Lois Lane Is Dead

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Lois Lane is dead. Well, not really, but Margo Kidder, an actress who played her, died in her sleep last week. Margo was a talented and quite interesting woman who suffered from bipolar disorder. During the nineties she had a manic episode and ended up wandering through backyards in a confused state. That landed her in the headlines and a psychiatric hospital. Somehow people mostly forgot about all of the work in film that she had done and concentrated instead on thinking of her as a “crazy” person. The truth is that once she was treated for her illness she went on to perform on stage, and in films and television, even being nominated for an Emmy for some of her work. Mental illness quite simply is rarely viewed in the same way as other diseases, and those who are afflicted with disorders often find their lives filled with loneliness as acquaintances that they once knew shy away from them.

Mental illness comes and goes in the news, but not much of substance is ever done. We speak of shortages of care and problems with laws that make it difficult for families to get the proper services for family members, but mostly it comes down to talk and more talk, but little constructive action. There are not enough doctors, not enough care facilities and not enough dollars for treatments to sufficiently deal with what is becoming a growing problem across the nation.

A few years back President Barack Obama set aside fifty million dollars to be shared by each of the states. That may have sounded like a step in the right direction, but if you do the math you realize that each area only received one million dollars, a drop in the bucket given the dire needs. In some places a million dollars is the cost of a house, and can hardly be considered a means of dealing with the many forms of mental illness that plague our society. Still, I was grateful that the president actually acknowledged the problem with some financing, even if it barely scratched the surface.

A recent study indicated that many individuals with mental illnesses go to emergency rooms to find care. While this may sound inefficient, it is understandable. I was constantly searching for psychiatrists who were willing to provide therapy for my mother who had bipolar disorder. The hunt was maddening. Some took only cash. Others accepted only certain insurance plans. Still others only wanted to work with children, or teenagers, or those in their twenties or thirties. Even when I managed to find someone willing to take her case, I often had to wait for weeks to get an appointment. If I felt that my mother was in a crisis situation the doctors almost always suggested that I take her to an emergency room.

On one occasion my brothers and I waited at a hospital with her for over six hours without receiving any kind of attention. It has been reported that many mentally ill patients will literally stay in an emergency room waiting area for days hoping to be seen, and even then there is often no room in the psychiatric ward for them. It can be frustrating beyond description because someone who is experiencing a manic episode is not patient, and in the case of my mother is most often psychotic and paranoid as well.

Imagine our anxiety when midnight came and we were still sitting with little hope of having our mother seen by a professional. Our optimism was dashed when the county sheriff showed up with a van load of prisoners all of whom had to be assessed for mental competence. Even though we had been there for six hours, by law the men in chains had to come first, and it would be many more hours before the medical professionals would get to our mother. In the meantime, she saw the handcuffs and the law men and began to imagine that someone was going to jail her as well. She became so frightened that she demanded that we leave. Of course we ended up taking her home with no medication and no help whatsoever.

When my brothers tried again to take Mama to her regular doctor the next day, they were told to return to the emergency room. They spent another sixteen hours before she was finally assessed and sent to a dreary facility in Bellaire that seemed more like a prison that a place designed to be therapeutic. It was enough to make us scream or cry.

The point is that my mother had good health insurance and still we were not able to find competent physicians to help her. I once spent five eight hour days calling all over town to secure an appointment with a psychiatrist. When I finally reached someone who was willing to help I was ecstatic. He was an incredible doctor who helped her to become well and in better shape than she had been in years. To our utter dismay the clinic where he worked decided that he was too expensive for their budget and he had to leave to work at a psychiatric hospital that would not allow him to do outpatient care. We were back to square one and my mother’s mental health deteriorated while we began the search again.

In our country we worry about so many things that are unimportant by comparison to caring for those afflicted with mental illness. We have little empathy for them or for their families. We turn our heads embarrassed by their actions when they are desperately ill. We think that somehow it is their fault that they are so often in Catch 22 situations. Only if we have to attempt to navigate through the maze of barriers do we begin to understand just how desperate the circumstances actually are. If we combine the difficulty of finding care with the stigma attached to mental illnesses the problems are compounded and complex.

