Friday, 18 November 2011

To HRT or not HRT

This morning my lounge looked like a jumble sale! Sweaters were scattered around the room, t-shirts hung over backs of chairs, jeans almost standing on their own in the middle of the room, socks stuffed under cushions and bras hanging off the book shelves. It was a hot date - the aftermath of a hot flush attack while trying to relax of an evening..like I used to in front of TV with a film or while listening to the radio. I miss being able to lie down without ripping all my clothes once or twice an hour. I miss sleeping. Sleep used to be my most favourite past time. I used to love going to my bed and drifting off into a deep peaceful sleep. This is not happening anymore and I am in mourning for that most simple thing. It is all I want. I do not want money or fame . I just want to be able to sleep through the night and awake rested and calm.
This is the main reason I keep visiting the GP.  So far I have made five seperate visits to four different GP's, spoken to to Obs&Gynae consultants who I sometimes work with. I've been told not to go onto HRT because I am under 50 and still in peri-menopause , I have been told I can go on HRT. I have confessed to a female consultant that I am scared of HRT. She said simply:"don't be! Your risk of breast cancer is only slightly more than that of someone on HRT" and when I said:"Well what if I get Breast cancer?" She said: " Don't worry, we'll manage it!"

I have been given two prescriptions on seperate occasions for HRT - one for pills, the other for patches and not filled them out. I want there to be some other reason for the heat and the migraines and the sleeplessness so I have insisted I have a blood test to check my thyroid and also asked to be checked for a brain tumour! But it all boils down to this - I do not dare or care to put horse urine derived oestrogen or any other kind of oestrogen into my system when my own oestrogen is dropping off.

Many of my female friends cannot understand this and positively worship the HRT manufacturers i.e. pharmaceutical companies who make billions of £'s from HRT. They pop the pills like sweeties and gleefully glue on the patches without batting an eyelid.  One even said:" I know when it is my time, I will just go straight onto it without a thought". Another one told me: "It's the best thing that was ever invented. Take it!"
Maybe I am too untrustworthy of modern drugs and can't get away from this notion that putting hormones into my body especially ones derived from horses urine, when my body is naturally shedding them is kind of like trying to put water back into the tap while it's running out. It just feels wrong. It hit home when the GP said : "You will have a bleed on the 2nd month". This happens because the Oestrogen thickens the uterine wall and so progesterone is added to make sure it sheds. My periods have not been regular, I have not had one for 4 months but you're not declared 'in menopause' until your periods have been absent for one year. So if I start HRT I will start periods again and then we don't know when my periods should have stopped. GP says:"Well we leave you on for two years after your 50th birthday or you can wait until your 50 before taking it and take them for only a year. Or just take them now!" Confusing! Also I kind of wonder if anyone knows what they are doing with HRT?

Back in the pre-HRT day, women just got through it with a fan and a Gin and tonic. I don't even recall my mother having the menopause. She never ever mentioned it but she didn't have HRT and died very young. I believe our bodies are designed to go through the menopause without it killing us, and you just have to look around at all the elderly post 70 and 80 year old women running about in the world. They did it without HRT.  I  want to be strong enough to get through this 'heat'  phase but as the GP said on my most recent visit, if you are having such a miserable time and you have to get up every day to work, have a social life, and all these things we have to do in the modern world, sleeplessness, headaches , mood swings, stress, heat, can all be detrimental to your health too and can actually kill you. HRT can make it all go away... for awhile at least. So as I write I am giving it another few days to see if anything changes, maybe the symptoms will subside and I will plateau out for awhile. Then try and hold out for the next phase. You see to me HRT = High Risk Therapy for increased chances of Breast cancer, uterine cancer stroke and ...well the jury is out on Osteoporosis. We shall see. KJC

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Diary of a confused woman.: Hot flash flush

Diary of a confused woman.: Hot flash flush:

Hot flashes or flushes? I'm English so I say flushes but hot flashes more accurately describes the feeling of heat flashing up from the chest turning a usually fair English complexion (to quote an old colleague of mine) redder and rounder than a baboon's arse!  It takes time to get used to them so if you've just started having them don't worry you will have plenty of opportunities to get used to them because they do not go away, they cannot be stopped and you will never be the same again! Some lucky women, apparently 40% of women don't get them at all. But if you're reading this and are as unlucky as I am I sympathise. 


I started this blog because I was afraid if I did not express myself during these intense periods of rage and heat, I might actually spontaneously combust or kill someone, either the kids that are screaming and swinging on a home made swing right outside my window or some random Audi driver in a fit of road rage!  I used to not mind the kids outside playing before I turned into a thermal traffic light.  I used to think it was great that kids could play outside without fear of being snatched by a paedophile, after all I grew up in a time where you could play outside when you were a kid 40 odd years ago. I didn't get snatched by anyone but I did get flashed at by a man of course... a masturbating man to be specific.. Aah such sweet memories of an innocent childhood!

For men of a certain age I suppose they may have the problem of a never ending sex drive that cannot always be fulfilled or even engaged with if the thing won't work properly but for most women of a certain age... the drive becomes more of an occasional jaunt to the chemist for any kind of supplement that has the word menopause on the label. 

