Effexor: The Hot Flashes Made Me Do It

My Secret Addiction to Effexor and How I Made It Through.

Effexor for Hot Flashes

{Art by Andrea de Santis}

My name is Caitlin Marcoux. I am a breast cancer survivor, and for the last 4 years, I have also been a drug addict. An SNRI called Effexor has been my captor.

Did that get your attention? Great.

Because if you’re considering taking an SNRI, I want you to have some of the information I didn’t, before you make this really important decision. I’m not a doctor, and I’m not about to offer any medical advice. I am here to share my story with Effexor though, because I wish I had read it before jumping on the SNRI bandwagon myself.

First a little background.

Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms, Hot Flashes

The particular type of breast cancer I was diagnosed with in March of 2013, was estrogen driven. I was 36 years old, still feeling quite fertile, and not even close to the onset of menopause. As those of you who followed this blog know, I went through chemotherapy and surgery and then more chemotherapy. Fantasies of having another baby faded into the distance, and I turned all my attention on regaining my health.

I don’t want to go back into all the cancer stuff here, so let’s jump forward to October 16th, 2015, when I found myself back in the OR for a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy. The hysterectomy was because of cancerous cells on my cervix, the simultaneous oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries) was done to mitigate the risk of my breast cancer’s return.

With the removal of all my female parts now including both breasts, both ovaries, uterus and my cervix, I awoke from that operation in full blow, surgically-induced menopause. My time as a reproductively viable woman was over.

It was, in the beginning, emotionally overwhelming. On top of the grief I was consumed with, the physical symptoms of menopause were immediately challenging. The weight gain was frustrating (15 pounds!), the hot flashes were unbearable. Sleep was illusive. I was weepy, moody, and compulsively checking my chin to see if yet another f-ing hair had spouted.

Let me just get this off my chest, and then I’ll get back to the point of this blog: Of all the symptoms of menopause, for me, the hot flashes were and remain, the worst. If you feel this way, please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I don’t really understand the complex physiology that causes hot flashes, suffice to say, sisters, the struggle is REAL.

“There’s no mistaking it: the sudden, intense, hot feeling on your face and upper body, perhaps preceded or accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness, or a feeling of suffocation. Some women experience an “aura,” an uneasy feeling just before the hot flash that lets them know what’s coming. The flash is followed by a flush, leaving you reddened and perspiring. You can have a soaker or merely a moist upper lip. A chill can lead off the episode or be the finale.

Every woman’s experience is a little bit different. However, the faster you transition from regular periods to no periods, the more significant your hot flashes may be. Some premenopausal women who have their ovaries removed can experience severe hot flashes due to surgical menopause. Chemotherapy-induced medical menopause can cause hot flashes, as can hormonal therapies such as tamoxifen. Overall, the severity of hot flashes can vary from mild to moderate to severe.” ~BreastCancer.org

Effexor for Hot Flashes, Withdrawal Symptoms, Menopause So, what’s the treatment, you may be thinking. Well, lots of women can mitigate the symptoms associated with this transition with HRT, hormone replacement therapy. Unfortunately, because of the estrogen sensitivity of my breast cancer, the bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, available to many women, was not an option for me, and it may not be for you either.

Enter Venlafaxine.

Venlafaxine, aka Effexor, is an SNRI used to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. It is also used “off label” to treat vasomotor symptoms, doctor speak for “hot flashes”, in women who are not candidates for HRT. When I asked my team what else could be done to help me my sanity, a daily dose of Effexor was the answer. I was so thrilled at the prospect of reducing the time I spent swimming in night sweats, I excitedly agreed to start the drug right away.

While to date, there are no known problems associated with long term use of venlafaxine, no one told me how addictive this stuff is. No one sat me down and invited me to take a calm risk to benefit assessment of the situation before I signed up. No one told me that if and when I wanted to come off Effexor, I might feel suicidal. No one said that I could expect sever withdrawal symptoms including nausea and diarrhea and a deluge of uncontrollable tears. No one said, “hey you might want to check out all these patient blogs and YouTube channels teeming with scary anecdotes about Effexor-related  “brain shivers”, “zaps,” and “brain flips.” You may want to think twice before you feel like your mind has been doused with “bottled lightening” ‘ Nope, no one said anything about that stuff. 

And so it was, that after 3 years of taking Effexor every night, my body, unbeknownst to me, had become totally hooked on a drug that would be nearly impossible to get off of. Yes, at a high does, it treated my hot flashes with only LIMITED success, but at what cost? It was hard to tell.

Every once in a while I would forget to take a dose, or worse, I’d forget to take it two or three days in a row. The first time I made this mistake, I got some sense of how addicted I had become, and wow did it scare me.

Tears about nothing, followed by vertigo, followed by the intermittently feeling like I was sticking my finger in a light socket, headaches, and a pervading sense malaise, were just a few of the things I felt, only 6 hours after a missed dose.

At first these seemingly inexplicable sensations would be mystifying. WTF was going on? Then the little voice inside my head would reply: “you forgot your pill, dummy” and I’d take my dose. Relief would wash over me within a few hours, and all the crazies would dissipate.

Once I forgot to refill my script, missed a day, and when I did remember the refill, the pharmacy was closed. I was so desperate to get my hands on any amount of Effexor, I posted about it on our local Nantucket Consignments FaceBook page to see if anyone had some I could take until the prescription could be re-filled. I was promptly kicked off the page!

