The Menopausal Journey

The Menopausal Journey

How do any of us pinpoint that moment on our menopausal journey when we know we need to ask for help?  Mine was the receipt of a white flag email from my husband.  The over riding sentiment was that he loved me, the under lying one was that it was time to call in the cavalry.

Plagued by PMT most of my post child-birth years I was a nightmare to live with for at least half of each month.  I can say that now, but obviously no-one was permitted to say that at the time, at least not out loud or unless I suggested it first!

My husband called it my “flash to bang” ie the time between something irritating me a little and me morphing into godzilla.

There isn’t a definitive timescale on the menopause nor a guarantee that our experience will be the same as others.  Each story is unique. For me as the peri-menopausal journey progressed, the shorter my fuse became. The result was detrimental to our family health.

We are a close unit.  We chat, we laugh, we share.  Our family mantra is “Hug me!! Love me!!” My situation was destroying all of that.  I knew it, I could see it but I couldn’t stop it on my own despite all my best efforts.

The solution for me came in a tube of bio-identical hormone therapy.  As a general rule I am not into natural therapy of any kind.  I am always the one in the corner rolling her eyes and groaning at the mere mention of the word alternative.  Why have acupuncture when you can have a pain-killer is largely my view.  When it came to my hormones, however, I knew I wanted a treatment that targeted my symptoms specifically and not those of the generic majority.  So to celebrate turning 50 I threw everything and every pound I had at finding a solution.

Hormone therapy, bio-identical or otherwise is such a personal issue and demands careful thought and consideration.  It is a subject that can divide a nation of midlife women as much as the Brexit vote.

I was alone amongst my friends on my hormone therapy journey, who were and still largely are reticent about its “safety”.  I placed my faith in the fact that millions are spent every year on medical research to make our lives better and whilst as with everything there are risks, in this age of information we are well equipped to make educated decisions.

My mission at the time was simply to improve my quality of life and preferably before I hit my 50th.  The result?  Well it worked for me and thereby my family, so for me it was a win win.

What improved?  Well everything really.  My general mood was the biggest issue at the outset and I was assured that my low level of progesterone (the happy hormone) was the cause, so that became the core focus for my initial prescription.  My mood improved significantly but there were other benefits too -  my anxiety dissipated, my heart palpitations disappeared, the fog around my brain lifted, my skin started to glow again and I slept better and we all know if we sleep well we feel well.

With the benefit of hindsight, the secret to a good menopausal journey is to start managing the symptoms early and not wait for them to overwhelm you.

Hormone therapy is not an overnight miracle cure, for me it took three to four weeks to notice a difference. When it happens, however, the euphoria is akin to that when you first fall in love and there is a definite feeling that you have simply arrived in your happy place!

Fast forward a year and that status quo evaporated.  Following my shock cancer diagnosis over Christmas I underwent radical  surgery just short of my 51st birthday and shifted from a position of wonderful equilibrium to one of instant chaos.

Like many others of my age battling with the menopause, I dreamed of the halcyon days free of the side effects of my yo-yoing hormones, but letting nature take its course and being suddenly dropped into the menopausal abyss forced by surgery are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

It is brutal believe me, like free-falling and landing face down without a crash mat.  All those earlier menopausal side effects that hormone therapy had helped to manage returned plus some, which is not surprising as my hormone levels quite simply flatlined.

In the early days post-surgery it is all about pain management and rehabilitation so any thoughts of the menopause and hormone therapy were really at the bottom of the pile of priorities but it was always on my radar.  For the year before my surgery it had become my fix, my elixir if you will – I couldn’t just abandon it.

Right now I am at a crossroads.  I have passed the 12 week post surgery stage, there is tick in the box and hormone therapy is on the agenda again.

There are many who have questioned my eagerness to revisit it, inferring that I might as well just deal with the menopause now that I am in the thick of it, but that is largely the view of those who are already “white-knuckling” it. In fairness, what they can’t appreciate is that a menopausal woman who hasn’t undergone surgery still benefits from small amounts of oestrogen and progesterone but I am not. My body is recovering from the physical and emotional trauma of surgery and a complete depletion of my hormone supply and they have a job to do in protecting us against heart disease, dementia and osteoporosis.