I often see the eyes of my audience glaze over as soon as I bring up the topic of mental illness. It is a conversation that nobody wants to have. We are unwilling to admit our neglect and abuse of those who suffer from disorders that make them seem scary. We have yet to take mental illness as seriously as we need to do. I will keep shouting in the wilderness until I am no longer able or until we agree as a people to get something done.

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A Kinder Gentler Way of Doing Things

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I suppose that we are all feeling a bit of whiplash when it comes to the current political scene. If you are like me just want it all to go away, but know that ignoring it might be more lethal than getting involved. I heard a number of commentaries just last week from sociologists and medical doctors decrying the situation, so I know that I am not alone in wanting things to calm down. Then I watched the finale of Homeland and realized that even the world of fiction is weary of all of the bickering.

A group of doctors have done some research and found that people are actually getting stress induced illnesses which can be traced back to politics. When they are honest with their physicians many folks are reporting stomach distress, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and other symptoms all based on fears related to the current political scene. Such tendencies according to the doctors are not found in any particular set of beliefs or allegiances, but appear to simply be an alarming trend indicating just how much fear is overtaking the populace. While the doctors know that this phenomenon is occurring more and more often they admit that they don’t quite know how to tell their patients to deal with it. They also suspect that the highly charged environment won’t be changing anytime soon, because we now seem to be engaged in a perennial round of campaigning for the next voting cycle. There is no longer a resting interval from one election to another, but rather a constant debate that only seems to be getting uglier and uglier.

The sociologist that I heard indicated that the normal curve of politics is changing. Whereas there have traditionally been outliers to the left and the right with the bulk of the voters in the middle, the new trend shows the middle shrinking while the extremes continue to grow. She pointed out that the moderate independent voters have been the true defenders of our democracy with their willingness to consider all sides of an argument to forge alliances and compromises. She maintains that it was the moderate who built our Constitution and later continued our progress through subsequent necessary changes. She worries that without a dominant middle ground we will erupt into a kind of deadlock that will ultimately endanger all of us.

This season of Homeland was art imitating life with its topics of political upheaval. It was a fictional call for people of character to defend our country with diplomacy and acts of understanding. It suggested that our only way forward is to begin reaching across the aisle even to those with whom we disagree. It will take trust to do so, and at least for the present such willingness to believe in our innate goodness is in short supply. We have become almost paranoid when it comes to dealing with anyone who does not think exactly as we do. Thus we are not only ripping apart the country with our demands, but also sending ourselves into frenzies of illness. I wonder what it will take to make this stop.

The sociologist suggested that some mega event may pull us together, but such happenings often bring a great deal of shared pain before the healing begins. Wars have been known to create strange bedfellows. Natural disasters often bring out our best tendencies. Somehow we need a cause that is not as horrific as either of those things, something like John Kennedy’s idea that we should race to the moon. I simply wonder if we have anyone with enough imagination to create a coalition of people who want the noise and the distrust to stop. It has been far too long since we have had much success in that regard.

I’m one of those folks who has stuck with the middle. I refuse to align myself with any party because I generally find that I don’t entirely agree with anyone or any group. I simply vote for the closest approximation to what I believe. I am more than willing to hear the arguments from both sides and I find both good and bad points all around. I find that very few individuals are perfect nor are many of them so evil that I must dismiss them. I myself hold many contradictory opinions, but some of them are stronger and more important than others. I’m willing to compromise on just about anything as long as doing so does not hurt someone.

I’ve been hearing some wonderful sermons and readings from the Bible in church each Sunday. This week began with the reminder that Jesus was all about love, regardless of our differences. We desperately need some real dialogue with one another, especially those whom we most fear. We need to honestly learn what is driving the varying thoughts and behaviors. We may find that others are not really as different from us as we may think. There are certainly those who crave power, but most of us just want to lead quiet and secure lives. Perhaps it’s time to send a message that we are tired of the anger and the fighting and are looking for people who are willing to bring our country back together again.

Sadly all of the doctors and researchers are simply screeching in the wind if we as individuals do not combine our power to create change. A brief study of politicians demonstrates that the majority of them will change when they see that we the people want something different from them. Instead of following the shrieks of the outliers, it’s time for the great big middle to save us all from ourselves. it’s time that we insist for the good of our country and our own health that we return to a kinder gentler way of doing things.

