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Breast cancer survivor opens up about vaginal issues post-mastectomy

A breast cancer survivor is speaking out about the ‘guilt and shame’ she felt after suffering from vaginal issues as a result of her mastectomy. 

Meryl Kern, 63, was diagnosed with the disease in September 2014, and underwent a mastectomy as part of her treatment, which has now left her cancer free. However, she admits that, while the mastectomy helped her to battle the illness, it left her with a slew of other issues. 

‘I was really suffering with vaginal dryness and pain after my mastectomy,’ the LA-based businesswoman, who had only recently married her husband Russell at the time of her treatment, told DailyMail.com. ‘[Then] I was pushed into menopause and everything went downhill from there! 

Businesswoman: Breast cancer survivor Meryl Kern has detailed the impact her treatment had on her sex life and her pelvic floor health, explaining it left her with dryness and pain

Pushing ahead: The grandmother of two, pictured during her chemotherapy, says she felt 'shame and guilt' as a result of the intimate issues she suffered post-mastectomy

Pushing ahead: The grandmother of two, pictured during her chemotherapy, says she felt ‘shame and guilt’ as a result of the intimate issues she suffered post-mastectomy 

‘I was a newlywed, and the woman my husband married was no longer that same woman. I felt guilty, and I felt less of the woman I once was.’

Thankfully, Meryl, who is a grandmother of two, was in the hands of an experienced oncologist, who she says was ‘knowledgeable in that category’ and was therefore able to provide her with a solution. She is aware however that she is one of the lucky few to have been in such a position. 

‘Just imagine all the women who are suffering in silence that have no idea a solution is out there,’ she said. 

It was this struggle that inspired Meryl to launch her latest venture: Liftique Blush, a surgery-free treatment for pelvic floor issues that include everything from vaginal dryness to bladder weakness to the appearance of a woman’s genitals. The brand is the latest branch of Meryl’s popular Beverly Hills-based skin-tightening company Liftique, which was founded after her cancer battle in an attempt to help women of all ages and backgrounds feel and look their best. 

And while company originally focused on the face and body – using FDA-approved radiofrequency technologies to provide a surgery-free treatment that rejuvenates the skin, helping to increase elastin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines. 

This same technology, which Meryl was introduced to by her friend, plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Applebaum, is now being applied to a more intimate area through Liftique Blush. 

However the mission statement of the company remains the same – to help women, particularly those suffering with illness or low self esteem – to build up their self-confidence, particularly when it comes to taboo topics like vaginal dryness, which Meryl is eager to encourage women to start facing head on, rather than simply ‘suffering in silence’ as so many do. 

‘Liftique Blush is so important to me because it is providing women to conquer the stigma that is associated with vaginal and incontinence issues,’ she explained. 

‘Vagina is not a four-letter word! My goal is to educate women, provide a safe and private place to open up and get the treatment they need!’   

Support system: Meryl had only just married second husband Russell (pictured) when she was diagnosed, and she felt guilty she was no longer the 'sexual dynamo' she was when they wed

Support system: Meryl had only just married second husband Russell (pictured) when she was diagnosed, and she felt guilty she was no longer the ‘sexual dynamo’ she was when they wed

Meryl is eager to help women feel more comfortable about being open and honest about issues like incontinence and dryness, in the same way that people will discuss the use of Viagra and other treatments for erectile dysfunction in men.

The businesswoman, who enjoyed a long career in advertising before her diagnosis, admits that she suffered with huge amounts of ‘guilt and shame’ as a result of her own intimate problems – particularly because she had only just remarried, and felt as though she was letting her husband down in some way.  

‘I want women to embrace their inner vagina,’ she said. ‘We hear so much about men’s issues with ED but mention the word vagina, and everyone freezes.

‘I can’t speak for all women but I know the guilt and shame I felt because of my vaginal atrophy, and let’s not forget leaking when we laugh or… any woman can fill in the blank here! It’s embarrassing! 

