Get a Good Diagnosis!

I have been waiting to tell you all this story for many months but needed to wait for the conclusion.  I wanted to report a happy ending!  It’s a personal story.  If you’ve watched the video of my story then you know that I invented She*Pak out of my own chronic vaginitis issues.  I have not had a yeast infection in many, many years with the things I have learned, but fell prey to one last September 2016.  I had a series of health issues where I ended up on 3 different antibiotics in the span of 6 weeks.  Yes, I then got a yeast infection.

This yeast infection was so bad that I my own invention gave me such short term relief (when it used to “nip it in the bud” and get me long lasting relief).  It was so bad that the over the counter yeast infection medication burned so badly for hours that I had to cleanse it out of me.  This one was one of the worst I have ever had.

In October, I went to my OB/Gyn department, saw a nurse practitioner, and got a prescription for diflucan (fluconazole), an oral anti-fungal. Many women respond to one dose followed by one more dose.  She tested my vaginal pH, which was at a good level, so that wasn’t off.  I had an initial response to the medication but it all came back.

In early November, I went back and saw an MD in my OB/Gyn department, and he prescribed a month long regimen of the diflucan.  I took a dose ever other day for 1 week followed by one dose once a week.  I got 30% better.  I was able to tolerate a round of the OTC yeast infection medication.  Then I got worse.

In December, I had had enough!  While I used She*Pak for some temporary relief, I was getting mad that none of what “they” told me to do was working.  I resorted to douching with various solutions, which I know is a “no, no” but it got me some relief.   I tried inoculating my vagina with healthy bacteria by applying some plain yogurt there.  Maybe at best I was down to 50% better. But it was the holiday season and I didn’t want to make the time to go.

In January, I came across some educational paper work from one of my urgent care visits in September, and at the bottom there was a recommendation for using boric acid pills for both bacterial and yeast infections and odor.  I found it online and there was actually some good research published to support this.  I ordered it off of Amazon.  Again, a little bit better but still feeling raw and itchy.  I was so hopeful for this to work for me, but again, not any better in a way that “stuck.”

Late January, I saw another NP in my OB/Gyn department, and this time she did some further tests that they don’t necessarily need to run on folks.  These tests revealed that I had both a yeast infection AND a bacterial infection that PROMOTES the yeast infection!  The sneaky bacteria that help the yeast in this case is gardnerella vaginalis.   I had only ever had one side of the equation treated at any one time!  She placed me on antibiotics and a 6 month fluconazole course.  She said that I also qualified for a referral to the “vulvar pain clinic”.  What?  We have a vulvar pain clinc?!  Yes, please let me see them.  First let me say that the treatment worked and got ride of 60-75% of my symptoms.  I could tell that I wasn’t outright infected, but still had irritation and soreness, especially after sex. Second, the vulvar pain clinic was run by one of our OB/Gyn MDs and her specially trained nurses only two days per month.  For that reason, I couldn’t get in until early April.  Oh my goodness, the amount of “are you kidding me?” that went through my head.

I lurked with that last 25% through February, but in mid-March it increased back to 40% of my symptoms.  I got nervous that I was infected again, and saw any available OB/Gyn MD.  In her exam she felt that I didn’t look infected, but she ran tests to be sure.  They were negative.  She felt that my tissues had been through so much that they had thinned and were more sensitive than usual.  She gave me a list of new do’s and don’t’s.

  • No soap for me anywhere near my vagina.  None used on my partner’s penis.
  • No douching, of course.
  • No shaving with a razor.  Clippers allowed.
  • No shaving cream.
  • Do apply a small amount of plain yogurt
  • No sex for two weeks
  • Sleep without bottoms on

I did them and wow!  My symptoms were so much less and felt different!  Yes, there was some slight irritation left but this was noticeably different.

I finally make it to the specialized OB/Gyn MD in April.  Phew!  This MD could see that I still had some irritation.  She ran even more specialized tests, and thankfully I had no infections going on.  I got a whole education in vaginal hygiene from her and her nurse.  She confirmed that while the active infections were gone, the tissues were thinned and needed to build.  They explained how soaps, detergents, shaving creams, and perfumes irritate the internal and external genitalia.  I will share the further list of things to do for vaginal hygiene in my next blog, but know that I am now symptom free and able to have sex without any other issues!

I made it!

What did I learn?  What do I want women out there to know?