Bad Luck

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I have a friend who says that she sometimes feels as though she has an invisible target on her head that only God and the angels can see. She imagines them having a bit of fun raining trials and tribulations down on her head to see how she will respond. She’s a determined person, and so she somehow manages to survive and even win the game time and again, but she admits that she often grows weary and wishes that the fates would choose someone else for the bad luck that really does appear to befall her again and again and again. Some people really do seem to be snake bit and no amount of platitudes can make them feel better about the barrage of tragedy that befalls them.

We all know somebody who appears to have to endure one horrific event after another, usually through no fault of their own. My friend is like that. She no sooner navigates her way through one crisis than another one happens. She leads a good life and makes wise choices, but the only lottery that she wins is the one that leaves her in a new pickle. She’s lived with a life threatening disease for years that has prevented her from working which of course means that her income is distressingly low. She has made the best of her situation asking for little of material value and enjoying small pleasures. It would be nice if she were to get a reward or even a bit of respite from time to time, but she has little luck in that regard. Sometimes I want to cry for her, but know that she is not someone to be pitied, but rather admired for her spirit and determination. I’ve learned a great deal about how to keep on trucking from her. She’s a Survivor with a capital S and would be a great team member to take on a difficult journey as long as one doesn’t mind the crazy situations that seem to follow her.

There is seemingly a kind of randomness to life’s lottery and over time most of us experience the full spectrum of happiness and sadness. We become ill, have accidents, fail at some things, grow old, watch loved ones die, but also find love and friendship, travel, enjoy the world around us. Such things are part and parcel of living, but what do we say to comfort someone whose hardships seem endless? How do we help a person who does everything right but still gets battered, especially when we also see those who seem almost immune to misfortune, those with a supposedly golden touch?

I’ve been watching the CNN special on the Kennedys. It would be easy to believe that they are somehow cursed or at the very least terribly unlucky. The reality lies more in their sheer numbers of family members and the fact that they have been generally willing to take risks in order to live life to its fullest. Still their tragedies must have been almost unbearable. Sadly the matriarch of the clan, Rose, often believed that they were retribution for sins that she or her children had committed. How awful it must have felt for her to wonder why she was continually being punished when she was obviously a good woman. Sometimes we attribute reprisals to God when we should instead just understand that life is a series of random events combined with the choices that we make. The dice that we cast are not loaded, even when they just keep coming up with the wrong numbers. To believe that misfortune is actually some form of karma would be to judge those who have pain filled lives as somehow deserving of their fates. Surely we know that this is not so.

We humans have a tendency to avoid sadness. We live as though we expect the world to be  like Disneyland. We want to stay away from situations or conversations that are difficult. We shy away from people who are experiencing tragedy which only makes them feel even more isolated and hopeless. We are continually running away from troubles, wanting to solve problems with quick and easy fixes so that we might get back to having fun.

I often think of my outgoing mother whose home was a center of activity until her bipolar disorder made her frightening to former acquaintances who began leaving her in droves. There were actually people who verbalized their distaste for being around her because her illness unnerved them. They were unwilling to submit themselves to a bit of discomfort out of kindness to someone who had once been a great friend to them. Her situation made her a kind of pariah to all but those who loved her without conditions, which was little more than a handful.

We are attracted to joy, success, good fortune. We naturally gravitate to people who are doing well. As soon as someone opens his/her heart to reveal uncomfortable truths we so often look away in fear and find excuses for steering clear of them.

There are many discussions these days about teaching our children to notice and embrace those who have been sidelined by little more than the luck of the draw. We adults are suggesting that youngsters find the downtrodden among them and consciously work to include such souls in the daily interactions of social life. We would not have to so consciously engineer such things if we were modeling those kinds of behaviors in our own lives. If our kids saw us regularly embracing people who are lonely or suffering they would take it for granted that this is the way to live. Because we all too often ignore or even avoid depressing situations, we teach our young to fear such things.

Saying prayers for someone in need is always nice, but we have to do more for those who are enduring misfortune. Sometimes it takes is a willingness to listen to them complain, for surely what they are experiencing is very very hard. We may or may not have solutions, but we can provide them with the understanding that they need. We can help them by not allowing them to feel alone or different because of whatever fight is demanding their attention. We can show them that they are loved and that someone cares about what happens to them.

We get busy and make excuses and soon realize that we have forgotten the lonely, the sick, the depressed people who are overwhelmed by events that have stolen their joy. It’s time that we hear their cries no matter how silent they may seem to be. Reach out today. There is someone who is waiting for a sign that things are going to get better.    

