Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

I did not feel well enough to travel this holiday. Normally, I would have pushed my way through it, but my husband gave me this gift of the day, the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie that I needed for my soul. I needed time to be and not do more than I could do, for just one holiday. I have never been fond of holidays, except for my birthday and July Fourth, but I have always given it my best effort at often significant cost.

My family is all happily ensconced in the bosom of extended family experience: My husband and step-sons, Garrett and Hunter, are with our Michigan family celebrating the first Thanksgiving together since the death of the family matriarch, my beloved mother-in-law, Natalie McIntyre, who died on Mother’s Day, 2008. Jane, the baby of the family, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has been in charge of creating the most delicious Thanksgiving foods in America for almost 20 years now, so this part of the family ritual will be the same. And of course, she does it effortlessly. None of the chaos that is found in my Thanksgiving kitchen would be allowed in the kitchen of the yellow house in Orchard Lake. The family is connecting with old and new ways of celebrating this year, and I know that each one there will be redefining the family so that it will endure.

My son Baxter is spending Thanksgiving with his father and step-mother in Savannah, Ga. He enjoys time there, where entertaining is such an important part of that city and important to this part of his family. Ashley and his perfect wife, my precious daughter-in-law, are making their first Thanksgiving Day dinner in their home. They don’t know that I have taken a sabbatical from just one holiday, or I would have been unable to pull this off.

I most miss being in Kentucky today.  Everyone from my family will be home but me. The phone call to my sister was the hard one. But no one has siblings like mine. We accept and love each other and always believe that what we say to each other is the truth.  So, when I said I needed a holiday off the grid, she understood. My brothers and sisters are fabulous cooks, and I know what each of them will bring to the table. Mommie will be the center of love and attention, our beloved mother who always selflessly made such a fantastic Thanksgiving meal and taught us by example and inclusion to do the same. Missing my Kentucky family on this Thanksgiving is the sad part for me.

I am spending part of day here in my office. My work, by my choice, has always been the central part of my life. Some people are just like this.  I am most content in patient interactions, giving both the patient and the doctor a quiet time for review of their lives and their health issues. It is a time of focused listening for me. The work continues, of course, after the patient visit is over. The results of tests arrive and the real work of medicine, the creation of a narrative of the patient’s life and the organization of symptoms, the integration of the physical findings begins.  I am at my best in this detective work, the work of a biographer if you will.

I began to work in a hospital full time 47 years ago, when I was not quite 15 years old. I lied about my age in order to get that job, but I needed independence, and that meant that I needed a job. Since my first day as a nurse’s aide, I have always been at home in a hospital.

I am thankful today for my relationship with New York Presbyterian Hospital, where I have been at home since 1976. My hospital has been ranked No. 6 in the nation in overall care  for several years now. This hard-won acknowledgment of good medical care has come from leadership and integration of staff at all levels in patient-centered care and from constant improvement in all aspects of the patient experience. The physicians at the hospital are exciting to be around because they are at the top of their game and reinforce excellence throughout our hospital community. After my training was completed in the hospital, I moved to my office here at 90th and Madison in New York City. I have been in this cozy office for over a quarter of a century.

This Thanksgiving Day is the one I have chosen for reflection and remembrance of some of the many people and events along my life’s long journey that made it possible for me to have this wonderful life. But I want most to remember those who make it possible for me to give the best I have to my patients and to the women over 40 with whom I have an ongoing conversation online.

I have chosen incredible doctors and therapists, who work with me to solve diagnostic problems and create therapeutic plans, who provide efficient and thoughtful care in their offices and surgical suites, and who always teach me something new and encourage me to be the primary-care doctor that I most love being.

Gynecologists are primary-care doctors, of course, but most don’t have the luxury of time that is necessary to do this when they are seeing many patients, delivering babies and operating on patients. I have left all that behind, because its season for me has passed. I miss the excitement and joy of delivering babies, I miss the camaraderie on the delivery floor and in the operating room, but I knew at each stage of leaving a part of the professional life of an obstetrician gynecologist behind, that it was always the right time for reinvention. I felt on that memorable day in the delivery room, as I gave a baby girl to a beloved patient for the last time, that I had completed a cycle of my life with dedication and joy. My first day in a hospital as a nurses’ aide began in the delivery room, and that memory was still with me at the time of the last delivery of a baby.

The most unexpected joy in my professional life came from the formation of Women’s Voices For Change with Faith Childs and Laura Sillerman, launched on Nov. 21, 2005. We are the Executive Board now of a growing organization that has created www.womensvoicesforchange.org  as a forum for women over 40 to describe and define who we are in this Second Spring of life we call The New Menopause. Our focus began with the need to change the meaning of just one word, menopause. Menopause has been a word that the media, advertising and the corporate world has shunned or used in demeaning ways. Women themselves have chosen denial, shame and fear in response to this word.

The growing numbers of contributors who have joined us write to create a portrait that is an accurate one, not one based on outdated assumptions. We write to give women not yet physiologically or psychologically there plenty of hope that this transition is the best opportunity for self-invention that life will offer them. We write to give templates for hope and change to those in the tornado of the transition.

Women in the New Menopause, who choose to be present and fully aware of their life experiences, learn to use the fuel of this sometimes volatile life passage to make choices and create their own change. We learn what is important, we divest ourselves of the unnecessary, and we focus on ways to make meaningful change in our individual lives, our communities and our country.