But thank Heavens for small mercies really because as much as I bemoan the loneliness factor of being single, the prospect of having to deal with a well oiled torso ( yeah right!) and a thrusting pelvis every week or even once a month in this condition is not something I could actually do. I feel sorry for the partnered and married women in peri-menopause unless of course they are among the lucky few that (a) have no symptoms and (b) like having sex all the time as we seem to be conditioned to want to do despite the fact that we may not be that interested or we may be older and prefer to just eat chocolate and stare at the TV, read a book or go to sleep.

Men! You just don't have a clue and that's not your fault. You cannot help being a man but please read up about the menopause and try and be grown up about the fact that you and your penis will now have to back off for quite awhile! Your brain may register that lying next to you is a hot, sweaty woman throwing off blankets, moving and thrashing about, but you must learn to recognise that this is a situation where it is not an invitation for you or your penis to get involved! If it does - then you may find yourself getting punched fairly hard. After all we all know that sex for the man will almost always result in him getting to sleep afterwards, but not so for 'she!'  She will have to push the heavy, hot, dead weight snoring male to the edge of the bed or get out of bed and  go somewhere else to lie awake, flushing, boiling and not feeling very comfy from the waist down (because things are changing down there), praying for death while  'he' rests un-peacefully in his snoring, farting and loud-breathing sleep.
So this is one positive about being single. The aforementioned does not happen so often!

Peri-menopause. I like the word menopause: -  Men Oh Pause. (Get lost! in other words) Or: 'Men Or paws?'  No contest! Cat wins hands down. 
Peri peri  or Piri piri? Could be the only way to make it stop!  Though I'm told HRT can make it stop and  bio-identical hormones (which I don't think you can get in UK) can make it ease but I am nervous of HRT. One of my elder friends went on to HRT for 15 years until she reached 70 years of age and then came off it. She told me  that the hot flushes, night sweats, screaming, crying and  begging for the grim reaper to just 'come and take you NOW' all came back. After 15 - 20 years of peace the hot flushes were waiting at the other end!
Another friend in her 60's  swears by HRT and thinks it is the best thing ever invented. 

I don't know - I understand why women take it though, you feel so desperate because here's another symptom of menopause that they don't tell you about... It makes you want to shoot yourself!  It makes you want to run from all the thus far hidden in denial truths of your life that start to hurtle towards you in cyclonic fashion, laughing, pointing and jeering as they come. Howling, taunting, tormenting you with their cruel truth. The fearful truth about your failure as an artist or performer or singer or whatever. As a woman, in love and relationships. All the wrong decisions you made which led you to this point in your life. It all comes home to roost and the reality about your general inability to cope with life, finances, aging, employability and all the wasted time you spent doing jobs you hate in order to avoid doing a job you hate! The voices, the constant chatter in your head about what you should have done or should be doing or who's advice you should have taken ... rubbish really  anxiety, fear the lie you have lived by ignoring your inner truth all come home to roost. But critically, the truth about your hair! The hair that is sticking out in ten different directions and is about ten different colours in a bid to conceal grey - hair that is long and straggly when it probably should be short and chic! Then there's the slippers that are so worbn, the sole is flapping around like a flipper and the old jogging bottoms that you slum around in. But you don't care! It's menopause!

Then there is all of this denied creative ability - opting instead to work yourself to death-by-boredom in all manner of mind-numbing jobs just to pay the bills, something I swore I would never do. The kind of jobs that make dressing up as Mr Bump or a Smurf and almost sweating and over-heating to death for a themed c-list celebrity event hugely exciting by comparison.

No I didn't get where I am today by being successful! 

The menopause is a hard teacher. She is shoving all of this in my face and she will do it to you too. So be prepared. This is the part they don't tell you. All the New Age stuff (and I have been into all that New Age stuff and I like some of it) but there is no crystal wand that can wave menopause away under a cleansing shower of light. Sadly there isn't, I have tried... repeatedly! Although Acupuncture and herbs really do help with the hot flashes. But that kind of treatment does not come cheap and is not available on the NHS.

Ah well. What can be done?  I am aware I am wishing menopause would go away or that I could cure it as if it's an illness. And I do wish I could turn back time and do my life differently. I do! I am not one of these that say: 'If I could have my life again I wouldn't change a thing'.  I would if I could. .. yes I would! But I know I must accept myself and my life and be grateful and thankful that I have life and I am not starving or stupid. That this is a natural part of a woman's ageing process. Modern society tries to deny this by selling us products to stay young and sexy forever but the truth is I am not young and sexy anymore. I am mature and sexy, according to some, although I don't really know how that feels yet!  The hormones are shifting from where they are no longer needed. I'm past child bearing age and entering a new phase - 50 to 65 on the check box coming soon!

 I try to be optimistic, I try to accept it and not lose my sense of humour because it really is like being on a roller coaster which is at times very unnerving. You have to get used to it . There is no choice.

I do think it can spell a new beginning even though it feels like the end. Rage can be good - it can transform and make positive things happen but the mind really does play tricks in this state and can lead you down some very narrow pathways.  I'm trying very hard to really think about what I would simply like to be doing and pointing myself in that direction without really caring about what anyone else thinks I should do for a change and do realise that I could have done this at any point in my life but....I have come this far.  Some people I know didn't get this far. And that is simply how it is really. A part of life.

Yours, In peri-menopause, menopause and beyond,
Geraldine K Dove.