Who Will Hear Our Cries

pexels-photo-170840.jpegAs a mom, a grandmother, a teacher, a human being I grieve over the violence in our world. As a problem solver I wonder what we might do to lessen the number of tragedies that our society must endure. As a realist I understand that most issues are far too complex to be successfully resolved with simple solutions. As someone who prefers getting things done to continually ignoring situations, I am frustrated by the bickering among our lawmakers that seems to perennially end in stalemate. I have grown weary of being able to predict the various responses to the major concerns of our time. I find myself searching in vain for leaders who will set aside their own quests for power to become the heroes that we so desperately need. There are so few profiles in courage in our precarious times. Where is an Abraham Lincoln, a Martine Luther King Jr. or a Gandhi? What will it take for the wars of words to stop and the work to begin?

We find ourselves at a perennial impasse. We struggle to even set governmental budgets that allow us to live within our country’s means. We know that we need answers to questions about immigration, but when good souls attempt to forge compromises, the “all or nothing” crowds shoot down any possibilities of resolution. We bow to the bullying demands of the outliers rather than listening to the reason of the middle ground. We can’t even make a deal to insure that all Americans have access to rudimentary healthcare. Again and again we lower our heads in grief, shame and prayer over mass shootings that surely might be mitigated if only we were willing to set aside all of our prejudices and simply build a plan.

On the very day meant to celebrate love, a deranged shooter entered a high school at the end of an academic day and began randomly shooting. He was indeed a troubled soul whose history had alerted many who knew whom. He had been adopted by a loving family but in spite of their efforts to provide him with the nurturing that he needed, things went awry. His father died when he was still a young child. His mother did her best to raise him alone but struggled with his emotional and behavioral issues. She sought the help of therapists and even contacted the police from time to time hoping to find answers to her concerns about her son. He was different, withdrawn, violent, frightening to many who knew him. Fellow students joked that he had the mind of a mass murderer. His school expelled him. A stranger noted one of his posts on social media and even reported him to the FBI. In November, his mother contracted the flu, then pneumonia and died. He was on his own but found shelter in the home of a friend. There were so many clear indications that he needed heavy duty counseling, maybe even medication but none of it was demanded or even offered. Instead he freely purchased guns even as his online posts became more and more foreboding.

There were so many individual measures that might have been taken with this young man that were not. Whether they would have prevented the massacre that he inflicted on innocent students is debatable, but at the very least there would have been attempts to curtail the ticking of the time bomb that was exploding in his mind.

The mental health system in this country is broken. Getting needed care is costly, time consuming, and ultimately frustrating. The cards are stacked in favor of doing nothing, leaving countless individuals and their families and friends feeling alone and even betrayed. All too often it becomes easier just to give up and let the cards fall where they will. The financial and mental energy needed to ameliorate mental health issues is far more costly than it needs to be. It is difficult to find doctors willing to take  on particular cases. The cost can be prohibitive and even with insurance the coverage is spotty at best. The patients themselves more often than not fight against treatments. They can become violently opposed to any form of needed therapy, resulting in a tendency to ignore the obvious and just look away. Even when a family manages to insist on medical intervention or hospitalization the science of mental health is still almost experimental. It takes time and patience to find the right keys to health. Most mental difficulties are chronic so the difficulties become a lifelong struggle. It can be a lonely and never ending fight for both the person affected and those attempting to help him/her.

We desperately need for both our political and medical community to face the realities of the mental health epidemic that plagues us. it is real, not imagined and it is well past time for our society to embrace a well reasoned plan for insuring that nobody is left to deal with such illnesses alone. it will take money, but that is not the only resource that we need. There must be more doctors, more research, more support systems. better coverage of mental healthcare, more facilities for rehabilitation, more openness in discussing these very real illnesses.

Every school needs additional counselors devoted only to the mental health of the students. In far too many instances those designated as counselors are too busy creating class schedules, coordinating testing, and serving as college admissions advisors than actually working with the mental issues of students in conjunction with their parents and teachers. In so many cases teachers are the first to notice warning signs and these should be taken seriously. The counselors should be ready to investigate and draw up plans for addressing concerns. If a student has a history of behavioral problems the counselors should be involved in all discussions of what to do. No student should just be expelled without being also sent to therapy as an additional requirement. If indications of violence are present this may even necessitate informing law enforcement. Under no circumstances should this process be so hidden from view that the individual has the freedom to purchase guns and ammunition.

