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Breast cancer diagnosis

Breast Cancer Diagnosis: What You Need to Know

A note from SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell

Dear Reader,

It happened. Life was moving beautifully for this 53-year-old, single woman. It was the end of June 2016, and I was preparing for a trip to Peru with my daughters. I was cleaning my hiking boots, having scheduled my shots and taken care of pesky medical exams. I was wondering … wondering if I was really up to the climbing we’d be doing … wondering what I’d gotten us into, really, when I got the follow-up phone call. 

Excuse me? No, that’s not part of the itinerary ….

The words “breast cancer diagnosis” stopped me and then threw me back in time. Stress swept up, blurring my thoughts until I was a little girl again. A dumb little girl again. I was misunderstanding most probably. On the phone, the doctor kept talking, using multi-syllable words while a million things surged in and out my head. Nothing was sticking. Except this little girl was going to die. 

But I haven’t died. Not by a long shot. I did go through a mental, physical and emotional contortion though, a crisis, and it’s one I’d like to see lessened for you should you ever be struggling with similar news. Because this can happen out of the blue. It only happens out of the blue! when suddenly you’ve joined legions of other women who’ve fought and survived breast cancer.

This post is about what you must know if you are given a breast cancer diagnosis. But allow me to emphasize three things up front.

First, a breast cancer diagnosis no longer means a death sentence. We are lucky that today more than 80 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer (women and men) go on to live the lives they were meant to live. 

Secondly, put this in your muscle memory: a good question to ask a doctor if you’ve just received news of a cancer diagnosis or anything as frightening …

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how life threatening is this tumor (plug in any issue) you’ve just found?”

Because you need anchoring when you’ve been told something as serious as this, and some doctors who see cancer (or serious issues) everyday fail to remember we don’t. We have no clue what the prospect is for life after. And thanks to stress flooding our prefrontal cortex, our ability to think straight or formulate questions go out the window.

Ask that question,”how threatening on a scale of 1-10″ to curb the stress and get some perspective.

Then, thirdly, grab your best friend. And with his or her support seek several medical opinions from breast surgeons. You want a breast surgeon with an excellent record performing the kind of surgery you need specifically. You ALSO want a breast surgeon who is particularly sensitive to the scar your surgery will leave. As the female surgeon I ultimately chose told me — months after my surgery —

“I spend the majority of my time in the operating room paying attention to how I’ve gone in to remove the cancer and especially, what my exit path looks like. It is cosmetic, because what helps a woman heal is not only being told she is cancer-free afterwards but that eventually, there is less and less of a scar to see. She’s not reminded of her trauma every time she looks in the mirror. Recovery has a lot to do with mindset.”

Two years beyond my diagnosis, I’ve finally made it to Peru, and as for the day to day, I look great is what I am told! I don’t think about it anymore but to be grateful because my diagnosis caught the cancer so early. I am also grateful for my exceptionally skilled surgeon. Grateful for my amazing and dear friend, Susan who accompanied me to all the medical exams, and procedures and who made the nurses, doctors and me laugh. And grateful for my daughters who, joining this group of extraordinary women showed me there ain’t no mountain high enough.

If you are ever diagnosed with breast cancer, chances are you will be lucky like me.  

What you need to know about your breast cancer diagnosis

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of women feel the effects of breast cancer, whether they have recently been diagnosed, are actively fighting it, are a survivor, or have a loved one who has been through these stages. Breast cancer is a reality that most women don’t want to think about, but one in eight women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Fortunately, there are also over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors alive and thriving in the United States today. With the support and knowledge of these brave survivors, the growing research about breast cancer, and your own network of friends and family, you can take the appropriate steps at each stage to ensure that you live the healthiest and fullest life possible.

Before breast cancer: the common causes and risks

Despite the widespread effects of breast cancer, the exact causes of the disease are still unknown. Researchers do know that any type of cancer involves the body’s cells multiplying uncontrollably and excessively. With breast cancer, the rapid cell growth typically starts in the inner lining of the breast’s milk ducts or lobules, which are tiny glands that produce milk for breastfeeding.

While experts haven’t been able to pinpoint what exactly spurs cancer’s rapid cell growth, they have been able to identify likely risk factors, many of which are preventable. If you’re concerned about your own risk of developing breast cancer, you can mitigate that risk by knowing these likely factors:

  • Genetics: Your risk for breast cancer may be higher if a close relative has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been linked with developing both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Age: While women of all ages can develop breast cancer, the risk increases with age. A 20-year-old woman’s chance of developing breast cancer within the next decade is 0.6 percent, while a woman who is 70 years old has a 3.84 percent chance.
  • Body weight: Those who are overweight, especially after menopause, may run a higher risk of developing breast cancer. This is possibly due to higher levels of estrogen in the body, which has been linked to the development of breast cancer. It could also be because of high sugar intake.
  • High alcohol consumption: According to some studies, women who consume more than three drinks per day have a risk of developing breast cancer that is 1.5 times higher than those who don’t drink as much alcohol.

While these risk factors have been linked to breast cancer diagnoses, no single factor has been guaranteed to result in breast cancer.

Preventing breast cancer: what steps you can take to avoid a diagnosis

No matter how much you may crave the ability to change your genetics or age, those risk factors are, unfortunately, set in stone. However, you can do your best to manage other risks, like alcohol and food consumption, to lower your chances of developing breast cancer.

Many women associate an increase in stress with an increased risk of breast cancer, as stories of women finding lumps in their breasts after going through a divorce or a losing a loved one are startlingly common. Researchers have investigated this possibility as well. A Scandinavian study found that among women who perceived their lives to be more stressful, there was an increased risk for breast cancer.

It’s important to remember that these scientists have not found a definite cause and effect between the negative emotions and bodily reactions that come with stress and breast cancer diagnoses. While chronic stress has been thought to weaken your immune system, this type of bodily reaction rarely happens in isolation. When stressed, people tend to eat, drink, and smoke more, all of which could factor heavily into an increased risk for cancer.

One of the best ways to minimize your chances of developing breast cancer, especially if you feel you are predisposed because of genetics, age, or stress, is to stick to a strategic breast cancer diet plan. Research has shown that changing what you eat and how you exercise can prevent as much as 30 percent of breast cancer diagnoses. If you’re looking to eat the best foods possible to lower your risk, consider working these nutritional wonders into your daily meals:

  • Fibrous foods: Studies in nutritional science have shown that foods high in fiber can help lower the amounts of estrogen in your body, reducing your risk of breast cancer. These fibrous fighters include nuts, beans, and whole wheat bread.
  • Sources of omega-3: Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are not produced in your body naturally, so you must put in the work to get them in there. Fatty acids are important because they help with inflammation, which can damage otherwise healthy tissue. Try turning to salmon, walnuts, and oysters for your fatty acid intake.
  • Sulforaphane and carotenoids: These nutritional compounds have both been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer when consumed in increased amounts. Sulforaphane can be found in arugula, cabbage, and broccoli, while carotenoids are found in carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

A breast cancer diagnosis: what next?

