Delightful Cycle

I’ve known Alex since high school. Oddly enough, she’s one of those friends that I feel closer to now from 2,000 miles away than I did when we saw each other every single day. A lot of that has to do with the shared experience of rough health stuff. One of the best things about shitty health (maybe the only thing?) is how it inspires a lot of us to do what we do – especially Alex. She and her sister Jenny recently launched Delightful Cycle and I knew it was something I wanted Alex to be able to share that with you here.

Delightful Cycle – The Beginning.

When Kirsten reached out to me, as a wonderfully supportive, excited friend, I didn’t exactly know how to put everything into words, particularly a sincere gratitude to our warrior advocate. Undoubtedly, you know what I’m talking about. This girl is an inspiration, traveling across the country, speaking up for those whose voices fall on deaf ears, blogging her way to fame. She has earmarked a rather intimidating section of the internet; combatting trolls, ableists, and general sexists to make sure that we have a voice… Not to mention the daily betrayals of her own body, which she naturally takes into stride.

I’m going to be frank; we started this Delightful Cycle for her. For you.

When we founded the company, my sister and I both suffered from chronic conditions. Myself, I was diagnosed 5 years ago with Trigeminal Neuralgia. My sister has Crohn’s Disease. We know what it means to count your spoons. We also know that life unforgivingly doesn’t stop, even when your spoons are gone. I can’t always make the trip to the grocery store. I can’t always get my bath drawn. Jennifer knows that if she wants any sense of normalcy, she has to stay away from her triggers.

But, Aunt Flo does not give a shit about that. She comes anyway. During her weekly stay, I struggle to find the spoons necessary to keep my head on straight. I can’t tell you how many times I have had her arrive and found myself not only surprised completely by her arrival but with only maybe 2 tampons from last month’s stock. Not good.

When Jenny and I were in research stages, we met with women from all over to hear about their experiences. We were not alone. You are not alone. The responsibilities that we shoulder can be tremendously stressful, exhausting, and they deplete our resources.

Our mission is to be that reminder to practice self-care. We want you to take all the time in the world in your bubble bath, and enjoy some moisturizing bath bombs. Delightful Cycle is a discrete delivery service, customizing each and every kit we send to our clients to include their favorite brands of feminine products, their favorite snack items, and some luxury goodies. We offer free shipping with every kit we send within the US and Canada.

We offer three different kits because let’s face it: no period is the same, amirite?

  • A Lady’s Lite Kit Here’s the quickest, and simplest option for our ladies: A Lady’s Lite Kit. Let us know what brand of tampon or pad is your favorite, and we will make sure you never have to make that run to the store again. Every month will include more than enough feminine care, 3 surprise items, and a snack to satisfy those cravings.
  • Go With the Flow Kit – this kit includes everything you might possibly need for when Aunt Flo comes knocking. We want to have you ready with all the supplies to make her stay as luxurious and comfortable as possible. More than just a tampon/chocolate subscription, every month will feature a few luxury items that will pamper you, as we aim to be a gentle reminder to practice some much-needed self-care. Try it today, and you’ll receive an email shortly, so we can build the perfect box for you. Your box will have your favorite brands, favorite snacks, and a few surprise goodies each month. $40 retail value, you only pay $19.95, with free shipping!
  • Pamper Me OrganicallyOur all natural and organic supplies aren’t just appeasing to Mother Nature, but also to anyone with sensitive skin. Chlorine-free organic tampons, vegan makeup, delicious organic tasty delights. Let us pamper you with all natural, completely organic luxury goods. We want to make you feel loved during that time of the month. Every month we will feature different amazing products to help you feel better than normal, all packed up in our recycled packing material and boxes.

And guess what? Use code 20OFF and you’ll save 20% on your order!

Make sure to visit Delightful Cycle and their awesome social media pages – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube – for more information. You can support Delightful Cycle in their new Indiegogo campaign!

 

Guest Post: Sex is an Important Part of a Healthy Relationship, Right?

TW: childhood sexual abuse (mention), and pregnancy/parenthood/babies.

When I began my sexuality studies as an excited young pup I remember reading, “sex is an important part of a healthy relationship.” Yes! Validation that it is not only worth prioritizing sex in a relationship, but necessary to its success. I took this little sentence and threw it around, loud and proud, to everyone who would listen (and even those who would rather I shut up– such as people who identify as asexual, for example).

