‘Are you … um … are you okay?’ my gyno asked me hesitantly as she eyed me over.
I think she expected me to have some sort of emotional breakdown.
‘Some women take the news … well, it can be upsetting,’ she trailed off.
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders as I dug my fingernails deep into my arm to stop me from crying.
I’d walked into her surgery just 15 minutes earlier armed with a referral and blood results. I’d had only one period in more than 12 months and my doctor suggested it was time we figured out what was going on.
Truth be told, I already knew deep down what was going on. No periods, hot flashes, brain fog, sadness – the signs were there and had been for some time. I’d confided in my friends that I feared I was going through menopause, but they reassured me that I was too young and it was surely stress that was causing my symptoms. It wasn’t until I shared my concerns with my mum that I knew my fate was sealed – she had her last period at 32.
While I knew what my gyno was about to tell me, it didn’t make it any easier. Her words, ‘your ovaries have shut up shop,’ punched me square in the stomach. I was 38 and diagnosed with premature menopause.
The info my gyno spouted to me that day went in one ear and out the other. I dared not move a muscle or utter a word. If I did I would certainly open the floodgates and give her the emotional breakdown she expected.
I somehow found my way home and ate my weight in Nutella before bawling my eyes out until there was not a single tear left to cry.
I’m not going to lie, I went through a grieving process when I learnt I was going through menopause 12 years earlier than I should. I battled with feelings of becoming old before my time, I feared my husband would no longer find me sexually attractive, and I felt like my choice to have more children had been taken away from me. The loss of control over my body and my life was a huge thing for me to come to terms with.
After my cry, I read the info the gyno gave me from front to back and back again – and highlighted it.
I had experienced nearly all of the symptoms I read about and realised that there had been clues along the way for years, even back to when we did IVF more than five years ago. I felt a sense of relief that I wasn’t imagining hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, irritability and low sex drive. They were real and we were going to fix them.
Fixing them, however, turned out to be a process in itself. I was told Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) was recommended for women diagnosed with premature menopause as oestrogen deficiency at a young age can put women at risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.
It took me six months and four different types of HRT until I found one that worked for me. Trialing the different medications often felt worse than the menopause symptoms. I went through everything from a burning and bleeding scalp to emotionally erratic behaviour.
I now wear HRT skin patches approximately 5cm in diameter on my abdomen 24/ 7. They’re big and annoying and are a constant reminder of my menopause, but, and it’s a big but – I don’t have hot flashes anymore. I don’t feel as sad anymore, I’m sleeping better and the sex, well the sex is the best it’s been in a long time.
Did you know one in 100 women under the age of 40, and one in 1000 women under of 30, are diagnosed with premature menopause in Australia each year?
If you think you may be menopausal, check out the Australasian Menopause Society and its list of symptoms.