A Patient’s Perspective

Dean Marie Dolla and Dr. Riva Preil at Plaza College, Educating Women about Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

I’m happy to introduce today’s guest blogger, Dean Marie Dolla of Plaza College. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Marie and help her along her healing journey. Marie is a brave and outspoken champion on behalf of women’s health. Previously, she has openly shared her pelvic floor struggles with friends, colleagues, and students in order to educate others about this condition. As someone who was misdiagnosed and needlessly suffered for years before receiving an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, Marie is committed to helping others receive care in a more timely and dignified manner.

Marie arrived to our session one week and said, “Riva, I am reading an amazing book, “Living Beyond Your Pain,” and it has helped me so much. You should tell other patients about it,” I responded, “Thank you, this sounds like an incredible resource. How would you like to share the wealth and be my guest blogger?” Marie, in her typical fashion, jumped on the opportunity to help others and agreed to do so. In this blog, Marie shares her story and discusses why she found the book so beneficial:

“I am sure you know the difference between acute and chronic pain, but if you have forgotten let me review this by example. Acute pain is short term as in when one breaks their wrist or ankle. Ouch, but it heals and generally it ends there. Chronic pain is constant or intermittent caused by car accidents and falls resulting in musculoskeletal misalignments, sexual abuse or difficult births which can affect the pelvic floor muscles. In my case, my pelvic pain was related to caring for an aging mother, handling a stressful job, going through menopause, and not self-caring.

So for me, super tight muscles in my pelvic floor is my pain that requires a multidisciplinary approach. It took four years before I received a correct diagnosis, I wanted to get rid of the pain. What I have learned to do is manage it—and without medications that have been touted by mainstream doctors.

During my journey, I got better…then a little worse…and then better again. If you try to avoid the pain, you will only suffer more pain. So accept it? Yes. By not doing that, my world became very narrow. I denied myself experiences I once cherished. So I was introduced to ACT—Accept, Choose and take action. Is this easy? No way. I’m still learning, but my life is opening up again. Thanks to my terrific medical team-my pelvic floor physician, Dr. Andrew Goldstein, my physical therapist, Dr. Riva Preil, and my CBT (cognitive behavioral therapist), Dr. Jana Scrivani.

In this self-help book, there are so many great hands on exercises. One of the hardest concepts for me to grasp has been to separate my thoughts from how I view my total self. On my first draft of this exercise, I completed statements about myself from the viewpoint of my pain. This is so wrong.  I moved from “I am a person who experiences chronic pain from time to time” to “I am a person who enjoys teaching others new things. “ This technique is called cognitive diffusion. I need to practice this and to separate my thinking from my viewpoints about who I am—this whole person who has pain but who also has an amazing pair of red shoes. I am not my pain.

I am learning to take notice of my thoughts and let them come and go. This will help me separate my thoughts about pain and move me away from viewing myself through the pain lense.”

Marie, thank you so much for sharing your experience and for recommending “Living Beyond Your Pain.” We both hope that many readers will benefit from it!

Women of Medical Valor

Dr. Rena D’Souza
Dr. Lindsey Criswell

While this year has generally not been known for its kindness to most, August 2020 has been a friend to women. (No, Kamala, this blog is not about you, as unfortunately I pride myself on never mixing politics with pleasure aka medicine. Suffice to say, “well done.”) During this past month, two brilliant and talented women were promoted to prominent positions within the National Institutes of Health where they will be able to further lead, inspire, and heal. Worthy of note is that August is also the month when we celebrate Women’s Equality Day which commemorates August 18, 1920, the day when Congress ratified the iconic 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Allow me to introduce you to these two women. Rena N. D’Souza, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D., has been chosen to serve as director of NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), which she plans on joining later this year. A licensed dentist, Dr. D’Souza is currently the assistant vice president for academic affairs and education for health sciences at the University of Utah, where she also serves as a professor. She has conducted research in craniofacial development, genetics, tooth development, and regenerative dental medicine. She has published 140 peer-reviewed journal papers and medical book chapters. She is also an exemplary role model of kindness as she has provided volunteer dentistry services to people in need. As a recipient of more dental procedures than I would like to keep track of, I can confidently attest to the value of her research and contributions. Massive thank you.

Our next female noteworthy of celebration is Lindsey A. Criswell, M.D., M.P.H., D.Sc., who has been chosen to direct NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). A rheumatologist, Dr. Criswell is currently the vice chancellor of research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is a professor of rheumatology in UCSF’s Department of Medicine. She has been published in more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles about genetics and epidemiology of autoimmune diseases, specifically on systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Thank you, Dr. D’Souza and Dr. Criswell, for leaning in and daring to ask through your actions, “What glass ceiling?” Watching you succeed from the sidelines makes me sorta kinda wonder what am I doing, sitting at an outdoor cafe on a beautiful August afternoon, writing about your achievements? How can I be more like you, and how can I help the masses on the grandest scale possible? For now, I will suffice with the following answer: I am promoting the fact that women can accomplish tremendous heights. They can exert sweat and toil (hopefully minus the blood and tears), and they can perform and produce professionally as well as (if not better than) any man. And by doing so, I hope to inspire more women to follow in your footsteps. So while I did not entitle this blog “You Go Girls” out of respect to these two fantastic females, I will conclude with, thank you for the inspiration and keep up the good work.