When the pharmacy opened the next day I was there 5 minutes before they unlocked the door, fidgeting like a crack addict. I watched and waited as they filled the script, and downed the first of the missed doses, hands shaking, right there in the store.  Self-conscious about my behavior, I sobbed the whole way home. I was a stranger in my own body.

These withdrawal symptoms were only premonitions of worse things to come…

Then I fortified resolve.

The day I decided to terminate my relationship with the SNRI, I emailed my oncologist. I had cut Ativan cold turkey, a drug I was using for anxiety and insomnia at the hight of my cancer treatment, but I knew slaying this demon would require some support. (Man, was that an understatement).

My oncologist put me on the following schedule {I’m sharing it just in case it’s of help to anyone out there on the world wide web – but please, please, please, consult with a medical professional before attempting this on your own}

  • From 150mg of Effexor XR/day, I switched to 3 pills of 37.5mg (or 112.5mg) for 1 week
  • Then 2 pills (or 75mg) a day for a week
  • Then 1 pill of 37.5mg a day for 2 weeks
  • Then I’d be done. 

The process was to take one month, and by it’s end, I’d be free! The day I tapered to 112.5mg, I was over the moon excited. The thought of finally being free of all drugs and getting back to myself the way I was in my pre-cancer life was thrilling.

I made it without consequence through the first three weeks of the taper. The switch to 37.5mg was tough, with brain zaps here and there, and general moodiness, but the drop from 37.5 to zero was nothing short of brutal. In fact, the second day without any Effexor, I thought I was loosing my mind. It was the weekend, and both my PCP and my oncologist were off duty, so I called the MGH Cancer hotline to speak to a doctor, any doctor.

Attempting to explain what was happening to my body and in my head, to an oncologist I had never met, felt like talking under water. The words were coming out of my mouth, but I could tell they were landing on deft ears. He just kept telling me there was no efficacy in the 37.5mg does and that it didn’t make any sense that I would feel like “jumping off a cliff” by dropping from such a small dose to nothing.

I desperately wanted to reach through the phone and choke him.

Instead, I took a deep breath, thought of all the shitty things I had already survived, and attempted to calmly ask him to extend the 37.5mg script for another 2 months. He seems confused and kept asking me if I was having any other neurological symptoms (did he think the cancer was back and in my brain?) but ultimately he called it in: 2 more months of Effexor at 37.5mg a day. It was back in my system later that night.

Clearly, this drug had a strangle on me.

That’s when I found Wendy Will’s blog I Did it: How to Stop Taking Effexor. It turns out that Wendy too had been prescribed Effexor for chemotherapy induced hot flashes, and she too had trouble getting off the drug. Finally I felt REAL. I didn’t feel alone and crazy any more. I felt seen, heard and VALIDATED! And best yet, Wendy introduced me to the Effexor-Prozac Bridge:

So what’s Prozac have to do with it? Prozac is an extremely long “half-life.” It takes Prozac 7-9 days to leave the blood stream (as compared to Effexor XR at 15 hours). Withdrawal symptoms are considered unusual when taking Prozac. When you are able to get to the lowest dose possible on Effexor XR is when you are suppose to replace – or bridge – it with Prozac. It’s up to you and your doctor when you decide to wean from the Prozac but apparently it’s supposed to be head and tails easier to do than Effexor XR.

There was HOPE! And below the hope, there were hundreds of comments from other people who had been through similar trials and tribulations. Not only did I have company, I had a whole brotherhood and sisterhood of companions out there who shared my struggles and had had some success with this method.

Did you know that in 2007 there were 17.2 million people taking this “black label” drug! I wonder how much money Pfizer would loose if everyone stopped taking it tomorrow?

Anyway, that’s what I decided to do. I decided to try again, and this time with the bridge.

I set up an appointment with a local psychiatric RN, and together we planned out my Effexor-Prozac bridge. She had me immediately replace the 37.5mg of Effexor with 20mg of Prozac. I took 20mg of Prozac for one week and then tapered down to 10mg for a week. Lucky for me, I got to do this last little psychiatric dance while at Kripalu for 5 days with my Prana Vinyasa kula against the backdrop of the beautiful Berkshire mountains.

As of Monday night, I am on nothing, no Effexor, no Prozac, nada. So far (knock on wood) I haven’t had any brain zaps, no vertigo, no need to pull the truck over for fear I’m going to cause an accident. Of course, it’s only been 2 days. The real test will come with the Prozac’s half-life (which lasts up to 9 days) is dead.

It’s been quite the experience; feeling powerless in the clutches of a pharmaceutical. Feeling at times beaten down and hopeless. Sobbing myself to sleep. Hiding my symptoms, in shame, from friends and family. But today, today I feel full to the brim with hope and almost giddy excitement to be both cancer-free and 100% drug-free for the first time in four years.

I have a spring in my step, and it has nothing to do with an artificial overabundance of Serotonin, and everything to do with perseverance.

Please do not misunderstand me, I am very grateful for the many advances in modern psychopharmacology. And certainly, there are thousands of people who derive great benefit from psychoactive drugs, and need them to function normally day to day. This is not a knock on anyone for taking prescription medication.  My hope, in sharing this information with the breast cancer community is to highlight the possible side-effects of SNRI dependance and withdrawal. And to reassure my Sisters in the Change, that you are not alone.

 

With great respect for your decision making process,

Caitlin

Effexor for Hot Flashes, Withdrawal Symptoms, Caitlin Marcoux

Have a hot-flash abatement tip?

