September 23, 2004, Vol. II Issue 20
Twelve hundred real women clapping, laughing, cheering. What could bring on such a torrent of emotional fervor? What else, but the inherent humor in shared experiences unleashed. The experience, menopause, is not normally linked with words like hysterical fun. That is, until it’s set to music and looked at in the light of celebration. In fact, “Menopause the Musical,” while relating to this particular time of life, transcends it with its sheer celebration of womanhood and sisterhood.
I first wrote about “Menopause the Musical” in our July 1 issue and just experienced the phenomenon at Sparks Regional Medical Center’s annual Woman to Woman event in Fort Smith, Arkansas, so in this issue you get my personal review!
And, it’s National Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, which made me think of Mary Marcdante, whose experiences with her mother’s ovarian cancer helped inspire her book, My Mother, My Friend, and I’m delighted to have her share a guest column.
Also, check out the link to the National Women’s Health Report on Gynecologic Cancers. Better yet, sign up and get these reports delivered to your mailbox. They’re invaluable.
Synchronistically, (of course!) Jeanie Linders, the creator of “Menopause the Musical” told me that MTM is teaming up with the ovarian cancer associations and MTM will be doing a 40-city tour for them starting in March. To see if they’re coming to your city, look for more details in upcoming issues of FYWB.
Change, Change, Change . . . Change of Life
“I was in the hospital this afternoon, and I might have had a mini- stroke, but I checked myself out because I had to be here. I wasn’t going to miss this for anything in the world!” a participant at the back of the theatre told Jeanie Linders, creator of “Menopause the Musical.” “Laughter is the best medicine and that’s why I’m here,” she said. It’s those kind of experiences that feed Jeanie. As much as “Menopause the Musical” is a theatre production, it’s not about theatre, it’s about women, as Jeanie has always said.
From the moment the music starts, the tunes are familiar, the words are clever, and the message is hopeful: with a sense of humor, we (women) can get through anything, including night sweats, tropical hot flashes, distanced husbands, body issues and mother-daughter angst. And we do it best when shared with empathetic confidantes (female, of course).
“Menopause the Musical” (MTM) arrived in Fort Smith, Arkansas, last weekend as the featured program of The Women’s Center at Sparks annual Woman to Woman event. In addition to the day-long Friday event with shopping exhibits, lunch, awards and door prizes, the show alone was also offered Thursday evening and as a Saturday matinee, with all attracting almost capacity crowds.
The idea of bringing MTM to Woman to Woman, was sparked by an Advisory Board member, Judy Englehart, who saw MTM in Chicago and recruited a group from Sparks to experience the show in Kansas City. It struck a chord. “We had to have it,” said Rena LaRue, an Advisory Board Member, “I laughed until I cried. We all agreed we’ve got to do whatever it takes to bring this to Fort Smith.”
Visiting there this past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet Rena, and Anne Turner, Director of Community Events at Sparks, who handled all of the logistics, along with Carol Wood, RN, MS, Director of the Women’s Center, my initial contact at Sparks through our mutual affiliation with NAWH.
“4200 women a day go into menopause, as Carol told us,” Jeanie said in her remarks at the luncheon. “I wondered, do they have the weird sense of humor I have?” The hoops and hollers, and enthusiastic response I witnessed would indicate, “YES!” she’s hit a nerve.
Jeanie recalled asking her mother about menopause. Her mother’s response, “It took me ten years, while my head wasn’t connected to my body,” elicited sympathetic responses from the audience.
This was a new venue (teaming up with a hospital for a special event) for MTM, which has been playing in theatres around the U.S. and the world. The set-up was ideal as their performing arts center is right down the hall and attached to the convention center where the luncheon and exhibits were held. If this sounds like an intriguing idea to you, give me a call at 503-699-5031. We can set your community ablaze with the tropical hot flashing energy of MTM!
Transforming Fear into Power
by Mary Marcdante
Three months following my hysterectomy for cervical cancer and five years after my mother’s death from ovarian cancer, I called my insurance company to check on my claims. The young woman who answered the phone asked the required questions, reviewed my files and then said, “Oh, I had the same thing done last year, but I’m
Finding an unexpected kindred soul (I am one with myself and 43 with everyone else) and trying to keep myself calm about potential recurrences prior to my first post-surgical check-up, I asked her, “How were your three-month checkups?”
She said, “I haven’t gone. I should probably check back with my doctor but I’m afraid I’ll find out I have ‘it’ again.”
She sounded like the voice in my head. Pre- or post-diagnosis, so many women notice their physical symptoms and say, “I’m fine. It’s nothing,” or “I’ll watch it for a few weeks and if it’s still bothering me, I’ll call the doctor.” Time goes by and their fear and overscheduled lives put that call on the back burner until they can no longer ignore the pain. They visit their doctor (an average of nine months later according to one report) and get back test results that are positive for something they didn’t want to think about. Post-diagnosis or surgery, every ache and pain then begs the question, “What NOW?!” “Is it back?” “Did they get it all?”
Who wouldn’t be scared? We talked a bit longer and by the end of our phone call I had a promise from her that she would call her doctor and make an appointment in the next week.
Thinking back on that call through the years, I wish I’d been more proactive that day by getting her name and calling her back to check on her. Her fear was apparent and clearly she didn’t have the self-trust or support she needed – or didn’t know how to ask for the support – to take better care of herself. I wondered if her doctor’s office had been in touch. Had they sent a postcard for a return visit? Made a phone call? Checked to see why she hadn’t come back? I wondered if the women in her family, her friends or her co-workers knew enough to help her or if they had tried and given up, forgotten about it and moved on, as she was clearly trying to do.
I’m eight years older since that call (still one with myself and now 51), grateful to be healthy and wiser. My biggest discoveries upon reflection? Three:
1) It often isn’t until pain outweighs fear that women, with or without cancer, take positive action on behalf of their health.
2) Managing fear is at the heart and soul of a healthy woman.
3) One of the greatest gifts and responsibilities we bring to women’s health as advocates is helping women transform their fear into power and immediate positive action.
* * * * * * * *
Mary Marcdante is the author of Living with Enthusiasm and My Mother, My Friend. Her program, “Let Your Laughing Heart Lead the Way” inspires women to transform negative emotions including fear and sadness into joy, laughter, and positive action. For more information about bringing Mary to your event, call me at 503-699-5031 or email me — firstname.lastname@example.org
Behind the Scenes
Run, don’t walk, to see MTM if it’s anywhere in your vicinity. Grab some girlfriends and go, whatever your age. If it’s not in your neighborhood, go to the website and order the CD. I guarantee that this CD will get you through any traffic jam. You could even get out of your car with a little choreography to “Stayin Awake, Stayin Awake” and make everybody’s stalled commute a little lighter.
When I decided to go on my field trip to see MTM in Fort Smith, I knew instinctively, it had to be a girlfriend “thing,” so I called a college girlfriend, Karen, and asked her if she’d like to join me for a reunion. She agreed. Life is short. Live it. Love it. Share it with a girlfriend.
Until next time, be good to yourself, for your well being and those you love.
ABOUT OUR SERVICES
My vision for The Speak Well Being Group is to be a connector for speakers I know, love and believe in, with the audiences who will be inspired, motivated, and transformed by their perspectives, knowledge, empathy, compassion, information and, most importantly, capacity to enjoy the process, laughing at themselves and with you along the way.
You’ll find many of our speakers on our website.
Or please call anytime and let us assist you: 503-699-5031