diaryofthemenopause

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Each Person is Different

My whole life I’ve had problems with my periods.  They started when I was 11 and were instantly irregular.  They were heavy when they did come and caused me to be ill.  My Mum took me to the Doctor and was told repeatedly that “I’d outgrow this problem”.  I never did.  At 23 I was diagnosed with hyperprolactinemia due to an adenoma over my pituitary gland.  My prolactin count was in the high thousands, this prevents oestrogen being produced.  To add to the complications, I was later diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) too.  Again, this messes up your hormones.  Somehow I managed to have my first daughter naturally.  The hospital at the time did want to run a series of tests to find out why, but I got the idea that they were more interested in a paper on a woman that shouldn’t have had children falling pregnant with my condition than anything else.  My second child was born after various fertility treatments for both the high prolactin levels and the PCOS.

After the birth of my second daughter, my condition got worse.  My levels were rising and the tumour over my pituitary gland was growing. There was no concern, it wasn’t growing into anything, but it was active.  I was on treatment for a few years, but due to work and the length of time I was at the hospital every 2 months for check-ups, I stopped with the regular checkups in my late 30s.  Just before I did, for the first time since I had been diagnosed, someone told me about the link with high prolactin, low oestrogen and osteoporosis. No-one had warned me that I was a high risk of osteoperosis before.  I had a bone density scan done with I was in my mid 30s.  It seems my childhood and hobbies had prepared me well.  I loved milk and cheese, and I did a lot of running, cross country running and trampolining.  A high calcium diet and high impact exercise had set my bones well and I was showing a low risk of osteoporosis.  Phew!

For some reason around the age of 40 my periods started.  Every 28 days, then over the years 26, 24, 21, until they were roughly every 2 weeks just before my hysterectomy.  When all the tests were being carried out, my prolactin levels were still showing as being high, although in the high 900s which is low for me.  Because of this they wanted me seen by an Endocrinologist just to make sure everything on that side was OK.

So today I went to see the Endocrinologist for the first time in probably close to 10 years.  He confirmed that with both PCOS and my prolactin levels that I have been oestrogen deficient most of my life.  I asked about HRT and he said that each person should be treated differently, and that you shouldn’t just treat an issue – so surgical menopause and under 50 equates to you have to go on HRT.  The endocrinologist said that because I have been oestrogen deficient all my life, that putting me on oestrogen HRT presents more dangers than benefits, especially as I’m only 2 years off the magic 50 mark they all seem to aim for.  He dictated a letter for my GP saying that because of my history, I should not go on HRT.

The Endocrinologist also works on the magic 50 mark.  I am no longer sure if I should celebrate 50 in 2 years time as the time when no medical science has any interest in me as I will officially be “too old!”.  They will continue to monitor my prolactin levels following the hysterectomy, which should work in my favour, but they just monitor me until that magic 50 where nothing matters any more, just to ensure the tumour doesn’t start growing for some reason, then after 50 they no longer follow you up.

I am 3 weeks post hysterectomy tomorrow, and as yet I still have shown no signs of the menopause starting.  I have to really hope that the 7-8 years I did have proper periods, that my prolactin levels stayed high enough for my oestrogen levels not to rise enough for my body to get used to them.  For now, I just feel relief to have someone medical say that I don’t have to take HRT.

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Three steps forward, Two back

I had an unrealistic image of hysterectomy recovery in my head a few weeks ago. I never really thought that something could take this much out of me.

I did decide to follow the 6 week rule completely. I have heard from too many people that didn’t really stick to this rule and ended up with further surgery due to adhesions that formed by not allowing your insides time to heal. I can feel everything pull when I pick up something heavier than I should lift. At the moment the area above and below my scar is painful without me doing anything else.

I walked to the stables and back today. It was a stretch but I felt good afterwards, although I’m paying for it now. It was just over my limit and I do have to walk very, very slowly. Just walking upstairs is hard work. Living in a townhouse certainly gives you enough exercise.

Hystersisters site calls the recovery process 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. I fully agree. I’m not halfway through my 6 weeks yet, due to the second operation, so I just have to be patient. 2 weeks ago I could do nothing, now I can do enough to take care of myself and others. Every step forward is a step in the right direction.

