Last month I struggled with a sense of aimlessness. I am now about five months into remission and that feeling still exists to some extent but has been overtaken by a sense of doom. Thankfully I am not moving through my days feeling depressed. I […]
I’m presenting ‘Sex For Survivors: Healing After Trauma’ at Smitten Kitten. There will be limited seats but please know getting there is the hardest part. Once we start, there’s lots of love and ideas for how to squeeze more out of your lovely life. April […]
Howdy! Welcome to my February roundup. You can by the date that I almost missed it this month! Working in the sex toy industry means I get clobbered with work every February by perverted Valentines who need vibrating doo-dads. Bless their hearts. __________YUM__________ I am […]
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.
This is a timeline of my healing process. I’m creating it to remind myself how far I have come and to help other people who experience a robotic, radical hysterectomy to know what they might expect. Doctor’s say it should be six weeks until I am fully […]
Quick post as I have limited energy. Forgive my typos, I’ll try to clean them up once I have more wits.
On surgery day I went from being emotionally distressed to terror as they started popping the IV in my arm, to absolute physical trauma. I came to in the recovery room with horrible pain my shoulder. I was begging someone to hold my hand. The nurser told me she was too busy. There were lots of patients, each nurse had two patients to attend to. They stood in front of these mobile laptop desks.
She told me the pain in my shoulder was due to the gas they fill the body cavity with as the robotics unit moves through the body. The gas had risen to my shoulder. This is the should that I had rotator cuff surgery on when I was 17 years old. The pain felt like someone was tearing my limb apart. It was excruciating.
At some point the let my husband in and he held my hand and fed me ice chips for what I think was hours. I was in and out and confused. They moved me to a room that night. It was nice. A private room. My husband went to take his mom back to our home and to get what he needed to stay the night.
The pain in my abdomen started to become apparent. The pain in my shoulder started to decline. In the morning I found my husband cat napping in a chair, I had a catheter, an IV in one hand, and another in my elbow. I had some serious problems with pain management. There was some amazing staff at this hospital, but I had some serious issues with the morning staff. I did everything I had to do to get released as quickly as possible.
The drive home was painful. Every tiny bump in the road hurt. Walking to my door and up the flight of stairs was really hard. But home is the best place to heal.
I think robotic surgery is not less painful at the beginning, but healing seems to come faster. Each day I fell pretty miserable but there are also little wins every day. I started walking with more ease. I can get out of a chair on my own, I have been eating ok. Every day a little more progress. I stopped taking the pain pills (except for Tylenol and Advil) a few days ago. Yesterday I made my own breakfast.
One big problem this is that cannot get comfortable in any position. It’s hard to sleep. And then two nights ago… my shoulder starts with the excruciating pain again. I got up in the morning and the pain subsided. Then again last night at the end of the evening, the shoulder pain again. I woke up at some point and realized my should is dislocating when I lay on my back. It’s dislocating when I use my arms to pick myself up off the couch. It’s threatening to dislocate when I pick up a coffee cup. I am right back to where I was before I had my rotator cuff surgery. Fuck. The gas they used during surgery destroyed my rotator cuff.
So in the wee hours of the morning, I taught my husband how to relocate my shoulder. Tomorrow I’ll seek a specialist to see if we can repair this damage with physical therapy. I must be the first person to go in to have cancer removed from my abdomen and come out with a damaged shoulder. FML
Today I made a blog post. Tomorrow my goal is to get out of pajamas and put on real clothes maybe. (My goals right now are super small.)
Today is Thanksgiving. It’s a good day to make a list of everything I am thankful for. I’ll go work on the long list.
Happy Thanksgiving my friends.
Surgery happens this Friday. Now there is a low hum of nervousness that constantly resonates out of my chest. It started yesterday and is so real that I can damn near touch it and see it. I wish I could make it stop. The thing that I have been […]