Monthly Archives: November 2015

Part Two: To mesh or not to mesh

Many women suffer in silence when they have a vaginal prolapse . However, if they decide to do something about it there are many decisions that need to be made.
Gynaecology - Bayside Womens Health

It felt right for me to have my prolapse fixed now instead of putting my head in the sand hoping it would all go away. I did not want to wait until I had female urinary incontinence due to my prolapse, both common, though seldom discussed consequences of childbirth and ageing.

But who to see? My gynecologist retired years ago. I remember going to see Janet Duke when I was fifty-one and had debilitating period problems. I explained the drugs I was taking to alleviate the condition. She lent back in her chair, fixed me with a steely gaze and asked, ‘Is your husband still alive?’ ‘Yes’, I replied. ‘That’s a wonder’ she said smiling. ‘I thought you might have killed him by now.’ She went on to explain that the extreme levels of testosterone in my medication usually resulted in aggression. Alan was lucky. Instead of attacking anyone I hauled huge honeycomb rocks and placed them around the edge of a new garden. I look at them now and shake my head in wonder.  I was a much calmer person after the hysterectomy.

The main cause of vaginal prolapse is the weak muscles, tissues, and ligaments that support the vagina, surrounding tissues and organs. The factors that can cause vaginal prolapse include frequent lifting of heavy objects, chronic cough, severe constipation, menopause, childbirth and advanced age.

Surgery is done to restore the vagina and the pelvic organs back to their respective positions and provide symptomatic relief. It helps to prevent further damage of pelvic floor muscles. Vaginal prolapse surgery may be done through laparoscopy or other forms of surgery.

There has been no need for a gynecologist since 1994. I spoke to my GP who had been to a lecture on prolapse at the Royal Women’s Hospital only the night before my visit. Armed with a referral to a well recognized surgeon I went home and intensively researched anything I could find on a bladder prolapse. There is a lot of information on the web but you have to be careful it is not just an advertisement. I decided to go to the source and looked up articles in medical journals.

The surgeon I was going to see practiced the latest techniques. He did keyhole surgery called Sacral colpopexy.  In this procedure, one end of a strap of mesh is attached to the top of the vagina and the other end is attached to the upper part of sacrum situated at the base of the spine. When I saw him he discussed the procedure at length and took time to explain in detail what he recommended. It was a positive experience and I came out feeling that this may well have been the answer to many women’s problems.

However, I’m allergy prone, even to not using Elastoplast and also have an arthritic spine. I had seen reports in some of the journals that mentioned possible problems with the mesh. At a social gathering I met a friend who had this procedure done, had developed complications and was part of a class action against the mesh manufacturers. This led to more research. The details of the class action papers were very disturbing .  Everyone is an individual and I seriously began to question if this procedure was right for me. Then the out of pocket expenses information arrived. The doctor’s fee was $2, 500 above medicare and my private health fund. I knew he was worth it but that’s a lot to find. One comment was, ‘You could go on a cruise around the islands for that’.

I threw myself onto the mercy of a nursing friend and begged for her assistance. I wanted the name of a caring gynecologist who gave you a choice of not having mesh. She recommended Dr Mark Lawrence at Bayside Women’s Health 622 Centre Rd Bentleigh.

My GP, who knows Dr Lawrence,  reassured me that he is an excellent gynecologist who for many years has been treating women’s problems and is constantly doing vaginal repairs. I immediately checked out the website and was suitably impressed, not only by the range of services offered but the obvious long term connection with well known hospitals. And he looked kind with just a hint of a quirky sense of humour.

Bayside Womens Health

The waiting room is full of women of all ages. Two young women are heavily pregnant and sit in comfy chairs. Hanging on the walls are cloth covered boards filled with pinned pictures of smiling parents and newborns. Many are cradled in Dr Lawrence’s arms. Thank you letters abound. ‘Thank you for our family bliss’ etc. Beside me sits and eighty-five year old woman . We flick through magazines, watch fish  lazily swim around their aquarium and wait our turn.

After checking me out, Dr Lawrence talks about a procedure that he has done successfully for many years. No mesh, no external cuts, push the bladder, and anything else, back into position, and use self dissolving stitches to strengthen and repair the vaginal wall. He is positive, friendly and willing to discuss everything on my now long list of questions. He made it sound run of the mill, simple, an in and out job. Two nights in Cabrini and then home to rest and recuperate. Would I need pain relief, like morphine? Unlikely. Would I be able to take my Memoir Writing Class, for two hours, only a week after leaving hospital? Definitely. He was confident that the problem would be fixed and I believed him. But could it be so easy? It sounded too good to be true.

