tl:dr: from 22 years research surrounding the causes of cancer that ultimately took my wife’s life, a lot of people helped to bring together the advice of experienced women, world experts, noted authors, and others to create an additional way of understanding the menstrual cycle.
Why? because after all my wife went through and what she lost, I don’t want to grow old and say How many people did I help from what I found out?
It started here
In 1998 my fiancée Mayumi had an injection for birth control and soon after she became allergic to shelled seafood. This was not right for someone who regularly ate seafood. We saw a doctor who said to wait until the birth control hormones had expired in her body, and not to eat seafood. She wasn’t feeling well for a few weeks, so I began to research it. I didn’t learn much about the hormones used in the injection but instead, I learned a lot about the menstrual cycle.
I found out that I had grown up ignorant about menstrual cycles. Other than what I had read in magazines or heard from friends, I had never been taught or talked to about menstrual cycles, I just knew they happened, that the woman took care of it, and knew that PMS affects some women but I did not know further than that. The topic was shunned by my father and by all men I knew because that is how we were taught: it is just not our business.
Mayumi was still not feeling good every day and we tried many things. Apart from supporting her emotionally and being there for her, I could not help her physically, nor could I help her feel better in a medical/drug sense, but I thought I could help by understanding how different hormones made her feel and find out how and when she is being affected by her natural hormones and those from the injection. I believed that the hormone injection had a large impact on her and I wanted to find any info on how to best take care of her and help her feel better. I looked for books in the university library that showed men how to take care of a menstrual cycle but found none. There was no info for men, only for women and all were simple points.
- Day 1: cycle has started, get rest, drink tea.
- Day 5: period finished.
- Day 14: ovulation, be careful, or have a baby.
- Day 27, 28: PMS, expect changes.
I did not disagree with this but it wasn’t very helpful to me either. There were no apps, only a couple of websites, and a lot of research material so I made my own excel program to tell me when the high-impact days were coming and what I should do. Remember, this was for me only, and because Mayumi wasn’t feeling good for a few months.
- Day 1: make breakfast, cook dinner, give her the TV control, hot water bottle, and let her rest. Early night.
- Day 2: same as Day 1 but the heaviest day, she is more tired, stay home, watch movies together.
- Day 3 to 5: have a lot of home fun, make sure she meets a friend for a chat.
- Day 6: take her out.
- Day 12 to 16: easy pregnancy time, take her out, but also get ready to stay home.
- Day 22: expect ups and downs, take her out.
- Day 25: prepare a list of things she has been wanting me to do, and do them without her having to ask.
- Day 27, 28: she’s tired, give her some space, get things done.
Then everything changed
Mayumi slowly got back to normal. We married and decided to have a child. In April 2000 (the week after our child was born) we were told Mayumi had stomach cancer, GIST with 18 tumors, some of them as large as mangoes. I resigned from my job with the support of my boss and colleagues and was luckily asked to manage a company division a week later in the city where my family was. We needed help so we moved and she soon had most of her stomach removed through surgery. But soon after, her condition got worse. She couldn’t walk or eat well and was in different hospitals the whole time and apart from visiting 3 times a day (on the way to work, on the way back home, and at night with our son), I took care of our little boy at home.
I visited Mayumi every day in the hospital in palliative care but I could not do anything except being there and chatting, and to give love and support so I used my limited menstrual info to best help her through her daily treatments. I knew when she needed space and I knew when she wanted me there more. I didn’t have to ask “are you ok?” followed a few minutes later with “.. are you sure you’re ok?” when she looked a little angry because I knew her cycle was making her body feel uncomfortable. She was happy that I just understood her feelings without her having to explain.
Every night was hard for me to sleep so I worked on this for something to focus on. I wanted to stay positive and keep away the depression that kept hitting me. I lost my job because I wasn’t enough of a company man – I was asked to work in a different city 4 days a week. I just couldn’t do it, I wanted to be a good husband for my wife and a good Dad for our little boy.
We had been to different hospitals in 3 different cities for treatments, and in all this time, Mayumi only had the strength to come home twice.
Late one night in 2002 the hospital called me to come in. I woke our son up and we both went, followed by my Mum and sister. Mayumi couldn’t respond and after hearing our little 2yo boy say his happy “Hi Mum, love ya” and feeling his hug, she passed away in my arms. I was crushed. Our son didn’t understand death and every day he asked if we were going to see Mummy tonight. I broke down when I sat with him and said that she is gone, that she didn’t want to go and it wasn’t her fault, that we had to make our own lives from now on and to support each other, because that’s what she wished for us, and to never forget her.
I fell into a long depression. I didn’t go out and didn’t want to meet anybody for the next couple of years. I was empty inside. I kept myself busy working on this, I wanted to make something good from what Mayumi went through. I thought this could help others.
I knew I’m no expert on menstrual cycles because I’m a man .. but I also knew that I could create some advice and ask people what they thought about it, and then if that was well-received then I would ask the experts. I made this into my promise and this kept me focused and starting to come out of my shell.
Late 2004 I found work again (I design systems for hospitals). I started to go out with my friends again and to meet new people, this time asking guys and girls about this topic because I really didn’t have much else to talk about. It was often awkward at first but then turned into some really interesting discussions once they knew it was about the physical (not emotional) impact the cycle has on women and on the relationship, and how to help out more, and understand:
- the key times of his partners’ cycle, and how to treat her for each respective day (if any help is needed and accepted),
- the days his partner may easily fall pregnant, and other things.
The advice was very well-received.
