- Author Rivka R Meyer
- Published August 22, 2021
- Word count 916
Surgical menopause can be a daunting prospect and many of the experiences shared online are negative. Here’s my own more encouraging story of how I managed surgical menopause successfully.
“Will I still be me?”
Sitting in my hospital gown, waiting to be taken to theatre, I begged the surgeon for reassurance.
Surgical menopause followed a shock diagnosis of womb cancer at 42. Slim, fit and healthy, I never imagined that some abnormal bleeding was a sign of cancer. Still in shock after my appointment with the gynaecologist to get the results of my scan and the action plan, I took the pile of leaflets the specialist nurse handed me to take home and read. And, out of all that pile, the most frightening was easily the one about menopause.
Surgery, I could cope with that. Cancer, well the surgery would fix it anyway. But the menopause symptoms were more than just daunting. By the time I’d finished reading through the list, I could already see my future. Not only would I have the hot flushes I already knew about, but I was also going to become a fat, wrinkled, feeble, moody creature with sagging breasts, dry hair, no sex drive, and probably osteoporosis, who couldn’t concentrate anymore.
I told myself the leaflet was just giving worst case scenarios and turned to the internet for reassurance. But it only made it worse. The forums were full of people comparing the problems they had after menopause. Nobody had anything positive to say. Weight gain, especially, was something nobody had escaped.
I think it was the potential mood and personality changes that scared me most. As the surgery date got nearer, I got more and more panicky. Would I lose my friendliness, sense of humour, and wit? Would I be grumpy and boring? On the morning of my surgery, I even texted all my friends to say that if I became horrible suddenly, they shouldn’t take it personally.
Surgery over and a good night’s rest, and I seemed to be the same person mood-wise. Now to see what I could do to try and prevent some of the other ravages of menopause. I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
I read up everything I could find and embarked on a full-scale battles.
- Weight Gain
Inactivity increases the risk of weight gain. From 48 hours after surgery, I was already trying to limit how much time I spent in my bed. As soon as I could manage it, I went for daily walks, slowly progressing from around the block to my usual twice daily half-hour walks. After a few months, I even added in another walk at lunchtime.
To be on the safe side, I also stopped eating junk food when I got home from work each day – a habit I had developed in my previous and very stressful job. Snacking on junk was limited to weekends only.
- Sagging Breasts
Sagging breasts are due to the loss of collagen but a tip I read was to work on the chest muscles which could then help to hold them up a bit better at least, and keep them moisturised. I bought some weights and began using them every morning, and applied moisturiser to my breasts regularly.
- Wrinkles and Dryness
I started a daily facial moisturising regime, and I bought a shampoo designed for dry hair.
Specialist vaginal moisturisers didn’t help for me at all, and lubricant alone wasn’t enough. After I developed a sore area where the skin was breaking down, the consultant advised using Dermol cream and that did the trick.
- Memory and Concentration
I tried not to think about cognitive or memory issues because I didn’t want the power of suggestion to make it happen. I just carried on with work. Keeping my mind active was probably the best thing to do.
- Hot Flushes
I took note of when the hot flushes happened and linked a lot of them to postural triggers, such as bending over or moving my left shoulder forward. Identifying those triggers helped me to avoid some of them. I lift my foot onto the bed to tie my shoes. I keep my phone on the left side of my desk so I don’t end up moving that shoulder forward when I’m looking at it. Etc.
At night, I found that if my shoulders were bare, I was cooler, so I began wearing sleeveless pyjamas. I also invested in a cooling gel pillow.
Results? I ended up happier, healthier and fitter than ever before. Caring for my body was great for my self-image and all the exercise was great for my mood. Cutting out the junk food got my (Type 1) diabetes better controlled and I didn’t gain weight after all. All the extra exercises I started doing to strengthen my muscles improved my figure, my posture is better and my breasts don’t sag. My hair looks like it always did. I’m still working and even doing some studying as well so I guess my brain is okay.
When I went back for my four-week follow-up, the specialist nurse was amazed at how good I looked. Three years later, I would say not only am I still me, I’m an improved version, thanks to the healthy habits I developed to combat the effects of menopause. And you can be the same. Don’t be discouraged by the negative experiences highlighted in forums.