"It's worth it." - Board Member Monique Costello Shares Her Personal Pain Story

"It's worth it." - Board Member Monique Costello Shares Her Personal Pain Story

I went from doctor to therapist looking for answers and nobody had them for me. It was devastating to say the least. Normal life had ended on some levels; I was a physically active individual who went from playing beach volleyball to not even being able to wash my own hair some days. I had two therapists, a chiropractor and a back doctor all managing my ‘recovery’ and I wasn’t getting any better, at all.

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When Friendships Fail: How chronic pelvic pain affected my friendships

When Friendships Fail: How chronic pelvic pain affected my friendships

I know that the way I’ve changed has been hard for some of my friends. Not everyone who befriended my overachieving, high-charging self in our twenties had bargained for a kale-growing, vaginal-health-preaching, yogi friend in our thirties. I get it. I changed a lot, and so have my friends.

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Back from the Brink: The identity crisis of a patient-turned-healthy woman

Back from the Brink: The identity crisis of a patient-turned-healthy woman

“Being sick is your entire identity right now – by necessity.  You go to the doctor, to physical therapy, to Walgreens.  You spend your ‘free time’ doing your physical therapy exercises or intentionally trying to relax.  The people in your life relate to you as a sick person – the way they interact with you is reflective of their awareness of your disability.  When you no longer have that disability, it will change the way people see and treat you. It will change how you spend your time.  It’ll change the entire focus of your day and life.”

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Our favorite new women's health tech-y products

Our favorite new women's health tech-y products

Have you met Elvie yet? Or Ava? They’re fancy women's health tech devices that have hit the market in recent years. Here’s your cheat sheet to the who, what, and why of the most popular. If you've tried them, let us know what you thought!

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Would someone turn that damn alarm off?: Reconciling my biological clock with a history of pelvic pain

Would someone turn that damn alarm off?: Reconciling my biological clock with a history of pelvic pain

I never wanted children until I decided I did.  As I emerge a healthy, functioning human after being disabled by pelvic pain for years, my biological clock has begun blaring at me.  It's an obnoxious take-no-prisoners alarm.  There doesn’t seem to be an “off” switch, so I've been hitting "snooze" for the past two years.

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My pain changed me, and I'm working to be OK with that.

My pain changed me, and I'm working to be OK with that.

I thought I could “start fresh,” making a clean break with my pain-riddled life and beginning the pain-free chapter.  But my reflection since my pain faded away have taught me that there are no clean breaks.  Our lives are fluid, and our experiences color us.  So today, I’ll admit that my pain changed me.  And I’m working to be OK with that.

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It's OK to be sad sometimes: my experience with loss

It's OK to be sad sometimes: my experience with loss

I spent months crying into Gracie’s fur as I shook and sobbed on the sofa.  I flew weekly for medical treatments out-of-state, and I returned home to clutch Gracie for hours as I recharged my batteries.  I absorbed her unconditional love for me in times of excruciating turmoil surrounding my health, our wedding, law school, financial instability, and familial discord. 

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THINX: The period panties I can't stop talking about

THINX: The period panties I can't stop talking about

For those who don't know, THINX are a period underwear that can substitute for (or give back-up to) tampons or pads.  They're reusable (so they scratched my environmentalist itch), they're made by a woman-owned company (scratching my feminist itch), and they're utterly natural (scratching my itch to have transparency for those things I put in or on my body).

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A few bad apples: Don't let a rotten provider stress you out (& find a better one!)

A few bad apples: Don't let a rotten provider stress you out (& find a better one!)

Sometimes, I leave a doctor’s appointment and think “gawd, that was an awful experience.”  And for most patients, bad experiences equal bad doctors.  The doctor may be brilliant, published, and well-respected, but if she’s rude, condescending, or freaks me out, she gets a failing grade from me. 

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My path to finding my calling: winding past pain, law, the FBI & a higher power's plans

My path to finding my calling: winding past pain, law, the FBI & a higher power's plans

I’ve connected with many women around Chicago, holding hands across the table with them at Starbucks while we shed tears of sheer gratitude for the unique empathy and understanding we can offer to each other.  I’ve giggled with them through mascara-stained cheeks as we wonder what nearby customers think of all this emotional vulva talk.

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I dropped an f-bomb at the gynecologist yesterday. Here's why.

I dropped an f-bomb at the gynecologist yesterday. Here's why.