Then life happened.

I began struggling with chronic digestive pain. Then endometriosis. Then repeated kidney stones! I started therapy for childhood sexual abuse. Sex as a psychologically and physiologically painful activity became my reality. My lower abdominal world can be a delicate, tired, sore place. Here’s what it taught me:

Even if you’re not asexual, sex does not need to be an important part of a healthy relationship.

Surprise.

I do have sex, it’s not totally out of my life and I have prioritized healing my sexuality and making it my life’s work. As an aspect of my relationship, it has fallen from priority number one to a delightful extra if the stars align. So, when I was asked in an interview, “isn’t sex an important part of a healthy relationship,” I realized that statement was misleading.

Sex can be an important part of a healthy relationship. But that’s not up to me to decide as a sexual health expert. That’s not up to your doctor, therapist, or sex ed teacher. That’s for you to decide. Yes, relationship satisfaction tends to move with sexual satisfaction in a relationship, but I think we may have misunderstood this little statistical finding, or worse, we have inappropriate statistical tools for measuring satisfaction that doesn’t capture what it means for all sexual people or asexual people. Tools aside, I can tell you that my sexual and relationship satisfaction is high even though I don’t prioritize sex in my relationship. Why?

I asked my partner once, “if I decided I couldn’t or didn’t want to have sex anymore for any reason, would you leave me?”

His response: “No! Why would I?”

Because sex is an important part of a healthy relationship!

His response, “But I get so many things out of our relationship. Sex is nice and I like having sex with you, but that’s not the only thing I get out of our relationship and it’s not the deciding factor of being with you.”

I specialize in sex in pregnancy and postpartum as a doula, aromatherapist, and coach. What my partner said reminded me of a study I’d been looking at: guess which couples fared well during the sexual struggles of the postpartum period? Couples whose priorities aligned. Couples that were both okay with sex being off the table for a little while. Or couples who both decided on sacrificing co-sleeping with their baby to have alone time in their bed. What mattered was that couples were on the same page, the page itself was otherwise irrelevant.

My satisfaction is high because my partner and I are on the same page. That means, we’re both happy with our relationship and when we do have sex, it’s damn good sex.

There is nothing wrong with prioritizing sex in your relationship and this will work best if your partners also prioritize sex in the relationship.

There is nothing wrong with not prioritizing sex in your relationship and this will work best if your partners also don’t prioritize sex in the relationship.

When you don’t align, that’s when things can get really tough. Seeking the guidance of a couples and family therapist or sex therapist can be really helpful when the stars are not aligning for sex. Although some therapists and counselors offer sliding scales, not everyone can afford these services. Here is a list of affordable book resources that I have used so far on my personal journey through sexual healing that you may even be able to find at the library. I am currently seeking more LGBTQ+ resources pertaining to this topic as I do not identify as heterosexual or cisgendered, but these are the books I have found so far. The first book is a great read based on cisgendered women’s experiences with various life events that have changed their relationship with sex. The second book is a great resource for how to communicate effectively in relationships – however, it should be noted that the research is based off observations of monogamous heterosexual couples who are struggling with the transition into parenthood. The final book is also based on research with cisgendered women, though I strongly feel everyone would benefit from its good science and worksheet pages:

Sex After… Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes by Iris Krasnow

And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives by John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski

The next time someone tries to tell you that sex is an important aspect of a healthy relationship, ask yourself: who’s saying it? How does this statement benefit them? What are they trying to sell me? What are they trying to sell themselves? And finally– is sex an important aspect of relationships for me?

Because, really, that’s the answer that matters.

a short haired woman in a dark jacket with a red scarf smiles against a leafy background

Tynan Rhea works in Toronto as a doula, aromatherapist, and coach specializing in sexual and reproductive health. Tynan graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Joint Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sexuality, Marriage, & Family. They received their doula training from the Revolutionary Doula Training program and their aromatherapy training with Anarres Apothecary Apprenticeship program. You can read more about them at TynanRhea.com, follow them on Instagram and Twitter (@TynanRhea) or check out their blog: queering holistic health (on her website).

This post has been featured as one of Kinkly’s Sex Stories We Love!