Sometimes, even when you take all the right preventative measures, those cancer cells decide to multiply anyway, and then it’s time for you to fight it. The first step is to see a surgical oncologist, who is a surgeon with a specialty in removing cancer. Your oncologist will be able to give you your breast cancer prognosis. Often, your physician will recommend a surgeon, and they are a great place for you to start. Many women may seek a second opinion as well to understand all their options.

While you want to take the time to consider all your treatment options, you will also want to act fast to remove the cancer as soon as possible. Be sure to have a reliable support network of family and friends during this time. They will be essential in helping you make decisions and necessary shoulders to lean on during this time. There are also vast networks of breast cancer patients and survivors throughout the country. Connecting with patients in the same circumstances as yourself can be extremely helpful throughout the process.

Your breast cancer prognosis may look slightly different than others, but no matter who you are, if you are diagnosed, one of the best things to do is keep your spirits up. With today’s medical options, the average five-year survival rate is 90 percent and the average 10-year rate is 83 percent. Millions of women and men live long and healthy lives after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and it often begins with choosing the right mindset.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of change and reinvention. Women facing a major life challenge, transition or calling are invited to schedule a FREE consultation with SAS to discuss your next smartest moves. “Life — your life — is calling you.”

 

You Are Not Alone: Women Reach to Kavanaugh

You are Not Alone: Women React to Kavanaugh Confirmation

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination proceedings, the #MeToo movement, and the appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will and have had a lasting impact on our everyday lives. Whether you’re a political person or not, conservative or progressive, single, married, or divorced, women are feeling the Kavanaugh effects. But today, this post is here to remind you that if you are hurt, if you feel silenced, if you feel powerless, you are not alone—other women are not only feeling the same way as you but are here to support you.

Women across the political spectrum have reached out to SAS for Women to share their reactions to the Kavanaugh nomination hearing and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. You may see yourself in some of their experiences and emotions. Even when things look darkest, we have other women whom we can create a community of care and support with.

The women below wished to be kept anonymous, so all names used are fictitious.

Mariana P.

Twenty-three years ago, Mariana P. was in college when she was sexually assaulted. She didn’t report it. “Right now, my brain is consumed with the fact that I’m thinking about divorce, have a lot of work-related stress, and parenting a special needs child,” she said. For her, living now in Madison, Wisconsin, “the Kavanaugh nomination [now confirmation] and testimony has opened up old wounds.”

Thursday after work, I found myself buried under the covers of my bed and just cried for a couple of hours . . . I felt completely alone.

It’s amazing how quickly 23 years can disappear, leaving one feeling like a scared college girl again, trying to make sense of something terrible that’s happened to you. Mariana’s husband, soon to be Ex, knows of her past and her story but couldn’t be there for her.

Divorce is hard for so many reasons—not just because of the problems driving us to end our marriage but sometimes because we feel like we’re losing one of our closest friends and confidants. Even if those beliefs are fantasies (and he was never there) or actually based on another time when your marriage was stronger, the revelation hurts. Other times, political or social issues underscore the rifts and disappointments we are feeling in our intimate world. Survivors like Mariana are finding themselves triggered by Christine’s testimony and the appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by those emotions, find community, a guided support group, a friend or family member, or a professional.

Lorraine T.

Lorraine T. has been married for 10 years, with the last five years of her marriage described as rough. She loves her three beautiful children and is in school working toward a degree, but she also feels trapped. Her husband gaslights her. She feels like she can do better on her own without his lies and manipulative behavior. She feels so consumed by her own life and sense of loss that she hasn’t even been able to turn on the TV and listen to the news about Kavanaugh.

And that’s totally fine. When our own lives get overwhelming, sometimes it’s too much to look beyond our immediate problems at the bigger social picture. What’s most important is getting yourself and your situation sorted so that you feel like you are in a safe space. Piling social problems on top of personal problems only adds to feelings of being overwhelmed and isn’t healthy for anyone.

If you are in an abusive marriage and want to figure a way out, you will want to read: “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps You Need to Take First”

Frieda N.

Representing another point of view is Frieda in Utica, New York.  A registered nurse, who is divorced after 28 years of marriage and the mother to two young adults. Frieda says, “Frankly I am starting to feel sorry for the men. No one can give a woman a compliment for fear of losing their job. Women can accuse men of things with NO PROOF whatsoever. No one deserves to be raped but when a woman uses her feminine wiles to appeal to a man’s baser instinct to get a job or promotion (and yes this DOES occur), they should own up to the fact that they ‘played the game’ and expected something in return. Pretty soon, we won’t be able to speak to the opposite sex. I am disgusted with Dr. Ford. This guy had some fairly big jobs before, and it took 40 years for the ‘trauma’ to emerge?”

Frieda, thank you for taking the time to share your view. Your perspective and conflation of Dr. Ford with other experiences you’ve observed points to the complexity and emotional volatility related to these issues.

Heeyeon S.

You are not alone women respond to Kavanaugh

Credit: Weheartit

Living in New York City, Heeyeon S. is angry. “[I’m] very angry with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, appointment, and the way Christine Blasey Ford has been treated by the Republicans and other Americans throughout this process.” She sees this as “a manifestation of how men in power can force their will on all of us. What’s happening is a metaphor for sexual assault itself. The more we say ‘No, stop, this isn’t right,’ the more they insist, force, and bully us.”

Anger is a valid reaction to what is happening and to what is going on in American politics right now. Heeyeon elaborates, saying “I don’t know what to do with this anger. Suppressing it is not an option. I have enough suppressed anger to last me various lifetimes! I would like to use this anger in a constructive way to make a change, but that’s easier said than done.”

Heeyeon is also adjusting to life as a recently single woman after 35 years of marriage and is trying to “reevaluate and reconcile my past” with “how to go on in a productive way, with me at the center, for the first time ever.” Trying to find the center and balance in a newly single life is already rough, but add to that the anger and resentment many women across the nation are feeling about Kavanaugh and life gets a little bit harder. In times like this, it’s good to remember not just your own past but also the fact that other women out there feel the same way you do.

If you feel like Heeyeon too—angry with the strong need to do something—keep reading below.

Matilda F.

Married for 28 years, divorced now for three, Matilda is an art teacher doing her own work and “loving life and my freedom.”  However, when it comes to the Kavanaugh confirmation, she’s so angry she wants to put her emotion to work. “I WANT TO GET INVOLVED in something related to our politics because I am outraged and tearful. Would love to hear what others are doing!”

As we say, keep reading.

Women react to Kavanaugh Confirmation

Credit: Unsplash

Katrina V.S.

As if in answer to Matilda’s and Heeyeon’s rage, Katrina, widowed and living in Brooklyn shared this link with the SAS community on how Democrats can regain the House in November by getting out the vote in key swingable districts.  “If you or anyone you know wants to channel their outrage into useful action, this organization—Swing Left—is a good place to start,” says Katrina.

Volunteer in the midterms

Celine D.