Leave it in the comment section below! I’d love to hear from you. 

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{the beginning}

Author’s Note: This blog is an illustration of my own personal experience with an SNRI prescribe to treat symptoms of menopause, not clinical depression. Please do not use this personal account in place of professional medical advice. I am not and do not claim to be, a medical professional. If you are looking to taper or come off of an SSRI or SNRI, please consult your doctor. 

If you are feeling suicidal, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

2nd Annual Yoga for PASCON

Please join us, the evening of October 25th, for the 2nd annual Yoga for Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket

Community, Tribe, Yoga, PASCON, NIR

I read recently that loneliness, or feeling like an outsider, will increase your chance of an early death by 45%. When compared to more obvious lifestyle risks, like obesity (30% chance it will lead to an early death) and abusive alcohol consumption (20% chance) this is a BIG DEAL. I mean, it’s SHOCKING. Right? In her new book Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown writes:

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Brown goes to say “Research shows that playing cards once a week or meeting friends every Wednesday night at Starbucks adds as many years to our lives as taking beta blockers or quitting a pack-a-day smoking habit.”

Wow. Now that is reason to pause, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate how we spend our time.

The good news is, we can mitigate the risks associated with loneliness with a simple solution: more CONNECTION.

We can come together during rites of passage like weddings and funerals, celebrate human creativity at art openings, concerts and theatrical performances, and solidify a sense of community by attending local events like non-profit fundraisers, or church services, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen.

For me, the sense of connection and belonging that comes from a ritual practice – like a yoga class, healing circle or group meditation, is once of the most powerful ways of solidifying a sense of tribe. It’s one of the reasons that, when traveling, I always visit the local yoga shala; to get a sense of the local community.

On that note, Nantucket Island Resorts. and I are offering an evening of yoga + meditation with the intention of celebrating the healing power of tribe. The experience will be open to students of ALL LEVELS, and dedicated to support for and memory of Nantucket’s local cancer warriors. 100% of funds raised during class will be donated to PASCON, with matching donations from NIR.

Interested in joining us? Here are the details….

Donation yoga, Lunar Prana Vinyasa, PASCON, Nantucket Island ResortsHeld in the beautiful Ballroom at the White Elephant Village, this practice will include a Lunar Prana Vinyasa flow, seated or reclining meditation, as well as breath work & visualization to promote and restore a deep sense of well-being and community belonging.

Yogis with any amount exposure to the practice of yoga will be encouraged to set up towards the front of the class, so that novices can feel comfortable in the back, with their additional visual support. I will offer modifications for students with physical limitations and hands-on assists for those who enjoy them.

No reservations are necessary, just drop in. Please bring a yoga mat if you have one and I’ll bring as many extra as I can carry.

Love Waves

Love. What can you do when you’re on the brink, but you’re scared to fall?

Love in Waves, Caitlin Marcoux, Blog, In Love Again, Nantucket, yoga

Love is so powerful, we can get lost in it like a shoreless ocean. It’s something everyone wants and so many of us watch slip through our fingers.

Were I to die young, at least I can say, on my deathbed, that I have loved so much. People with the most tremendous spirit, I have loved. Big and small. Male and female. Introverted and extroverted. Tall and Short. Round and long. Young and old. I have loved under dire circumstances, and loved during times of clam and peace. But for as many times that I’ve LOVED, I’ve also managed to consistenly fuck it up.

Love, Mastectomy, Surgery, Breast Cancer, Caitlin Marcoux, MGH, To love, what a privilege!

Do we recognize how luck we are to know this feeling even once in a lifetime? To just once experience a close approximation of this bliss? Let alone multiple times…

I think part of the problem, part of the reason love escapes us so often, lies in our attachments to how and what it should look like. More importantly, how long it will last.

We think if the object of our affection is the one, they will stay by our side forever; through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Till death do us part.

So we strangle hold love with our sweaty, hot hands.

When love evaporates from the heat of our grasp, we blame others, circumstances, and the Universe. Worse yet, we blame ourselves for the myriad of things we did wrong.

Do we consider, ever, that the love we lost wasn’t meant to stick around?

Why is our default to question whether we were worthy of love in the first place.

What if love didn’t look a certain way. What if lovers flowed unfettered, in and out of our lives, like waves of wisdom, passing onto us the lessons we need to learn in the moments we are living them. And instead of blaming ourselves and others for the waves recession from our shores, we graciously thank them for their generosity and let them go with the outgoing tide?

What if we see ourselves benefitting from each love’s imparting lore. And then when we’ve absorbed these teachings, swim back out to sea to wait patiently for the next wave.

“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.”
~Charles Bukowski

What if our focus was on loving ourselves instead of incessantly seeking love from others?

Perhaps in our entitlement hides the biggest mistake: that somehow we can get away without knowing and loving who we are first, and simply draft feelings of love and self-worth off of others.

What if we are only entitled to love only after we know what it means to love ourselves.

Love Yourself, Heal the Hurt, Caitlin Marcoux, Yoga TeacherDo you love yourself?

Like so many, I didn’t have this kind of relationship for the longest time. I was scared to look at my wounds and forgive myself for past failures.

The last past 16 months though, I’ve taken a crash course in self-acceptance, and find myself learning to appreciate who I am. I’ve quit making excuses for who I’m not.

After two heaping fistfuls of heartbreak, I feel humble, healthy and ready to practice what I preach.