Guest Post: Marfan Syndrome Awareness Month

When I say the words ‘Marfan Syndrome’ to people there are usually a few different responses that I get. There’s the classic confused face, head tilted look and that signals to me that they have no idea what I’m talking about. Then there’s the ‘oh so you’re a martian response’, followed by absolutely no laughter on my part. Then there is the surprising response ‘I know what that is!’, but that doesn’t happen very often. Myself and others though are working towards a world where the third response happens more and more, a world where I can go to my GP knowing that they will be informed about my rare genetic condition. That’s the thing that most comes along with such conditions, uncertainty. Will my doctor have heard of the condition? What symptom will pop up next? What will my test results say? You get used to it eventually but what I don’t have to get used to is looks of confusion when I say ‘Marfan Syndrome’ and that is why I’m here guest posting today.

I’m Shona and I have a rare genetic connective tissue disorder called Marfan Syndrome. Think of the connective tissues in the body as being a bit like the glue that holds everything together, these tissues are vital in maintaining the structure of the body and supporting internal organs and other tissues. As its a genetic condition most people do inherit it from a parent, 50/50 chance of an affected person passing the disorder on to a child, but sometimes spontaneous mutation occurs (the gene just mutates for no reason).

'marfan syndrome awareness month' in black text against a white background - below this are photos of Shona's scoliosis surgery, and aftermath (x-rays, her in a hospital bed), her in a wheelchair, and a photo depicting her long armspan, a classic marfan syndrome sign

Marfan is one of those conditions where everyone is affected differently, even in families where more than one person has the condition. For example, I am severely affected by Marfan but my Mum who also has the condition has more mild symptoms. There are some signs to look out for that are commonly associated with Marfan, such as: having a tall and slim body, long arms, legs and fingers, and loose (hypermobile joints). Such characteristics on their own do not always mean that you have Marfan so other signs are looked for as well, such as: small lower jaw, crowded teeth, flat feet, high roof of the mouth, skeletal deformities and heart problems. You can find more information about the signs/symptoms on the NHS Choices website.

The heart problems that can occur in Marfan make this disorder life threatening and just in my family alone we have unfortunately lost 2 people to the heart complications associated with Marfan. The connective tissues in someone’s body who has the condition are too stretchy and this can lead to some problems occurring in the heart. The main one is that the aorta, the most important artery in the heart, can stretch and widen beyond what it should and this is called an aortic aneurysm. When it stretches too much though the aorta could potentially tear or even burst, this is often a catastrophic and possibly fatal event. Many people with Marfan find themselves needing some kind of preventative aortic surgery to stop the problem before it reaches that point, myself included. My cardiologist predicts that I’ll need major open heart surgery in my early twenties to prevent my aorta from stretching to dangerous levels, I’m 19 now so I’m just hoping that my heart is kind to me and it will start behaving!

collage of scoliosis surgery related photos: upper left: a photo of Shona in hospital bed; upper right: shona post-surgery showing her spine-long scar; bottom left: an x-ray of shona's spine pre-surgery; bottom right: an x-ray of shona's spine post-surgery

I was diagnosed with Marfan when I was just a baby, my Mum knew she had the condition when I was born so doctors knew to look out for the signs, many of which I displayed. A scan of my heart then confirmed the diagnosis as it was found that my aorta was already a little too big for my age and size. I’ve had my heart monitored every year since then with MRIs every now and then to get a more detailed picture. My biggest problem that Marfan Syndrome has caused though is chronic pain, I have several secondary conditions that contribute to this pain and surgeries over the years have tried to help but have unfortunately failed.

In 2013 I had spinal fusion surgery to correct my scoliosis, the curvature of the spine, as my severe curve was causing me a lot of pain. During a nearly 6 hour surgery my surgeon used metal rods and screws to move my spine into a straighter position. I wrote about my week in hospital following the surgery on my blog at the time, in which I recorded some pain I started having in my right leg. This pain continued and at 6 months post op a CT scan was done to investigate it, the scan showed that one of the screws was sitting on a nerve and was the cause of the pain. The pain was severe whenever I sat up or stood so I spent nearly a year laying down most of the time as that’s how long it took them to re-operate to replace the screw.