“Neither the Kavanaugh/Ford situation or the #MeToo movement play any role in the downfall of my marriage,” says Celine D. Celine has been married for ten years and is a teacher and a mother to two in Austin, Texas. “My husband decided he no longer wanted to be a husband. He was unhappy and wasn’t going to change, he told me. He refused marriage counseling, individual counseling, and anything else that represented him not quitting the marriage. He said he didn’t want to answer to anyone and wanted to do as he pleased (staying out all night drinking). Picking up the pieces of a broken family and learning a new normal as a single mom is what I am facing.  My marriage had its issues well before these things made the news.”

We get it, Celine. It’s hard to imagine how headlines can impact our own fight for survival. And yet we know, when the dust settles after “resolving” your relationship, you will want the best options available to you as a newly independent woman. And we hope your health insurance and your ability to exercise choice when it comes to freedoms for your body and your daughter’s is not mitigated as a result of these political times.

Eliza C.

“It’s as if we continue to hit these watershed moments, points of no return, when the rifts in our country our ripped open so seismically that the gap seems impossible to mend,” says Eliza C., an educator who is divorced and living in Minnesota. “Each time, we think it’s a new reckoning, a new all-time low—or for some, a long-awaited vindication, a new dawn. What’s clear is this gaping wound is not being tended to but fed. The leaders who might be trying to help us learn what healing looks like (the Martin Luther Kings, the activist peacemakers) are not given airtime. Their message doesn’t sell. Mutual hate is amped.

It reminds me of a marriage spiraling out of control, where both spouses believe they are the one who is right. They are unable to communicate or hear each other. Vilification of the other is easy. Hitting pause to listen and really hear what is going on is the work we must do.

Believe me, I have to check myself for I too am growing intolerant of this dated white male privilege we see personified by Kavanaugh’s confirmation. But is my participation in ‘the hating’ moving us along the evolutionary path? I don’t think so. Trying to forge through conflict with an eye toward healing is the hardest thing of all. My divorce taught me that.”

Susan M.

Separated and the mother to one young adult son in Manhattan, Susan, like other women who wrote us, feels the urgency to channel her rage into action. “There’s Postcards to Voters which anyone can do from home, as many or as few as you have time or energy for. I’ve been writing these with friends. We get together for tea … and other drinks, and instead of just kvetching, we are doing something! Well, we kvetch, too. But it sure feels good to vent and take action.”

Volunteer with Postcards to Voters

Helena W.

You are Not Alone. Women react to Kavanaugh

Credit: Unsplash

Helena W., still married, shares that “watching the Kavanaugh hearings and knowing of his appointment has been an overwhelming experience for me as a woman. I remembered so many times during my life when I felt cornered or uncomfortable around men and frighteningly aware of my own physical vulnerability.” But there is hope out there, and Helena has tapped into it. “Since the Kavanaugh hearings,” she writes, “I have been in touch with a wide range of friends from ages 27 to 85—all of whom have stories about work-related sexual harassment.”

The Senate confirming this man feels like a blow. The message is clear—the men with the greatest power in the country do not care about women. They do not believe our stories and they do not feel women should have control of their own bodies.

But Helena, living in Upstate New York, does find a silver lining despite Kavanaugh’s confirmation. While the stories are sad and the situations are dire, she is working on building herself a network of support and care through reaching out to her friends and sharing stories. “I heard the wonderful, clear and expressive voices of the ‘elevator women’ who confronted Senator Jeff Flake. I heard their pain, and I saw his expression when he was forced to face a concept that had dissolved and took human form.”

‘Don’t look away from me,’ one of the women cried. That battle cry alone gives me hope for the future.

Brenda S.

Brenda, divorced and living in Columbus, Ohio, is rebuilding her life after 42 years of marriage. The pain, the loss, and the learning that presents itself after such a momentous break up has Brenda considering things in a different way. We like so much what Brenda says (born from her firsthand experience) that it inspires us to end this post with her words:

“It’s fall: election season. I’m watching what everyone else sees: polarization and a reduction in civil discourse. But I thought of something today. Just as in a “carbon footprint,” what if we had a “civility footprint”? Except this one you want to grow larger, not smaller.

I know from experience that all meaningful change happens at the personal level.  Therefore, what if you leaned into discomfort and listened, actually listened to those around you who have ideas widely divergent from yours? What if you gave them respect, instead of dismissing, or worse yet, yelling at them or shutting them off? What if, when they are sharing the ideas most different from yours, you allowed yourself to be even more uncomfortable and said “TELL ME MORE….”

Here’s the thing: ‘PEOPLE ARE HARD TO HATE CLOSE UP:  MOVE IN!!!’

Those are not my words about moving in, but Brene Brown’s. ‘The point.’ says Brown, “is that we are all vulnerable to the slow and insidious practice of dehumanizing, therefore we are all responsible for recognizing and stopping it.’

We cannot ask politicians to reach across the aisle unless we ourselves are doing it. TAKE THE CHALLENGE!”

——————-

While these women have had a vast range of reactions and experiences throughout Dr. Ford’s testimony and the Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court, all have felt the need to share their stories to help other women experiencing similar emotions feel less alone. Among these sisters, too, are those who build upon the momentum of sharing and offer us resources or a challenge to inspire us to be more and do more. If any of these stories connect with you or if you simply feel like sharing your thoughts or a resource you know, we would love to hear from you. We invite you to comment below.

 

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

Self care after divorce means listening to your inner music

Self Care after Divorce: Loving Our Bodies, Ourselves

Taking care of ourselves can be challenging on our best days. Work, children, aging parents, pets, email, the car, smartphones—all of them competing in a dizzying buzz for our attention. Yet, self care after divorce is crucial. There’s no one around to casually remind you it’s time for another teeth cleaning or that you seem to be carrying a backpack of rocks between your shoulders. Still, the things that support, nourish and safe guard you need to be taken care of, perhaps more than ever. Because so much of life that is good, so much of life that must be maintained, is on us! Including our own well-being. No matter how old I get, it still feels odd and a little unfair that the outside world doesn’t come to a screeching halt when I feel upended. But stomping my feet and demanding the world JUST STOP won’t get me anywhere. For in the end, the problems we face are almost never as bad as they feel like they’re going to be at the start.  The trick is to start.  (But, you probably learned that in your last phase, when dealing with the divorce and facing things you never ever wanted to. Still, you pushed through.)

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, part of the challenge is not knowing where to go or whom to turn to for trustworthy information. Try to relax in front of the telly at night, and we are bombarded with commercials for prescription drugs and other advertisements, all continuing to feed us the myth that medicating is the answer. We can’t rely solely on doctors or the manufacturers of pills or popular culture with its subliminal messages to make the right decisions.

Christiane Northrup, MD, wrote the book on women’s health, and it’s called Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. She’s a board-certified OB/GYN and past president of the American Holistic Medical Association. (Which means you can trust her advice.)