It is not love that should be depicted as blind, but self-love. ~Voltaire

 

In the spaces between recent relationships,  I’ve found the motivation and inspiration to begin a deep dialogue with my heart.  At 40, I feel wise and schooled as only one can be, after living a life full of stories and experience both positive and negative.The conversation is rich.

Although it is scary, I am ready to swim back out. After all the mistakes, the hard learned lessons, the time wasted blaming myself and others, I feel in love with my heart, my soul, my and spirit. I feel buoyant. I will not sink this time.

Resolutions.

{These are mine. As an exercise, take out your journal. Write your own. Design and commit, to the way you want to love, the way you will swim out to the line-up.}

The next time I fall in love, I will not forget how important, no, how imperative it is, to stay true to myself. To stand in my own authenticity, regardless of how it is received. I will release my grip on the outcome, on how I think the dance is suppose to unfold.  I will stay focused on bringing my best, highest self to the present moment.  I will give myself the gift of self-awareness. I will enjoy without expectation, the process. I will lovingly relax. I will nurture the space necessary to absorb the lessons being illuminated. I will be patient and kind to myself and to my partner. I will stay receptive and open. I will remain connected to grace.

Nantucket, Love, Yoga, Blog, Falling in Love

You are the one you have been waiting for.

Friends; waste no time! Don’t wait until half your luscious life is over to see your own heart as your greatest teacher. If  you allow self-love to be your personal swim coach, the next time you dive into the ocean of external love, she will remind you to take long, deep steady breaths in, and slow, smooth, steady breaths out. She will remind you that though relationships come and go, you can always surf your own breath.

Do not drowned but rather drink responsibly love’s sweet nectar, and should you feel your judgment becomes impaired, swim to shore and reconnect to Self  for as long as it takes to recover your ground. If it’s authentic love, your lover will wait.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.~Rumi

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{Some days are easier than others. On the days that are hard, guided meditations and affirmation can help. Listen to Sarah Blondin. Her podcast, Live Awake, is one of my regular tools.}

Breathe. Flow. Connect. 

Prenatal Workshop with Caitlin & Evie

Saturday May 6th, 2017 from 3-4:30pm at the Nantucket Yoga Room

This prenatal yoga workshop will be taught by Evie O’Connor, with hands-on therapeutic massage by Caitlin Marcoux. Both teachers are certified Prenatal Yoga Instructors and Caitlin additionally is a Licensed Prenatal Massage Therapist. The class will synchronize mellow movement, restorative postures, guided meditation and massage to create a a sacred space for deep relaxation and connection. Space will be limited to 8 pregnant goddesses to ensure a deeply nurturing experience.

 There is no yoga experience required to attend this workshop.

Nantucket Prenatal Yoga

Curios but not 100% committed? Nervous about exercising while pregnant? New to yoga?

Read more about Caitlin’s experience using yoga to create a powerful, orgasmic birth experience. Her, now 7-year old son Griffin, was born at home on a yoga mat, with no interventions necessary. To this day, Caitlin credits yoga and pranayama (breathing techniques) with her unassisted delivery.

*** REGISTER HERE AND CLICK ON THE WORKSHOPS TAB ***

 

 

Goodbye Scarcity, Hello Gratitude

Sorry, l had to learn this one the hard way, and you probably will too. No one will ever give you enough validation. At the end of the day, it’s up to you.

Caitlin Marcoux, writer

Because we live in a society that pressures us to have unlimited wants, while most of us have limited resources, many of us have a difficult time believing in our own intrinsic value.

The anxiety of scarcity permeates all aspects of our lives. We worry about our body image, our fiscal net, our standing within our community, our self-esteem as parents, our confidence as lovers, whether or not we are fashionable, driving the right car, enrolling our children in enough extracurricular activities, or taking the same exotic vacations our friends post about on social media.

Caitlin Marcoux, wirterCommercialism and comparison have caused a catastrophic level of insecurity within our culture, feeding a never ending cycling of fitness trends and fad diets, to say nothing of jealousy, self-judgment and resentment.

This prevailing sense of insufficiency causes us to question whether or not we are, in general, enough, and many of us end up feeling that we are, at least much of the time, not. However, if we choose to turn our attention away from what we are lacking to what we have, the suffering of scarcity lessens.

Society at large has seduced us into thinking life needs to be grandiose, lived out on a large scale, Twitter and Instagram. Even my 7 year old will tell me, with apparent admiration, that his favorite YouTuber, has 1,856,518 subscribers. (Parents go ahead and Google him, his name is Denis Daily).

Cultivating abundance starts with gratitude

ScarcityThe truth is there is so much beauty and joy in our small, ordinary lives. So many things to be grateful for. So many tiny victories, every day, to celebrate. On days like today, when I wake up feeling a little blue, lonely and anxious about the things I don’t have, I try to practice feeling grateful for the things I DO have.

Instead of dwelling on the fact that I don’t have a life partner, own my own home, or have a retirement fund, I got myself to the gym. I threw on the plates and started lifting. I wasn’t sure about my form, so I kept the weights light. I decided to be gentle and meet myself where I was.

As I worked my way through a number of different exercises, my negative thoughts abated.

It’s actually a bit crazy to think that just 2 years ago, I was still recovering from major abdominal surgery, {fully hysterectomy and oophorectomy} and three years ago I could barely lift my own arms (bilateral mastectomy}, so lifting anything at al, is actually something I am quite grateful to be able to do.