However, I decided to book in that day with Dr Lawrence at Cabrini Malvern  for the tried and true method of repair.

No mesh for me.

I just wanted to get in, get done and get over it 


I’ve just received notice that if anyone is interested, there is an Amazon promotion of the book by Ian Richardson, God’s Triangle . For the next 24 hours. it is being offered for free. This is an amazing opportunity to get your hands on a great book covering the true and touching story of why the marriage of Australian Baptist missionaries, Frank E. Paice and Florence M. “Florrie” Cox, fell apart in mysterious circumstances in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) during the First World War. An investigation into why the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne considered the divorce so sensitive that the file was ordered to be “closed for all time”. It is well researched and a thought provoking story.


Happy reading.

Part One: Women don’t talk about ‘below the belt’

Women my age are reluctant to talk about what my mother called their ‘nether regions’ or ‘girly bits’.

10pm: fasting isn’t a worry – getting to sleep is.

5am: the shrill of the alarm ensures a swift shower, no breakfast and leaving in pre-dawn darkness. A large, round moon bathes the world in a gentle glow. I’m glad the full moon was last night, I don’t need any banshees , bogymen or hobgoblins any where near Cabrini Hospital tonight.

This journey towards vaginal repair started long ago during childbirth. A titchy depression in a weakened vaginal wall meant the bladder dipped ever so slightly forward like a brief nod in recognition of a job well done. I blessed that dip and the two boys who have bought so much joy over the years.

Now fifty years later the dip had become a bulge which meant getting up every two hours at night to empty the bladder. But the prolapse didn’t hurt. I hardly knew it was there. A prolapse is a medical condition where an organ or tissue falls out of place, or “slips down”. Pelvic floor exercises didn’t cure it but it certainly wasn’t getting worse, well, not much anyway. So why see a surgeon about a getting it repaired?

I decide to ask some of my women friends whether they had the same problem. That’s when I hit a brick wall. Women my age are reluctant to discuss things relating to ‘below the belt’. I discovered that men still had, according to them, a tossle (never a penis). This reluctance isn’t anything new.  I had recently read about a woman in earlier years who married and didn’t know that she was born with no womb and a one inch deep vagina preventing her from having sex or children. A close friend gave me a copy of God’s Triangle by Ian Richardson.


Below is a section of one of many positive reviews.

Poor Florence probably never knew what was different about her or why. It is difficult to imagine the early days of the early 20th century where just about everything controversial or distasteful was suppressed. I thought this was a fascinating story (and wonderfully well written, if you don’t mind me saying!) It held my interest throughout. – NL, London.

I am not one to go quietly into the night and by constantly bringing up the subject I uncovered the best kept secret ever. Nearly every one of the women  among my family and friends had a prolapse of varying degrees. I was staggered. We talk openly about problems with cancer, osteoarthritis and hip replacements. We compare notes, with a tinge of pride, about hearts, lungs and kidneys.  So why don’t we talk about problems with our vaginas? Just mention a prolapse and the subject quickly changes or the conversation dies.

However, when I did get women talking I found out that at

60 yrs: there was ‘A bit of a problem.’

70 yrs: ‘It doesn’t hurt.’

80 yrs: ‘It rubs against my nickers and I get infections.’

85 yrs: ‘I’m incontinent. I wish I’d had it done and could still live in my flat.’

90 yrs: I’m in trouble but it’s too late now. I can’t take an anesthetic. How I wish I’d had it done earlier.’

From the women I spoke to it was like discussing childbirth and horror stories were plentiful. ‘It’s like being kicked in the stomach by a horse’ (ouch). etc. etc. I asked all age groups and from the sixty and seventy year olds I was given many reasons why I should, ‘Leave things alone.’

‘Why have it done if it’s not hurting?’ ‘You can get dementia after an anesthetic.’ ‘It will collapse and you’ll have to have it done again.’ ‘I don’t want to be asleep and can’t tell them, ‘Don’t touch that.’ ‘Every operation is risky.’

I know that can be the case.  During my second hip replacement I was given gelofusine. After going into anaphylactic shock, (a severe and sometimes fatal allergic reaction to a foreign substance to which an individual has become sensitized, often involving rapid swelling, acute respiratory distress, and collapse of circulation) I woke up in intensive care wondering why my hands looked like balloons.

