran after washing. I contacted the manufacturer and they offered to replace the pair. When the new pair came I tried them on and almost choked to death. I took them off and checked the size – yep – they were the same as the original oh so comfortable pair.

How often do you think inconsistencies in manufacturing are what cause us to beat ourselves up? I bet it’s more than we think! Oh well, at least my Mom got a free pair of pj bottoms out of the deal!

The Menopausal Woman and Blood Pressure

Posted by Robin Donovan

Yeah, yeah, we all know the majority of menopausal women suffer with weight gain issues. But do we realize that often segues into cholesterol and high blood pressure issues?

Blood Pressure Cuff

Blood Pressure Cuff

I was lunching with a friend yesterday and talk gravitated toward blood pressure and systolic numbers. I commented that mine was running in the 130’s and occasionally up to the mid- 140’s. That was enough for my new GP to put me on a diuretic in order to try and get that critical number lowered.
I thought it was a little bit overkill because a doctor I know (who specializes in blood pressure) had said as long as I’m mostly under 140 – I should be fine. But I’ve read that anything over 120 is not okay, and I’ve heard that doctors are tending to expect numbers under 130. Is it overkill?
My friend, who has had some health issues related to blood pressure commented that hers is regularly in the 150’s – and her doctor just shrugs. She finds that worrisome.
This is becoming one hell of a numbers game. How the hell do we know what to think? I’d rather not be on meds, but if I need them I’m game.
It doesn’t appear as though there is flexibility in blood pressure numbers, i.e. it’s okay for Marla to be at 150, but very dangerous for Lisa to be over 123 – or am I wrong about that?
Does anyone have the key to healthy blood pressure for women of menopausal age? And what should be done at the various levels?
What’s the truth?

The Menopausal Woman and the Sense of Smell

Posted by Robin Donovan

Is it true that menopausal women have a more intense sense of smell than their younger counterparts?

It is true of my mother (although her sense of smell began to heighten prior to menopause) and it seems to be true of me. At least I hope it is.



Smells definitely bother me more than they used to; I am way more tuned in to the smellosphere!

When I was younger my Mom would freak me out. When she was still working, back when everyone wore business suits, she once told me “I can always tell when a man wears his shirt to church on Sunday, and then wears it again to work on Monday, even if he’s meticulously clean.” Sheesh!

I’m wondering if this is a “thing,” or it’s just my family, or it’s just my Mom.

When I was younger I always smelled great! I could work out and sweat for an hour and I didn’t even really need deodorant – I still smelled great. Now that I’m older, I don’t smell great when I’m finished toweling myself off from a shower. The effort of toweling vigorously is enough to make me perspire – and then I’m not feeling confident of smelling like a daisy!

In fact, now that I’m older, I am treated to a whole cornucopia of smells that are me! Few of them are welcome. My life has evolved into a series of checks and double checks on the smell-o-meter.

I finish showering, I check to see if extra deodorant needs to be applied, or if I need to get a “wet wipe” to refresh and start all over again. During the day, I periodically check to see if a deodorant refresh is in order. And, at night, everything goes into the wash – including the jacket or sweater worn over the top. Even when the top is long sleeved!

My husband says there’s no bad smell. Should I believe him or is he just trying to keep me from jumping off the ledge? Or, let’s face it, ever getting lucky again?

If a heightened sense of smell is a “thing” then I should be fine. That would mean I don’t really smell any worse than I ever did – and the only folks who think I do – besides myself – are sympathetic menopausal women like me. If it’s not a thing, but a phenomenon that occurs among some of the women in my family – I’m still okay – but it will be more difficult to verify for the purpose of preserving sanity.

The only other disturbing possibility is that I really do smell as bad as I think. If that’s the case, consider yourself forewarned – and keep your distance if you know what’s good for you!

Icon Eyewear Readers by Borghese

Posted by Robin Donovan

I’m one of those people who have at least one pair of readers waiting for me wherever I go. Recently, Borghese sent me a free pair of their Icon Eyewear readers so that I could product test them. Here’s what I really liked about the Borghese readers: they look cool – youthful but age appropriate i.e. not “old-lady”, the lenses seem crisp and clear, the lenses are a great size and shape – they give me optimum viewing area and finally, they don’t seem to get “smudgy” like my other readers.

I think they’re reasonably priced too!

Back Fat Tuesday

Posted by Robin Donovan

Last week we celebrated Fat Tuesday as our last big splash before Lent. It was party time! I say it’s high time we celebrated Back Fat Tuesday.