My ego, which often kicks up a ruckus of self-doubt, and pushes me to do things I’m not quite ready for, stayed remarkably quit! Turns out, Brene Brown, an author and research professor, whom I have been reading a lot of over the past year or so, is onto something: by focusing on gratitude the tides of scarcity culture can be abated.

I lovingly pushed my body through my workout saying this mantra over and over:

“It is enough”

 “I am enough.”

In the end, it was an awesome workout. I left the gym feeling satisfied and effulgent, light and happy.

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re like me; someone who {fill in the blank reason} has turned to external validation to bank-up personal validity, you may have to use this mantra over and over again.

Caitlin Marcoux, Yoga teacher, writer

A few of you might remember a piece I wrote for elephant journal on this topic some time ago, circa 2012. The photo above is probably the last picture of my chest before my tryst with breast cancer. I recently re-read it,  Unworthy, that is. Hard to believe I wrote it five years ago. Long before I stumbled onto Brene Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability, or read Rising Strong, one of my favorite books  E V E R. You would think I’d have embodied the central message by now – what with the permanent marker I used to write all over my own chest.

But.. apparently I’m still trying to take my own advice.

It’s okay. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I mean I could, that would go against the central idea of self-acceptance. And that old yogic adage of “it’s a practice”…. well it’s true. These things  don’t happen over night. A practice is called a practice for a reason.

Anyway, I’m beginning to realize that the measurement of a “successful” life is not the one afforded us by relationship, career, or financial status. The successful life is the gracious life. I have faith. Let’s support one another. Together I think we can do it. We can make ourselves be seen. We can accept what we are, accept ourselves for the miracle that we are, and we can evolve our sense of self into something so beautiful and so loving that gratitude is our default.

Don’t be suckered into wasting your time on what you don’t have.

Honor what you have and the abundance will follow.

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Setting Intentions for Love

What would it look like? Love. In the future. If there was a key word search, what words would you plug in? What adjectives would you choose?

Ernest Hemmingway, A Seed. Intention. Manifestation

 

The next time I fall in love let it be with these seeds in the soil…

Open // Receptive // Potent // Mindful // Respectful // Warm // Deep // Evocative // Confident // Musical // Silent // Hard // Soft // Artistic // Nuanced // Revealing // Raw // Vulnerable // Strong // Assertive // Dynamic //  Imperfect // Humble // Vibrant // Creative // Challenging // Inspiring // Brave // Yielding //Fluid // Truthful // Passionate // Fierce // Grateful // Familial // Ambitious // Tender // Strong // Contentious // Mutually Empowering // Intellectually Stimulating // Flexible

Om Namah Shivaya

Yoga with a Harbor View

Get in the Flow with Prana Vinyasa; a rhythmic flow class to raise your vibration.

Enjoy the beautiful light that streams through the windows of the Harbor View Room and connect to members of the community in the heart of downtown Nantucket, at the Dreamland Theater.

Dreamland Yoga, Caitlin Marcoux, Saturday Special Yoga Classes, Harbor View Room, Nantucket, Nantucket Yoga I’m thrilled to be able to return to the Dreamland, on this once a month basis, and create some sacred space for you to
enjoy a full-spectrum practice. These 75-minute classes will be open to students of all levels, and will introduce the basic concepts of Prana Vinyasa, created by my teacher Shiva Rea. While structural alignment is always important, Prana Vinyasa puts it’s primary focus, on the pulsations of energy in within the body as a means of becoming more embodied; more present, more connected to the life force within us all that creates unity, community and tribe. Working within the idea that we are all part of a cosmic consciousness, how we move on the mat, becomes a metaphor for how we live in our lives. There is no higher achy of postures within Prana Vinyasa, and we honor both the lunar and solar tides as they express themselves within everyone at different times in our lives. Come explore. Bring your curiosity, and move into a place of self-realization and receptivity.

Tickets will be available for purchase online at the Nantucket Dreamland.

Over Here: Hysterectomy, Oophorectomy and Menopause

Caitlin Marcoux, Hysterectomy. Surgical Menopause. Yoga

Me in pre-op room, preparing for  my Hysterectomy. Mass General Hosptial, October 16th, 2016.

Well hello Menopause! Here I am.

I’m 39 years old. And I’ll never had to worry about getting pregnant again.

I don’t have to worry about unexpected spotting, a period catching me off guard and ruining my clothes, or getting in the way of sex. Unless I get lost, I’ll never have to walk down the feminine hygiene isle in the grocery store, feeling slightly embarrassed of my purchases. Nope, not any more.

These I suppose are the silver linings of cervical cancer and surgical menopause.

On October 16th, 2015 I went to Boston for the hundredth, thousandth, or millionth time in 3 years, for yet another surgery, and surrendered my entire reproductive system. Out came my cervix, my uterus, my fallopian tubes and my ovaries. As I’ve told my son ever time he asks for a brother or sister, Mommy has no more baby making parts and she is now in full blown menopause.

The surgery was fairly easy – amazing what can be done laparoscopically now with robotic arms, and left me only with 4 small scars on my abdomen and a tremendous amount of bloating. The hardest part was coming off the anesthesia, which as soon as I woke up, caused constant vomiting. Even after I was discharged from the hospital the next day, I threw up every single time I tried to eat for about 2 weeks. Eventually I the drugs moved out of my system, and after a couple weeks of Hell, I started to feel “normal” again.

Except for the fact that a huge part of my body was missing. 6 weeks of rest had been prescribed by my medial oncology team, including strict instructions not to ride my bike, or practice vigerous yoga, go up-side-down or do anything that would engage my core. Let me ask you this; what activity doesn’t engage your core?