It restarted here, with direction
In early 2005 I was telling my friend about my system. My friend showed me a Taiwanese woman’s magazine about the menstrual cycle and a small spreadsheet that helped women understand the cycle impacts for the different phases of the cycle, with a few words each area of feelings, diet, and the body. It was quite famous in Taiwan and China and was almost the same as what I had, but there was no info for men.
This grounded the theories and I made a website that showed the menstrual care info because there was none. Sites at the time only showed when the cycle would start, end, and ovulation date. The research found most sites used a Luteal Phase of 14 days, no matter what the cycle length was, and didn’t note the actual ovulation date, and couldn’t handle anything outside of 25 to 30 days. It took me months to create the algorithm that could measure and correctly show the Luteal Phase for the correct ovulation date (using three combining algorithms) and be for a much wider range of cycle days.
I’d found very little info on how women feel during certain phases other than what I already had. I was also embarrassed about it even though I thought it was useful. In 2006 I invited friends for testing it (Japanese, American, Australian, Korean, Chinese, English, Swedish, and other countries), asking them to keep it secret but to give me feedback. Some of my friends thought I was an idiot, others would chat about this when we met. I got a lot of useful methods in how my friends took care of their partners. I found a lot of peer-reviewed research that supported nearly all of the things my friends spoke about, so I started to put it all together for each phase of the cycle. I had a lot of information and the info started to fall into patterns that were correct most of the time, but not all of the time. There was no way to make this 100% correct because no woman is exactly like any other woman. I had to find a way to give this info in a way that was respectful to the difference while being helpful at the same time.
Add info and advice from experts
The info kept growing over the next few years. I wanted to release a site that could help men understand how their female partner was feeling but then realized it was not right to do, so I kept collecting stories from my friends for how different feelings and treatments were effective on different days. I had to also make sure that the info was from women with different cultural backgrounds and countries and asked a lot of my friends about what I had found. I thought I had something that could help couples, the website was free to use and all the info there to see. I started to email other people in the field who had websites on this subject from 2008 to 2014 but didn’t get replies. I even sent some of them the concept and examples of the care advice.
I kept working on it and in 2014 Leslie Carol Botha replied to me. Leslie is an internationally recognized world expert on woman’s hormones and behaviors and has a radio show on Voice America. Leslie loved the idea, read the info, and wrote a lot of good comments. Leslie said it’s “a great guide and resource for men. I have spoken with many men over the years – and I know it is their lack of understanding of what is going on with their partner’s cycles – and the emotional toll that it takes month after month and year after year. I believe that ‘raging’ hormones and lack of education about the cycle is a huge factor in the divorce rate.”
I also saw support and guidance from others around the world began to rise.
- Leslie Carol Botha, Internationally Recognized Expert on Women’s Hormones and Behaviors, Co-author of Understanding Your Mind, Mood, and Hormone Cycle.
- Diana Fabianova, Director of The Moon Inside You and Monthlies, offering useful information about the menstrual cycle as well as the emotional changes that are often part of it.
- Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, who strive to be the source of guidance, expertise, and ethical considerations for those interested in the menstrual cycle.
- Columbia Health, particularly Go Ask Alice which gives answers for sexual and reproductive health.
- Giovanni Maciocia, a world expert who has combined Western and Chinese medicine, bringing many innovative treatments.
By then, I had a lot of info from different research papers and publications. If I heard anything useful, I had to find its support through research articles but this was not always easy to find. For the things I could not find in peer-reviewed journals, I asked my friends for evidence-based verification. I again reached out to some popular menstrual cycle blogs, telling what I’d done and where I wanted to go. None replied, but a few months later, I found that two of them had suddenly created apps that did similar to what I’d created. I was disappointed about this for a few months but rethought this to see that they actually verified the work I had done and its usefulness.
.. but some women were not happy
In 2015 I released a prototype app that was for women and men and took it off the app stores after getting 200 users. Some of my female friends were not happy that men would know this info and they wanted to prove it wrong. They went through the info and findings and then they rewrote it from their perspective and made it better, especially from what they had learned and known. They told me it’s helpful info for both men and women’s understanding but told me to not release a version for men, as it’s not right in the world yet. They wrote the info for women to be better and to ensure it was written suitably. After that, the info kept slowly growing with medical, scientific, fact-based, and evidence-based knowledge and info from world experts, universities, organizations, women’s health specialists and everyday people. I had a large bibliography of sources. I didn’t need to include info from businesses who wrote about menstrual cycles, because they were saying the same info which I already had.
The decision to release it
I didn’t want to release it in fear of not getting work anymore. My worry was who would hire an IT professional who created a service about menstrual cycles? Then when I wanted to help someone else, I was reminded of my purpose.
I showed YSGM to a few friends and I was told that they wish they had known this because it would have changed their lives and relationships. So even though it was throwing away my career on a service that gave no income, I decided to make YSGM better, to release it to friends and those it would help, and to live the happiest life I could. I know Mayumi would want me not to give up.
Some time later (15 years after Mayumi passed away), I remarried to Aimi with the blessing of Mayumi’s parents. It was a big decision and I’m fortunate that Aimi talks with Mayumi’s parents to let them know their Grandson is doing well. Aimi and her friends have helped research and rewrite the info to be relevant to Japanese women and in Japanese. I hope to adapt it for India and will be in Hindi and in other languages around the world.
I had sat on this for two decades but now, three years after deciding to do it, we have improved the iOS and Android apps. YSGM addresses the entire menstrual cycle, and our aim is to remove menstrual fear and stigma, to give an easier way for understanding the impact on the body, to stop misunderstandings between partners, and to help women feel more confident.
and now ..
Now, I feel I have kept my promise to Mayumi to best help others.
Please let us know to reword/remove anything or to add/remove/fix things or functionality .. and please tell one good friend.