The pause that refreshes
Nashauna Drummond, Lifestyle Coordinator
In her mid-50s, menopause was not on Jennifer'sradar. That was until early last year. "One day, I was sitting at my desk and I felt a very cold sensation run from the top of my head to my neck," she told Flair of her first symptom. "It felt like someone had put an ice cold towel over me and it felt nice. It happened at least 10 times each day for three weeks and it never occurred to me that it was menopause."
One day, she mentioned it to her fiancé who told her that it sounded like cold sweat. "I thought, 'You know he could be right?' But if that's what menopause was, bring it on!"
But then came the hot flashes accompanied by raging headaches. "I didn't consult my doctor because I knew he would recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and having attended two major menopause medical conferences in the United States where all the world's leading experts in the field agreed that HRT invariably led to extreme side-effects - including heart disease, I was not going that route. I spoke to older women, including my mom, and they recommended black cohosh, evening primrose and red clover capsules - all natural supplements that minimise the symptoms.
I have been taking them since, along with vitamin E, and trying to eat healthier - adding more broccoli and mushrooms to my diet."
Although she didn't know it at the time, Jennifer was actually peri-menopausal. This is the stage before menopause when the ovaries gradually produce less oestrogen and which lasts until menopause when the ovaries stop releasing eggs.
"In January 2011, my period stopped but resumed in April, so I visited my doctor and he told me I was peri-menopausal. You only become menopausal when your monthly cycle stops for 12 consecutive months. In October they became longer lasting - seven to 10 days."
By November, Jennifer's menstrual cycle again stopped, but resumed in February 2012. This time they were unbearably long - two-three weeks - so she again consulted her doctor.
"He recommended a hysterectomy. I wasn't having it. I never hated my periods." She added she had heard many horror stories from women she knew and what they went through with the hormone imbalance that not having your ovaries would lead to. "So I didn't like the idea. I just asked for something to minimise the length of my periods."
Since May, Jennifer's periods have again stopped and her hot flashes have intensified. "I will break into sweat at the most inopportune time," she told Flair.
"I have a lot of friends who are doctors whom I have spoken to, so I am prepared to deal with it. I also know a lot of women who didn't take HRT."
She added that since her first symptom, she has only experienced one violent rage which was associated with her headaches that make her very sensitive to noise.
"In the initial months of the hot flashes, I got agitated. Now I feel a cool sensation. Though my entire body feels hot, below my knees I feel a cool sensation like air-conditioning. I've conditioned myself not to fan; I keep napkins to mop my brow and if I feel hot I will dab it lightly. In the nights, it will be an on and off with the covers. I hope it doesn't get worse and hope I continue to ride it through comfortably."
Her comfort level has also remained intact as it relates to her sexual urges which most women complain about, especially vaginal dryness. "A lot of my friends complain that they get turned off from sex. I have none of those issues. I'm glad that I have a man who really understands the ageing process. He is totally understanding.
Menopause for me is the pause that refreshes. I am not dreading it, I have accepted it as yet another miracle milestone in a woman's fascinating life."
*Name changed to protect privacy.