Consumer Health Advocate
Healthy Living: Freedom Press
"I was the first baby boomer to have a prime-time
hotflash," says Memphis-born supermodel and movie star Cybill Shepherd. Cybill
continues to inspire women to embrace mid-life as an exciting time in their lives.
I remember watching Cybill on Oprah talking about mid-life, menopause, and
the stress that pre-menopause and menopause add to relationships. Women in the audience
spoke of memory loss, decreased libido, and mood swings that left them feeling like Ivan
the Terrible one moment and the Madonna the next. But one of the most
impressive things about Cybill's appearance on Oprah (besides her great closing rendition
of the "Menopause Blues") was her ability to make people all laugh-this woman is
heading into midlife and intends to have some fun on the way.
Now turning fifty, Shepherd says she initially thought of her hot flashes as
"sort of fun." She called them "power-surges" (from a term originally
coined by power-surge.net website founder Alice Stamm). But, soon, the hot flashes became
"really intense and not so much fun." Shepherd says she is "not going
to romanticize premenopause and menopause. It is not easy, but it is also
another exciting stage. It can be explored. You can learn from it."
Cybill urges women to become critical consumers. In fact, after the famous
Cybill menopause episode aired, she received many different menopause
formulas in the mail. One was a package of standardized red clover extract.
Today, Cybill has found that this phytoestrogen-rich plant extract has made all the
difference in the world. In fact, medical studies have shown red
clover is an excellent remedy for hot flashes. Its phytoestrogen content may
even help to support healthy bone density and circulation.
Many women today never fill their prescriptions for estrogen and instead are forging their
own pathways through menopause, substituting doctors' usual
drugs for a more natural approach-and there are a lot of different approaches. Black
cohosh, soy isoflavones, ipriflavone, fennel, natural progesterone, vitamin E-nature's
pharmacy probably offers women more choices than their doctor ever could. But it
takes reading and education-and a whole lot of trial and error-and probably some humor,
Forever Youthful Generation
"Menopause used to shout 'middle age,'" writes Gail Sheehy in Silent Passage.
"But boomers simply aren't having middle age. Youth is intrinsic to their identity.
And, in fact, boomers are the beneficiaries of a revolution in their life cycle . . . in
the space of one short generation the whole shape of the adult life cycle has been
fundamentally altered. The territory of the fifties, sixties, and beyond is changing so
radically, it now opens up whole new passages leading to stages of life that are nothing
like what our parents or grandparents experienced."
But women must be knowledgeable about their options. "When I work with women patients
or lecture to women at my workshops and seminars, I strongly
emphasize the importance of women assessing their menopausal symptoms as well as their
risk factors for conditions which become more prevalent after
midlife, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer," says Susan
Lark, M.D., a member of the clinical faculty of Stanford University Medical
School, where she continues to lecture when she isn't seeing patients in her
private practice in Los Altos, California. "I feel strongly that each woman should be
knowledgeable about [her] treatment options and initiate her own self-care program for
Reflections and Laughter
"This is what 50 looks like, so far not surgically corrected (but never say
never)," says Cybill in her new book, Cybill Disobedience (HarperCollins
2000). "Ancient artifact that I am, my pictures are still on the makeup counter at
the drugstore, so I know the response to my lamentations may be: Shut up, Cybill
Shepherd. But I still have to confront the bathroom mirror-no retouching, no flattering
lighting. As an aging beauty in America, I have an interesting perspective. I'm ready for
my Shelley Winters parts now, and I have less vanity than you can imagine. My kids beg,
'Before you pick us up, could you please comb the back of your hair?'"
In the end, however, for Cybill it is a sense of humor and laughter that gets her through
the tough times.
"I am comforted to imagine that someone in the 21st century will remember a
big, brassy blonde who tried to use humor as the Krazy Glue for life's
necessary reparations," she says, "a stranger who will stand with a smile at
my final resting place, reading a tombstone that says, 'We'll make this a
comedy yet.'" D.S.
Sheehy, G. Silent Passage. New York: Pocket Books, 1998.