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Elastic Waistbands

Elastic Waistbands are essential post hysterectomy. I only thought of it last minute and own one skirt with an elastic waistband. Luckily I wore it to hospital so it was there for me to wear home.

My stomach is so swollen and sore. Right now I wonder if I will ever fit into trousers again. This is a problem as I love my jeans.

The bruising on my stomach was so severe after both operations. It is still there but now mainly yellow. I suffer from swelly belly every night and the pain gets worse as the evening proceeds. For the past two days the pain has been bad on both my sides. I’m hoping it’s recovery pain as it is in the same place on both sides and is worse when I walk up the stairs. I can feel it pulling. My insides must be recovering now as well so who knows what’s going on in there after all they did.

Right now I can’t imaging wearing anything but a flowing skirt that touches nothing. Hopefully in a few weeks I will be back in normal clothes again, especially as we have a family holiday in August.

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My Alternative Choices

Deciding to take HRT or not is a complete minefield of information. I can see the pros for the under 50s, and I’m sure if I had been 42 that my decision would be different.

I have to go through this at some point. HRT is a temporary delay to the menopause, it is not a cure. With the number of women I know that are in their late 50s and now battling to be left on it, I became more determined to avoid it. We have a strong family history of increases cancer risk with HRT, I watched my Mum die of breast cancer so I really do not want to start on that road. My Mum battled to stay on it for 13 years.

I did a lot of reading and there are so many alternatives out there, all with pros, cons and the usual “there is no proof”. Some websites highly recommend one natural alternative, and then a further 10 websites show that particular supplement causes liver failure. The reading for alternatives is as much of a minefield as the reading for HRT.

At the end of the day, it’s up to each of us to make our own choices and decisions. I am choosing not to take HRT for the 2 years left in my 40s. Yes I worry about the increased cancer risk, but I’m more worried about then choosing to remain on it.

I know I am an increased risk of osteoporosis. I drink a lot of milk products and eat a lot of cheese. I had a bone density scan done in my mid 30s which showed I had a high bone density. Despite this, I am taking calcium and magnesium supplements.

For hot flushes, I decided on sage tablets. I have read mainly positive things about this and it’s a one day tablet.

For skin and essential fatty oils, and also hot flushes (although poor results), I am taking high dosages of starflower and evening primrose oil. My skin is very dry and itchy, so I hope some oils help.

I am also taking Promensil red clover supplement. This is a high dosage isoflavone supplement. People in the East tend to not “suffer” through the menopause, and it is believed this is diet related. They have a high soy, bean and legume diet that we don’t have. I have switched to soy milk as a substitute to milk to try and increase my intake.

After further reading yesterday, I will also add folic acid. This should help heart and some dementia symptoms from occurring.

I am now 16 days post op. I do not yet have any real symptoms to talk about. I’m slightly depressed and very irritable and moody, but that could be a mixture of frustration and boredom. My skin is incredibly dry, particularly stomach and thigh area. Apart from that I have not yet had any hot flushes or night sweats.

Most of the alternatives are to be taken for a month before any difference is noted, so I will continue to monitor all this.

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Prozac The Wonder Drug

I’m guessing the symptoms are finally starting. Either that or I’m just bored beyond belief. My skin all over has dried up and is so itchy. As for my mood, well I’m pretty sure if you said “hello” to me today, I’d burst into tears. I’m struggling so much with not wanting just to scream and scream and scream at the top of my voice. The house is full and I want quiet. The noise is irritating me.

I suffered from Post Natal Depression after both of my children were born. The first was the worst one for me, but that was partly due to stupidity and embarrassment on my side. When I was diagnosed, my Mother-In-Law at the time said that she didn’t know I was predisposed to psychiatric issues. I let it get to me. I hid what I was going through, and I quickly came off the medication I was on. All this did was delay my recovery. I suffered months of hell because I was so worried what everyone else would think. I was a failure. I was predisposed to this.