  • Keep pushing for further testing and a good diagnosis.  If you don’t get relief from the first or second interaction with your professional, and you are falling outside the “norm,” see if your health system or clinic has a specialist for this.  Whether you have an infection, or other chronic vaginal or vulvar pain issue, ask for someone in the practice or for a referral outside the practice for chronic issues.
  • Know that not all OB/Gyn professionals are trained in chronic vaginal pain and irritation.  I know that sounds weird, but the field is actually large, and many focus more on obstetrics, than understand pudenal nerve inflammation, clitorodynia, vulvodynia, vestibulodynia, etc.
  • There is a whole environment in the vagina of good bacteria (and who knows what else) that is normal and keeps yeast in check.  Some bacteria, like STI’s, are bad.  But I never knew that there is a sneaky bacteria that promotes yeast infections, out there, and you need to treat both sides of the equation, if you test positive for it.
  • You may need to change your vaginal hygiene habits for a period of time to let the tissue rebuild in order to be free of all irritation, and feel good after sex.  I will talk about these habits in my next blog post!
  • While I did use She*Pak throughout this process, (and yes, I disinfected it to be sure not to reinoculate myself), if symptoms don’t go away, we need to seek medical care.  She*Pak is about relief and management of symptoms.  It is a useful tool as part of a whole treatment plan, but it is not a cure.

I hope this helps someone out there.  Here’s to happier vaginas!

~Pam

If Your Vagina Is Unhappy, Do These Two Things

In having tables and booths at networking events and public expos, and learning more about the complex environment of the vagina, I have changed and adjusted my message. As a PT and Certified Wound Specialist, I am all about tissue repair, but few are talking about what to do and how to treat your vagina and nearby structures when it is “off kilter.” Well, I am! I am in interested in non-pharmaceutical options to restore health here, when safe to do so.

There are lots of reasons your vagina could be unhappy, where it burns, itches, is swollen, is painful, and/or throbbing. You will still need a medical assessment (if you don’t know what’s going on) but in the meantime,try these two things.

(1) Cool inflamed tissues with a She*Pak, and since it inserts more easily with lubricant, by all means, use lube that doesn’t cause further harm. (2) Use a healthy lubricant. What do I mean by saying healthy lubricant? One that doesn’t make your symptoms worse, thin your tissues, cause bacterial overgrowth, or change the pH for the worse. The big brands that are available are actually bad for the vagina. In fact, I have learned that the lubricant I put in my kits is bad. Throw it out!

You’ll hear me say this over and over, ice decreases inflammation and will get you immediate relief. It really works! You will feel better. When you do have symptoms, you’ll want She*Pak to go in with ease, so you’ll need to select a lubricant.

Now the questions is “How do I figure out what is healthy lubricant”? Stay tuned as I post content on how to find one right for you with smart help from Sarah Mueller (Smitten Kitten, Minneapolis, MN), my personal lubricant expert! And I will get you a 10% discount on whichever one you select!

To happy, healthy, and functional vaginas!

Pam

Getting on Amazon – Not so easy! Lessons learned.

We are now selling on Amazon!  But I have to say the journey was a long, hard two months!    Here are my lessons learned, so hopefully other entrepreneurs can benefit.

I found signing up to be a seller on Amazon very easy, but it was using the Add a Product tool that was cumbersome and not the best user interface, in my opinion.  I spent hours trying to get through all the pages with someone from Amazon on the phone with me.  The foreign call center people seemed to answer questions other than the one I was asking, and put me on hold a lot.  It took a long time to load pages or get around not having a UPC code.  I had to come up with other unique qualifiers that the system didn’t accept.  I went in circles.

Whenever, I meet THAT much resistance and get so mad that I nearly want to cry, I remind myself that there is another path to take.  When life gives you a lot of resistance, go a different way.  Find another route.  Or at least STOP.  At the same time I am getting no where adding a product to Amazon, my printers are not working and my tablet-pc and laptop won’t even talk to the BRAND NEW printer I just purchased.  I couldn’t get printer drivers to download even in 20 minutes, and they are usually pretty small files.  There was definitely a black cloud with a message hanging over me, but what was the message?

“Double check your internet service and speeds!”  A friend in the IT industry who was listening to my woes felt that in the background of all my problems, like getting product pictures uploaded to Amazon and getting all my devices to communicate, I needed to check my internet service.  He advised speedtest.net.  It is free and fast.  I was getting download speeds of 1.4 mb/s and upload of 1.3 mb/s.  I thought I had high speed internet with my condo association deal, but I was not.  I thought I had a reasonable package, but I did not.  The company I was using was not capable of delivering anything faster, so I searched for other services that had cabling in my building, and got a simple home package of 50 mb/s.  While there are plenty of even faster packages, this has been such a dramatic upgrade!  Moving through the Amazon tool was much faster, and I got the benefit of wireless printing through the new modem.  I was able to upload drivers and get all my devices talking to each other.  In my journey to getting on Amazon, I learned what I didn’t know — that it was time to upgrade my internet  to do better business.  I carried that theme forward into a few other areas, too.  I upgraded some other services and devices to make sure doing business and my life were set up for success.