I felt guilt and shame because of my vaginal atrophy… and let’s not forget leaking! 

‘I used to be sexual dynamo… now, not so much! But that’s okay. I’m okay because now we have the technology, libido offerings and new devices to correct pelvic floor health issues allowing women to be open and honest. No surgery necessary!

‘I always knew I wanted a 360 approach to women’s health and beauty issues. And I was passionate to allow women to make the choice to look and feel better without judgment. When women look good on the outside and their body is working “down below” it helps them to regain the self-confidence that tends to diminish as we age.’ 

Although Liftique Blush is her latest focus, it is certainly not the first venture that Meryl has started as a result of her own cancer battle, and the variety of issues she faced in the wake of her treatment – both in terms of pelvic floor health, and her own self-confidence.  

‘My cancer was estrogen positive, so it is mandatory that I take an estrogen blocker to prevent reoccurrence,’ she explained. ‘Let me just say it wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. Beauty and sexuality are particularly challenging for women because of the relationship between estrogen and breast cancer.’

In order to boost her own motivation, Meryl says she would always make sure she had makeup and a wig on when she went in for her treatment, because it made her feel better – and provided her with a feeling of control at a time when almost everything else in her life was somewhat unknown. 

Helping hand: As a result of her own issues, Meryl was inspired to found Liftique Blush, which offers nonsurgical treatments for pelvic floor issues, like dryness and incontinence

Helping hand: As a result of her own issues, Meryl was inspired to found Liftique Blush, which offers nonsurgical treatments for pelvic floor issues, like dryness and incontinence

Helping hand: As a result of her own issues, Meryl was inspired to found Liftique Blush, which offers nonsurgical treatments for pelvic floor issues, like dryness and incontinence

Staying strong: Meryl, pictured with her daughter, says she would wear makeup and a glam outfit when she went in for treatment, because it helped her feel more confident and in control

Staying strong: Meryl, pictured with her daughter, says she would wear makeup and a glam outfit when she went in for treatment, because it helped her feel more confident and in control

‘I have never claimed to be a psychologist but physiology truly comes into play when dealing with “looking good and feeling good”,’ she said. 

‘When I went in for my chemo, I made sure my makeup was applied, my wig was on and I was dressed beautifully, high heels and all! It was the only thing I could control, and it made me feel better. 

‘When I was done with my chemo, and radiation I felt and looked pretty bad [and so] I hid from the world. But you can only hide for so long! 

‘I believe when we look in the mirror and like what we see, we present that out to the world. It’s like having a great hair day!

‘People think that when your chemo is finished life resumes and everything is back to normal. That is the farthest from the truth. I am four years out and I still don’t feel like myself.’

 I want women to embrace their inner vagina

It was that feeling, and a desire to help any other women like herself, that inspired Meryl to launch Liftique. Through the company, which now boasts a team of Board Certified Urogynecologists as well as plastic surgeons, the businesswoman set out to aid fellow cancer survivors and make their post-chemo struggles all the more easy to deal with. 

And it isn’t just cancer survivors who Meryl wants to help; the grandmother-of-two, who was divorced from the father of her daughter for 25 years before meeting her current husband Russell, says she hopes that Liftique will help all women to end their ‘silent suffering’ about all kinds of intimate issues – everything from sagging skin to the appearance of their vagina.  

‘Liftique was created from my passion to help end women’s silent suffering about these very intimate medical conditions, and to be confident in their choices to look and feel good,’ she explained. ‘I wanted a bigger platform. Liftique is that platform!’ 

Meryl was first introduced to the radiofrequency techniques that Liftique was ultimately built on by Dr. Applebaum, who knew that she was seeking new skin renewal technologies for breast cancer survivors, because for many, hormone replacement therapy – which is used in a lot of cases – is not an option.  

