Testimonials

~ Patients ~

I am a 31 year old married wife who finally beat Vaginismus! To be
honest I always believed that not being able having intercourse was
just part of the cards I was dealt in life. I had never heard of
Vaginismus before and didn’t understand that I had a known/real
condition, I believed there was something wrong with me and I was
alone in my situation. I was lucky enough to meet and marry a
wonderful and understanding husband, yet three years into our marriage
and still never having intercourse made me feel like less of a wife.
I began to wonder if I would ever have children (if you can’t have sex
you cant make a baby). We tried many times before and after we were
married and it just didn’t “happen”. It wasn’t until I switched my
primary care physician and she tried to give me a pap test. With my
old doctor it became a scene every time it was time for a pap test
(this scene included a lot of crying, fainting once, hand holding and
holding me down…etc.) and it usually resulted in it not getting
done. My new doctor recognized there was something else going on with
me, not just me not liking to take the test. I should probably insert
here the little fact that NO ONE, no doctor, friend, relative, etc,
besides my husband knew my “situation”. She recommended I see Dr.
Raquel, not knowing what exactly was going on but knowing that Dr.
Raquel would help.

My first appointment was interesting to say the least. I was as white
as snow and almost passed out multiple times, we had to keep stopping
for me to lean over and put my head between my legs to get the blood
flow going. I cried the majority of the time. I was so nervous but
ready to make a change, I let Dr. Raquel in on my big secret. She
explained to me about Vagininismus, I couldn’t believe this was a
known condition, hearing that alone I think pushed me right into the
mindset for my recovery. I had many good visits and luck with the
“homework” but I also had some when I felt discourage and doubted I
would ever be able to have intercourse. Dr. Raquel made me feel so
comfortable the entire time. She explained everything and was very
patient with me on areas and in times when I was feeling discouraged.
She worked with me at a pace that worked for me, not what the normal
time frame or expected time frame should be.

I am happy to report that after my visits with Raquel, I am having
pleasurable pain free intercourse with my husband. I think about how
far I have come in a few months and wish that everyone out there
suffering quietly and alone gets the chance to meet Dr. Raquel and
have her help change their life as she did for me. I cried tears of
joy on the day of my last appointment, but I still consider my first
appointment one of the best days of my life as it was the beginning of
my amazing recovery. Within less than an hour I went from thinking it
was something wrong with only me to knowing there were many other
women out there suffering the same as me and that it was curable. Dr.
Raquel has changed by life and I encourage anyone out there with the
same fears, anxiety and embarrassment I had to make the first step,
after that Dr. Raquel makes the entire process the most comfortable
experience ever. I still get a huge sense of accomplishment and am
proud of the change every time I reflect on how far I have come. I am
so incredibly thankful for Dr. Raquel coming into my life.

Erica, 31
***

If you’re reading this- congratulations. You have found the beginning to the end of your struggle. When I was reading the testimonials for Raquel, I didn’t know that. All I knew was I wanted to feel “normal”.

Since I can remember, penetration, or anything near my vagina was a disturbing thought. And when I first learned about it I was on the same page with my peers; “Ew I’d never wear a tampon!” “I’m never going to a gynecologist!” That’s what all my friends would say. And I maintained that thinking, but noticed in high school I was the only one that kept it. One by one my friends were suddenly accepting of tampons, and even looked down upon pads. They were getting birth control prescriptions and having sex without any fear or issues. I thought “when I meet someone, I’ll be like that too I’m sure”.

But that wasn’t the case. When I was 18 years old I attempted having sex with my boyfriend at the time. No matter how relaxed, impaired, or “right/in love” I felt, it never worked. I would tense up to the point where even force could not make sex happen. It got to the point where I was trying every day, and with every failed attempt I would feel a piece of myself leaving. I felt like such a failure, and generally so miserable. Every time a friend of mine lost their virginity, I would congratulate them, then the second I was alone I’d start crying, wishing it was that easy for me.

Eventually I entered the college scene and was so scared to get too involved with someone. I thought “if someone who claimed to love me couldn’t understand, how is some random college hookup going to be accepting?” And trust me- they were not.

I couldn’t understand what was happening, until I did a Google search and found Vaginismus. And I almost fainted when I read about it. I read I should buy a dilator set online, but I knew I’d never be able to even do the first one. How was I supposed to do that when I didn’t know what would happen, or how it should feel? If I’m doing it right? What if I’m in pain? I thought it was a hopeless cause.

Going into my sophomore year I met an amazing guy, who had actually knew about the condition. He validated that it wasn’t just that I needed to relax and that it had nothing to do with how I felt about him. He was so supportive and never pressured me, but I still pressured myself. I wanted to be able to have no limitations with someone who was more deserving of sharing that with me than anyone else. And finally, I stumbled upon Raquel’s office.