So there I was from October 16th thru the end of November, not being able to navigate this huge change in my body without the tools I had used to get through breast cancer. Those of you who have followed my cancer diary might remember that even when I was getting chemo, I still managed to find a way to practice. It was, and still is, one the most important tools in my tool box. Anyway, I was stuck in my house (not allowed to drive) and feeling very alone, and very sad, and very angry. All this anger I had managed to push out of my mind so as to deal with chemo, and mastectomy and survival, came bubbling to the surface. The hysterectomy triggered all kinds of PTSD left over from breast cancer and I found myself in a very, very dark place. Between the vomiting, two trips to my local ER to get IV fluids, and hours and hours spent alone feeling toxically depressed, I actually began to have suicidal thoughts. Too ashamed to call my friends – who had all been through my battle with breast cancer with me, I wallowed in isolation.

In our sleep, pain, which cannot forget,

falls drop by drop upon the heart,

until, in our own despair, against our will

comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

~Asechulus

Laproscopic incision sites, 1 day post-op.

Tidal waves of grief washed over me as the realization that no matter what relationship I was in, I would never again be able to host another spirit inside my womb.

Despite the fact that my then partner had never wanted to have a child with me, part of me had secretly held out the hope that one day it might happen. Now that chance is nil. Looking back at on the situation now, I’ve realized that I have been angry at him, for quite some time, for allowing me to miss what was my small window of fertility. Obviously the onus is ultimately on me, since I chose to get involved with someone who’s mind had already been made up. At this point the resentment is no longer relevant as neither is the relationship.

At some point, in November, I think, I was in the bathroom, looking to replace toilet tissue on the wall. I dug around under the sink to find some, when I was hit hard by the sight of a full box of tampons. Hot tears exploded from my eyes. My body began to shake. Uncontrollable sobs jerked their way up my throat and out into empty house, ringing only in my own sensitive ear drums. The realization that I would never again need these supplies devastated me all at once. The box is still there. I haven’t been able to get ride of it.

It’s ironic, since most of my life I felt either ashamed of, inconvenienced by, or anxious about my period, and now I miss it. Looking back on the chronology of all these events, I wish I had made some time to acknowledge my last and final period. A few of my girlfriends and I had a small beautiful ceremony a few days before my surgery, in which we acknowledged the upcoming shift, but I was not present with myself the last time I actually menstruated. Like so many things we have until they are gone, I took it for granted.

Healing after hysterectomy. Caitlin Marcoux, Cancer Jedi, Yoga TeacherI was 10 and in middle school, the first time I got my period. Now, math has never been my strong suit, but I’m pretty sure that means that I’ve been in this flow for 29 years. Which means that the relationship I’ve had with my cycle is the longest one I’ve had. That means I’ve spent more time being a fertile women than not. I’ve always connected my sense of power and creativity with my fertility, and it comes as no surprise that the energetic area, or chakra, of the body that corresponds to the reproductive system, is Svadhisthana, the second chakra of our subtle body. Svadhistahana correlates to ones creative sexual fire and relates to our experience of creativity, sexuality, and the cultivation of prosperity and growth. This is a part of my body that saw some trauma in my early childhood. It is also a part of me that I have worked diligently to bring in to balance.

My hysterectomy has redefined my sense of self all over again.

It’s been a process, over these past few months, trying to figure out what that means. I’ve had to let the anger and grief move through me, both with guides and on my own. And I’ve turned to my teacher Shiva Rea, who’s rhythmic approach to vinyasa yoga honors the energetic systems of the body and celebrates the chakras in a non-liner or non-literal way. With her support, I’ve been able to accept these changes, and see that my womanhood is not only physical, but meta-physical and spiritual and so much more than a circuitry of tissue, blood and organs.

Women, we are not some combination of parts: of breasts and womb, but so much, much more. And my thoughts to anyone out there reading this, getting ready to set out on a journey such as mine, is to ACKNOWLEDGE how hard, and sad, and significant a loss it is. Don’t let anyone tell you that hysterectomy and Surgical Menopause is no big deal, because it really, truly is. To truly be with that experience while you’re in it. To feel it, not numb it. So that then you can move through it, and reclaim your innate femininity when the time is right.  Just like ever veteran is still a warrior even if he returns from war without an arm or a leg, every hysterectomy and breast cancer survivor can be a creative and powerful goddess.

Learn the alchemy

true human beings know,

The moment you accept

what troubles you’ve been given,

the door will open.

~Rumi

The loss of fertility is one thing, menopause before your time, is quite another.

It is a major, life changing event not to be played down. Sadly our culture doesn’t talk about menopause nearly as much as it should, but it is just a big of a hormonal and emotional change as puberty. Now I’m not suggesting that we allow women who are going to menopause to behave badly, but I am suggesting that we extend them a nurturing hand, be sensitive to their changing needs, and to acknowledge them. It has been my experience that when people are in flux such as this, or struggling with a private challenge, all the really want is to be seen. To be seen, listened to and maybe to be held. That was all I wanted.

Moving forward, I have found my fertility again in my yoga practice, in my work, and in the eyes of the little girls who take my Strong Girls Yoga classes with me on Sundays. I see my feminine prowess reflected back to me in their faces, and my fertility in their bodies every time the learn a new pose that makes them feel empowered. Then there is Griffin, by beautiful six-year old, for whom I feel so very very grateful. Tending to his needs and the development of his spirit is the ultimate expression of my femininity, the very epitome of motherhood.

