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Medical Menopause, Cancer & Me..........

Medical menopause……….what’s one of those I hear you ask? And that my lovelies is exactly my point…..I knew that this was going to happen to me – part of the trade off when you undergo certain life saving Cancer treatments is the knowledge that your no longer going to have the use of your ovaries – however at the time all your thinking about is surviving & figuring out how not to throw up on public transport after your chemo session or exactly what you can eat without it vacating the premises in double quick time - if your one of the lucky ones & you beat the odds, you breathe a bloody big sigh of relief, maybe have a tentative party to celebrate & focus your energy on living each day to its fullest…….. and not long after that it starts to go a bit tit’s up - you find yourself facing the rather uncomfortable, flush making, fanny drying, memory fogging, libido vanishing truth……WELCOME TO YOUR MEDICAL MENOPAUSE!!!!!!

So after these symptoms hit & I got over myself for being grateful that every month no longer involved sanitary towels like duvets, copious amounts of pain killers, hot water bottles & mountains of chocolate, I hit the internet, google searching for all I was worth – maybe I was remiss in not looking sooner but dear lord horhay there’s virtually NO relevant information out there on the world wide web & I pride myself on being quite a good researcher of such things – to help guide us ladies who have gone from monthly cycle divas to slightly confused & should be happy that you don’t have to endure all that anymore in the space of a FEW WEEKS.

There’s a number of online articles that make a mention of chemo/radiotherapy affecting your fertility, a little talk on how to manage this & virtually nothing from the clinical team at the hospital bar the loose offer of HRT at some point in your future, if you fancy it…….now I know that this isn’t going to be everyone’s experience & some of you will have had excellent support from your team of specialists, especially if you arrive to your follow up appointment a sweaty, grumpy, sexless, hairy beast (even if you pluck those bloody chin hairs every week, there’s always one sticking out, messing with your mind) who only remembered what time she was meant to be here because she wrote it on the back of her hand this morning, they’ll be there to hold your hand & offer suggestions, management techniques & tell you about new research which may ease your symptoms.

There are a ton of books on menopause, lots of helplines, blogs, vlogs & TV programmes with famous ladies of a certain age to help you understand what you’re experiencing, how to get through those pesky night sweats, Michelin inspired tummy rolls & feeling like your hungover every bloody morning as if you drank the entire bar dry the night before (which of course you didn’t) & they are incredibly useful because you just MAYBE experiencing these things BUT every bit of info that I read came from the perspective of a 50’s something woman who was slowly coming to terms with her fate – I just couldn’t relate to that………my hormone free, WTF brain couldn’t wrap itself around the stories………. because my experience was just so different……done & dusted in a couple of months.

Where did that leave me?..........In a pretty foul mood to be honest but I was determined not to turn into a miserable, slightly psychotic, unpredictable, bunny boiler that my mum morphed into when she went through her medical menopause – I suppose that was my greatest fear - there was no handbook to follow (and your role model option isn’t so great) so you put your big girl pants on, go out there & work it out for yourself…………

I started with treating the physical symptoms – my wonderful herbalist Natasha of Forage Botanicals had been a complete star during my cancer treatment & weaved her wonderful magic again, when your sweating so much & you look & feel like you’ve just stepped out of a sauna, you’ll take just about anything to get some relief even if the herbs taste a bit like lawn clippings with a touch of rose bush. I set about on a positivity quest, trying to find a silver lining – some days were easier than others with that one let me tell you – BUT it didn’t matter what I tried (and my bank balance said that I’d tried quite a lot) I still felt like I’d been body snatched by some strange, alien being, my body wasn’t behaving the way it used to & my mind sure as hell didn’t work in the same way (I was Ok at countdown before but now it’s like errrrr I can’t do that in 30 seconds, no way… in God’s name could they make an eight letter word from THAT) and just before my first annual check up I had a pretty spectacular breakdown……..

Now by this stage I’d changed hospitals & consultants to the Royal Marsden who’ve given me fantastic after care (I must shout out to my wonderful Nurse Specialist for being at the end of the phone when I needed her) & it’s through their services that I was offered counselling…………I’ve just finished my sessions with Miss L & I can honestly say that with her guidance & most awesome skill she has helped me to rediscover the old me in the new me (a bit like those Russian nesting dolls, where you keep on finding more versions of you) giving me a safe & nurturing environment to discuss my thoughts & feelings about a whole host of stuff that was bothering me – I had quite a few lightbulb moments thanks to her insight & at times slightly annoying but pertinent questions (I say annoying because I should of thought of them myself…duh) which helped me to see me in a less judgemental (let’s be honest we’re our own harshest critics) way & how by adjusting the odd word that we use to describe ourselves (my word was compromise, she suggested flexible) we can change our perception of who we are & what we believe we are capable of. As of right now,

I’m doing Ok - thanks in no small part to the fab medical team that I now have on my side & as I’m currently feeling rather empowered I’ll take the bow & applause, for it does take a whole heap of courage & a bit of what my Nan would call “spirit” to show up in your big girl pants & deal with your own shit.

Ultimately we are all on our own journey, each as quirky as the next one, what might work for me may not work for you (horses for courses & all that) however wouldn’t it be pretty darn awesome to start a conversation……………lets do what us women do best & have a bloody good natter about medical menopause, how we’re getting on with our new bodies & strange minds, sharing our experiences (be they, good, bad or just plain butt ugly) & maybe, just maybe we’ll start to make a difference one story at a time.

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