I was shocked at how swiftly I moved through therapy, and I never could have done it alone. It’s incredible how much progress you make when a trained professional is there calming your anxiety and telling you everything you need and want to know to move you along. Raquel made it so I never dreaded going to PT, and went the speed that I wanted. Being highly motivated helped, but the support and trust I had in Raquel helped more.

I’m writing this a week after I finally was able to experience intercourse- I’ve never felt so free after years of confusion and helplessness. All that I had felt I lost before was put back with every session I went to. Finding Raquel and diving into therapy for this condition was scary, of course. But it is well worth it- I haven’t stopped smiling.

– Amelia, 20
***

Around the time I went through menopause, I was unable to have sex with my
husband. It was too painful. I wasn’t even able to get a pap smear either. I
heard about Raquel from my doctor and I was quite anxious about the whole
process. Raquel puts you at ease with her warm and positive manner and I was
amazed at the progress that I made in just a few weeks. I could see that this
was really working! The first test was having my pap smear which I did and
without any discomfort! That was a first for me. And finally the real test which
was having sex with my husband and it didn’t hurt at all! Amazing! I am truly
grateful for the work that Raquel does and highly recommend her to anyone
needing this help. She is outstanding!
– Leah

***

There is hope! I am a post-menopausal woman in my late 50’s who over the course of the last couple of years was experiencing increasingly more painful intercourse. When I asked my gynecologist about it she quickly wrote me a prescription and said it should take care of things. Needless to say it did not. It got to the point where it was so painful it felt like I was going to tear. In addition I usually developed a UTI the day after. There was not much help on line and I was beginning to think that there was no solution. I ended up going to a new gynecologist who told me that physical therapy sometimes helped. I had never heard of physical therapy for this issue. She gave me the names of several therapists who I researched on line, chose one (Raquel) and made an appointment. I cannot tell you how thankful I am. During my first visit Raquel immediately put me at ease, helped me understand what was going on with my body, and told me that this was a common problem that could be solved. After only 5 or so visits and some “homework,” I was able to be intimate again with my husband with NO PAIN and no UTI! Raquel and I have talked about the absurdity of why most women and doctors don’t seem to be aware of this option. So make an appointment and spread the word to your girlfriends. We don’t have to suffer.
-Nancy

***

Hi, my name is Brittaney and I am a 23 year old woman who beat Vaginismus! A little under a year ago it was me reading through these testimonials wondering if they were written by real people. I thought, surely they couldn’t be true because these women sounded so much like me and I truly thought my situation was hopeless. Going on three years of marriage without any kind of intercourse, never being able to use tampons and having to under-go anesthesia just to make it through a pap-smear, I felt like a failure as a woman. I would go out in public and feel so much jealousy when I saw other women because I always thought, “I bet she got to have sex on their honeymoon” or “I bet she gets to wear a tampon” I was so overcome with envy and bitterness, I lived in a constant pity party for myself.

When I first learned about Raquel, I called her and then hung up when someone answered. I was so nervous! She called me back and left a very sweet message, but it took months for me to get the courage to call again. When I did she talked to me about everything and I was overwhelmed by her kindness. It took some time, but I finally got the courage to make my first appointment and my life changed from that moment on. I will not lie and tell you it was an instant success. The first few visits were rough for me. I cried tears of frustration and pain, not believing I would ever see the other side of this. Raquel was very mother-like to me. Holding my hand every step of the way, her kindness brought me to tears on so many of our visits.

When you go from not being able to insert anything into your vagina to getting a pinky sized dilator in, you celebrate. You cry tears of joy, you jump up and down in Raquel’s office as she cries right along side you. I promise, as soon as you make the first step, you really will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As weeks went by, I was so excited to race home and show my husband the new size I was up to in my dilator progress. One of my favorite moments during therapy was the day Raquel taught me how to use my first tampon. She was always so patient with me, I began to look forward to our visits together.

By my 10th session I was having pleasurable, pain free sex with my husband and I never looked back. Raquel has opened so many doors in my life I assumed would always be closed. Before I came to her I felt like something was missing from my life, like there was a lock I could not seem to find the key for. Raquel handed me the key and helped change my life forever. My husband and I are so thankful for this new found connection between us and will always have Raquel to thank for that. My heart is so grateful.

