Night sweats, low moods, insomnia…thanks to increased coverage in the media menopause symptoms are finally being talked about. Still not as openly, widely and without stigma as they should but it’s a start. I’m grateful to work in an environment where it’s ok to let your co-workers know that you had an awful night’s sleep or a flare-up of tinnitus and receive understanding nods rather than bewildered looks.
Whereas women going through natural menopause mostly still produce a level of hormones for a long time, somebody’s pulled the plug on my supply. You see, I’m in surgical menopause, the cruel cousin of the natural variety.
The trouble started with fibroids, endometriosis and adenomyosis which led to total hysterectomy last year. My womb and ovaries were beyond repair and my cervix was removed to reduce the risk of severe endometriosis re-growth, throwing my body into turmoil with symptoms starting hours after major surgery. The 10-inch scar on my midriff is a constant reminder that something is missing from my body and even though I have physically healed, my hormone production ceased when my ovaries were removed.
During natural menopause hormone production gradually decreases, leading to more-or-less severe menopause symptoms. My hormone factory, however, has closed its doors permanently. The quest to obtain the correct type of HRT with my quarterly prescriptions has become a stressful routine I have to live with. I need HRT. No number of herbal remedies, food supplements or exercise regimes alone can make me feel well enough to function and live a full life.
Nobody left the exact hormone recipe to make my body work as its best, so managing symptoms of surgical menopause will always be a work in progress as my body ages and my needs change.
There’s also a heavy feeling of finality to having your reproductive system removed for which there is no or little counselling available pre- or post-surgery. I look at the loss of this in a rational way as I’m too busy trying find a way to live with the aftermath and hadn’t planned on having kids anyway.
Even though surgical menopause can be hard to cope with, the hysterectomy has freed me from constant debilitating pain and horrendous bleeding. I wouldn’t hesitate to have the same procedure again, but I would wish for better education amongst primary health care professionals and for massive improvement in post-surgery care to help women to adjust to life with surgical menopause and live a happy and fulfilled surmeno life.
Menopause doesn’t have an end, things don’t go back to “normal”. Changes driven by surgical menopause are as brutal as an unexpected fall from a cliff-edge and it’s a permanent state. I’m fortunate enough to be able to talk about the effects of the condition at work and I hope in time, we will all be able to do so…
My advice would be:
Make sure are aware of all possible menopause symptoms (the list is much longer than you might think!).
Keep a diary of your symptoms to bring to appointments with your GP.
Don’t be afraid to ask for an alternative health professional in your GP practice if you don’t feel heard.
Talk with your friends about menopause – you are not alone with how you feel.