Diet comes first when it comes to self care after divorce

Food is often overlooked when discussing personal well-being. By and large, if it grows in the ground, it’s probably something you should be eating. If it doesn’t—if it, say, makes a satisfying fizzy sound when opened or has to be ordered from a teenager attending a drive-thru window, then don’t eat it. Fast food is destroying America.

Statistically speaking, women outlive men, and it’s no secret, girls are taking over the world. Women living long, healthy lives, passing their strength down to the next generation and making this planet a better place, is a necessity. But we have to be healthy to do this.

The simpler we eat, the healthier we will be.

The dairy and beef industries have sold us on the idea that milk is good for us and red meat is All-American. The truth is neither milk or red meat is good for women’s bodies and eliminating them from your diet can help make going through menopause or dealing with PMS less of a headache. Caffeine and sugar are also culprits, as they throw your body’s natural balance off, affecting everything from hormone levels to anxiety.

Andrew Weil, MD, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, provides readers with a wealth of information like this in his monthly newsletter. He backs his advice up with research and studies but doesn’t bog the reader down with too much information. I like newsletters—as you can probably tell, like SAS’ Day Break, because they funnel the information I want and deliver it right to my inbox. In the case of SAS’ weekly coaching letter, you’ll receive practical to emotional to girlfriend advice, helping you understand and even forgive yourself as you aim to rebuild and recreate the life you deserve. Learning how to self care after divorce (indeed, self care in general) shouldn’t be another chore.

Benefits of exercise (you actually want to do)

Find some movement you enjoy. Enjoyment is key for those days when motivation seems nowhere to be found. I think of the tango dancer who once had a fear of intimacy but now dances with strangers in tightly choreographed movements. Who even met her current beau in a dance class, a spark quietly ignited through the art of dance. (The new beau an added benefit, of course.)

There are also simple exercises you can do that don’t take up much time. Jumping on a rebounder, a small trampoline, is a daily exercise that cleans out the lymphatic system and strengthens your heart. This is a low impact exercise involving gentle bouncing. Only a few minutes is enough to release toxins.

Making your health a priority

Examine what else, besides food, you allow your body to consume. Quitting cigarettes, for instance, is as much about vanity as it is health. Smoking cigarettes ages your skin by breaking down connective tissue and depriving it of oxygen. It thins hair by constricting blood vessels and disrupting hormone levels. Nearly half (yes, half) of all smokers are diagnosed with gum disease by sixty-five, according to the American Dental Association.

Stay on top of all doctor appointments. In 2015, The Journal of the American Medical Association published guidelines advising women to get annual mammograms starting at age forty-five. Once a woman turns fifty-five, she is advised to cut back to once every other year. Other appointments, like visiting the dentist or gynecologist, should happen on an annual basis regardless of age, while general physicals and eye examinations should take place every other year. Preventive care is proven to keep people healthier, longer.

Life after divorce should be all about putting yourself first—that includes your health. A life of freedom and fun is within your grasp, but safety and education come first.

Surgical intervention as a form of self care

People love to bash on celebrities who reveal their newly enlarged breasts or smaller noses. But there’s a world of nuance and a menu of options that exist for the discerning woman.  There is nothing wrong with cosmetic surgery as long as it’s done for the right reasons. If giving “the girls” a little lift as a certain self care after divorce makes you feel better, then who am I (or anyone else) to judge? To comment?  No, rather I might ask, “Who did it for you?” You get one life, so live it.

But before you schedule any cosmetic surgery, make sure you understand surgery will not cure you of self-loathing. It will not ensure a long term loving relationship. Once they have you on their examination table, surgeons may try to sell you “additional surgeries” to enhance the “new you,” but you are not an experiment. Some people—perhaps many people—will never be fully satisfied with how they look, even after surgery. Do NOT change your body to please someone else, when you’re the one who has to live in your skin.

Do your homework. Research all about your surgeon. There are ways to read reviews and cautionary tales about doctors on the internet. Find out as much as you can about women’s real experiences and how they were treated by the doctor before making any decisions.

Perimenopause, menopause & postmenopause

As early as a woman’s 30s, but more likely in their 40s, her body begins to undergo perimenopause. During this time, you still have menstrual cycles and can get pregnant—but the body is preparing for the changes to come. Menopause is diagnosed when twelve consecutive months pass without a woman having a period. The ovaries no longer release eggs, and estrogen levels drop off. Cue hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.

But as we know, women’s bodies are strong and capable. Preparation is key. Even simple lifestyle changes (many of which are already mentioned above) can make this transition smoother. Think, drink and eat soy, too.

Last but not least, when it comes to self care after divorce, don’t be afraid to say NO. Saying no is one of the most liberating exercises of all. It’s like saying YES to you.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience and aftermath of divorce, or in that confusing but fertile place of recreating the life you want to lead, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of  “After Divorce.”  “A successful divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and how it will benefit you in a free 45-minute consultation.

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a freelance writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues, creativity, and online businesses. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

credit: weheartit.com

Why Is Going Back to Work So Hard?

Perhaps it’s because the finances are getting tight … or the kids have gone off to college (and that was always the plan anyways); or maybe you’ve taken a break for medical reasons. Or, you have to go back to work, because you got divorced, and you have to support yourself now. Or maybe you’ve been raising children and taking care of your family, and now with them gone, you are looking for meaning. Whatever the reason… now you find yourself going back to work because simply put, you need INCOME.

So you dig out the old resume, dust off your suit (please, remove the shoulder pads) and grab the classifieds to circle the jobs you’ll apply for … when, oh, wait. That’s not how they do it anymore.

How do you look for a job these days? Not to mention, who will want to hire you? You’ve been out of the loop for so long that there might be that little voice deep down, whispering that you’re too old, too shlumpy, that technology has changed too much, that you just don’t have what it takes anymore to hack it in the “real” world? Well, tell her to shut it, and let’s figure this out.

Let’s just start with the fact that you’re going back to work. This is not optional, right? We both know that the negative thinking isn’t going to help you get there so let’s just override that Little Debbie Downer Voice and concentrate on what you have to do instead.

First, there are several things you must keep in mind:

  • Going to back to work IS work. Put yourself in the frame of mind that you have a job already. Your job is to find a job. This job you’ll need to do every day, probably for many months before you finish it.
  • You’ll need to develop a detailed plan for what you need to do every day to move toward your goal of landing said job. For more details, check out the “things you need to do” list below.
  • Obviously you know you’ll need to update your resume. When you do, really review it and study up. When the time comes, you WILL be asked about your responsibilities, successes & challenges from previous positions, even if it was over a decade ago. Know your resume well. Be proud of what you have accomplished and be ready to tell someone about it all.
  • Speaking of resumes, we tend to think of them as a piece of paper that tells a possible employer where you’ve been and that’s true. But your resume (and Linked In profile, we’ll get to that) must also speak to where you are trying to go. So think about that, what are you hoping to be doing? What are you good at? What are your non-negotiables? What do you absolutely NOT want to be doing? Give some thought to these questions and land on an idea of what you would like to aim for.
  • Finally, don’t think to yourself, “I could do anything really, as long as they pay me.” Even if it’s true, you can’t conduct a job search with that mindset. They will smell your desperation. Instead, be clear with yourself and anyone you speak to that you know what you are looking for and why you’d be good at. If you don’t know what that is yet, revisit the previous point until you do.