***
May name is Amy and I am a 57 – year old post-menopausal woman who developed symptoms of vulvodynia and Lichen sclerosis nearly 5 years ago. That’s right, for the last five years I have either not been able to have a full sexual life with my husband due to this undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and very pain condition. For the past 3 years as the physical pain became too much to tolerate, our relations became, for all intents, non-existent. My self esteem was at an all time low point as I thought this may be the way thing would be for me.Several months ago, a specialist at the Dr. Elizabeth’s Stewart’s Women’s HealthClinic referred me to Raquel for physical therapy in conjunction with their treatment of vulvodynia and Lichen Sclerosis. Raquel come with the highest of recommendations; from the outset of my medical treatments, Raquel’s physical therapy sessions were considered essential to successful treatment. How true that has been!With plenty of curiosity and trepidation, I arrive at my first appointment just 8 weeks ago. Immediately Raquel put me at ease; talking about my vulvodynia and explaining a plan to help me regain my sex life. Normally a very private person in this regard,it was amazing how much at ease I felt throughout the course of treatment. Raquel’sknowledge is so masterful; I never once doubted that resuming a full and satisfactorysex life would be possible. She knew exactly what I needed to do in order to get better,and she patiently taught me. Using biofeedback, massage and exercise, each week the symptoms of vulvodynia lessened until I can tell you today that we are back on track to afull and normal sex life.Raquel, with her calm and positive approach has been the angel who gave me back mylife. We can’t possibly thank her enough!

To my suffering sisters out there:

Until recently I have been a long-time sufferer of vulvodynia. Thanks to Raquel Perlis, I have learned how to rehabilitate my pelvic floor and reduce pain considerably. This gifted, dedicated woman has shown me that if I can do it, you can do it! My heart goes out to all who suffer from this condition (families too), so this letter is a way of passing along the gift of healing that I received.

When I started to experience vulvar pain 35 years ago, there wasn’t even a name for it.  Maybe like me, you had a vaginal infection and were treated for it, but the pain remained. I had been raped when I contracted the infection. I didn’t know back then that sometimes the infection and the medicine used to cure it irritate the sensitive nerves so badly that they constantly trigger pain response; also the muscles tense in anticipation of the pain of intercourse. The muscle spasm becomes habit and the nerves never get to calm down; the muscles never get to relax. In my case the emotional trauma further “locked” me into this painful cycle. My marriage ended.

Because conventional medicine had no answers for me, over the years I tried many alternative therapies, some with several different practitioners, to no avail.  Long periods of “giving up” were always accompanied by depression and despair. I thought I was a hopeless case, especially when I read that some of the treatments I tried had helped others, and especially as the post-menopausal years added the dryness factor to the pain. Although I had married again to a very understanding man, I felt permanently wounded and not “whole.”

Raquel taught me that my pelvic floor was very tight and weak, and therefore I couldn’t receive full benefit from other treatments. There is a vicious cycle of tension and pain, but by focusing on Raquel’s work and coaching, in a mere four months I had experienced results I couldn’t have imagined possible. She has a wealth of knowledge about the condition and a multi-faceted approach that is specifically targeted to our type of pain.

You should know that Raquel has the perfect combination of expertise and gentleness: she’s a highly-skilled professional who knows “what, where, when and how” and she will also put you at ease right away! Raquel is rightly famous for her compassion. Even with a history of abuse, I felt completely safe and understood, and many times we found something to laugh about, which always helps the healing process.

Raquel is supported admirably in her work by her office manager Holly–no praise of the practice would be complete without acknowledging Holly’s outstanding competence and humor! You’ll feel taken care of as soon as you walk in the door. I’ll always be grateful to this excellent team– I found the hope and the help to overcome a debilitating condition.

I wish you the best in your recovery– and the best out there is Raquel Perlis.

Sincerely,

-Susan

***

I started seeing Sarah early this year . I am 59 years old and had been
recently diagnosed with a moderate pelvic prolapse (uterine). I was extremely
upset. When I started seeing Sarah I was desperate. I had constant pelvic
pressure and was MISERABLE. I had been sent to this practice by my gynecologist
who had told me that some of her patients with prolapse had done PT there and
had success in strengthening their pelvic floors to support the prolapse.

I cannot say enough positive things about Sarah. From my first visit she put me
at ease and encouraged me. She is kind, compassionate, and gentle. Through her
guidance and knowledge I learned exercises to strengthen my pelvic floor and 5
or 6 months later I am 100% better; I am rarely aware of my prolapse after
having been aware of it 24 hours a day . Sarah has a true personal interest in
her patients and her knowledge of human body is remarkable. I had to travel 1
hour each way to see Sarah and it was WELL WORTH IT!!! She changed my life
back to normal and I could never repay her for that.

Thank you thank you, Sarah . You are very very talented at what you do. I
could not have asked for a kinder, gentler , more compassionate or more skilled
PT. YOU ARE THE BEST.

***

Tears were a given; both from pain and a fear-filled frustration. Sex hurt, paps were likened to the stabbing of knifes, and a misdiagnosis was becoming all too regular. Not knowing what was wrong with me; the emotions of embarrassment, constant confusion, and assumed inadequacies, only added to the dark cloud the covered my ability or energy to deal with it.