However, a close friend has had to give up her flat and move into assisted care because, among other things, she is incontinent due to a prolapse. She suffered constant bladder infections, pain and suffering. Her only option, because an anesthetic is out of the question, is to have a ring inserted which only lasts five months and then has to be replaced. She’s had three so far and one became infected. I feel like an old car and want to say ‘I’ll have my 70,000 ks service and make sure you repair my vagina before it collapses.

It is time. Now the research begins in earnest. What type of vaginal repair will be best for me?



Mairi Neil and Kingston Our City

It is Saturday afternoon in sunny Melbourne. The Allan McLean Hall is packed with people attending the launch of the ninth anthology by the Mordialloc Writers’ Group.  Kingston Our City is also the celebration of twenty years of fortnightly workshopping stories.

KingstonmycityFinalCover copy,



The founder and organiser of the group is Mairi Neil and with the help of her two girls, Anne and Mary Jane (who designed the cover art) she has compiled, edited, formatted and published not only past anthologies but especially this latest one.  This year Mordialloc Writers also dives into the digital age. Mairi has produced an ebook of Kingston Our City.

tamsin Mairi and Bill 2

Every writer knows how important it is to belong to a like minded community where they receive constructive comments about their work. Many become firm friends, not just writing colleagues. They laugh, swap pre-loved books, discuss the writing and publishing industry, politics, the human condition and are working on the meaning of life.


Our community writing group has been meeting at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House for twenty years and for our anniversary anthology we reflect on our relationship with the City of Kingston.    We have reminisced about wartime precautions on Parkdale beach and the transformation of suburban streets by developers. We have reflected on the City of Kingston’s creation by negotiation and amalgamation, Patterson Lakes created by feats of engineering.    There are snapshots of dances at Moorabbin Town Hall, surf lifesaving carnivals, Edithvale billycart shenanigans and cycling to school, the demise of horses and the rise of hoons, joyous beach weddings and sad farewells. Stories woven around everyday life and observations to trigger your own memories.   Perhaps you’ll remember when the pace of life seemed slower and be grateful for improved services. As you enjoy this collection I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion as the writers – Kingston in Victoria Australia is indeed a great place to live.

In recognition of Mairi’s inspirational contribution two orchids in a pale green ceramic pot were presented by Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers and ‘Ambassador’ for Australian Literature.

       5 mairi

We added two bunches of Singapore orchids to the two potted orchids, plus cellophane and purple ribbon. The result was a joy to behold.

Lisa Hill’s words below managed to convey what everyone in the hall wanted to say.

Lisa Hill: ANZlitlovers award winning blog

It’s lovely to be here today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Mordialloc Writers’ Group and the publication of the 2015 Anthology. As a passionate advocate for Australian books and writing, I am always excited to be in the presence of authors and as I look about me I know that whether published or not, the writers here today are using their gifts to bring the Australian experience to life using the magic of words, and I salute them all.
But all of us here today know that the real magic behind the words on the page is a great lady, our mentor and friend, Mairi Neil. It was Mairi who started this group 20 years ago, and who has nourished it with her wisdom and skill for what is, for some of our younger writers, a lifetime. It is Mairi who does all the behind-the-scenes organising, from the complexity of applications for council funding, to bringing the tea and biscuits. It is Mairi who listens most acutely as we workshop our pieces of work, praising and encouraging, gently suggesting improvements, using her professional writing and editing skills to nurture each piece to fruition. It is Mairi who has supported some of us to professional publication and paid opportunities. It is her unfailing presence each week which is the stimulus for us to write more instead of giving up. It is Mairi who manages the anthologies from selection of the theme to the finished product, spending long hours editing our work so that it emerges triumphantly as a polished piece of writing for others to read and enjoy.
All those of us who know Mairi well know that these decades of voluntary work have all been accomplished at the expense of her own writing career and despite personal tragedy and confronting health problems that would have overwhelmed an ordinary person. Mairi’s courage and indefatigable spirit is an inspiration to all of us, and for once, I have to admit, that words fail me when I try to thank her for all that she means to us as individuals and to the community that she has enriched with all these years of patient, unsung and heroic work on our behalf.
Congratulations, Mairi, and thank you.