OK! Now that you are ready to get rolling, here are some of the things you need to do to get your plan together:

  1. Get up to speed. If you haven’t really touched a computer lately other than to check Facebook, you may want to consider taking some classes to get up to speed with current software. If you were licensed in a trade, you may need to sign up for some Continuing Ed or apply to reinstate your licensure. If you are thinking about taking a new direction altogether, you may need to look into programs and requirements at local universities. Whatever the case is for you, be thinking about what you need to do to educate and prepare yourself for what you are trying to do next.
  2. Get connected. This actually means a number of things. This is where LinkedIn comes in, for example. As of 2018 anyway, a LinkedIn profile is an important part of your job search. Employers will expect it and look for it so make sure it’s in good shape with a professional profile picture and up to date information. In fact, this should be the case wherever you are online. Prospective employers will stalk you online to check you out, so make sure everything out there is stuff you can be proud of. But that’s not it for connecting … you should also check with your alma mater. Your school may have a career services department that can line you up with some resources. Look at local resources, for example the New York Public Library offers Career Placement Services; perhaps your community library or college does as well.
  3. Get involved. Once you’ve decided the general direction of what kind of work you are looking for, start looking for professional organizations related to the field and join them. Go to meetings, read the newsletters, read online and post to their pages … make it your business to be involved in any way that you can. A great universal organization to begin with is Toastmasters  where you can go and meet interesting people from all walks of life, hone your public speaking skills and come away from meetings with a refreshed confidence in yourself. Plus, you just never know who can hook you up with a lead on a job. The more people you meet and impress, the more eyes and ears you have searching out there with you.
  4. Consider taking a job before you take the job. Keep in mind, you may not get exactly what you want in the beginning. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something while you continue to work your plan. Consider part time work, to get some money coming in while you meet new people. Or, look in to gig work (check out this great article for ideas) or even volunteering to fill your heart and to connect with others.
  5. Get some guidance. Gosh, there is so much more to share, so many more strategies to tell you about! But then unfortunately this article would be way, way too long. So we recommend that you take a look at a group called iRelaunch; they offer all kinds of programming, online and in person, to help professionals return to the workplace. Finally, we recommend that you work directly with a professional on this if you can… a coach will be able to help you think through all the parts, from figuring out what it is that you want to do – to getting your comprehensive job search plan together and helping you execute it – to clinking glasses with you when you land the Big Job!

We wish you much luck in your quest to getting back to work! Dare to even dream a little bit. Change is not easy  but you’ve got this. We know it takes some digging into yourself to really get in touch with why someone would want to hire you… and we applaud you for this work. We have every confidence in you! We can’t wait to hear about how you nailed just the right interview and how excited you are for your first day at work. Until then, you’ve got your plan. Take it one step at a time.

 

Wondering how to take the first step? The second? How the heck do you get to figuring out … anything? We’d love to help support you relaunch your next, best chapter.  Let’s start with a free consultation. You’ll walk out of that conversation with next steps tailored to your needs, whether you work with us ongoing or not. We promise!

 

 

Life after divorce dating can challenge your confidence.

Life After Divorce: 6 Dating Tips on How to Show Up

You might be thinking about dating now that you’ve arrived here in this land of the unknown, your life after divorce; and this particular aspect of it can be intimidating, exciting, and frankly, straight-up terrifying. When my marriage ended I was, or so I thought, eager to start dating, and I set up an online dating profile almost immediately. After matching with someone, we texted for a full week before I was able to go out on an actual date. I felt relatively comfortable the few times we chatted on the phone. He was also newly divorced but had been dating for a few months. However, when the day came of our first date (and my FIRST date in almost 17 years) I was anxiety-ridden! I paced around my apartment fretting about why I shouldn’t be doing this:

“What if I have nothing to talk about?” (which, by the way, has happened NEVER in my life)

“What if I do something embarrassing like trip on my way to the table?” (That might have happened before.)

“What if he tries to KISS ME??!!” (Hmm, scary? Or is that I don’t trust myself?)

I even texted my date to tell him I would probably not be able to make it. Luckily he saw right through my hesitation and eased my worries (– there are compassionate people out there!). I then called a friend who helped talk me off the ledge, and after hanging up the phone, I stared down my reflection in the mirror. I had to rip off the metaphorical band-aid, get my act together and get out the door. I put on some of my favorite music: I needed some serious GIRL POWER music and so I opted for some Rihanna and Beyonce (whom I enjoy now thanks to my two daughters). I put on my new IRO jeans (my best friend convinced me I needed some sexy jeans for my new dating life— the best $200 I ever spent!!) and somehow made it through the date with my self-esteem intact.

Since that day, I’ve spent a LOT of time preparing for dates. My friends tease me that it’s become my hobby (I have to say they aren’t entirely wrong!). Over the course of the past few years as I’ve advanced through my own divorce recovery and gotten to know myself even more,  I’ve honed my craft and have actually begun to truly enjoy dating, to thrill in it even. Dating is a skill that can absolutely be learned, and like a chess game, once you have a few good strategies in place you can begin to feel confident enough to take a few risks. The same can be said about how you choose to dress yourself for dating. Once you have your good reliable, strategies in place you can begin to finesse the details.

Based on my now ample experience, here are the suggestions I most often share with clients and friends who need a little boost as they head out the door to begin their dating journey.

Alyssa’s 6 Tips for Showing Up in Your New Life After Divorce

    1. Start with the fundamentals. Address your foundational pieces. Chances are you are wearing a yellowed bra that is old, stretched out or otherwise ill fitting! I know I was. Go to a good lingerie shop* and have the saleswoman help you find a bra that actually fits AND looks good. You will feel sexier and empowered just knowing you have it on.
    2. Keep it easy. The day or evening of a first date is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Create a date “uniform” where you have, for example, great fitting jeans, a comfortable pair of boots (see below), your new well-fitting, but sexy,bra and just swap out different tops.
    3. Treat yourself to one new thing: a perfect pair of jeans, a new great pair of boots (with a little lift of heel to make you feel taller), a new haircut, or even some highlights.  One key element of getting through your first date (and thereafter in your new and empowered, life after divorce) is feeling good about yourself because, after all, self-confidence is attractive. “Look good feel good” is an old saying that still holds true. If you feel like you look great you will feel great and more confident.
    4. Accessorize: remember that most first dates are sitting next to or across from someone. Mostly what your date is seeing is your top and jewelry. A simple top and some favorite jewelry or an interesting top and minimal accessories.
    5. Never show up on a date in shoes you can’t walk in! You’ll want to feel comfortable enough to take a leisurely romantic stroll or head on to a new adventure should your date take on a life of its own. But obviously you want to feel good in them (i.e. sexy) so don’t go too far on the comfort level. Leave the “sensible” shoes at the office.
    6. HAVE FUN. This is not a styling tip but just a “life after divorce” tip. Seriously, this should be a fun experience! This time around, you’re not 20 something full of insecurities. You’re not (necessarily) looking for a life partner. You can use this opportunity to learn more about yourself and whom you want to spend time with. You can try new things: go to concerts, try new foods, visit a neighborhood you’ve never explored, and open your mind to exciting opportunities.