I think we as patients would often be better off with no medical intervention. Because not all "intervention" counts as healthcare. And yesterday, while I saw a doctor and received an exam and had some tests run, I wasn't cared for. And it felt like shit.

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A history of pain does NOT mean that any activity is off-limits for you.

A history of pain does NOT mean that any activity is off-limits for you.

Exercise feels good, it’s empowering, and it’s taught me to be in-tune with my strengths in a way I didn’t realize possible.  I’ve formed friendships, gained confidence, and found community.  And, had I listened to those providers who long ago told me I should live more gently, I would’ve missed out on the entire experience.

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Surviving a Flight with a Stressed-Out Bladder

Surviving a Flight with a Stressed-Out Bladder

Missy Lavender, CEO of Below Your Belt, has shared with us this primer on plane travel with a stressed-out bladder.  Enjoy, and #flydry!

As a bladder health patient - part urge/part stress - I am on a constant 'bladder alert'.  Yes, I know all the "to do's" and "not to do's" and, in general, I feel like I am winning the battle of the bladder. But then there is THE PLANE RIDE......(cue Star Wars theme, "dum de Dum, dum de Dum....")! How do you handle a one, two or in my case this morning, a three hour teeny tiny cylinder in the air, plane ride?

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Graded exposure to work: How I did it with the help of some furry friends

Graded exposure to work: How I did it with the help of some furry friends

My months at the dog daycare were some of the most powerful in my recovery.  When I started work, I struggled with the basics – keeping a routine, maintaining enough energy to get to work, and learning new tasks.  The job was fun and challenging; it was manual labor, and it gave me confidence in my strength – and, importantly, in my ability to integrate my strength into my responsibilities.  Previously, I’d kept the two separate: my responsibilities lived in my laptop, which I used from the security of the sofa; meanwhile, my strength lived at the yoga studio, but I didn’t push its limits outside those walls.  This job, though, combined the two, and it taught me how to harness my energy and [literally] play well with others again.

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Why I refuse to do "everything in moderation"

Why I refuse to do "everything in moderation"

Today, as I ran from my physical therapist's clinic to my yoga studio, I was reminded of something that I can't afford to moderate: my courage. At one point, as I've shared, going to my PT's clinic ("my PT") for tune-ups was a challenge.  I wanted to be "better," and I thought that meant "having no need for any medical intervention."  As I've grown these past two years, becoming an athlete, a yogi, a 40-pounds-heavier, living, breathing woman, I've changed my mind. My PT is vital to my enjoyment of life, because she allows me to continue to be courageous.  She'll be there if I fall (as she's demonstrated oh-so-many times before).

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Why providers should hear my patient story

Why providers should hear my patient story

If you’re a provider who treats those who hurt, I urge you to stay above the chaos of pain’s wrecking ball.  You need to remain logical, focused on the end-goal and the pain science and the sensitivity of the patient’s nervous system.  You need to be willing to refer patients to other providers.  Be careful not to attempt treatments that are likely to worsen the patient’s suffering, simply because you’ve exhausted all other treatment modalities.

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Let's talk about sex. (+ vaginal pain + patient-provider communication)

Let's talk about sex. (+ vaginal pain + patient-provider communication)

For years, my pelvic pain prevented me from having the fun, spontaneous, gloriously cliché 20-something sex that my friends were enjoying. You know – the kind of sex that they gushed about at brunch.  Sex that was breaking their hearts and exhilarating their sense of liberated womanhood and adulthood.  Sex that their doctors were lecturing them about.  I couldn’t have that kind of sex because my vagina (and vulva and back and thighs) were excruciatingly painful.  That was my dirty little secret.

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Dealing with the disconnect between being "healthy" and "pain-free"

Dealing with the disconnect between being "healthy" and "pain-free"

I walked out the door of the clinic that day proud and nervous.  Was I really better?  She assured me that I was.  My doctor and husband and family and girlfriends assured me that I was.  So, I figured I’d take this “healthy” thing for a spin.

If health is a state of existing in perfect comfort and contentment, it was short lived.

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Demystifying "supported independence" as a treatment goal

Demystifying "supported independence" as a treatment goal

When I stopped seeing my PT regularly, I tried to avoid coming back in for visits.  I wanted to feel like I was actually healthy, and not relying so heavily on her help.  This sounds silly now, but at the time, I hadn’t gone more than a couple of weeks without PT for years.  But after seeing my health through this goofy construct for a few months, I began to understand that a much better goal is a state of “supported independence.”

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