Shortly after I was diagnosed with a hip deformity in both my hips, a secondary condition related to Marfan called Protusio Acetabuli. My hip sockets are too deep and as a result I have early wear and tear, cyst formation and only a few millimetres of hip socket left. At 18 years old I had my first hip replacement on my worse off right hip and it really was weird waking up on a ward full of 80 year olds! Sadly that was not my only additional diagnosis as last year I was also diagnosed with a Tarlov cyst in my spine, a cyst full of spinal fluid in my sacrum area that is eroding away the bone. Altogether this is why I use a powerchair, I can walk inside my home a little on crutches but for the most part I get around on wheels!

left: a photo of shona - she has shoulder length-reddish-brownish hair; right: a drawing of shona utilizing a wheelchair, with the same hair, an olive-green jacket and beige shirt, jeans, and black boots against an orange-ish watercolor background

I use my time to blog about all sorts of topics but these days I’m really enjoying talking about issues relating to disability such as ableism and accessibility. I also spend my time raising awareness of Marfan on my FB page, blog, and Twitter. I try and spread the word wherever I can and I’ve been lucky enough to work with The British Heart Foundation recently to try and raise awareness and share my story. So, I guess what I’m saying is that it isn’t all bad!

If you want to help me raise awareness then please do share this blog post, like my FB page, RT my awareness tweets etc. There are loads of ways in which we can share the message about Marfan during awareness month!

 

An Abortion Story

I was 28.
I had a Masters degree.
I had a full-time job and employer-provided health care. It provided comprehensive women’s health coverage, including birth control at no out-of-pocket cost for me.
I was on birth control.
I got pregnant.
I had an abortion.

I don’t fit the stereotype of individuals who have elected to terminate a pregnancy. I wasn’t young. I wasn’t uneducated. I wasn’t working an hourly job. By not fitting the stereotype, I also don’t have what our culture deems a “good reason” for having an abortion. I was old enough, smart enough, and had enough financial stability that I could have raised a child. I was in a committed relationship. I had a partner who would have been supportive in co-parenting. I even had it “so together” that I probably could have passed off my pregnancy as planned.

I just didn’t want to have a child then. Or maybe ever. And that should be enough.

I could also give you a long list of excuses for how I came to be pregnant. Maybe I took something that interacted with the efficacy of my birth control. The truth is that like many people, I regularly forgot to take my birth control. Truthfully, I wasn’t always so attentive about taking my birth control because I thought with my hypothyroidism I wouldn’t get pregnant anyway. And so, my carelessness and inattentiveness resulted in an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy.

I was lucky. Within 10 minutes of my apartment there were two clinics that provided abortion services. Within two hours, there were ten more clinics accessible to me. I also lived in a state that only had “relatively” restrictive abortion laws. They “only” had to provide me with a packet of information, perform an ultrasound, and make me wait 24 hours between initial examination and the procedure.

My experience at the clinic was great. The staff, nurses, and physician were incredibly kind and graceful. I ultimately chose the clinic I did because they were the only one who allowed a support person to be present with me during the procedure. My partner sat next to me and held my hand while my pregnancy was terminated. It took less than five minutes. I was kept under observation for about an hour and was sent home with antibiotics and super Tylenol for the discomfort. I laid on the couch all weekend and went to work Monday morning like every Monday morning.

I also don’t make a “good” post-abortion person. Why not? I don’t carry the required post-abortion guilt. I can’t tell you about feelings of emptiness, sadness, or immense regret and shame. I wasn’t depressed afterward. I haven’t seen a therapist because of it. In fact, I felt relief. After I fully recovered from the procedure and realized my morning sickness and mental fogginess had left, I felt whole again.

I work in a field where you would think that I could be public about the fact that I’ve had an abortion. Many of my friends are jealous of my progressive parents. I move in intersectional feminist circles. I do social justice work professionally.

But now I do this work in the South. It’s a place that doesn’t feel safe to disclose that I’ve had an abortion. Only five people I know personally are aware of my abortion. My family doesn’t know. My primary care physician doesn’t even know.

Why not?

For all the reasons I listed above. I don’t have a “good enough” reason for an abortion. I don’t have a “good enough” excuse why I became pregnant. I don’t have a “good enough” response for how I feel since having an abortion.

Why am I guest blogging about this now?

Because reproductive rights are under attack like never before. President Trump made sure that during his first full week in office that he would reinstate the abortion “gag rule” which prevents foreign health organizations from even mentioning abortion as a family planning option if they want to receive American aid. They don’t even have to be an abortion provider – so long as they even discuss or disclose abortion is a family planning option, they lose the ability to access the approximately $600 million dollars in international health care aid the US annually spends.