 457 Main Mordialloc Victoria AustMordialloc Writers' group anthologies copy


FEBRUARY 2nd  16th

MARCH 1st, 15th and 29th

APRIL 12th &  29th

MAY 10th & 24th

JUNE 14th & 28th

JULY 12th & 26th

AUGUST 9th & 23rd

SEPTEMBER 6th & 20th

OCTOBER 4th & 18th

NOVEMBER 1st & 15th

DECEMBER 13th 2016–Break for summer holidays


The edge of the World

Congratulations Coral Waight for launching your travel book The Edge of the World. This first book in her travel series, Planning to the ‘Nth’ is now available at .

For anyone of any age wanting to experience Tasmania, this book is a must. Written in an easygoing, humorous style the reader will discover hidden gems when they travel the Apple Isle with Coral.

Coral’s comments

‘I’m pleased to say, that after weeks of anguish, involving much banging of my head on the desk, screaming at my computer and damning all technology to the depths of Hades, my travel blog is now up and running. I will be describing my experiences while finding my way around, first Tasmania, then New Zealand, England and back to New Zealand. I invite you to join me on the journey. The website is Note there’s only one ‘t’ in the address.’ 

To discover more of the history, pitfalls and delights of Tasmania visit to her blog. If you click on the cover of the book it will take you to where you can download a copy of The Edge of The World . A button on the site allows you to download a Kindle eReader with one click if you haven’t already got one.

If you’d like to know more about Coral you can visit her on Facebook.

On her 60th birthday, Coral Waight set out in her little hatchback, thermos and Esky in the boot, to begin the first of four road trips around the island of Tasmania, across Bass Strait from where she lives in Melbourne, Australia. She planned to the ‘nth’ degree, but nothing could have prepared her for getting stuck on the side of a mountain, in the dark, with her petrol tank on empty. Nothing prepared her for being on her own in a caravan park at Arthur River in the middle of a violent storm, or forgetting she gets sea-sick and spending a boat cruise around Tasman Island with her head in a bucket.

The wild, untamed west coast contrasted with the ethereal beauty of Great Oyster Bay and the fishing villages of the east. Cheap country pubs offered friendliness and warmth – and the odd hole in a window taped over with cardboard and packing tape – more like the homes of friends or relatives than hotels. The giant ferns and the great trees of the rainforests nurtured and replenished her spirit, and the history, white and indigenous, not too far in the past, filtered through everything.

Told with gentle humour and keen observation. this book will make readers want to visit Tasmania for themselves, all the while getting to know and like a woman whose unfailing good humour shines through the adventures she encounters.

Wineglass Bay Photo by Bjorn Christian Torrissen

A comment on Facebook by Jane says…

I felt as if I was right beside you in your adventures, Coral! I can’t wait to read more…it’s an inspirational story told with empathy and humor.  Congratulations on persevering and mastering the technology side of things too …very impressive.

I agree and I’m sure everyone associated with the Mordialloc Writers’ Group feels the same way. We wish Coral all the very best in her writing career.

Countdown to the Launch of Kingston My City

For the past twenty years Mairi has been founder, co-coordinator, payer of writing group rent, chief editor, apple cake provider and driving force behind Readings by the Bay and the Mordialloc Writers’ Group. We meet every Tuesday to workshop, refine and read sections of our work in progress. This community support and assistance, especially from seasoned authors like Mairi is invaluable and creates long lasting friendships. It also ensures the memoir, short story or poem is reworked and polished to a publishable standard.
Ideas are swapped, story lines discussed, achievements applauded and rejections seen as stepping stones on the pathway to publication.
All the members associated with the Mordialloc Writers Group take pride in launching this latest anthology, but we all know, without the expertise, enthusiasm and dedication of Mairi it just wouldn’t happen.

Up the Creek with a pen ...

Not long now until the group’s ninth anthology is launched. Everyone is invited to help us celebrate 20 years of meeting together and writing.

Our community writing group has been meeting at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House for twenty years and for our anniversary anthology we reflect on our relationship with the City of Kingston.

We have reminisced about wartime precautions on Parkdale beach and the transformation of suburban streets by developers. We have reflected on the City of Kingston’s creation by negotiation and amalgamation, Patterson Lakes created by feats of engineering.

There are snapshots of dances at Moorabbin Town Hall, surf lifesaving carnivals, Edithvale billycart shenanigans and cycling to school, the demise of horses and the rise of hoons, joyous beach weddings and sad farewells. Stories woven around everyday life and observations to trigger your own memories.

Perhaps you’ll recognise the places and characters, the community groups and events, remember…

View original post 257 more words