Living, Learning and Growing

How I came back from the brink and became EmpowHERed.

Eight years ago, at the age of 42, I was told by my physician that I needed a complete hysterectomy. Without question, I agreed to the surgery.

From the moment I began recovering from the surgery, I was a different person. I went from someone who was always on the go, full of energy and happy to see my friends and family to an exhausted and depressed woman who would rather lie in bed than visit with the people I loved.

As a result, my quality of life tanked. I felt like I wasn’t the same person anymore. As my energy got lower and lower, the numbers on the scale got higher and higher. I also experienced other troubling symptoms, such as brain fog and loss of my short-term memory.

I went on a quest to find help from the medical community. I saw physicians, specialists and experts across the country, and was put on a total of nine different medications. Although I had the means to travel everywhere and see specialists, I still could not find answers. One dozen doctors later, I was sicker than ever.

I think the lowest point came when I went into my closet and put the names of my girlfriends on my purses. I was preparing to take my own life, and I wanted to be sure my close friends would have something to remember me by.

Fortunately, it was right around this time that a dear friend of mine gave me a book that changed my shattered life. The book was called Screaming to Be Heard (M. Evans and Company, Inc.) by Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.

After the first few paragraphs, I was hooked. It felt eerie to be reading Dr. Vliet’s words. It was as if I was reading my own biography. Dr. Vliet revealed how many women suffer silently, just as I was, due to hormone imbalances. And just like I was in pain, miserable and depressed, so were millions of other women whose hormone levels were out of whack.

Before I finished the book, I knew I had to somehow meet Dr. Vliet and ask her to help me. I looked her up and found out that she practices less than 100 miles from my home in Arizona. I called Dr. Vliet’s office and made an appointment to see her.

During our appointment, I poured out my heart and feelings of despair to Dr. Vliet. She responded with kindness, understanding and, best of all, knowledge of how to help me. She ran a complete panel of blood work and tests. After hearing the laundry list of medications that I was taking, she weaned me off of them and put me on Estrogel and magnesium. Within a matter of a few days, I started to feel better.

As I got better and felt my energy returning, I was initially elated. But then, the more I thought about things, I began to get angry. It upset me that in spite of having access to really good medical care and as many physicians as I wanted to see, I continued to suffer for more than a year. If I was this miserable and suicidal after a hysterectomy, I thought, what is happening to the millions of other women around the world who were going through similar circumstances while they lacked the same access to medical care that I had?

I decided then and there that I would devote the rest of my life to making sure that no woman would ever suffer as I had. I became passionate about advocating for women’s health issues, and I subsequently started EmpowHER (www.empowher.com), a women’s health media company that is exclusively dedicated to women’s health and well-being.

Millions of women come to EmpowHER.com every year seeking health and wellness information and resources. In 2009, more than 300,000 pages of health information and resources were accessed on EmpowHER.com. More than 5,000 personal health questions and stories were asked and shared, and hundreds of thousands of connections were made among women with concerns and health providers, experts and other women on the site. EmpowHER.com provides a safe and supportive environment for women to get answers to their most pressing health and wellness questions either privately or publicly.

I know from experience that women trust other women when it comes to their health. We tend to share freely with each other, ask questions and give advice. I wanted to somehow funnel this natural desire for women to help and share into a free resource that I hoped would benefit women everywhere. EmpowHER.com is growing every day, giving millions of women access to information, resources, health providers and women who have often “been there, done that” when it comes to dealing with certain health issues.

Thanks to EmpowHER.com, I can honestly say that getting a complete hysterectomy is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I know that statement may be shocking, but it is true. Although it put me through living hell for more than a year, it also inspired me to create EmpowHER, and so many women’s lives have already been changed for the better because of it.

To learn more and become a member, go to www.empowher.com.