When President Trump was on the campaign trail, he also stated that individuals like me should “face some sort of punishment” for having an abortion.

What do I want you to do with my personal story?

I don’t know, really. File it away. Challenge your perception of why people get abortions. Realize we don’t all feel shitty about our choice after the fact. See a little bit of yourself in me. I could launch into all the pro-choice arguments. I could defiantly say that if you don’t want an abortion, don’t get one. I could implore you to envision me as your daughter, partner, sister, whoever you need to compare me to so that to you’ll be more empathetic to my perspective.

Honestly, I just felt a sense of duty to share my abortion story when politicians proudly condemn me and everyday people feel so empowered to shame me.

Why Chronic Sex?

Chronic Sex is the perfect place to discuss pregnancy – whether it was wanted or unwanted, planned or unplanned, carried to term or terminated. This is a space dedicated to safely discussing relationships and sexuality. And sometimes that means discussing pregnancy and abortion. I think abortion ranks up there on shame-filled sex discussions.

I wish there were more spaces like Chronic Sex. I wish could sign my name to this blog post and proudly state that I’ve had an abortion. And it wasn’t that bad. And that if I had to go back, I’d do it again. That my reasons were good enough.

'restrictions don't stop abortions they make abortions more dangerous' in white text over a pink-to-blue ombre blurry background

This guest blog comes on the heels of an attack on reproductive rights worldwide by Donald Trump. Please read more about the gag rule and get involved with ways to fight it through organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU.

As always, you are welcome to share a guest post. Email me at kirsten at chronicsex dot org.

Breast Cancer Reality: Debbie

In April of this year, we lost my partner’s aunt to metastatic breast cancer. She dealt with BC off and on for the bulk of our relationship. She hated the pink-ribbonized version of BC thrown about, the organizations ‘raising awareness and funds’ for BC and yet, in the end, doing more harm than good. To honor her and the many women I know living with BC during BC Awareness Month/Pinktober, I wanted to do something special. I’ll be featuring a few stories from amazing peeps about their BC battles.

Today, you’ll hear from my friend Debbie, a purple-haired badass.

Greetings! My name is Debbie. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer when I was 43.

Two years ago during Breast Cancer Awareness month, I found a lump and multiple tests later confirmed it was BC. I was told by my doctor in an almost mechanical way what my next steps were. I was going to have a mastectomy, speak with another doctor about reconstruction, and discuss treatment after pathology reports are in. Insurance would not allow the removal of the “healthy” breast.

I knew instantly I wanted no reconstruction and just wanted to have the surgery and get the cancer out! I was questioned about my decision to reject the offer for reconstruction and all I can say is it was a personal choice. I would be scared to go through with that procedure with a healthy body!

debbie with words that say 'i am a woman regardless to breasts'

So fast forward, it’s invasive and they found 3 tumors, estrogen and progesterone positive. A suggestion for chemo is quickly turned down. Again, a personal choice. I agree to Tamoxifen, a drug I will take for the next five years.

Fast forward to the next year – new insurance, new doctors. They recommend I have my ovaries removed to decrease hormones I produce. I agreed, full hysterectomy was optional (I’m 43 no more babies for me). I find a doctor who is willing to take my other breast at the same time.

For many reasons, I felt unbalance – the other breast now was a worry to me, a reminder of happened to the other one. 

So I have both procedures on the same day.

By now the meds have affected my libido which should be the last thing a cancer patient thinks of… not.

I’m still me and want that physical connection with my partner.

We have both been through this together and, thank goodness, he is patient. After the final surgery, things got drastically worse in that department.

No desire – none, it was gone.

I had to try to mentally build myself up to engage with my partner, not to mention the surgery left me with unwanted muscle spasms and get ready for this… a shortened vaginal canal.

Yes, there is such a thing!

They even sent me to Vagina PT – strangest doctor visit in my life but what we won’t do to try to feel “normal” again…

I share my intimate details after breast cancer to let other women know they are not alone.

Pink ribbons could never bring awareness to the multiple surgeries, sickness, pain, body modifications, scarring, medications that make you sicker, etc. Breast cancer affects us all in more ways than the fact that we no longer have one or both of our natural breasts.

Thank goodness for pages like Flat and Fabulous, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer, and Chronic Sex! We are able to talk about these things. This is the real awareness.

If you would like to share your illness story, especially during an awareness month, please let us know!