It seems like society at times focuses exclusively on young women. That can be hard when you’re going through the menopausal transition. While menopause is often a time to recalibrate your life, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your dreams and close down your zest for life. I increasingly am finding that there are some really great role models who either came into their own later in life or continued to have an amazing journey throughout their life.
Here are some women you may have heard about – and one you might not recognize -- but all have lessons to teach menopausal women. Here goes:
- Valerie Harper. I was a big fan of Mary Tyler Moore Show, and one of the big reasons was her friendship with Rhoda Morgenstern, who was played by Valerie Harper. I continued to see Harper’s name pop up periodically in movies and television series over the years, but I was sad to see her announcement recently that she has been diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a type of cancer found in the meninges, which is a membrane layer that surrounds the brain. "I have a type of cancer that is incurable, but what's happened is in these past months each brain scan successively looks better. By that, there's less cancer present," Harper, now 74 years old, told USA Today. Throughout it all, she has chosen to live life to its fullest. Now Harper is participating in Dancing with the Stars at the urging of her husband, who sold her she should “because you have cancer, that’s why. Because you have it and because it has not stopped you and because your doctors say it’s fine.” I hadn’t been an avid Dancing with the Stars viewer, but decided to watch this season partly because of Harper. She is proving to be such an inspiration for so many, including the professional dancers that are part of the show.
- Diana Nyad. The endurance swimmer recently became the first person to swim the 100 miles between Cuba and Florida without a shark cage. Nyad, who is 64 years of age, was quoted as saying she felt stronger than ever while completing this swim, which she had tried several times before. “Now, I’m more like a Clydesdale: I’m a little thicker and stronger – literally stronger, I can lift more weights," she said. "I feel like I could walk through a brick wall….I think I’m truly dead center in the prime of my life at 64.”
- Harriet Doerr. Doerr, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 92, was the granddaughter of a California railroad magnate and a noted collector of art and rare books. She left college early in order to get married and had two children. She and her family moved to Mexico where her husband ran a mine before dying of leukemia in 1972. Following his death, Doerr, at the age of 62, returned to California and finish her degree at Stanford. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in European history. She started writing while at Stanford and received a fellowship in 1979 (when she was 69 years of age). Doerr published her first novel, Stones for Ibarra, in 1984 at the age of 74, for which she won National Book Award fin the category of First Work of Fiction. Her second novel, Consider This, Senor, was published in 1993, followed by a collection of short stories and essays, Tiger in the Grass: Stories and Other Inventions in 1995.
These women offer great examples of how menopausal women can continue to thrive during their lives. Just listen to Dr. Michael J. Joyner, an anesthesiologist and exercise researcher at Mayo Clinic, who offered a great take when describing Nyad's quest that can be used as a lesson for all middle-age women. “If you start with a high capacity, you have some reserves," he said. "You can lose some absolute power, but what you lose in power you can make up for with experience and strategy and better preparation.”