After a few months, the most important thing I learned is that I wasn’t “just a wife and mother.” I rediscovered my femininity and also my sexuality (another blog post entirely!). I had a client, who after working with me said, “I would walk down the street and feel invisible before, and now I feel a new vitality that was dormant for so long. I forgot what it felt like.” I definitely relate to that and know many other women who have experienced similar revelations. My advice is to not overthink it and just enjoy your newfound freedom. Try to see dating as a way to connect with new people and finding your inner glow and fun side again.

 

*If you are in the New York Metro area, email me at [email protected] for my favorites.

Alyssa Dineen has been a New York City stylist for close to 20 years. She has worked with all different personalities, body types and budgets and knows how to help you stay relevant and current while still feeling like yourself — the best version of yourself. Get in touch today to find the styling package that suits you best www.stylemyprofilenyc.com.

Woman lounging in her life after divorce

Life After Divorce: The 7 Surprising Myths About STDs

As a medical writer, one of my most gratifying roles is that of educator. I may be writing pieces that teach doctors about a new drug or how to take care of a poisoned patient (since I’m also a toxicologist), or teaching veterinary medicine students about antidotes for poisoned animals. I also write to educate patients about how to keep themselves and their families healthy. So why is a medical writer blogging on SAS for Women’s website? I’ve discovered there is a critical need to educate women, especially older women navigating their new, life after divorce about how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually infections (STIs).

Women who were in a long marriage may now be in their 40s or older. These women are not in the age group that is targeted for STI education and may not be thinking about the risks they run once pregnancy is not an issue for them.

Please read and ponder these seven myths about STIs. These are meant to be short and easy to take in so you’ll begin your personal education and protection. For more details, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s site on STDs or talk to your healthcare provider. And, if you think you may have an STI, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.

Myth 1: STIs are only transmitted through bodily fluid.

Some STIs are transmitted via skin-to-skin contact (such as herpes or human papillomavirus [HPV]) and body fluid-contact is not necessary for transmission. So, although some STIs require bodily fluid contact, some do not. A condom only covers so much skin (see Myth #5). 

Myth 2: My partner tested “negative” for STIs so he is not infected.

If someone is exposed to an STI and is tested too soon, STI testing may not pick up the infection as there can be a delay in symptoms (or no symptoms at all) and/or a delay in a positive testing result. Also, STI testing cannot test for every STI. For example, in men, there is not a test for HPV.

Myth 3: Oral sex is completely safe.

There are some STIs that are transmittable via oral sex (either as the giver or receiver) such as HPV, herpes, and gonorrhea. Certain strains of HPV are linked not only to cervical cancer but also to esophageal cancer (making unprotected oral sex a bigger health risk than some women may realize). Safer sex practices for oral sex include using a latex condom or dental dam.

Myth 4: If I don’t see blisters, there is no chance my partner has herpes.

Partners with herpes infections can transmit the infection even before blisters appear. Many people with genital herpes do not know they even have it. Note that testing for herpes may not be included on an STI testing panel.

Myth 5: Condoms are 100% effective.

Nothing, except abstinence, is 100% effective in preventing STIs. So even with condoms, there is a risk. Using latex condoms for all sexual activity and knowing your partner’s sexual history and STI testing status, can decrease the risk considerably.

Myth 6: STI testing is done at my annual check-up.

It may be, but verify. Not all check-ups, even at the OB-GYN, will include STI testing. Ask your healthcare provider what tests are done, and based on your sexual history, if you need additional tests.

Myth 7: If I am in an exclusive/monogamous relationship, there is no risk for an STI.

See Myth 2. It can sometimes take months for an infection to show up on an STI screen and many STIs have no symptoms. Keep in mind that it’s not only who your partner is with now, it’s who he has been with in previous months.

No doubt you are navigating a lot in your divorce recovery and new life as an independent woman. Reading this information may be overwhelming and even frightening. But knowledge is power when it comes to keeping yourself healthy. Women (and men) need to be aware of the risk of STIs no matter what their age. Some strategies like keeping condoms handy (and using them!) and the sharing of recent STI testing results between partners can help decrease the risk for an STI. If you are thinking about dating, or are already out there, make a plan for how you will broach the topic of STIs with your new partner and how you can make sure you are both in the know regarding STI status. You and your partner can get tested together or you both can share the testing results via email (so you can see what exactly he was tested for).

 

Dr. Allison Muller, Pharm.D, D.ABAT, is a board-certified toxicologist and registered pharmacist with over 20 years’ experience in the field of clinical toxicology. After a nearly 20-year career leading the Poison Control Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Muller is presently an independent consultant specializing in medical writing, medical education, and providing expert witness testimony on cases involving medications, alcohol, chemicals, and environmental toxins.

This blog post is not meant to provide medical advice. If you have possible symptoms of an STI or feel you are at risk, see your healthcare provider.

 

 

Woman's shadow considering future self

If You’re in Denial About Your Future, Don’t Bother Reading Any Further

Oh, but you are open to something … aren’t you?
I was, too.

After the doorbell rung, I went to the door and collected a beautifully designed envelope. I considered its elegant calligraphy. Was it really for me? I opened it to find an invitation that took my breath away … to meet myself five years from now.

And with shaking knees and a thud in my chest, I did it. (I wonder, would you?) I rsvp’d YES. For I knew on some level, I’d been playing around too long. I had to begin to create the woman I wanted to meet five years from today. Here is how I began that journey. Read more  …

But I admit, I was scared about what else this would mean.

Yes, I had decided to volunteer on an animal reserve in Africa for 2 weeks. That’s all — I mean, wasn’t that enough of getting outside myself? But when Italians wrote not long after asking if they could rent my apartment for a total of 5 weeks through AirBnB, I thought,

  • “What is the universe telling me? This is preposterous!”
  • “Whoa, can I really just up and go for a entire month or more solo to Africa?”
  • “What if I don’t like my Future Self?”
  • “What if I feel lonely?”
  • “What if my Future Self is weak or cowardly or can’t protect me from every unforeseen calamity?”

What I would discover though, would blow my mind. For while traveling to Cape Town, then living and working there, I came to meet men and women who were friends of my Future Self! It wasn’t me, I am convinced who attracted them, but she! Among them was Carla, my first AirBnB hostess. Carla became something more like my sister from a parallel universe. The second day of my arrival, Carla showed me how to acclimatize … how to swim with the seaweed in winter, how to grab hold of the forest of kelp for anchor, then how to rub the strong, slippery protein-rich flesh against my face. “The Ladies,” as Carla called the kelp hugging the coves of Cape Town, not only provide the most purifying & recharging facial … “they break the waves and keep you safe if you respect them and dare to hang on.”