She was also keen to find non-surgical cosmetic treatments because when she was done with her mastectomy and follow-up reconstructive surgeries, she wasn’t keen to go under the knife again any time soon. 

‘I’m done with surgery – I’ve had five reconstructive surgeries,’ she explained to the BH Courier. 

In Liftique, she found what she sees as the perfect alternative: a nonsurgical treatment that leaves patients looking younger, without having to undergo any kind of operation. Instead, the procedure uses radiofrequency to rejuvenate the body’s natural elastin and collagen, while also boosting the skin’s natural healing processes.   

Look good, feel good! The businesswoman originally founded skin-tightening brand Liftique to women nonsurgical anti-aging options. She's pictured before the procedure

Look good, feel good! The businesswoman originally founded skin-tightening brand Liftique to women nonsurgical anti-aging options. She's picturedafter the procedure

Look good, feel good! The businesswoman originally founded skin-tightening brand Liftique to women nonsurgical anti-aging options. She’s pictured left before and right after the procedure

‘Collagen and Elastin are our best friends, but as we age, we lose these very important proteins that keep our skin looking firm and smooth,’ she explained. 

‘And I believe women want more of a natural look when it comes to their faces. The technology we use actually tightens the skin and gives a more refreshed look. Tighter skin is the most talked about issue with women. Who doesn’t want a tighter or more firm neck or jaw area!’ 

That isn’t to say that Meryl believes every woman ‘should’ or ‘needs’ to undergo any kind of treatment as they age – in fact she insists quite the opposite. However she wanted to give those women who are eager to embrace anti-aging techniques an option away from the operating table. 

‘I want women to know that they have choices,’ she said. ‘Some women want to age gracefully, some want a procedure that is less invasive, and some want or need something more surgical. 

‘Liftique doesn’t tell women they have to look 20 years younger, but we believe that all women can look and feel better at the age they are! Why not be the best version of yourself?

‘My goal is to provide women the knowledge and the minimally invasive choices that Liftique provides. Aging gracefully means different things to different people, and I would never encourage any woman to do something that doesn’t align with their beliefs or desires. Empowerment is about choices and letting women decide what is best for them. 

‘Liftique Beauty, Liftique Body and Liftique Blush – is the first and only integrated Plastic Surgery and Urogynecology practice in the USA. We have created a personal, caring touch for all women who need support and solutions, who can talk openly and honestly in a safe environment while providing education and conversation.

‘We make sure we have the latest and greatest technology in order to provide a natural look, a more radiant look and to feel confident and live well at the age they are!

‘I never thought that I would be doing this after cancer, but I’m so happy to be a part of something that I believe empowers women to embrace survivorship and life, whatever their personal circumstance, looking natural and feeling good about who they are and confident about life ahead. I’m 63 years old and I wouldn’t change my age for anything!’ 

Time to start using anti-aging skincare? Try these products

SPF

A good daily sunscreen is a key part of maintaining your skin’s overall health, as well as its youthful appearance. Whether or not you live in a tropical, sunny climate, you should always protect your skin against the sun’s UV rays. 

And yes, that includes the cold winter months when you feel like you haven’t seen sun in years. Just because you aren’t walking around in a bathing suit and soaking up the rays doesn’t mean your skin isn’t being damaged by UV rays. 

Your SPF should be the final step of your morning skincare routine every day, after you’ve applied a moisturizer and/or face oil. 

RETINOL 

Retinol, which can also be referred to as Vitamin A, is perhaps one of the most-used – and yet often most confusing – anti-aging products. 

When used correctly, retinol can have a myriad of benefits for the skin, from preventing wrinkles and fading dark spots to brightening dull skin and treating acne. 

The key thing when choosing a retinol is to ensure that you are picking the right strength for your skin, and that you are incorporating it into your skincare routine in a way that will truly benefit your complexion. 

