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Friday, February 15, 2019

Menopause, menstruation and me -- Michelle Styles


As women, we do not speak enough about menopause and menstruation. Those of a squeamish disposition may look away now, but I think it is important to relate what has happened to me so that others can make inform decisions and if it helps one person, then this blog post will have done its job.
Back when I was about 39, my periods started becoming heavier and closer together. It happened gradually and I accepted it. By the time I was 40, they were about 21 days apart, lasting a week and were increasingly heavy. By heavy, I mean flooding and clotting. Also terrible cramps. I became anemic which apparently only increases the cycle of flooding. Luckily, I was a stay at home mother and aspiring author as I ended up having to have a nap every afternoon. I did not think anything was wrong. After all I had 3 young children and was running around doing things, plus trying to write.  It was something I would do something about when I had the time. In the meantime, I was equipped – never leave home with extra supplies, tended to wear black pants etc. Things came to a head when I went for a routine smear, and my period had started again. I collapsed in tears.
There were a number of options according to my GP and we started with the least invasive. I began with iron tablets and really increasing my iron intake. Things like spinach, kale, dried apricots, watercress, blackstrap molasses and of course liver were all eaten. However, my periods continued to be heavy. The Mirena coil was offered as a new option to a hysterectomy provided I didn’t have a fibroid or a polyp.
I went through the investigations and a Mirena was duly fitted. It rapidly changed my life. My black sweats were thrown in the bin. I no longer had to have my purse stuffed full of supplies just in case.  And the terrible cramps plus flooding became a distant bad memory. 
After five years, the Mirena was changed. At the next five year mark, I was 50 and so they decided to leave it in because I was unlikely to get pregnant, my periods were under control but the bit of extra hormone could help with menopause. Every year, I had to have a blood test to see if I had gone through menopause.
At around 52, I experienced a few night sweats and hot flushes. Luckily I had read that drinking a daily glass of tomato juice can really help eliminate hot flushes. It worked for me. I suffered from some fuzzy headedness as well. That all stopped when I was 53, but the blood test still came back on the borderline and I was urged to wait for another year after all nothing was spoiling.
Fast forward to last summer at 54, I had some low level irritation in my nether region  and finally figured out that it was the threads in my Mirena coil and just wanted it out. I knew I was  done with menopause. The GP thought I should wait for the blood test, just in case and besides she had never heard of the threads bothering people. I said no, out now please.   The GP tried to remove it and mentioned that one thread to her surprise was very short. She  managed to lengthen one but could not remove the coil, possibly because I was through with menopause.  She suggested that I go to a Sexual Health Clinic as they might be able to quicker as I would be a low priority and besides I didn’t even know that I was through with menopause  but I figured I was going to need a gynecologist and asked her to arrange it. At her insistence I went through a blood test, to be on the safe side. I was not best amused at her attitude.  The blood test came back as I thought it would  – supports post-menopausal.
After a long period of waiting (the NHS IT postal system had a hiccup – I made a complaint and they had to cough and apologize), I finally saw the gynecologist in January. She tried to remove it herself, snapped one thread but could not remove the coil. Like 1 in 1000 women who have the Mirena inserted, I had to have  minor surgery with a general anesthetic. This happened on last Wednesday (13 Feb 2019). Unlike 1 in 100 women who have this procedure, the Mirena was not firmly embedded in the womb and unsafe to remove. In other words,  the operation was a success. She also removed the other thread which had somehow traveled up into my womb since the GP had seen me. In other words, I was right to insist on seeing the gynecologist and provided I continue to recover well, I won’t have to see her again for this problem.
Despite the hiccup at the end, I would still go with a Mirena coil. On balance, it was a very positive experience. I did not have to have a hysterectomy and it really worked for me. Some women don’t have that option and then the hysterectomy is the absolute right course.
My point here in sharing this story is to urge women not just to accept things. If I had sought help earlier, it is possible no-invasive strategies such as stabilizing my blood sugar, increasing my iron take  through the consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits would have worked. Do your research. Do not allow it to become a life-threatening condition simply out of embarrassment or a feeling that nothing can be done. Since sharing my story, I have heard of women collapsing from extreme blood loss through periods which lasted months and whose lives were saved by a hysterectomy.
Equally menopause happens. HRT is not the only way. The Mirena coil can get you through. Eating food like flax seed, tomato juice and leafy greens as well as stabilizing your blood sugar can help. I can not tell you how pleased I am to know that I am done and dusted and never have to face a period again.
But we need to demystify menstruation and menopause as knowledge is power. So thank you for reading.
Michelle Styles writes warm witty and intimate historical romance in a wider range of time periods for Harlequin Historical. Her most recent was Sent as the Viking’s Bride. She is currently hard at work on the next one. You can learn more about Michelle and her books at www.michellestyles.co.uk. Michelle welcomes any and all email as well – contact email on the website.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: Happy Valentine's Day!



