The Truth About Menopause
If you are new here, I recently survived cancer. In doing so I had to accept going into abrupt surgical menopause. I have had no hormone replacement options available as they stand a high chance of causing more cancer in my body.
But you know what? Despite the long lists of symptoms the internet will give you, it’s not an illness. I’m actually doing well! It has been a couple months and this is what I have learned…
The Symptoms Are Temporary
In my pre-surgical meetings with my bad ass surgeon, I would ask lots of questions. How about we keep my ovaries? How about hormone replacement? How about those hormonal creams I have read about?
Immediately after surgery, while still in recovery she came to check on me. I muttered out of my throat, still sore from the respirator tube, “How about black cohosh?”
Her response was always the same. Nope. I can’t have anything that is hormonal, in prescription or natural form.
Then she said the magical words, “Menopause symptoms are temporary. They don’t last forever. You are going to be ok.” Ha! No person or article had ever stated this fact. I instantly relaxed about the whole affair.
It’s Different For Everyone
Studies show genetics may be on my side. Scandinavian women have fewer symptoms and weather their symptoms for just four years.
While African American women in the study reported being plagued by symptoms for ten years on average, women of Asian origin who were involved in the study reported problems that lasted just under five years. Caucasian women lie somewhere in between, reporting they suffered from symptoms on average about 6.5 years. –JAMA Internal Medicine
So genetics gave me cancer but also delivers an easier time with menopause. These are the cards I have been dealt. Your hand will be different from mine.
I’m Topless More Often
When it comes to hot flashes I was ready for the worst. I have another friend going through chemo and she has a different story. She had to keep a towel on her pillow to protect her pillow from becoming wet each night. Some people find it causes tons of sleep interruptions. It’s different for each person, but there are things you can do to care for yourself.
I had my first hot flash a few hours out of surgery. About two times a night I get a minor “sweat attack.” I throw the blanket off myself. I fall back asleep for about 5 minutes. Then I wake back up and pull the blankets back on.
During the day I’ll have about zero to four heat surges. They happen more in the morning than any other time of the day. At the onset, they can feel like an anxiety attack. I have had more than a few anxiety attacks in my lifetime and have taught myself how to reason my way out of them. This skill allows me to recognize the onset of a heat surge and remind myself, it’s only a few minutes and has nothing to do with anxiety. The quicker I act, the faster it passes.
Beyond self-talk, I have a couple other tools. My friend sent me some Saje citrus based spray that can cool me down very quickly. Honestly, if I am at home I just whip my shirt off for a few minutes and I am good.
All this inner heat (and the fact that surgery cured my anemia) has some advantages. I am no longer cold all the time. I give my dog a long walk in the winter. I can shovel snow and face the winter weather with more ease. My Scandinavian Nordic edge is back!
My Skin is Beautiful
I read a lot about how one’s skin changes after menopause. They say it goes dry, losses its resiliency, and you break out more often. I am early in it, so maybe I should not talk… but my skin feels wonderful. I am no longer having monthly, hormone-induced breakouts. My skin is more clear and less blemished.
One of the coping techniques I developed (with the help of my sister) was to dig into self-care rituals, like baths, scents, food, and yoga. I have been taking the time to better care for myself and I am sure that is having an impact as well. I am more selfish, and for a giver– it takes some effort to be selfish.
Sex is Awesome
Before I had even healed from surgery I knew my sex drive was in fully intact. That inner thumping that makes me want to climb my husband like a tree was all there.
I had some advantages here tho too. I have a strong relationship with a loyal partner. He held me through treatment and never doubted my strength. I believe something like cancer or menopause gets tough when a person is in a poor relationship. You’d be better off alone than with some fucker who does not know how to love you. (Been there, ugh.)
It also helps that I learned to love my body, imperfect as it may be. I have done the work to find and honor my beauty. I seek pleasure and joy in this little vessel. I try to treat my body well and address it with compassion. This allowed me to have really kind inner conversations with myself on how to get through cancer and surgical menopause.
I have at times been my own biggest hater, but my point is– I have found peace inside myself when I don’t hate on me. This makes sex and sharing myself fun.
So yeah, orgasms are no problem. We need lube now but we always used lube. It’s just a healthy and enjoyable thing to do with any kind of sex.
I can’t tell you how awesome it is to no longer have my cycle! My body is easier to care for. I don’t have to spend money on tampons or pantyliners anymore. Life is not interrupted by a drop in energy, a drop in my immune system, or pain.
Contemplating how menopause would change my life was scary. I feel relieved to be in it now. Menopause is no longer a mystery. There are changes. They are different for everyone. I have learned the better I care for myself, the easier the experience can be.