The second piece I took a look at was my belief that it was a long process to get a UPC code.  I kept going in circles with Amazon trying to identify my product with a number. They do offer you other options, but they require approvals, waiting, and I still got declined. So I researched getting UPC bar codes again.  What was I thinking?!   It is really easy to get a UPC code where you don’t even have to register your product information.  You just buy that unique code, and get certificates and files.  I used speedybarcodes.com.  Within minutes, and for very little money, I had a unique bar code, with appropriate documentation.  They even offered to print labels for a small fee.  While larger companies buy their own bar code label makers, this service was great as a little start up business just to get going.  I wish someone at the Amazon customer service center had just told me this!  “It is far less hassle to Add a Product if you have a UPC number/bar code, Miss Pamela, and it is really easy to do.”  I guess life wanted me to learn on my own.

Another unique difficulty for She*Pak is being a product in the Health and Wellness category.  Entrepreneurs should allow for more time if your product falls into this category. What’s great to know as a buyer on Amazon is that these extra steps for approval ensures that products sold in this category go through extra rigor, making sure that products are clean, safe, and legitimate. For She*Pak it took about two weeks for approval.  One of the extra steps I had to do was upload copies to Amazon of invoices from my vendors that I used to make the device and do business thus far.  At this point I hadn’t gotten my scanner/printer/fax working yet, so there was a little extra fun involved.

My final insight to share is the most difficult for me.  I am the person that wants to do the right thing by people, and not get people in trouble or be mean.  My experience with the foreign call center with Amazon was that I could get a great representative on the phone, or a not so great one.  Some of the not so great ones had excellent, polite, polished statements ready to say to me, but didn’t seem to understand my questions.  I am embarrassed, admitting to my anger, but when I get an answer that seems totally out of context to my question, I get really frustrated.   “Aren’t you listening to me?”  It somehow feels like a tactic to put me off, when it is probably just a language comprehension issue.  After being on the phone for about 90 minutes with one person, I just hung up.  I said to myself, “She wins.”  I went to the gym crying and with a short fuse.  I pounded the stairs and threw a bunch of weights around.  I felt better, but then I got sage advice from a buddy there. Many of you would have the personality to do this sooner than I, but I got coaching that in those not so great calls, to just ask for a supervisor, or someone from the United States who will understand my version of English better.  This is out of my comfort zone because then it might say that I have prejudices or not be ethnically tolerant.  I love people, different cultures, and diversity, but I decided to look at it as the person on the other end of the call just hasn’t had a level of training and development that can serve me at this time.  Don’t be like me and feel like you are stuck with the person you got.  Get someone else, politely, but don’t wait to get as mad as I did.  It serves no one to feel trapped and to waste time.

Once I got my internet service upgraded, my technology working, and my UPC code, I had a lovely person from Amazon stay on the phone with me until my Add a Product information was accepted.  The next few days I learned how to ship product to Amazon, which shipments centers they want me to use, and how many She*Paks they wanted going to each center.  She*Pak is now available for sale on Amazon!  Just search “shepak.”

Other entrepreneurs know this better than I:  We don’t have the luxury of wasting time blaming others, because we have to create results.  Creating results means creating solutions.  When I met all the resistance, I had to ask, “Where am I responsible?  What do I need to look at?  What might I be doing or believing wrongly?”  It’s not to say that Amazon shouldn’t have done better, but I don’t have control over them, and they don’t have to report to my investors.  I have control over me.  And guess what, I did need to do better, and to do things differently!

I Can’t Believe It!

This day is finally here.  After 10 years of battling with the patent office, going through prototyping, manufacturing, finding investors, and following a vision, She*Pak is going to market!
I am a clinician. I am not a business major, nor someone with means and money handed to her.  Following this idea to market has been scary, challenging, and down right frustrating at times.  I have been excited, mad, dejected, and inspired.  I have cried, yelled, smiled, and laughed in the process.  I have worked and taught full time.  This was not easy.
I could not have done it without a battery of friends, family, investors, and awesome consultants.  I have really been fortunate to find and work with so much talent and intelligence from different backgrounds and through different connections, that I am made humble.  How did I get so lucky?  The hearts that buoyed me up, saw me through,or gave me a swift kick in the rear count just as much!
Thank you, thank you, thank you all!
While I selfishly think that She*Pak is a great idea which gives me relief, it is also a service project.  I am not kidding.  I think women all over the world deserve better and upgraded ideas for treating vaginal and labial symptoms.  I joke that if men dealt with all the stuff that women do “down there,” there would already be 10 products and 5 companies out there providing quick relief and cures.  I really do hope that this product makes a difference for women, and changes how we care for these tissues.
So here we go!  This is where the rubber meets the road!  We have made it to market and She*Pak is available for sale.  This is no longer just a good idea.  This is a real product being sold by MY company.  (Holy cow, I own a real company!)
Will we sink or swim?  Will we make a profitable business out of this?  Will the next round of funding be needed or found?  Did Target, CVS, Walgreens start carrying She*Pak?  Will we be so crazy successful that Johnson & Johnson or a Kimberly Clark, P&G buy us out?
Let’s see!  Follow my blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account!
With gratitude,
Pam