Key points to keep in mind: if you are new to the retinol game, think about using a weaker-strength product to begin with, and see how your skin adapts to it. Also ensure that you don’t start off by using too much too fast. Take your time to build up to more regular use – and start off by working with a weaker product once a week. 

It’s also essential that you don’t skip on SPF while using a retinol (although really you shouldn’t be skipping on sunscreen at all!) because the Vitamin A makes skin more sensitive to UV rays.  

Ideal! Dermatologist Dr Sandra Lee - AKA Dr Pimple Popper - recommends the SLMD Retinol Serum ($40) for a number of reasons including preventing ageing, keeping pores clear, and improving skin's tone and texture

The Honest Beauty Honestly Pure Retinol Serum ($27.99) is will also help to reduce the signs of aging while hydrating the skin with hyaluronic acid

High achievers: SLMD Retinol Serum (left, $40), Honest Beauty Honestly Pure Retinol Serum (right, $27.99)

EYE CREAM 

Eye cream is something that you can incorporate into your skincare routine from a younger age – long before you think about anti-aging in a serious way – because it can be used to solve all kinds of skincare woes, from dark circles to puffiness. 

However, if you are ready to make a move into the anti-aging game, eye cream is to many an essential product in their line-up because the skin around the eyes tends to be much thinner, and can therefore show signs of aging earlier than anywhere else on the face. 

The Milk Makeup Cooling Water Eye Patches ($22) are ideal for anyone who suffers from early morning puffiness, or for anyone who is feeling a little bit tired and tiny-eyed. The patches contain calming lavender, de-puffing caffeine and soothing aloe, ensuring that your eyes feel big and bright, even if your brain doesn't...

OleHenriksen Banana Bright Eye Creme (right, $38) will work wonders on your eyes. Special pigments in the formula help to brighten the under eye area, while the vitamin C in the formula illuminates the eye area and helps to revive tired-looking peepers. Meanwhile the collagen in the formula helps to reduce signs of aging.

Cool off: Milk Makeup Cooling Water Eye Patches (left, $22), OleHenriksen Banana Bright Eye Creme ($38)

SERUM 

Much like eye cream, serums can be used for a number of different skin-based issues – not just anti-aging. If you’re dealing with acne, uneven texture, discoloration or dullness, there’s a serum for you out there in this wide skincare world. 

However, when it comes to aging, it’s all about picking a formula that will not only help to stave off fine lines and wrinkles, but can also support the rest of your skincare regimen in terms of tackling other issues. 

The SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic ($166) isn't the cheapest product out there - far from it - but as far as value for money goes, we think this serum really has got it down. The vitamin C-focused formula protects the skin from outside environmental factors while also brightening, tightening and reducing wrinkles and fine lines. Basically all you need in an anti-aging formula!

Then there is Edible Beauty's No. 3 Exotic Goddess Ageless Serum ($57), which is described as an 'age-reversing serum' that is 'supercharged with antioxidants, natural SPF, hyaluraonic acid and Australian wildcrafted ingredients', and its creators promise that it will quite literally turn back time, at least as far as your skin is concerned. Sounds too good to be true? Well actually, it isn't. And this is one face oil that actually

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic (left, $166), Edible Beauty’s No. 3 Exotic Goddess Ageless Serum (right, $57)

MOISTURIZER 

No matter what age you are, moisturizer is likely a key part of your skincare routine – if you have one, that is. 

But as you get older, it’s important to move away from moisturizers aimed at much younger skin and look at products that will help to firm and plump the skin, helping to prevent the most obvious signs of aging.  

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68)

Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream ($46)

Rich: Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream (left, $68), Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream (right, $46)

Something for everyone: The Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream ($58) is described as a 'decadent cream' that deeply nourishes the skin without leaving behind any greasiness. Filled with good fats to plump and moisturize the skin, it will leave you looking like you've had the best night's sleep - after chugging a few liters of water.