As insights and guidance finally started leading me in the direction of those understanding the situation I was lead to the healing soul of Raquel Perlis. With an ease and calm unique to this truly gifted and carrying person, Raquel taught me about my body and emotions while physically working me through my particular problems with patience and encouragement. Always tending to thoughts and emotions; laughter and instruction seamlessly combined to develop healing both physically and emotionally. She made possible all that I thought would was taken away from me while teaching me to have more patience, understanding, and joy with all aspects of my life.

Now my eyes water with a sparkle; tears of joy and thankfulness.

-Kathyrn

***

It seems unbelievable to me that over the course of less than a year, I went from being petrified of using tampons to having pleasurable sex with my boyfriend.  And it is completely thanks to Raquel. I had tried using tampons in the past, but because of pain and difficulty associated with vaginismus, I developed a lot of anxiety about it.  Every year I’d say to myself “this is the year I’ll be able to use tampons” – but after graduating from college without succeeding, I truly thought I was a lost cause. Raquel was SO understanding and encouraging during our sessions.  Not only did she make me feel like I wasn’t a freak, she truly made me believe I could succeed — that not only would I finally be able to use tampons, but that I would be able to have sex.  (And, as a 26-year-old virgin, I was obviously concerned about that aspect of my life.) Each time I left my appointments with Raquel, I felt I had achieved something great.  She made me feel so good about all my accomplishments while encouraging me to challenge myself.

Now that I’m able to have sex and use tampons without anxiety, I remain so appreciative of Raquel.  I want to shout from the rooftops how wonderful my experience with Raquel was.  She truly changed my life.

-Sara

***

I am 27 and married and have been affected by vulvar pain for about 7 years. I was misdiagnosed for 5 of those with different doctors’ diagnosis ranging from stress to the pain being in my imagination! This was very upsetting and I worried that I would never be ‘normal’ and able to have pain free sex or possibly even conceive children through intercourse.

I am originally from the UK but spent 2 years in Boston, USA. When I arrived the pain was worse than ever and I was unable to have sex at all. My doctor referred me to a gynecologist who diagnosed me with vulvodynia and recommended I read The V Book by Dr. Elizabeth Stewart. It was such a relief to finally have a diagnosis and be referred to a specialist and know I wasn’t going mad. I was so pleased I had continued pursuing a cause for the pain and not given up, which was very tempting at times. I was very lucky because the gynecolgist also referred me to Dr Stewart’s clinic who also diagnosed me with Lichen Planus, a skin condition which had triggered the vulvodynia. Dr Stewart’s team treated my skin condition and pain and referred me to Raquel for physiotherapy, it was a long wait for the appointments but it was well worth it and it changed my quality of life entirely. After just 6 weeks of visiting Raquel and completing the exercises she recommended at home I was able to have pain free intercourse and still can 5 months on.

I never thought I would be comfortable doing physiotherapy in such a personal place but Raquel is gifted at making you feel relaxed and comfortable. It wasn’t even too embarrassing when she taught my husband how to do some of the massage techniques on me so that we can continue to live a ‘normal’ life with my condition, even though we’re back in the UK.

-Jessica

***

I can never be thankful enough to Dr Stewart’s team and Raquel for the difference they’ve made to mine and my husband’s life.
I have suffered from pelvic pain for about eight years.  Due to the fact that I have been working with Raquel Perlis, I am finally almost fully rehabilitated and ready to have pain-free sex again. I am not sure what I would have done without Raquel’s help and am extremely grateful to her. I cannot think of a nicer, kinder, warmer, more gentle person to help me recover from this pain.

-Lindsey

***

I can’t believe I am writing this because just under a year ago, I was reading these pages desperately looking for a sign that there was hope for my condition. I was a 28 year old, married for 9 months and totally unable to have intercourse with my very loving husband. Every time we would attempt penetration, it would feel like we were hitting a brick wall. I was so frustrated, angry at myself and despairing of ever being “normal” when I did some research on the net and found I was not alone in this condition. Through Raquel’s website I contacted her from half way across the world and even in our email contacts; she was so honest, open and available that long before I got to the states, I knew there was hope for me.

-Rebecca

***

My husband and I spent a large chunk of our savings on the trip and Raquel went out of her way to fit me into her hectic schedule. She was so warm and supportive, I cried so much in her office because I think her kindness was so overwhelming. She never let me feel hopeless or scared and she always pushed me to work towards my recovery in her signature gentle way. After I left the sates, she continued to support me via email and prevented me from losing hope in my recovery. Now, after 8 sessions with Raquel and several months of practice on my own, I can manage pain free intercourse after dilating. I know I am not fully healed in body yet, but I have come such a long way because I was fortunate enough to have a PT who worked just as hard on healing my spirit. I always believe that we get sent the angels we need, and my husband and I truly believe that Raquel was that for us.