Surgical menopause like any other can be managed and having found something that worked for me before I am confident I can again. Whether I will revert to bio-identical treatment or not I am yet to decide.

The two most important men in my life at the moment have differing viewpoints. The first, my surgeon and the man to whom I owe my life in the inimitable way of medical professionals refers to it as “voodoo medicine” and simply advocates an oestrogen patch. The second, my husband, my rock and the man I love with every fibre of my being says stick with what worked.  Indecision is the territory of  menopausal madness but I am a woman on a mission to get back in control of my life and manage my long term health along the way and in the short term at least hormone therapy has a role to play.

 

Do you have a menopausal journey story to share? Either your own or a partner's?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below. 

 

The Midlife Menopausal Journey

 

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20 Comments

  1. May 23, 2018 / 9:08 pm

    I really feel for you reading this Jo. Having put your heart and soul into finding a solution that worked and knocked the awful suffering into a tin hat, it’s all been turned on it’s head again as you’ve been through the trauma of the last five months. Not fair is it. I love the way you speak of the two men in your life – yet therein lies the conundrum of opposing views. There is a third person though – and that is you. If something works and it makes you feel better then it’s worth its weight in gold. I assume there is no medical reason not to other than it being ‘alternative’? Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 11:35 am

      I think what this experience has demonstrated to me so clearly Nicky is the difference that HRT made to the quality of my life. It would be easy to simply give in to all the ghastly symptoms and side effects all over again and ride it out but I definitely want to revisit that happy place again. It’s not for everyone but for me it is certainly “better”.

  2. May 20, 2018 / 4:31 pm

    This was really interesting to read. While I haven’t started on my menopausal journey yet, I have noticed certain things with my period that have me wondering but I will ask my doctor when I see him. This is great information though because I know I’m going to need this in the near future:) #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 11:37 am

      I think the longer you are without starting on the journey Michelle the better and many do go through it without even noticing a significant difference.

  3. May 18, 2018 / 9:06 pm

    I often feel when reading about the menopause and its horrors that somewhere I lucked out, and missed it! At 60 it must be behind me but I think it hid under piles of nappies, and got lost on the school run – an advantage perhaps of having a baby just short of 40? The options are therefore not something I’ve had to investigate, and feel a little frightening with so much conflicting advice. I can’t offer any constructive advice but it’s such a personal thing I think you have to go with what feels right for you. Good luck with this next part of your journey x #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 11:40 am

      Oh Mary you are one of the lucky ones! I have a dear friend who literally sailed through the whole process and I am always very jealous. She did however have her only child very late so thinks that it was like you all concealed in the challenges of being a new mum.

  4. May 17, 2018 / 4:43 pm

    You’ve been through so much the past few months, you really could do with a break. Sounds like you have a very supportive and understanding husband. I hope you find the right balance with whatever route you take and find something/the right thing that works for you #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 11:42 am

      Suzanne my inclination is to go with worked before at least in the short term until I get back on track and then maybe I will revisit it again.

  5. May 16, 2018 / 8:14 pm

    What a great post Jo and so honest. You have really been through it and must give yourself credit for your strength and give your body and soul time to heal. I’m very interested in your hormonal treatment as I have been to my doctor on numerous occasions and am always offered anti depressants! My doctor is about 12 so how she can seriously understand is beyond me. Im cross about it tbh. I’m not depressed but feel anxious occasionally but this is cyclical. I also get reoccurring sore throats but again, this is cyclical and I KNOW that this is about hormones. My periods have kicked back in for the last 6 months so I’m enjoying the relative normality of periods but I know now this will change and I will go back to hot flushes, feeling low as well as the sore throats and anxiety. It’s a rough ride. I’ve also suffered with flooding periods which apparently is common and my mum suffered too. I will definately look into bio-identical hormone therapy so thank you. You take care now. Xx #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 11:49 am

      Oh Sophie you sound like you are having a really rough ride. Everyone’s symptoms are different but there does seem to be a commonality with anxiety which I have heard others say their doctor’s have suggested may be helped by anti-depressants which is just wrong on so many levels. Surely that just creates a bigger problem further down the line? I hope that you find a solution that works for you and would definitely advocate taking a look at the bio-identical hormone therapy. X