We do not allow anyone under the age of twenty one to purchase alcohol and yet we allow teenagers as young as sixteen to buy certain weapons as long as they pass a background check that most likely does not include an accounting of their emotional difficulties at home or school. This needs to be remedied immediately and parents who circumvent this law by encouraging their knowingly disturbed children to have weapons should be held accountable for such egregious transgressions. When a parent is worrying about how a child is acting to the point of calling police or seeking professional care for them, it should be apparent that giving access to guns is the last thing that should happen. Even the most stable of youngsters should be supervised and limited in their contact with weapons.

There are common sense laws that we might pass with regard to types of weapons and ammunition clips that should be allowed as well. Nobody other than law enforcement officers and the military needs an arsenal nor do they require weapons that fire rapidly. Furthermore we need to make it more difficult to purchase weapons without some form of training and a more in depth background check. We require anyone driving an automobile to receive driver’s training and pass a test in order to earn a license. That license has to be renewed periodically as well. Perhaps it is time to initiate such a program for guns. Nobody should be able to legally purchase a gun without qualifying for a license after fulfilling age, training,  mental health and testing requirements. 

I am no fool. I understand that if someone wants to kill others that person will find a way. I also know that there will always be an underground community willing to provide guns and ammunition illegally to those who can’t get what they need within the law. No plan will ever be one hundred percent perfect. Nonetheless such arguments are not reason enough to do nothing at all. We craft many laws to make untenable situations better all of the time, and yet when it comes to issues such as mass shootings we wring our hands as though frozen in fear that anything we choose to do will be so flawed that it is better to do nothing at all.

As I cry for the lost souls and the people who loved them I worry that we will just keep kicking the can down the road and responding to our fears by arming more and more people. I shutter as I listen to the snarky comments being hurled back and forth from the differing points of view that do little to instill calm and reason. I wonder when we will come to our senses all around. Surely we can get past our differences and at least try to make things better. How many more need to die before we act? Who will hear our cries and step up to lead us?

Right On Target

targetI’ve never been entirely sure how tall my paternal grandmother was at different times in her life. By the time that I knew her she was already in her seventies and had a very pronounced hump on her back caused from a serious case of osteoporosis. At that moment her height was under five feet, but her body had been so twisted by her disease that I suspected that she might have once been taller. She always used to tell me that I was exactly like her, and as I have aged I have begun to believe that she was absolutely correct. I seem to not only resemble her in appearance, but also am inclined toward many of her health problems. I’m bolstered by the knowledge that she was a high energy woman until shortly before her death at the age of eighty eight, and even that might have been prevented until a later time had she paid more attention to the symptoms of cancer that were slowly stealing away her life.

My mother had three sisters all of whom suffer with problems from osteoporosis. One has been wheelchair bound for many years, another has had major hip surgeries and walks with a cane. The third one does a bit better, but still has all of the symptoms of the disease that destroys bones. Only my mother was never diagnosed with osteoporosis, and her body structure was very different from that of her sisters who tended to be taller and leaner. Since I have always been shaped more like my aunts than my mother I assumed that perhaps I might carry more of their genetic tendencies. This combined with my strong connection to my grandmother made me wonder if I too would one day be afflicted with the same bone destroying disease that they all had.

I began worrying when I was in my late thirties when I noticed that my back began to curve just a bit. I talked about my concerns with my doctors, but they assured me that I was way too young to worry about such things, and they also noted that my health insurance would be unlikely to cover the cost of a bone scan simply because I had a family history of the disease. They urged me to be patient and wait until I was of an age more suitable for thinking of such things. It was not until was in my late forties that I relayed my fears to a new gynecologist who took over for my doctor who had retired. He found a way to get a bone scan for me, but he also insisted that I was probably more worried than I needed to be. The images proved him wrong. I already had a great deal of deterioration that was abnormal for my age. The doctor insisted that I take a high dose of calcium each day and eat foods that might increase my daily intake of that vitamin. Since women are only allowed to get a bone scan every two years it was going to be a while before I would learn whether or not my situation had improved with my new regimen.