I am especially thankful today for the extraordinary and unexpected contribution to Women’s Voices For Change from two donors who wish to remain anonymous, along with a recent event given for WVFC by the extraordinary jeweler Verdura. These important gifts will allow us to implement a long dreamed of way to include women across America in the creation of our portrait of women who are unafraid of the word menopause, and who will encourage those in the media and the advertising and corporate world to recognize us for who we really are. Women in The New Menopause are visible, and we are well positioned to be part of the reinvention of our country as we face a new normal no one wanted and many refused to expect.  We are more highly educated. We control more of the economic resources than any other demographic in this country. We are politically active across the spectrum. We decry political inactivity and waste in the government that has so little now. Waste will be noticed and noted again and again.

I am thankful for all the members of the Board of Women’s Voices For Change. Each brings wisdom, intelligence, creativity and energy to our mission. Thank you Faith Childs, Laura Sillerman, Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, Catherine Wood, Lisa McCarthy, Leslie Frances, Dr. Elizabeth Poynor and to our newest board member, Coleen Caslin. We are all thankful to our Executive Director, Mary Kelly Selover, and the staff that supports www.womensvoicesforchange.org, directed by our editor, Chris Lombardi. We bring joy and support to each other as we work on our mission to make the New Menopause a life destination that is viewed with optimism.

On this Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2009, I am grateful for our readers who are becoming our writers. Our small effort that has grown only with the help of the famous public relation firm, “word of mouth,” makes a difference only with your voices that are diverse and memorable. Write your way through The New Menopause with us and give other women who are without support and knowledge of options your description of the best time of your life. And when there is a rough patch, write through it and know that we are here with you.  Do the work that allows you to reinvent yourself, and write about it here at www.womensvoicesforchange.org.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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  • Lombardi Chris November 27, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    A message from someone who asks that his name not be shown here:

    I’m glad you took time for yourself this holiday. It resonates with what I am doing with the rest of my life.

    “Do the work that allows you to reinvent yourself and write about it here at http://www.womensvoicesforchange.org.” Well, Dear Pat, I’m not going to do that because what I want to say after I read your blog was more personal.

    I too am looking back as I approach my move south–way south–as I ignore national boundaries and head off for the jungle beach of Costa Rica. I move Monday, closing up my apartment, and
    getting on a plane Tuesday for my new home.

    When I return on December 7th, it will be as a working tourist. I have a lot of work for the next year and have already booked six trips to NYCbefore the middle of March and will be going to Aspen on work during April and May. Is seems a cruel twist of fate that while I am moving to CR for
    many reasons, one of them being my dislike for the winter any longer, and Iwill be here repeatedly for the winter months (maybe I will then be able toexperience over and over again, like Bill Murray in Groundhog, Day the reasons why I like the warmth of the south rather than the cold of the north).

    But I want to reflect a little on reinventing myself. For so long in a men’s psych group that met once a week and that I went to religiously for years, we all talked and talked about ourselves and our lives. I came to understand that I took risks and made changes easily–impetuously–or maybe
    lets say quickly. There were many instances where buying homes or entering into a relationship or business deals were given only a quick thought and I found myself saying yes, or I’ll buy that or just move your stuff in right over there please.

    Moving to CR fits neatly into that category. But as to profound life changes, this may take the cake. In a few days I leave everything I know and go some place where I don’t speak the language–actually and metaphorically. I do not know what I am doing. I am scared. I feel alone.

    But oddly enough all that doesn’t really make a difference. At nearly sixty years old I am doing something that is decimating my “comfort level” and I am ok with it. If I have regrets about anything in my life it is that I have never really taken a chance before. Not really. When I left the
    monastery in 1975, if I had gone to art school, that would have been a real chance. Instead I welcomed the opportunity to work at Hubbuch’s in Kentucky, which was arranged by a friend and well intentioned monk. Moving to NYC in 1979, while giving me the opportunity to meet you, wasn’t the change that would challenge my assumptions about myself–who I am. I applied for and got a spot at Pratt to continue to be a decorator. And so my life happened.

    I feel that all my choices up to this point really has been a reflection of my personality, my DNA, my experience, my environment. I see the thread.

    Well the thread has snapped.

    Thanks for being part, a really important part, of my story in NYC that began at a Sunday brunch in September 1979. I’ll never forget that day as I began a new life in a new city which soon become my home for thirty years–half my life

    I think it is time for me to leave now and give my place to someone who is eager to be here, expecting adventure and excitement. I now am looking forsomething else. I hope I’ll recognize it when it comes along.

    I was worried about you and what moved you to write so clearly about not being up to the holidays this year. I witnessed many holidays where you did push your way through and “often at significant cost.” I wondered why but as
    I was your friend and often a beneficiary of your efforts I didn’t dwell on it.

    Now, It seems to me that even when you were pushing through on one thing or the other, it wasn’t really for you even though at the time it seemed to be. I remember fondly the times when Pat Allen was off the grid so to speak–the pushing stopped–those were the best times and I loved them.

    Good bye my friend. I would love to see you but I think this year as my gift to you I will let you off the hook, not end by asking you to get together, and give you some more time for yourself.

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