The practice of gratitude is always fruitful. It may sound cliche but my girlfriend and co-teacher, Ieva and I have been making daily gratitude lists. It’s a beautiful and grounding way to being and end ones day. Life will continue to have its ups and downs, but we can grow that which we put our focus on – so write a list. What do you want to cultivate? Maybe it’s a deeper sense of femininity, maybe it’s abundance, or love. Whatever it is, look at the many ways, even if they’re small, that these things are already circulating around you. Be grateful.

Lastly, if you’re really missing your ovaries and uterus, you can order this panties… 😉

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Insomnia and Perseverance

Team Tasha Vinyasa

I wake up now, multiple times a night, usually soaked in sweat. Sometimes I wake at 1am, or 2am and go back to sleep, but typically I can’t. Or I don’t for hours and then I do; passing out just 30 to 45 minutes before my 5am alarm rings. I’m not complaining so much as stating the facts. I used to toss and turn, and roll around in bed, but now I know better. Now I get up and try to be productive. I try to think POSITIVE thoughts, and put them to good use. It doesn’t always work, but like yoga, it’s a practice.  This morning, I knew laying in bed any longer would do the opposite. The itchy, restless, burning sensations in my bones, the hyper-sensitiving and anxiety was impossible to quell.

I got up. It was the only option.positive thinking

I shifted to my side, and picked up my phone, mostly to see how many hour of sleep I had manage to collect,  when I noticed a steady stream of email notifications. “Congratulations” they said, “you have received another donation”…. In a rush of excitement I jumped out of bed and into my office.

I reached my $7,500 fundraising goal yesterday evening around 9pm, which in itself was hugely exciting, but over night – more donations came pouring in. $5, $25, $50, $100, and then – $1,000…

Amazing.

YSC Tour de Pink Fundraising progress

When I read the emails and checked the status of my fundraising page, tears welled up in my eyes. It’s been a tough week for me, personally, with the date of my hysterectomy and oophorectomy looming on the horizon, and I am just exhausted from the culmination of a SUP Yoga season fraught with equipment and scheduling issues, and parenting challenges, so it doesn’t take much to make me weepy these days. These tears, however, were tears of joy.
It makes me feel indescribably good to help others. To know that these donations for the Young Survivors Coalition, will help other young women, like myself, battling through the process of breast cancer treatment, makes me feel useful and connected to my cancer community, and gives me a deeper sense of purpose. The overnight donations have pushed me onto the fundraiser leaderboard, and much closer to the next fundraising goal of $10,000 then I ever thought I would get. I’m on such a roll now, I can’t help but set the bar even higher.

So I’m bumping my goal all the way up to $10k.

The purpose is two-fold: the money raised continues to be the primary objective, the campaign, however, is a personal project, and a much needed distraction. In three weeks, I am returning to MGH for more cancer-related surgery. I am anxious and scared. Because I am a rape and child abuse survivor, thinking about the bodily location of the surgery and the fact that I will be unconscious, on an O.R. table, with a team of strangers moving organs out my body through my vagina, makes my heart race.

I’m not sure, unless you have been victimized in the same way as I was, that it’s possible to understand the PTSD that is triggered by these thoughts of helplessness and exposure. I don’t know that you fear being sedated and strapped down to a table as much as I have, unless you too have been pinned down in the middle of the night, and had your legs spread apart.

#nevergiveup

rape, cancer, it doesn’t matter – we never give up.

I have tried to describe the psychological stressors, to my partner and friends that make this surgery so much scarier than my double mastectomy, but I’m not sure they relate, or understand. Some times it feels like I have been talking and writing about my personal struggles for so long now, that the significance of this particular chapter of my trauma, or the gravity of this operation, has diminished. Sometimes I get the feeling like their empathy has simply worn out. And you know what, I can’t really blame them. It’s been a long, painful narrative. I only hope it has also given others, who have gone through similar struggles, promise and encouragement t0 keep on keeping on. Because that’s what we do. We fall down, and we get back up.

So… back to fundraising it is.

Dear readers, if my cancer diaries have touched you, if you have been following my journey – the one that started in March 2013 – if I have inspired you in any way, please consider making a donation of any amount to my upcoming 200+ mile charity bike ride for young women with breast cancer. I need you. They need us. It is all one and the same.

Thank you for taking the time to hold some space for us cancer warriors and thank you for holding space for me.

~Caitlin

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 {My Cancer Story: The Beginning}

(Making the Breast Decision)

(Life After the Knife)

{How to Talk to Someone with Cancer)

(Let’s be Friends)

Just Add Water: Nantucket. Yoga, SUP and Nature Retreat

Nantucket Yoga, SUP and Nature Retreat: September 17th-20th, 2015

YOGASUPwatermarked_013_KatieKaizerPhotography

Escape to the beautiful island of Nantucket for an all-inclusive getaway. This retreat, which will be co-hosted by Caitlin Marcoux and Caroline Pope Peavy, will help you replenish your prana and nurture your sense of well-being. Deepen your connection to yourself and the natural beauty of Nantucket, with 2 daily

yoga and SUP yoga practices, nature hikes with Nantucket Walkabout, a guided bike tour with Nantucket by Bike, and a paddle tour of Nantucket’s stunning harbor. Enjoy historic downtown Nantucket, bike to some of the most incredible beaches on the east coast, and enjoy the local music scene at the world-famous Cisco Brewery. With a thoughtful balance of outdoor adventure as well as down time to simply relax pool side, this retreat has something for everyone.