Stay tuned for more stories on Africa and the incredible people I met when I stepped out of my hot New York City apartment and into a hotter laboratory of possibility.

But right now, I must ask, can you respect the life forces around you, those signs that are calling you? Do you dare to hang on?

If you’d like to learn more about overcoming your fears and honoring who you really are, consider joining Liza Caldwell and Master Coach Madhu Maron in New York City on October 14 for Finding Your Future Self Workshop, a powerful, all day event and celebration dedicated to your becoming, an action plan for honoring your true self and moving forward with impact and awareness. This event is open to women of all ages and stages of life who are facing a possible transition or who wish to move forward with intention. To find out if this workshop is for you, please schedule a 15-minute chat with SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell.

 

credit: weheartit.com

Midlife Volunteering for Women: Listening for the Wild Things

The air felt hot and dry against my face, but the breeze felt cool and fresh. I listened to the steam of air released and watched what unfolded below.

A long time ago, I flew over Kenya’s Masai Mara — in a hot air balloon. Aloft the wind currents, my new husband and I marveled over the sweeping plain filled with buffalo, wildebeest and impala. And we shuddered with the thrilling descent over a river clustered with hippo. I still see the hippos’ jaws extended as we drifted down. Then landing elsewhere, we smashed into a towering red termite mound. I was amazed to see a pride of lions resting nearby, watching antelope when I stood up; and not far away from them, the outrageous — a luxurious champagne brunch prepared for us. The contrast — the height of civilization, complete with white linen tablecloths, crystal goblets and chinked silver service — and the “Super Natural” of Africa made for the consummate, romantic and fully colonial experience. Aside the birth of my two daughters, the safari honeymoon, filled with hope and possibility, would be the highlight of my marriage.

It has taken me 27 years to return to Africa. This time, I’ve come on my own.

I am in IMFolozi National Reserve in South Africa, serving as a volunteer with Wildlife Act – an organization dedicated to the preservation of endangered species.

What brought me here was an awareness of my own ticking mortality and things I must still do. Last summer I was forced to stay in New York City where I live in order to receive treatment, having been diagnosed with breast cancer. I worked a lot, rarely took time off, and reported daily for my “tanning bed.” I knew I was incredibly lucky to be diagnosed and treated early, to endure only a lumpectomy, and above all, survive. But on some level, too, I understood as well that if I were lying on my deathbed I would not be going quietly. I still had things to savor and getting back to Africa was one of them. Though the honeymoon safari would be forever imprinted in my head, there was something about its privilege and naiveté that rubbed me the wrong way now that I was older, wiser, and divorced.

Credit: Diana Doolittle

SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell in IMfolozi National Park, South Africa.

Imfolozi is the oldest national park in Africa, and one of the most dazzling or so I am told. I discover this for myself as I scan the horizon holding a transistor and telemetric equipment from the back of an open-air truck. My colleagues and I are tracking African wild dog, cheetah, lion, and vulture (yes!) and it’s 5:00 am. The air is not warm but icy. This may be South Africa, but it feels like Patagonia.

For hours each day, we listen and measure the strength of signals given off from different collars certain animals wear. We hear the beeps and charge off to track, photograph and record a sighting. The routine is simple and not unlike a meditation. But each day brings the unexpected and the show-stopping that I feel singled out to witness.

From the rising of the orange disk sun to the sounds of the Cape Town Turtle Dove or roaring lions in the riverbed, I feel my life anew. Africa has a way of handing you “first-times,” like the climax I experienced yesterday, when the Reserve’s vet handed me the shot to revive a tranquilized wild dog. “Just grab the muscle in his haunch, pinch and wait for the signal. Then stick the needle in.” I certainly had not planned on touching the wild dogs, or smelling them. But I am still vibing and privileged in an altogether new way: to be in a place in my life that has me listening and at last acting on what my inner voice says I must do.

Turns out, that inner voice can find its choir, for I am surrounded by other powerful voices here; a group of women who have come from all over the world. Though each one’s story is unique, they are like me in many ways. They have transitioned through something and understand time is finite. If there is a calling of the wild, one must listen.

In the hope of inspiring you, I asked a few to share what it was that had them leave the familiar and find themselves immersed in nature, here in Africa, too.

Cathy Dawson quit her job and sold her house.

Cathy Dawson, 45 years old, Hudson, New York: 

“I have always been passionate about the wildlife in Africa. It’s been a lifelong dream to go and see all the magnificent creatures, especially the big five. However, there has never been enough time, money or courage to make the trip.

And then, my husband left me. I hit rock bottom for a few days, and then realized in my deepest, darkest moments that this was an opportunity, something I had been denied. I could create a new life for myself on my own terms.

So, not only did I cut ties with my ex-husband, I also quit my job and sold my house. Africa was calling! I had to respond, but I wanted my experience to be different than a safari. So, I decided to take direct action and help threatened species. I made plans to go to Zululand as a midlife volunteer and to join WildlifeAct to honor that part of my soul that has been neglected for so long.”

“I like to think about what Wayne Dyer once said,

‘I don’t want to die with the laughter still inside me'”

~ Penny M. from Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Dr. Diana Doolittle (not her real name), 45 years old, London, U.K:

“In 2015 I went on safari to the Serengeti with my husband and fell in love. In love, with the magnificence, the power and sheer presence of the lions! They inspired me in a way that was totally alien. I went back to London and explored ways that would lead me back.

I stumbled across Wildlife Act. The NGO struck me as an ethical organization. There was no “cub petting.” They monitor the lions from a distance! When I told them at my job I needed to go to Africa, management was very supportive. They agreed to an “unpaid leave.” And my husband was supportive. He was surprised of course, as I normally travel with an extra suitcase – just for my hair products. But he said I must do what I must do.

The culmination of my experience so far has been the drawing blood from a wild dog. By training I am a doctor, but yesterday, I felt my whole life had geared me for this moment. And perhaps I should have become a vet. I understand now why people give up everything and undertake conservation work. It is a privilege to work towards protecting the vulnerable and the innocent.”

Penny M., 63 years old, Vancouver Island, British Columbia:

“The wild dogs called me. I’m 63 and had knee surgery 5 years ago. Both my knees are titanium! — Believe me, you can’t lose me in the airport. You hear me coming through security …. As for coming here I figured it’s not gonna get any easier. Now, is when I have the time and I couldn’t wait around anymore, or for those people who said they ‘might do it with me one day.’ I like to think about what Wayne Dwyer said, ‘I don’t want to die with the laughter still inside me.'”