If you are dealing with Vaginismus, please don’t hesitate, it is treatable! And you couldn’t hope for a better support in your journey than Raquel. I cannot thank her enough for helping me understand and respect my body and through that, learn how to heal myself.

-Jane

***

I am a 28 year old married woman who has suffered with vulvar pain for seven years. I started having problems in college and made dozens of trips to the campus women’s health clinic to figure out the cause of the pain and how to treat it. Initially, I hoped that it was an allergy to a shampoo or shower gel, but this wasn’t the case. When the women’s clinic couldn’t help me, I met with countless doctors without any answers. I was told that I had recurring yeast infections, but none of the creams or antibiotics took the pain away. One doctor told me that the pain was induced by stress and that I should just stop thinking about it to make it go away.

After several years without a diagnosis or suitable treatment, I started to give up hope. During this time, I started dating an amazing man who helped me continue to search for doctors who could help me. Finally, I found a gynecologist who diagnosed me with vulvodynia in about ten seconds with a q-tip test! I cannot describe the relief I felt to have a diagnosis! She recommended that I read The V Book by Dr. Elizabeth Stewart to learn more about vulvodynia. Tears streamed down my face as I read about other women with vulvodynia. Finally, I had some answers and didn’t feel so alone.

My gynecologist also recommended that I receive physical therapy from Raquel Perlis. What an amazing woman! Raquel has a wonderful way of making her patients feel comfortable and cared for. With the support of Raquel and my loving husband, I am on the road to becoming pain-free. After two months of physical therapy, I am amazed at the progress I have made. I just found out that I am pregnant with my first baby and I have never been more optimistic about the future. Raquel has even given us exercises to prepare for the birth. Seven years ago, I never thought I would be writing this testimonial. Thanks to a wonderful gynecologist and Raquel’s care, I am so happy to share my story with others. Raquel has given me hope, one of the greatest gifts one can give.

-Jodie

***

“It took me several years to determine through diagnosis that my vaginal problems
were because I had vestibular vulvodynia. So many years went by not being able to
have intercourse with my husband because the 5 different gynecologists “didn’t see
anything wrong” with my vagina. Finally, through Dr. Elizabeth‘s office, Diana Park-
Forbes immediately put me on topical medications to clear the raging inflammation I
experienced. When the inflammation subsided, I was able to visit Raquel Perlis over a 12
week period to have the appropriate vaginal physical therapy in order to train the vaginal
muscles to relax and eventually be able to have intercourse. After those 12 weeks of
dedicated work by Raquel, I was abele to have intercourse with my husband!! Tears of
joy for both of us! Raquel is an angel to me and countless numbers of women who suffer
from this very debilitating diagnosis.”
Helen, age 59
***

“It took me several years to determine through diagnosis that my vaginal problemswere because I had vestibular vulvodynia. So many years went by not being able tohave intercourse with my husband because the 5 different gynecologists “didn’t seeanything wrong” with my vagina. Finally, through Dr. Elizabeth‘s office, Diana Park-Forbes immediately put me on topical medications to clear the raging inflammation Iexperienced. When the inflammation subsided, I was able to visit Raquel Perlis over a 12week period to have the appropriate vaginal physical therapy in order to train the vaginalmuscles to relax and eventually be able to have intercourse. After those 12 weeks ofdedicated work by Raquel, I was abele to have intercourse with my husband!! Tears ofjoy for both of us! Raquel is an angel to me and countless numbers of women who sufferfrom this very debilitating diagnosis.”Helen, age 59

Growing up in an extremely religious home, I would fantasize what it would be like the first time I had sex.  All the while, I would sneak around with boys, kissing and touching but never taking the final step.  Sex to me, in my mind, was this magical, romantic moment.  Pure bliss.  However, what I encountered my first time was nothing less than excruciating pain.  In that moment, all of my dreams were shattered.  My husband, then boyfriend, and I tried several more times, at my insistence, but the pain remained.  I felt I’d failed as a woman, as a girlfriend and, most of all, the pleasure I once thought would come from sex culminated in pain that left me emotionally devastated and would keep me from committing to marrying my boyfriend for almost 9 years because I believed I would never be able to have sex the way “normal people” did.