Why would we want to celebrate that, you ask? I have two very good reasons. First, most people don’t realize that back fat is really a loosening of back muscles more than a deposit of fat in the back. Even folks in fairly good shape begin to lose elasticity in those back muscles as aging progresses – back fat has been getting a bad rap for all these years and it deserves to be vindicated. It’s not a sign of slovenliness, it’s more like a badge of honor for those of us who’ve made it to this point! And second, any excuse for a party – especially at this dreary time of year.

And hell, we celebrate Lent as the end of decadence and the beginning of abstinence – why the hell not celebrate aging flesh?

Okay so maybe you’re not buying a celebration for a part of the body you’re increasingly trying to hide, but my point is really this, why shouldn’t we celebrate it instead of hiding it? Why do we have to be self-conscious of every single body part that begins to show a sign of aging? (Yes, I know there’s a niche group of you who are proud of every dent and wrinkle – but if you can’t show us how you do that – you’re no help! In fact, when you say “oh just don’t let that bother you, I don’t” you make us feel worse!). I want to feel like celebrating all of me!

Taking it a step further – I want “us” to be revered for making it to this point – not discounted and made to feel self-conscious. I get that we have to start this movement – but how do we do that? Women are supposed to be beautiful – if we’re not we either need to “get beautiful” no matter what it takes or hide. Let’s not wait until every state is like California where even gorgeous people are too ugly to be out on the streets and old people have all the “old” surgically removed!

We are a community of women who collectively accomplish a whole hell of a lot. Many cultures have revered their elders – it’s not like I just made this up. Why can’t we improve the perception of aging and make where we’re headed better than where we’ve been?

Is There Such a Thing as Normal Menopause?

Posted by Robin Donovan

My journey through menopause has been anything but “normal.” I had severe, and misdiagnosed, endometriosis culminating in lengthy surgery at the age of 48. They took everything out, including my cervix and then scraped the detritus off of my poor abused organs. Ah hell, it made for fun stories over cocktails!

Is Normal Challenging?

Is Normal Challenging?

Almost a decade later, I’m still dealing with thermostat issues – both day and night, scar tissue challenges and abdominal bloating – which could be attributable to the scar tissue i.e. I didn’t have “normal” menopause, and if menopause is over (another question for the ages – is menopause EVER over?) then why am I still not “normal?”

I hear a lot of stories from a lot of different women regarding their own experiences with menopause. They range from life changing to barely noticeable – but after years of gathering data I haven’t come across normal. I guess what I’m saying is that I can’t define normal even though I know a whole lot more about this phenomenon now than when I first embarked on the journey.

Once it occurred to me that I have a lot to say about menopause – other than what’s normal – my curiosity started working overtime. I want to know what “normal” menopause looks like. Is it “normal” to have hot flashes? How bad? For how long? Is it “normal” to gain weight? Is it “normal to lose it again? (I’m beginning to suspect that menopause is similar to George Carlin’s description of drivers “everyone who drives faster than you is a MANIAC and everyone who drives slower than you is a dangerous road hazard!” – in the event that I’m right about this I might as well plant my stake in the ground, so everyone who’s menopause was worse than mine is “really messed up” and everyone who had an easier menopause is either “a lightweight or a no good lying…”). Which one are you?

I’m guessing there’s no written definition of “normal menopause” but I’d like to know what you think. Was your experience with menopause “normal?” What makes you think that? Will you share your story with me?


Post Op Scar Tissue Can Be the Bain of One’s Existence

Posted by Robin Donovan

     Scar Tissue

I had my hysterectomy eight years ago. It’s ancient history. True, except for the fact that the extensive endometriosis which lead to the surgery in the first place has left me with a growing crop of debilitating scar tissue that promises to stick with me forever!


Better yet, the scar tissue morphs and periodically builds to a level where wearing virtually anything is painful! Sometimes it attacks and places extensive stress on specific organs; I had no idea why I was getting readings of having a bladder infection while they were telling me I had no bladder infection.

I have had times when I’ve worn an outfit and been fine. Two weeks later I put the same pair of pants on and there was no way I could endure the pain. My first thought is always “rats, I must have gained weight.” So I get the added joy of feeling fat before eventually – over time- coming to the conclusion that my discomfort is more a by-product of scar tissue than overeating. There’s nothing like an affliction that can make you suffer varied layers of pain!

There are things you can do to help when the discomfort gets serious, but there’s no cure. You can get deep tissue massage (by an extremely experienced healing masseuse), you can get white laser treatments and/or percussor treatments by a top-notch chiropractor.