By the time I had my second child, I was emotionally stronger. I didn’t care who knew. It had nothing to do with how good a mother I was, and I wasn’t predisposed to anything. I was put on Prozac, I stayed in Prozac and the difference was immense. That was 15 years ago and I’ve seen a huge difference over those years as to how any type of depression is viewed by others.

Around 7 years ago, my periods changed in nature. For me that meant I had them. With that came PMS. Over a period of years the periods got more and more intense, and closer together and the PMS made me impossible. Pete started getting people out of the house. Just breathing in my presence was enough to set me off. I was happiest when no one was around, as it meant no one to cook for or clean up after. I have no idea what made me look in the mirror one day and see what I had become. I needed help!

I made a Doctor’s Appointment. My periods were out of control, but so was I. I actually told the GP that I really want to kill anyone that annoyed me. I was lucky he laughed and didn’t take me too seriously. About 3 week’s prior to my appointment, he had been at a Gynaecological Seminar where PMS and the more severe form PMDD were responding to Fluxotene (Prozac).

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Premenstrual-syndrome/Pages/Treatment.aspx

After 2 weeks the results were nothing short of a miracle. I had my life back. By this time my periods were every two weeks and my PMDD was continual. I began to see the small stupid things that would have set me off, and I could cope fine.

I stayed on the Prozac and as my periods worsened and a hysterectomy was the only option now, I looked at Prozac for a different reason. During my Mother’s menopause, she was an unbearable, bad tempered woman. I thought I was bad with PMDD, but she made me look like Snow White. This all changed when she was put on HRT. She changed drastically. As I’m avoiding HRT, I had wondered if Prozac would keep me level throughout any mood swings I had.

I started researching this and was amazed to find that Prozac is used during the menopause. Not for mood swings though, it seems to have an impact on the hot flushes. Although not licenced in the UK for use with the menopause, it is prescribed.

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/menopause-alternatives-to-hrt

I was already on this before my surgery, and have stayed on it. I am now 16 days post operation, and am yet to experience a hot flush. I don’t want them, but as I’m still taking the Prozac, I guess if I never get one we will never know if it was the Prozac or just me being lucky.

The Prozac is the only prescribed medication I am taking during my surgically induced menopause. Who knew it was such a versatile medication.

Sadly if it is helping with my hot flushes, it’s failing with my mood. The house has gone quiet again. My head is no longer screaming for peace and quiet. I really can’t cope with too many people around right now. I have a big family, this could be a fun weekend!

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Post Op Blues

My emotions seem to be a roller coaster ride at the moment.  I have good moments and bad moments. These seem to be getting more and more frequent though.  I assume is part of the boredom of being stuck at home alone most of the time.   I do basic things, like make a salad, make a sandwich, put stuff in the dishwasher.  My brain is still not up to doing anything as complicated as reading though.

Today isn’t helped by the fact that I feel so sick.  I’m trying to eat something to see if that helps, but I feel so ill and don’t want to be, as anything with that scar is unpleasant!

Despite being bored and lonely, I then find it hard work if people are around.  You feel you have to be lively and chatty and do things, when after about 15 mins of anything, my body seems to just want to crash out and disappear in its own world.

The only real menopause symptom I have is dryness.  Everywhere, my skin is getting dry, I have feminine dryness which is driving me nuts.  I have ordered Starflower and Evening Primrose Oil to start taking, hopefully that will at least help with the skin dryness.  If I’m honest with myself, I guess I’m getting moody too!  At the moment I can see when I do it. My attention span and my concentration levels are minimal, and I am finding myself struggling.  Hopefully the Prozac will help me remain level with the mood swings, as it worked treats for my PMDD.

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Post Op Recovery Boredom

My first operation was 2 weeks ago today.  Looking back I knew something was wrong almost immediately as I really struggled with everything after that operation.  Since the second operation though to clear the internal bleeding, I’ve felt better and better as each day has passed.  The pain is now a discomfort, my stomach muscles are getting better every day.  Changing position is still a challenge, but a lot easier than it was even a week ago.

Six weeks is a long time to do nothing.  They are very strict about this 6 week timeline because your body is healing both inside and out, and any abnormal stretching or pulling can cause a tear internally, which can then lead to adhesions and problems healing properly internally, which then later causes pain and a further operation to resolve that.  I’ve had two operations already, I don’t want any more, so I am trying so hard to be good for the next 4 and a bit weeks.