Over the next several years, my husband and I continued to grow in our relationship, but our intimate relationship dwindled.  Once a woman who loved everything about intimacy, I withdrew into myself.  After four years, I felt unable to continue in this manner and sought counseling.  But, it was a complete breakdown and inability to go through with my routine, annual ob/gyn check-up that catapulted me (and my husband) into realizing I needed the help of a sex therapist.  Three years later, and still unable to have sex, we moved to Boston and located a new sex therapist.  Through this therapist, we were introduced to Raquel.  My husband and I had been together over 10 years, without having sex and an extremely sporadic, intimate relationship.  Over the years, I’d conditioned myself to just “go without sex.”  To say I had high hopes when first going to Raquel, would be an extreme overstatement.  Yet, I figured I had nothing to lose.  I definitely never thought I’d be considered a success story, not even close.  I believed I was a complete loser when it came to sex.  But, Raquel worked with my husband and me every step of the way.  Eventually, we came to really look forward to going to see Raquel.  And it wasn’t only that my pain began to subside.  Raquel made us smile, laugh and just downright adore her.  She doesn’t need to tell you she’s committed; her patients can feel her concern for their well-being through her interactions with them.  Raquel is truly an amazing physical therapist.  She taught me about my body and taught my husband and me how to overcome the hurdles we’d avoided for so long.  Almost a decade after my husband and I met, we finally had sex minus the pain.

Raquel’s patients each have unique story, a singular path to travel to pain-free sex.  As I waited each week in the waiting area, what struck me was how “normal” everyone looked, acted, etc.  I eventually realized I wasn’t a loser, an oddity.  Other “regular” women had problems, too.  They, too, secretly suffered.  Without Raquel’s skills as a physical therapist and her exceptional ability to put her patients at ease, I, and many others, would most likely still be alone.

-Jen

***

I started having intercourse at 18; it was painful, but I found a million ways to rationalize the pain: “I’m young, inexperienced, immature, maybe a little uncomfortable, and probably insecure about myself and relationship…” etc. Sex continued to be painful throughout my early twenties, but I mostly ignored the issue assuming that some day, with the right person, I would finally “relax” and enjoy sex.

About two years ago when I met my current boyfriend, it became impossible to deny that something was wrong. I was in a loving relationship with someone I trusted completely, and felt very comfortable with myself and my body, and yet sex still hurt. I asked my doctor about it; she examined me, told me I looked perfectly normal, and sent me off. Not satisfied, I went to a different doctor, and another doctor after that…

After over a year of misdiagnoses, piles of sexual dysfunction books, and a lot of frustration, I finally found a doctor who diagnosed me with vulvar vestibulitis. I never thought I would be so relieved to be diagnosed with a chronic condition! But it was amazing to talk to a doctor who knew exactly what I was going through, and more importantly, knew the steps I could take to control my condition.

She referred me for pelvic floor physical therapy to treat the muscle spasms my body was using to protect itself from the perceived pain of penetration. Even when I get the vestibulitis under control, it’s the spasms themselves that are truly painful. After 8 weeks of physical therapy, I’m amazed at my progress. Just this past week I had intercourse for the first time since I began my therapy. I couldn’t believe how different it felt. Initially, it made me angry to think about all those doctors who examined me and thought my spasming muscles felt normal — they definitely did not, and now I know the difference. But more than anger, I feel relief and extreme gratitude that I found a doctor and a therapist who can truly help me. I still have work to do before I’m where I want to be sexually, but I finally have hope. Hope is easily the greatest thing this experience has brought me.

-Michelle

***

I am a 41 year old patient of Raquel Perlis. May last session of my 12 week physical therapy is this week. I am finding myself filled with so many emotions as I write this email. Fist of all, I came to Raquel by way of Dr Elizabeth Stewart. I am divorced but living with my boyfriend and two children, age 10, twins by of IVF. I had stage IV endometriosis and 8 months into my divorce I had a complete hysterectomy all the way down to my vaginal cuff because of elevated CA 125 levels which could have indicated ovarian cancer.

I did not end up having cancer but was told that the surgery which was performed was absolutely the “right thing to do” because of the severity of my endometriosis. At this point in my life, I began dating and yes… contracted vaginal herpes, something I’d never imagined would happen to me. It wasn’t that I was promiscuous; I just did not practice safe sex and won or lost the luck of the drawer. Yes, you could say, life wasn’t looking so good. Luckily, I found out I had the herpes before I gave them to my then and still boyfriend of 5 years. I began experiencing painful intercourse around this point in time and my doctor continued to increase my estrogen intake quite a bit. I thought that because I was vaginally dry due to lack of hormones that the estrogen would help. Every lubricant I used seemed to irritated me. Intercourse had never been painful, although I can honestly say I had never been able to inset a tampon or have a routine Pap without severe pain. As time went on, intercourse became more and more painful and I started having what looked like “periods” even though I had had a hysterectomy. After several doctors visits I ended up having another surgery to remove what was thought to have been “residual ovarian tissue”. What my oncologist found was three huge tumors in my colon filled with active endometrial tissue. My doctor believes that because I was on such high doses of Premarin, my endometriosis grew again. So I had my 2nd extremely invasive surgery wherein portions of my small intestine and colon were removed. That surgery was about 3 years ago and up until 3 weeks ago, I had not had intercourse since right before the surgery. I had about 2-3 months of recovery, yet I had severe pain in the rectal area now and had severe pain if my boyfriend even touched on the outside of my vagina, never mind penetration. I saw several doctors who told me… just relax, your tense, you have bacterial vaginitis, you have a yeast infection, you might be having a herpes outbreak so take extra valtrax. I was so frustrated, depressed and degraded. I felt like an “asexual” woman… someone who just exists, not someone who “feels” I thought that maybe I deserved this because I had gotten divorced, because I chose “me” instead of staying in an unhappy marriage, because I contracted herpes and felt dirty… for what evener million reasons, I felt that I deserved this life sentence of “never having loving passionate, painless sex” until… I met Raquel Perlis and Dr Elizabeth Stewart. I was diagnosed with vulvodynia by Dr Stewart. I was also told that my body had endured such painful and invasive surgeries, that my vaginal nerve endings were highly sensitive and felt painful to the touch and my pelvic floor muscles were clenched up tight like a ball… BUT… with the right medications, some topical estrogen for Dr Stewart and 12 weeks of physical therapy with Raquel Perlis, I would be finally getting the help I was so desperately in need of. I didn’t know it then, but I would be getting back my self worth, my ability to have a wonderful pain free sexual life and most importantly, I HAVE “ME” BACK. I don’t feel like I deserve pain because I did something wrong or got divorced or contracted herpes.