I know of several women who have chosen to go back under the knife in order to remove painful scar tissue. That becomes necessary when the damage is extensive and the pain is unbearable. I was talking to a highly regarded gynecologist a few years ago and she had some simple advice for me “under no circumstance should you let anyone talk you into surgery for your scar tissue – it will only grow back.” Words I have lived by!

Sometimes it just gets to be too much. That’s when you need someone to talk you off the “surgery ledge” – because it’s so tempting to think of getting the scar tissue cut out once and for all!  Ah, but there’s the rub (literally) because the most recent surgery will merely generate its own scar tissue – and the devil you know might well be, well, you know…

Encore Guest Post by Katie Brind’Amour on Diabetes and CVD

Posted by Robin Donovan

Katie Brind’Amour is a freelance health and wellness writer. She has graciously agreed to share some of her knowledge with us in this guest blog in the hope of catching us before the holiday season has blown our chances for maintaining or losing weight and thus catapulting us into some very scary realities. At this point there’s still hope:

Is There Ever Good News about Health for Post-Menopausal Women?

Hmm…I believe so, but it is much less common than we would like. What is the latest blow for ladies who have survived the change of life? Diabetes is as important to your chances of death from heart problems as cardiovascular disease. Yikes.

It's worth the fight!

It's worth the fight!

In this study, over 9,200 women aged 68 and over participated to help researchers discover whether diabetes is as dangerous to health in older women as it is in the general population. Guess what? It is. The trend noticed in men and the general population applies to women, as well: women with diabetes have the same risk of death due to cardiovascular problems as do non-diabetic women with a history of cardiovascular disease.

In non-epidemiologist terms, what does this mean? It means that if you have diabetes, your ticker is in just as crummy a situation as it is if you’re non-diabetic but you’ve already been told you have cardiovascular disease—and that is pretty bad.

Although women rock, we are no exception to the fact that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of elderly individuals. Even without diagnosed cardiovascular disease, however, diabetic women are just as likely to die of cardiovascular events (like a stroke or a heart attack).

Type 2 diabetes is also much more likely to occur in older adults. Diabetes, in turn, increases people’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Double whammy.

Aren’t You Going to Tell Us Something Positive?

Yes. The good news is that many of the risk factors for cardiovascular deaths are largely avoidable. Women can reduce their chances of getting cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes with basic lifestyle changes. What does this mean for you? It means it’s time to get off the couch (or away from the computer!) and onto the court, pavement, or bike path.

Although increasing age may give you the authority to step out of the house in mismatched patterns or an outfit entirely made of purple feathers (what good is old age without a bit of eccentricity?), it does not give you the go-ahead to stop taking care of your health. What is an aging woman to do?

Stop Diabetes and Heart Disease in Their Tracks

At the risk of sounding like an overzealous personal trainer, I will just say, “Get moving, thunder thighs!”

The single best thing you can do for your health (and for reducing your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease) is to get some exercise. I recommend about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity—like brisk walking, swimming, cross-country skiing, or biking—every single day. If that is simply not possible, aim for this amount of physical activity about five days each week.

If you have physical limitations, like aching joints or COPD, ask a physician about safe and gentle forms of exercise. Water aerobics, stationary biking, and ballroom dancing may be excellent options for women who are unaccustomed to physical activity. Who doesn’t love a post-menopausal hottie who can do the Foxtrot? Begin gradually, and work your way up to a more intense routine over several weeks.

Secondly, remind yourself that a healthy, balanced diet is essential to reducing your risk for both of these conditions. Aim to fill half of your plate at each meal with fresh vegetables or fruit. The other half should be split between lean protein (like chicken or fish) and a complex carbohydrate (like a sweet potato, brown rice, or whole grain pasta). Opt for water instead of soda, and keep portions under control. Pretend like you’re already diabetic and follow a diabetic diet and lifestyle to reduce your risk.

Overall, a large waist is a major factor in your chances of developing heart disease or diabetes (or both). After menopause, most women need fewer calories per day to maintain their weight. Keeping your physical activity levels up and your diet in check can help you avoid women’s most deadly post-menopausal foes: diabetes and cardiovascular disease. You can do it!

Katie Brind’Amour is a Certified Health Education Specialist and freelance health and wellness writer. She enjoys blogging about friendship and life in the not-so-fast line while she chips away at her PhD in Health Services Management and Policy. She is also certified in Mental Health First Aid and enjoys helping others achieve the full potential of their life and health.


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