This is leading to boredom.  I’m in the house a lot on my own and my attention span is pretty limited for me.  TV seems to be the best way to pass the time, as I don’t have to concentrate.  Friends has been my saving grace with this one.  I have around a 10-15 min attention span on reading or sat at the computer.  Being sat at the computer poses other problems, sitting is not a comfortable position for me to be in for any length of time yet.

I work 12 hour shifts, and after a bad day I just want to come home and not even have to bother talking to anyone.  I just want to calm down and file everything away inside my head.  Now I’m sat at home all day long, mainly by myself, so when Pete comes home in the evening, it’s unfair to expect him to have to entertain me and talk to me. He’s is going through a really rough time of it right now at work, and he needs to switch off.  Moreso now because he is having to deal with everything on his own, as I can’t help out.  I may be partly due to post operation blues and feeling a bit down now, but it’s just so boring and lonely!

I feel the need to start a charity for all post-hysterectomy women.  We should recover in a 5* holiday resort in the Maldives or Hawaii.  As soon as the staples are removed, we are clear to swim, bathe, we could be waited on hand and foot by allocated Butlers, we wouldn’t feel guilty about having to watch people do what we usually do, because there will be nothing for us to do!  Food will be prepared by chefs, no clearing up to watch.  The biggest bonus is that we would all fully understand what the others are going through and be there to help and support during all the bad bits and, we could gain hope from those that are ahead of us in our recovery, by seeing that in a week or two, that’s what we’ll be able to do.  More importantly, we’d have company all day long if we wanted it.    I just need to find a multi-billionaire to back my new plans!

Apart from the severe boredom, the only other strange thing that appears to be happening is an inability to adapt to changes in body temperature.  I’m not having hot flushes, or anything resembling them yet, but when the weather is hot, as it is today, I seem to struggle more to maintain my temperature.  Doing even the smallest of things makes me sweaty and clammy and irritable.  It was the same in hospital when I was stuck in bed by the window during the heatwave that transformed the ward into a sauna.  I have all the doors and windows flung open today, and the fresh air is nice and feels good.

Well I guess I better get on with my day – oh let’s see, watch Friends, drink water, talk to the cat, have a shower, try reading a book again.  I will only start to worry about my days when the cat talks back to me!

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“What if I feel less feminine?”

The first of the symptoms started today, but that is just “feminine dryness” where everything is now beginning to heal up and clear up.  Nice!!  The staples were removed today, which is a massive relief.  I feel so much more comfortable.  It seems I was allergic to the metal of the staples, and that may be what is causing my rash, but it was also causing severe irritation around the entry sites on both sides of the staples.  That should clear up now.  I’ve also finished all antibiotics as of today, so am now medication free.  Today is a massive milestone as now it should just be a case of time.

So with no other symptoms yet, I started wondering about some of the concerns with hysterectomies.  One of the main concerns was that “If I have my Uterus removed, will I feel less feminine?”.  OK, so I’m not the most girlie girl in the world, and in all honesty I’ve never been that attached to my uterus – it’s been nothing but an annoyance since I hit puberty.  I had a very lax attitude to this whole operation, and at no point did I ever think I’d miss my uterus or feel differently.  You do tend to wonder if this attitude will come back to bite you at a later date.

I feel no different without it. Actually that’s not quite true, I feel better without it.  How feminine I feel, or any other feelings I had before this operation are still there. I’m still me, I feel no different now it’s been removed and I have no regrets at all that I did the right thing.  What is very noticeable is the lack of pain that I had from over where the cysts were on my ovaries.  I always knew it existed, but I hadn’t realised it was a permanent fixture in my life, and now it’s not there, it feels lovely. Even with the uncomfortable feeling that comes with hysterectomy recovery, the loss of that pain is very noticeable.  The other noticeable difference is a change in my colour.  I’ve been fighting anaemia for so long now, and living on iron tablets to get by.  I see myself in the mirror and I look healthy.  I feel healthy, despite the operation recovery going on I feel better and with more energy than I have in years.  I am taking the recovery slowly, as I know all to well how much damage I can do if I don’t follow the strict 6 week rule, but I can’t wait to see how I am in 5 weeks time when that’s all over.  I feel better today than I have in such a long, long time.