My pain was REAL and Raquel and Dr Stewart confirmed that. It was not in my head, I actually had PHYSICAL PAIN in my nerve endings. My rectal pain for my surgery has almost all but disappeared. You see, what I didn’t understand was that you rectum and your vagina share that same pelvic floor and the muscles on the pelvic floor can affect both areas. (Raquel explained all of this to me with a model on my first visit). I was taught by Raquel “how to relax my pelvic floor”. All my muscles were clenched so tight for so long due to so much trauma, that I had to learn how to relax again, how to stretch my vaginal muscles, how to use the dilatators to help me stretch the vaginal walls and lastly how to have sex again. You see, I do deserve to be happy, I do deserve a pain free sexually active life and I do deserve to feel like a beautiful and sexual woman. Raquel not only taught me how to have sex again, she and Dr Stewart DIAGNOSED ME AND YES…. TREATED AND CURED ME. I was literally at my wits end with countless doctors. No one actually gave me a reason as to why it hurt too much having intercourse. Dr Stewart said to me.. “Does it hurt on the inside or on the outside”… I never been asked that before??.. I had never been asked point blank, explain to me EXACTLY what if feels like, no matter how crazy it sounds. It felt like shards of glass were cutting me every time my boyfriend touched me, I felt like I had just shaved my vaginal area and that sharp hairs were stabbing me. I felt like a pair of seats were the only thing I could wear because anything remotely fitting in my private area had me feeling like little prickers were jabbing my private area. And guess what… that is NOT normal and I finally believe (no..that’s wrong.. I know!!) that. Through stretching and massaging my vaginal muscles and pelvic floor, doing floor and Kegel exercises and through biofeedback… I now can have pain free sex. Raquel has been patient, kind, understanding, funny, realistic, supportive and has made me feel comfortable even in the most awkward of situations. An as I near my last appointment with her, I feel sad, as I know I wont have my weekly physical therapy with her and hear her words of encouragement. But I am leaving her with one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. I am leaving “feeling whole” again. Sex is not supposed to hurt! I know that now. Don’t let yourself believe that its in you head ONE SECOND LONGER or that if you don’t think about it and “just relax” that intercourse should hurt. There is help. There is a solution. There is an angel and her name is “Raquel Perlis”. This is my gift to all of you who are searching online to figure out “why in God’s name” you have this pain. My gift to you is my story. I was you for the last couple of years searching for answers, looking for someone with my same symptoms an tonight… for the first time ever, I was able to read a story that someone wrote and believe it because I AM LIVING PROOF THAT help is out there and that is a great feeling. Thank you Raquel Perlis and Dr Stewart. You have made my life a better one.

Susan

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I am a 32 year old, married woman and I have never been able to have intercourse. I first realized that something was wrong when I was 19 and fainted the first time I tried to insert a tampon. When I was 20, I attempted intercourse for the first time but my partner was unable to penetrate at all – as if I had no vaginal opening. I went to the health clinic at my school where the nurse and then a visiting gynecologist examined me. The exams were quite traumatic and painful, though in the end I was judged physically able to have intercourse. I was told to just relax and practice inserting two fingers in my vagina. Once I could do that, I would be able to have sex. But how could I insert two fingers when the thought of inserting even the smallest object made my heart race and palms sweat?