The next scan showed even more problems, so the doctor prescribed the drug Fosamax which was a frightening experience because I was told that if it got stuck in my esophagus it might do permanent damage. Because I have a naturally occurring narrowing of that area I often begin to choke on pills and some foods. I literally held my breath and prayed to God each Saturday when I attempted to swallow the medication for my osteoporosis. Luckily I never once had a bad reaction, but I nonetheless had to wait another two years to find out if I was doing any better.

When it came time for me to get another bone scan my doctor referred me to an osteoporosis specialist who put me through a battery of different tests. At the end of the process he announced to me that I was doing great and didn’t even have osteoporosis anymore. It seemed almost too good to be true, but he insisted that I was in great shape. In spite of his reassurances I was not convinced because my body seemed to be slowly changing, and when I mentioned this to him or any of my doctors they essentially suggested that I was being silly, insisting that I looked just fine. I kept taking my calcium and my Fosamax and hoping that they were right and I was wrong.

I was already in my sixties before I found a great Primary Care Physician who takes everything that I say quite seriously. When I told him that I was becoming as bowed as my grandmother had been he studied my stance carefully and ordered a number of tests, among which was another bone scan. He found that my bones were in a fragile state, and told me that I still clearly had osteoporosis. He also noted that I have scoliosis and wondered why nobody at any point in my life had suggested some form of therapy. I cried when I learned that I was no longer five feet six and a half inches tall, but rather only five foot four. He felt that the problems that I have with my knees were an outgrowth of my changing skeletal structure and told me that my legs have bowed because my body is compensating. He also assured me that I was not crazy in thinking that I had somehow lost my formerly long thin waist because my spine had collapsed. He not only took the time to listen to me, but he also agreed that my body had indeed changed dramatically, and he set about crafting a plan for me. It was the first time ever that I felt as though someone considered my worries to be important. He also assured me that my fear of ingesting Fosamax was exactly right.

For two years now I have injected Forteo under my skin in the hopes that the drug will rebuild my bones. I have taken my little injection pen and needles everywhere that I have gone, and I suppose that I will soon find out how effective the medication has been. My doctor has guided me in diet and exercise as well. In fact he is my conscience when it comes to religiously performing the weight bearing routines that are even more important than the medication in building bones that will keep me strong. My appearance is what it is, however. I will not grow tall again nor will the bend in my back become erect. I might make my legs stronger which will somewhat help the bow in them, but essentially the way I appear now will be the way I will always be, and it saddens me that I was ignored for so very long. Perhaps I need not have endured most of the problems that I have had.

I’m not a whiney woman, nor do I generally complain about my status vis a vis that of a man, but I do believe that there are times when simply by dent of my sex I have been ignored. I definitely think that my concerns about having osteoporosis went unanswered for so long because to my doctors I sounded a bit hysterical in my belief that I was following in the footsteps of my elders and doing so at a relatively early age. I didn’t help my case by mentioning that some of my female friends were also worried about the way they observed me carrying myself. They pushed me to speak with my doctors, and weren’t satisfied when I told them about the reactions that I had received. I was caught in the age old trap of males thinking that women sometimes overreact. I was patted on my little head and sent away because they felt that they were dealing with far more serious problems. Now I am older and more likely to struggle with this disease and its devastating effects for years to come. Had more been done when I was younger I might not have become so deformed.

All of my aunts are clear headed and healthy save for their osteoporosis which has forced them to live in assisted living and nursing homes in their twilight years. They have endured painful operations and rehabilitations and have seen their independence dwindle because of the same disease that I have. They fight with all of their might, but like me their own conditions were not diagnosed until they were older and their symptoms had grown.

There are things that every woman might do to prevent their bones from becoming brittle and eroded like swiss cheese. From an early age weight bearing and resistance exercises as well as a healthy diet are essential at least three to five days a week. Joining a gym or the YMCA is an investment whose worth can’t be measured. Eating green vegetables and other sources of calcium every single day is a must. It’s never too early to have regular physical checkups and to discuss any concerns about body changes with a doctor. If the physician doesn’t seem to be listening, then go to someone else. Talk with family members about their own medical histories. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and genetics play a huge role in our overall health. Mostly, no woman should be afraid to take charge of her situation. Each person knows better than anyone how they feel. Those instincts are usually right on target.