Nantucket Harbor by Katie KaizerCaitlin & Caroline have a combined 12 years of yoga teaching experience, and have been yoga besties since meeting at a Kathryn Budig workshop at Kripalu in 2010. Together they will offer a full-spectrum practice, both solar and lunar in nature, with the intention of helping you find a deeper sense of equanimity throughout mind, body and spirit. Practices will be appropriate for all levels, and will address the needs and wants of the group. You can read Caitlin’s yoga bio here, and Caroline’s here.

Just Add Water: Nantucket will be capped at 12 participants to ensure that each student receives individualized attention, plenty of hands-on assists and the most detailed yoga and paddle instruction.

We hope with this miticulously-crafted retreat, introduce you to the natural beauty of the island Caitlin calls home, to deep your yoga practice, demystify the burgeoning art of standup paddle yoga, and highlight some of the other special people and services Nantucket has to offer.

ITINERARY

Thursday:

11:30-12:30 Students arrive
1:00pm Catered organic, vegetarian lunch at our private home Oasis
2:00pm Nature Hike with Walkabout Nantucket
4:00-5:30pm Yoga with Caroline
5:30-6:30pm Yoga Nidra with a special guest teacher
7:00pm Catered Organic vegetarian dinner at the Oasis
8:00pm Reflections, journaling and setting intentions for the weekend

 Friday:

6:30-7:30am Breakfast-granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, bread, coffee and tea
8:00-9:30am Fluid Flow SUPYoga with Paddle Nantucket
10:00-11:30am Yoga with Caroline
12:00pm Catered organic, vegetarian lunch at our private home Oasis
1:00-3:00pm Free time to bike into town, or out to the Madaket beaches
3:30-5:00pm Yoga with Caitlin
5:30-6:30pm Sunset Paddle with Caitlin
7:30pm Catered Organic vegetarian dinner at the Oasis

Saturday:

7:00-8:00am Breakfast-granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, bread, coffee and tea
8:00-9:30am Fluid Flow SUPYoga with Caitlin
10:00-11:30am Yoga with Caroline
12:00pm Catered organic, vegetarian lunch at our private home Oasis
2:00-4:00pm Bike tour to Cisco Brewery with Nantucket by Bike
4-6:00pm return to the Oasis via taxi, or stay at the Brewery to enjoy more live music and local color
7:00pm Happy Hour: relax, unwind, meditate, get a massage – we will arrange for you at request
7:30pm Dinner on the town. We will endeavor to go out as a group to one of Nantucket’s many stellar restaurants. (this is the only meal not included in the retreat price)

Sunday:

7:00-8:00am Breakfast-granola, yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee and tea
9-10:15am Yoga with Caitlin at The Yoga Room
11-12pm Catered organic, vegetarian lunch at our private home Oasis
 12-2pm  Departures

Traveling to and from Nantucket:

The island of Nantucket, which is 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, is an adventure in and of itself. There are daily flights from Boston as well as the much closer, and smaller airport of Barnstable, on the Cape.

Nantucket can also be reached by boat. There are two ferry services from Hyannis, MA: the Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises. Both services offer traditional slow boats, and high speed catamaran shuttles.

For Info on all things Nantucket:

Rates below include all activities, 8 catered meals, and accommodation for 4 days and 3 nights

4 Stunning single rooms with Queen size beds: $1,300

1 Double with 2 Twin beds: $1,00 per person

1 Quad with 4 Twin beds: $900 per person

1 Deluxe King for 2 people: $1,200 per person

More about the Oasis:

Enjoy all the amenities of an exclusive boutique hotel without the hassle. Our retreat will base itself out of a stunning in-Town compound featuring a bright and airy pool cabana, gorgeous pool, and meticulously landscaped half acre lot, less than .2 miles to Main Street, downtown Nantucket.

First Floor: Pull into your white shelled, spacious parking and enter through covered porch. Upon entering you are greeted by gorgeous open floor plan that leads out to the spectacular pool and outdoor spaces. Top of the line kitchen – marble counters with matching island that has bar seating, custom cabinets and high-end appliances. Living room centers on the gas fireplace with flat screen TV above, coffered ceilings and French doors to back deck and pool. Dining room has seating for at least 8. Off of the great room is a comfortable den/office with two walls of all windows. Beyond the great room is the luxurious master bedroom which has vaulted ceilings with fan, ship lap trim, French doors to pool area, walk-in closet with custom shelving and marble bathroom with double vanity and walk-in shower. Opposite the great room is the mudroom entrance with separate laundry including sink and folding table. Powder room.

Second Floor: Enter onto vaulted ceiling landing. Second floor master bedroom with cathedral ceilings with fan, ship lap trim and beautiful Carrera tile bath with double vanity, glassed shower and soaking tub. Second bedroom with cathedral ceilings with fan, vertical ship lap and earth toned tile bath with glassed shower. Third bedroom with cathedral ceilings and fun, blue tiled bath with glassed shower.

Basement: Luxuriously finished with 9’6″ ceiling heights. Large media room with built-in TV and shelving. Ping pong, wet bar and wine storage off of the media room. Bedroom with multiple windows. Workout room. Tiled bath. Utility room. Exterior entrance.

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We are thrilled to partner with these local friends

The Green logoNantucket Walkabout LogoCrane & Lion Logo