For the past 12 years, I have been under the care of three or four different gynecologists. While they were kind and understanding, pelvic exams were agonizing, mostly unsuccessful, experiences. Additionally, never did I hear the word “vaginismus” and never was I told that there was a way of overcoming my problem besides being told to “drink some wine and relax.” For all of these years, I have kept my secret and lived in fear of people finding out – depressed and frustrated at the thought that what comes so naturally to everyone else was impossible for me. I am sure that my vaginismus played a role in the end of several relationships, though I have been extremely lucky to have found a caring man with whom to share my life.

A few months ago, I just happened to come across an internet article on vaginismus. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized that it described me and my problem perfectly. Finally, there was a name for my condition and finally I realized that I was not alone, that I was not a freak. It was truly a day that changed my life. I just happened to have my annual (unsuccessful) exam the following week at which time I brought up vaginismus with my doctor. This started the ball rolling and brought me to work with Raquel.

I have been having weekly physical therapy sessions for the past two months. In this short period of time, I have gone from shaking at the thought of vaginal penetration to being able to insert my own fingers, tampons, and dilators as large as a penis. Through my work with Raquel, I have been able to teach my body to not clench at the first sign of penetration and through massage she has been able to stretch muscles that have spent years in the contracted state. I feel truly blessed to have found her.
While I’ve learned not to regret anything in life, I do wonder how things would have been different had my doctors made me aware of vaginismus and its treatment. Dealing with this at a younger age would have saved me years of frustration, loneliness, and sadness. I am confident that the open discussion of vaginismus and other vulvo-vaginal disorders will prevent other women from having to live in silence and shame

Here’s something I don’t like to talk about—I am a 30-year-old virgin. This might sound strange, especially when I tell you that I’ve been married for five years to a wonderful and loving man. But the sad fact is that I’ve never been able to have intercourse. For me it started with a vaginal strep infection I had as a child—and the accompanying traumatic visit to the doctor. Fast-forward to my pre-teen sex ed class, where the teacher plunged a tampon into a glass of water to show how it popped out into a big blob, and you can see that I had some emotional roadblocks to my comfort with my private parts. In addition, though, there was pain, real pain which took me years and a lot of different doctors to finally diagnose as vulvar vestibulitis. Now, with the help of physical therapy exercises, I’m making significant progress and I feel confident that I’ll be able to have intercourse in the near future. I only wish that when I had been ready to try sex ten years ago that there had been some resources on my college campus, or in my doctor’s office, to assure me that there was a name for this disorder—and, more importantly, a treatment.
I am 30 years old and have had pain when having sex for about 3 years. I had been to many different doctors, primarily gynecologists. I had even been to a specific center which focused on sexual dysfunction. But no one ever recommended physical therapy until this past fall. And I was a little surprised and embarrassed, but I figured I would give it a try. Now, I have only just begun my treatment, but I will tell you that I am confident that it will work. And what was so exciting to me was finding someone that I knew what she was doing and could explain to me what the problem had been all this time. And not only that, she was able to tell me that it was treatable!! I think it is unfortunate that these topics are not easily discussed, but I think it is important for people to know that young women can be affected by these issues and for doctors, psychologists, and physical therapists to all be working together. And what I think would have been extremely helpful was if I had learned more about all of this when I was in college—I think it could be so helpful to learn about our sexuality and our bodies. And since college is a time for young people to be asserting their own independence, I think it is especially important to get this information out to them.

-Alisson

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~ Doctors ~

I am writing not only as a clinician who shares patients with Raquel Perlis, but is also an admirer. I have sent clients to Raquel for more than 10 years and I have personally known her for four years.

She has been one of the first in the area of Pelvic floor physical therapy using it for pelvic pain, pain with intercourse (dyspareunia), urinary incontinence and various forms of vulvodynia. She has allowed a whole group of women know that they are not alone. She has made them realize that pain with intercourse or urinary incontinence, or vulvodynia is not something that needs to be hidden but can be taken care of in an open, sensitive manner. She has given many clients who were without hope and new lease on a part of their life that for many was hidden away and they thought would never be adequately treated.

Raquel is a superb clinician as well as kind and considerate of her clients with these delicate issues.

Marjorie Green, M.D., MPH

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I have been sending patients to Raquel and her staff, for physical therapy and biofeedback, for over 10 years. They all say the same thing:

“Raquel is marvelous. Such a can-do attitude”.

“I was ready to give up, but Raquel kept me going”.

“I thought the idea of physical therapy was a little weird, but thanks to Raquel I am enjoying relations with my husband again”.

“She is lovely-so kind-so caring.”

Elizabeth Stewart, M.D.

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Raquel’s work is life saving for women who despair of being able to have a normal sex life. Her work is ground breaking and truly remarkable. Not only is she highly skilled knowledgable, she also gives out tremendous warmth, ease and naturalness that allows patients to feel safe and trusting. Every woman I have worked with who has been treated by Raquel tells me she is terrific. Raquel is one of those rare healers who is a true blessing.

Judy Leavitt, Ed.D.

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