Something for everyone: The Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream ($58) is described as a ‘decadent cream’ that deeply nourishes the skin without leaving behind any greasiness. Filled with good fats to plump and moisturize the skin, it will leave you looking like you’ve had the best night’s sleep – after chugging a few liters of water.

The all-rounder: Eighteen B's Hydrate + Restore Rich Cream ($95) is formulated with B-silk protein that helps to improve the the skin's elasticity, while also working to reduce the appearance of existing lines and wrinkles.

The all-rounder: Eighteen B’s Hydrate + Restore Rich Cream ($95) is formulated with B-silk protein that helps to improve the the skin’s elasticity, while also working to reduce the appearance of existing lines and wrinkles. 

FACE OIL

One of the key aspects of anti-aging is hydration. 

And yes, you may well be getting plenty of that from your serums and your face creams, but why not go the extra mile and add an oil into your regimen? 

Not only can they help with anti-aging, they are also often targeted at other issues, including acne and brightness, so you can rest easy in the knowledge that they’re working hard to help ensure you have the most radiant complexion possible.  

If you suffer from dry or sensitive skin, the Herbivore Phoenix Cell Regenerating Facial Oil ($88) is the product for you. Formulated with natural ingredients, this face oil helps to hydrate dry skin while also working to plump up the complexion, and increase firmness.

When you're getting ready to catch some much-needed Z's however, turn to the Sunday Riley Luna Retinol Sleeping Night Oil ($105), contains a retinoid which helps to tackle signs of aging, while the blue tansy and chamomile in the formula soothes and calms the skin.

 Herbivore Phoenix Cell Regenerating Facial Oil (left, $88), Sunday Riley Luna Retinol Sleeping Night Oil (right, $105)

The L'Occitane Overnight Reset Oil-in- Serum ($59) is a bit more of a budget-friendly bargain, but that doesn't mean it isn't brilliant in its own right. Aimed at soothing and repairing the skin overnight while you sleep away the day's dramas, it promises to help you wake with fewer fine lines and wrinkles, while skin will feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

If you're not sure whether face oils are for you, the Snow Fox Skincare Herbal Youth Oil ($82) is a great place to start. Not only is the packaging beautiful, it also contains a beautifully lightweight formula that helps to nourish the skin without clogging the pores, or leaving skin feeling in anyway greasy. In addition to all that natural moisture and hydration, the formula also help to firm up the skin and repair any damage to the complexion.

 L’Occitane Overnight Reset Oil-in- Serum (left, $59), Snow Fox Skincare Herbal Youth Oil (right, $82)

Right and tight! The best DIY neck-tightening treatments revealed

PRAI Beauty's Ageless Throat & Decolletage Night Cream ($45)

Dr. Brandt Needles No More Neck Sculpting Cream ($95)

Much-loved: PRAI Beauty’s Ageless Throat & Decolletage Night Cream (left, $45) is a new overnight companion to the day version, which is the best-selling neck cream globally on home shopping TV, while the Dr. Brandt Needles No More Neck Sculpting Cream (right, $95), comes complete with a rose quartz gua sha, a Chinese tool that can be used to massage the product into the neck.

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Fortifying Neck Emulsion ($75)

Elemis Pro-Collagen Neck & Decollete Balm ($78.50)

Tightening: The Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Fortifying Neck Emulsion (left, $75) is a fast-absorbing formula that promises to ‘firm the appearance of skin’ under the chin and around the jawline, while the Elemis Pro-Collagen Neck & Decollete Balm (right, $78.50) can be used down the decolletage as well as on the neck and jawline.

Algenist Firming & Lifting Neck Cream ($98)

Rodial Neck Mask ($10)

Lift it up: Algenist promises its 100% vegan Elevate Firming & Lifting Neck Cream (left, $84) will ‘visibly tighten and lift’ the skin, without leaving any greasy or oily residue around the neck area. Meanwhile the Rodial Neck Mask (right, $10) can be used for more of a targeted treatment for instant results. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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