http://bit.ly/PSBristol
You can find out more here
This is an extra-special Valentine’s Day for me, as my lovely husband is taking me out to dinner this evening. The most romantic night of the year is going to be combined with an early celebration, as  my non-fiction book about women’s lives between 1850 and 1950, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol, is going to be published by Pen and Sword Books on the 28th February.  You can find out more about it here, but to whet your appetite here’s the story of a woman from Bristol who really knew the meaning of love…

The happy couple, Clara and Kennerley.
(Pic via Wikimedia commons)
Dame Clara Butt (1872–1936) was an international singing sensation. Her early life was full of romance. Her father was a sea captain, and her parents had eloped. They moved to Bristol in 1880, when Clara was 8 years old and settled at 3, Sydney Terrace, Totterdown. Clara was educated at South Bristol High School where her singing ability was soon noticed. She took lessons with local teacher Daniel Rootham, who told her: ‘you have gold in your throat, my child’. Clara left Bristol in 1890 to take up a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London. Her powerful contralto voice was outstanding, and during her time at the college she spent some months studying in Italy, sponsored by Queen Victoria. Clara soon became a popular recitalist and concert singer. The Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra) would ask Clara to sing whenever they met – even on one occasion in a shop in Baker Street, London! 
Clara persuaded Edward Elgar to transpose his Sea Pictures song cycle into a key suitable for her contralto range. The premier was on 5 October 1899 at the Norfolk and Norwich festival, with Elgar conducting and Clara, who was 6 ft 2 in tall, dressed as a mermaid. 
Bristol Cathedral (Pic via Pixabay)
Despite her huge fame, Clara never forgot her roots in Bristol. She returned to visit her parents often, and to perform in the city. One of her fellow artistes, bass baritone Robert Kennerley Rumford, would write little love notes on her musical score. While they were performing a piece called The Keys of Heaven, Clara turned a page to find Robert’s marriage proposal written on her sheet music. She accepted. As such a well-loved national celebrity, Clara was offered the chance to marry in St Paul’s Cathedral. She chose Bristol Cathedral instead. It was the first wedding to be held there in a century, so 26 June 1900 was very special for Bristol. Everyone was given the day off, and all the national newspapers covered the event. The city presented Clara with a diamond brooch including the initials CB for both Clara Butt and City of Bristol, and Ivor Novello (later a famous composer and actor) was a little page boy. In 1920, Clara became the first British female musician to become
Pic via Pixabay
an honorary dame. 

As well as many other world-famous performers, Bristol was home to women who became important reformers, intellectuals, activists, and politicians.  Between them, they improved life and the conditions in which everyone lived and worked—not only in their own city, but across the world.  Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol tells their story.

As well as non-fiction, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written more than twenty novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or gardening.


You can catch up with her at https://christinahollisbooks.online, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at christinahollis.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Short Stories are like Music Videos...


I've talked before about why I write stories of different lengths. For me, short stories are a country video—they can pack a wallop quickly. Novellas are a made for tv movie. There's more meat on the bone, but (once you factor commercials in) in under and hour and a half, they tell a bigger story. Finally, novels are full on, go to the movies, get your bucket of popcorn and settle in sort of movies.  I tell all three because I love all three.  My very first romance sales were short stories.  And for me there's a sense of coming home.

Recently, The Moments came out on Amazon, Kobo and Nook. It's a sequel to Briar Hill Road. And Able to Love Again (my first story with a cowboy!) came out on Amazon, Kobo and Nook. The heroine worked for Alice, who readers met in These Three Words and Between the Words. I loved Alice and this was a great chance to see her again.

Yes, I love giving old characters cameos in new books. As a writer, I want to know how they're doing. And I'll confess, I feel such a sense of delight when  readers spots an old character in a new story and shares my glee!

Holly












PPS.
Have you missed our most recent Trippin' with Holly and Susan? You can catch up with them all on YouTube.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

When Romance is Not the Focus by Susan Sands

I hope everyone is staying warm in your neck of the woods! The forecast in Georgia for the coming
week is finally looking quite nice and I'm excited to explore my new neighborhood on foot with my pup on his leash. Thus far, it's either been raining or too frigid to venture out beyond the mailboxes.

Great news! I've finished the book I'd been working on for a solid year! I realize most authors whip them out in a few months and are on to the next exciting story, but this has been an especially challenging one for me. It's not a romance. There's a little romance in it, and hopefully my heroine will find her HEA with the man of her dreams down the road, but that isn't the focus of this one. 

My young lady's challenges with memory loss and finding her way home to the family she's forgotten, along with regaining her identity trump finding true love in this one. At least the focus of those issues are bigger than the romantic relationship she finds later in the book.

I wasn't certain I could not write romance as the central storyline, as it's so ingrained in me as an author. But this will fall along the lines of true general fiction or women's fiction with Southern flavor. It has some genre elements, but isn't genre fiction.

Figuring out what I was writing was so important to how I wrote it. The story is with my agent now and I'm looking forward to getting her feedback. Fingers crossed!

Enjoy your week, everyone!!

Susan