It’s still early days for me.  It’s been 13 days since my first operation.  I already feel amazing and am so glad that I put myself through this.  Hopefully things will continue forward in that same way.

 

 

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HRT Guilt and Self Help

I think I have been lucky so far.  I’m now on Day 12 and I have experienced no mood swings, no flushes, no temper tantrums, no ups and down, no bursting into tears.  I’m physically damaged, very badly bruised and uncomfortable, but that’s it so far.

I did read that your body can store oestrogen in the fat.  I guess I’m never going through the menopause then, as my fat stores probably hold enough oestrogen for a few generations!

The only thing that is now niggling at me, is the HRT guilt.  Despite my conversations with medical people that have chosen not to take HRT (the Anesthetist from the second operation), and the knowledge that it’s not forever, I am beginning to wonder why so many people push HRT so hard.  I found an article today that says about HRT and using it when you have your ovaries removed, as they believe that the ovaries are responsible for more than HRT, and may be linked to Adrenal issues.  Here is the link I found:  http://www.hystersisters.com/vb2/article_97235.htm#.U6a0GvldVWo

My hair is thin enough without me losing any more of it.  I just keep arguing with myself over this – have I made the right choice?  At the moment the lack of any symptoms is helping in a way.  My body hasn’t yet adjusted to the removal of all my organs controlling my hormones.  On the other hand, those friends of mine that did go onto HRT are now in their 50s, and they are fighting tooth and nail not to be taken off, because they can’t stand the symptoms of the menopause.  Maybe facing it will I’m safely locked away inside a house, with no access to a car, is the best option!

A rash appeared all over my tummy and top of my legs yesterday.  Today it has got worse.  It’s small and itchy spots, but they are now beginning to clump together.  I’m still on antibiotics and other medication until the end of today.  That’s nearly 2 weeks of antibiotics in one form or another.  I think maybe my body has just had enough and wants me off everything.  I’ve taken antihistamines to stop the itching, but they aren’t really touching it.  There is no swelling, so I’m not at all concerned about the rash – it’s just another annoyance right now.

Google has been my main source of help, but I noticed that every time what I’m looking for comes from the same site – http://www.hystersisters.com/   This site is a complete store of information with help, support, products you can buy to get through and probably the most balanced information I’ve seen yet on HRT or Not HRT.  It even has an iPhone App, so that got downloaded today.

So today’s outlook is more boredom, itching rash, bad brusing, uncomfortable afternoon/evening where there is NO position that brings relief, and my latest favourite – the Swelly Belly (latin name – Swellicus Bellicus), oh yes, I have this and it’s the main cause of my evening/night discomfort and the reason I cannot wear normal clothes and am loving whoever invented elastic right now!

http://www.hystersisters.com/vb2/article_163685.htm#.U6a2MvldVWo

 

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Oh to be comfortable

The pain from the operation is now more of an annoyance. I’ve been off painkillers for a while and just refused to even take the really strong ones after leaving hospital.

Maybe if I did take them, I’d finally get comfortable. I just don’t like taking things like that long term and I’m on so many different tablets as it is right now anyway.

I just can’t seem to get comfy for any period of time. Sitting, standing, walking, all seem to have around a 10 minute limit. Sleeping is the worst. The bruising in my stomach from 2 operations is horrendous. Any slight pressure seems to make it worse. I would love to go to bed and just sleep. I get broken sleep, generally with pain or discomfort waking me up every couple of hours. It has meant I can properly space out my antibiotics every 8 hours though.

Today the Stir Crazy has started to escalate too. I am so bored! I did manage to walk for around 30 mins today though. It was a slow walk with my girls, but it was out and the start of exercise. Now back at home and feeling useless though. If I want to recover fully, then I have to follow the 6 week plan. It’s going to be a long 6 weeks! The highlight of my day was with an Indian Cold Caller. 5 weeks to go …….

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