Marumo Nene, Endangered Species Monitor for WildlifeACT at IMfolozi Reserve, South Africa

Marumo Nene, 33 years old, Wildlife Monitor and Volunteer Manager, KwaZululnatal, South Africa

“Growing up under Apartheid policies, I didn’t know anything about conservation or much about animals. The reserve and other national parks in South Africa were off limits to blacks unless we worked there. Only sometimes, when I was tending my father’s goats, would I even go near this reserve, IMfolozi. When I did, I’d catch glimpses of white men riding horses supervising black men fixing the fence. So when my father suggested I apply for an internship at IMfolozi where he had been working as one of the first blacks on the inside, heading up a project on alien plants, I told him, “No! I am not fixing any fences!!” But he insisted I check it out and so I applied to please him. And I found myself! I love animals and nature. After the internship I gave up what I had been studying — Public Relations — and became a field guide and then I got a job to monitor wild dogs, an endangered species. This is where I want to be — in the middle of it. Nature gives me peace of mind or what we say in Zulu, Kunothula – a quietness. I plan to stay involved here forever.”

 

Dr. Ivana Cinková, 34 years old, Litomyšl, Czech Republic/ Researcher Completing her Post Doctorate on White Rhino Communication: 

“I’ve wanted to come to Africa since I was around 6 years old. I was little and saw Joy Adamson’s “Born Free,” and then some time after, I read a children’s book about a Czech who moved rhinos from the Sudan to a Czech zoo. I liked his stories and in particular about a female Rhino who would smash the cell she was held in, just so the baby rhinos could get to her. She didn’t smash the rest of the pen, just the barrier to the babies. The workers would repair the wall, but every night she’d smash the barrier again to get to the young rhinos. I loved that. And now that I am here, approaching two years, I love being in the bush with them. Everything is so much simpler here, though it’s primitive and can be a struggle. It makes me appreciate everything I have. In Europe, life is easier, but you take it for granted.”

Midlife Volunteers

Fast friends: volunteers taking a break from work and meeting on the fabled “Rock” at Wildlife ACT camp, IMfolozi National Park in KwaZuluNatal, South Africa.

Kerry N., 56 years old, Tasmania, Australia:

“I’m two years out of an eight year relationship. I discovered my ex was living a double or should I say, triple life, with relationships all over the globe. Not only was he cheating on me, he made me feel like a fool. Like I was the one who was crazy! It was the classic “gas lighting.” But I am older now and wiser, and I’ve managed to survive.

I want my new life to be filled with color, fun and experiences. I want to know and love myself. I started with Africa, coming here as a midlife volunteer because of a near death experience I had more than 30 years ago – before any relationship troubles. It’s something I’ve never been able to shake off.

In that twilight space years ago, between life and death, I was in a tunnel on a dirt road. Along the road, there were brightly dressed African women, wearing reds and orange. The women were singing, chanting and jumping. It wasn’t happy singing. It was something else. Maybe they were telling me it wasn’t time for me to die. The image has stayed with me. I am here because of them.”

 

What is your soul aching to do? If you’d like to learn more about overcoming your fears and honoring who you really are, consider joining SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell in 2019 when she returns to Africa to lead a small group of women to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and the Bush. The Asambe Tour (Zulu for “Let’s go!”) will be dedicated to self discovery and adventure and will include such highlights as Soweto, Robben Island, Table Mountain, and safari. Particularly special will be the unique opportunity to live and be with South African women and leaders as they share historical insights and the local ways to nature treks, cultural fourrees, wine tastings, braais (barbecques), and yoga in the wild. If you’d like to be considered for the group, please read more here.

 

How do I make a change in my life

How Do I Make a Change in My Life?

If you’ve ever wanted to pivot, or make a change in your life, you know where it must begin. It begins with you. This is what probably holds you up in the first place. But if you think about it not meaning absolute perfection, but rather, your taking little steps to reach your goal or your version of “perfection,” it’s a good start. It’s okay to celebrate your imperfect perfection, too. For it means recognizing your perceived faults and flaws while coming to understand who you are. Once you start doing that, understanding who you really are, you can embrace that space wherever you are on your journey.

How do you get to that place of making a change in your life?

It’s never easy or simple – figuring out who you are can be challenging, emotional, and most of all … painful. We never want to dig deeper for the true reflection, because we fear we may not like who that person is. At first. But, once you start seeing things for what they truly are, who you really are underneath it all, you can begin healing from within.

What is the journey?

The journey is whatever you need it to be, as long as you’re true to you. Take some time to reflect on the things that have made you happiest in your life. Not superficial happiness, but those times that really made you feel warm inside, the ones you can never forget. Why were you so happy? What were the triggers that helped you feel this way? The journey is finding your way back to those times, exploring what was happening when you were free and confident. When you felt competent and yes, truly alive. Then it’s about finding new circumstances to relive those sensations when your mind and body and spirit were in alignment.  You are not going backwards. You are going forward seeking what you know on a very primal, inspiring level.

Next, think about the things you love to do. We mean things that really make you hum! Those things that you would do for free just because they fulfill you. Make a list and then start finding out where you can go to do those things. You like to sing? Join a choir, a band, a group. Or take singing lessons. Paint? Go to paint school or cover a table in your house with a cloth and make it your craft table for a month. You may be swamped in your “day” job, but there’s always time to do the things you really want to – IF you really want to.

The best plans are those that come when you least expect them. Now is the time to look at those plans and view them as an opportunity to do something different. Change can be scary, but it helps you grow. Realizing you have a chance to make a difference in your life should be something to get excited about. All you have to do is take the plunge.

Taking the plunge

Have you ever landed in a foreign country? How about taking an ice-cold shower? It really shocks you at first, but the longer you stay there, your body adjusts. And then afterward, your mind and body are rejuvenated. It’s vibing, it’s alive! That’s just like new things in life. Once you start doing something different, it may be uncomfortable at first, but you learn to adapt. And … sometimes you discover something fascinating about yourself.

The key is preparing yourself. You’re making a plan, but it’s not about doing something for someone else – this plan is all about you. Start small and work your way into bigger things. Maybe a haircut or new pair of shoes. You may want to take a class to pursue another career. Maybe it means finding the right kind of support.  Who are the friends who know the Best You? Maybe it’s about finding the right coach.  The person who can hold you accountable to doing what you say you want to do. Every little thing you do counts toward your becoming.

Making a change to your life, or changes to your living actually helps you become flexible, more adaptable at seeing things in a different light. You may begin to challenge the priorities you used to have, reshaping your mindset. You’ll start to see your strengths and weaknesses differently, breaking up the monotony in your life. It could be something as small as taking a trip to another state by yourself, or sitting in a restaurant alone and ordering a lovely dinner to be shared with … yourself. Or, you may have never taken a walk around the block in the other direction, or truly explored your city. All these things work together to provide variety, shift your brain and get you prepared for bigger changes that may come.

If you see it, receive it. Then, take the steps to believe it. Change is inevitable when seeking your truth but there’s no bigger champion of your future than you. Start making a change that speaks to you and watch what else falls into place.

If you are having a hard time taking the steps you know you need to take to change your life, consider a free consultation with SAS for Women.  We’ve been there and we’ve designed our work to support you.