  6. May 16, 2018 / 4:20 pm

    I am still searching for something that works for me. I am not classed as menopausal in Holland but I have had a hysterectomy. They left my ovaries. I have had some hormone treatment but it made me crazy and I had terrible hot flushes so I’ve stopped taking it. I hope you can find something that works for you! Thank you for hosting #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 11:57 am

      It’s interesting Catie to hear that in Holland you do not fall in to the menopausal category and that the hormone treatment made your symptoms worse. Prior to my surgery my main issue was insomnia and mood swings, now I also suffer from terrible hot flushes and night sweats. It’s all quite tedious really but somehow we all find our way through it with or without some help.

  7. May 16, 2018 / 5:58 am

    I am in that phase when I am suffering from perimenopause. It is a premature one for my age and life has had more downs than ups. I am taking some Ayurvedic supplements along with homeopathy that are helping out for now. I did share some bits of my perimenopause journey in a blog post if you are interested in reading: https://www.rachnacooks.com/2017/03/16/perimenopause-a-tough-phase-in-a-womans-life/

    Wish you good luck. This surely is a harrowing time for you. #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 12:04 pm

      Hitting that phase early is really unlucky Rachna. It’s interesting to hear what others use to alleviate their symptoms and I am glad you have found something that is making a difference. I will definitely pop over for a read of your post.

  8. May 15, 2018 / 8:15 pm

    I’m glad you found what worked for you. It’s a bit like having a baby–everyone has different opinions and different things work for different families.

    I am happy to have found a dr that listens, is encouraging, and knows her stuff when it comes to my journey. Knock on wood. I hope she never relocates!

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 12:06 pm

      Lucky you Katy, unfortunately there are so many stories from people about a lack of understanding from doctors that it’s great to hear your positive experience. As you say, for your benefit I hope she stays put.

  9. May 15, 2018 / 10:20 am

    Brilliant post. A fascinating and beautifully described journey and experience I can only read and “experience” at a blessed remove! Love your honesty and I like your style re anything “alternative” A biut dubious myself on that kind of thing, but if it works … Thanks for sharing this. #Tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 12:09 pm

      Thank you Enda for taking the time to read my post and for your thoughtful comment. These scenarios can so often affect those around us too and my husband has become very adept at lending his support and offering his advice at arm’s length!

  10. May 15, 2018 / 12:19 am

    I loved this post Jo and as a woman who has also spent the best part of her life battling gbwith the dreaded hormones I couldn’t get enough of your advice.
    Luckily, I am the sort of person that DOES believe in everything natural (although I’m not averse to throwing a few nurofen down my throat when I can’t find the lavender oil!)
    I am now going to read all about bio hormone treatment with great interest. My motto has always been ‘if it works for you then go with it’
    Someone once suggested acupuncture for PMT, I never tried it but they swore by it. I am currently taking DIM tablets (although since travelling I have forgotten most days) and they seem to calm things down a little.
    I have used progesterone cream for a few years – that helped with PMT but then the two weeks crying and rages that you describe came back…
    Travelling around the world for a year with the kids has eased the crying and tantrums (mine, not theirs) so that leads me to believe that external factors play a huge part too.
    To be honest with you though Jo, I think it’s simply a fact of finding something that works for you.
    I will be watching your progress with a keen interest on this subject and as always will be keeping my eye on you from afar . Liz x

    • Jo
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 12:14 pm

      Oh bless you Liz it is so lovely to hear from you and to read your thoughtful comments. Acupuncture is very popular although you won’t be surprised to know I still haven’t been tempted. Maybe I should throw caution to the wind and embrace it! As you say a lot of this is down to trial and error and no one person or solution is the same. Since writing and publishing this post I have resumed my bio-identical hormone therapy, interestingly on the same dosage as prior to my op and a couple of weeks in I am feeling considerably better. The plan is to have a review in a couple of months and see where my flatlined hormones have gone up to and take it from there. I think there is more to come from this journey of mine. X

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