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Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Menopause
Important Facts, Inspiring Stories
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Susan L. Hendrix
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
My son, Graig, discovered Dr. Ruth when he was ten years old. He sat riveted to the television while I was preparing his favorite breakfast— French toast. As I was whipping up the eggs, I was half-listening as Dr. Ruth and a gynecologist were explaining menopause to the viewing audience. Suddenly, I was aware of a pair of eyes looking at me longingly. My son said nothing but continued to watch as I cooked. Finally, I asked if something was wrong. Wistfully,my son answered, "Did you know, Mommy, that after menopause, you can't make eggs anymore?"
* Pat Gallant
The Positive Side of Menopause
Menopause. It's a word loaded with associations— and usually not good ones. Hot flashes, mood swings, decreased sex drive, memory loss ... these are the topics that are likely to pop up when you mention the "M" word. But menopause isn't a disease—it's a normal, healthy part of your life. In fact, it can be a time of liberation, change and innovation. A time to take up new interests, make healthful changes in your lifestyle, and strengthen relationships with loved ones. A time for new beginnings.
For many women, these are the years in which the children leave home. This means you can now invest more time in your career, explore hobbies you never had time for before, or go back to school. You can travel and spend more time with your spouse and friends. You can even have a romantic interlude with your husband again without your children interrupting!
Menopause is also a time to focus on your health, and this too can provide a wonderful opportunity to make changes in your lifestyle. If you haven't already started an exercise program and a healthy way of eating, now is certainly the time to do it—you'll feel better, and you'll protect yourself against many diseases of aging.
Don't forget that menopause isn't all about negative health changes. You'll no longer have to worry about PMS or unintended pregnancy—and for most of us, that's a very good thing!
Common Myths About Menopause ... And Reasons Why You Should Question Them
Myth: Menopause is a uniformly awful experience, something to be dreaded.
Fact: Although women often do have some symptoms during menopause, there are ways to alleviate them. Many women find that menopause is a chance to focus more on themselves and make changes that will improve their health.
Myth: Forgetfulness is a common symptom of menopause.
Fact: Although you may feel as if you're constantly misplacing your keys or forgetting what you were about to do, in fact, there's no evidence that memory actually declines in women during menopause. Memory lapses during this time generally are caused by trying to do too many things at once. Menopause is not the best time for multitasking, especially with an infinite task list.
Myth: Depression is common in menopause.
Fact: While minor mood swings are common in menopause, depression is not a normal part of menopause. If you think you might be depressed, you should talk to your doctor, who can provide treatment if you are indeed found to be suffering from depression.
Myth: Gaining weight is inevitable during menopause.
Fact: With regular exercise and a healthy diet, you can prevent weight gain during menopause.
Myth: There aren't any alternatives to hormones to relieve menopause symptoms.
Fact: There are some botanical products and antidepressants that may be helpful in relieving menopause symptoms. You can also make some lifestyle changes to help relieve symptoms. Besides, symptoms eventually go away, and with a positive attitude, they can be much more tolerable.
Myth: Once a woman starts skipping her period, she can't get pregnant.
Fact: You can still get pregnant even after you begin to miss periods. So unless you're trying to have a baby, be sure to use birth control until you haven't had any period for twelve months.CHAPTER 2
Passing the Baton
One is not born a woman, one becomes one.
—Simone De Beauvoir
Catherine casually looked in the mirror, then something caused her to linger. It was her mother looking back at her. She couldn't remember when her face had begun to age, wasn't aware of when the first line had appeared. Her plan had always been to age gracefully and naturally. Never to resort to coloring her hair in an attempt to appear different than she actually was, but to wear the gray like a badge of courage ... like displaying a medal that was hard earned.
But she didn't plan for it to happen so soon. Didn't expect life to move so swiftly. How was it that, one minute at a time, the years had flown by her? Being older was always for other people. She expected it to come eventually, but it was supposed to come much, much later.
She needed a break from the image staring back at her with a shocked expression. She opened the medicine cabinet ... giving her yet another image that, too, seemed to imitate her mother. The shelves were lined with medicine containers, each with her name neatly typed on it. There was no mistake as she checked the name on each vial ... Catherine Goodwin, there like the salutation of a very personal letter.
One prescription at a time, she had filled the cabinet with this pill that increased her bone density, that pill that reduced the stiffness of her joints, another for a bout with situational depression, and yet one more to help when she couldn't sleep. Oddly enough, it was the smallest one of all that was the hardest to swallow ... hormones.
Catherine had been forty-eight when she began experiencing pain in her abdomen. A gynecological exam and ultrasound revealed a uterus invaded by several large fibroid tumors. While she never had children, she'd imagined what it might be like to have something growing inside her. This was nothing like that.
She found herself facing a door that was wide open before her. The sign on the door said Hysterectomy and once a woman walked through, there was no turning back. It wasn't as if Catherine had planned to have children at this time in her life, she just didn't like the idea of being told she couldn't.
She was in limbo. After a twenty-five-year marriage— a quarter of a century—her husband turned their lives into a caricature of a midlife couple by leaving her for another woman. She was standing at the doorway of losing her feminine organs and facing it alone. Then, to make matters worse, a fire welled up from inside and burned out from every pore in what felt like a personal visit to hell." Hot flash" seemed too mild a term to describe it, as it was hotter than hot and lasted a lot longer than a flash.
Catherine wasn't the type of person to wallow in self-pity. She was a woman of action. Rather than trust the medical community, she decided to approach every elderly woman she came across. She was looking for the sage advice of those who had actually been through it or were also walking the path beyond the door of menopause—to share the journey into this challenging transitional phase of life.
She conducted her research everywhere she went. Whether in the park, at a restaurant, in a movie theater or at the gym, she found premenopausal, perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal women eager to share experiences.
In the gym locker room, an eighty-year-old woman stood naked, in all her proud feminine glory and smiled knowingly. "It will be alright, honey," she said kindly. "You are still young and have a lot more to experience long after the change." Catherine realized she had been feeling too old to be "young," but too young to be "old." It was nice to put things into long-term perspective and to just be in the presence of such grace.
In response to her questions, a group of fifty-something women on a picnic in the park were laughing and singing, "We love our hysterectomies!" They reminded Catherine that along with the ability to reproduce, one loses a very large monthly inconvenience. This same group suggested that instead of cursing the discomfort while in the midst of a hot flash, to instead be glad for the sudden power surge!
Catherine decided to go ahead with the surgery and was able to have a vaginal hysterectomy so the recovery was less traumatic. She wouldn't have known this was an option if she hadn't "researched" it—none of her doctors had suggested this option.
The first time she went to the drugstore after the surgery, she stood in front of the tampon display and cried. It wasn't that she would miss using them; it was more of what it represented. When she found a lone tampon in her gym bag, she cried again and couldn't bring herself to remove it.
That afternoon, while back in the gym locker room, a panicked voice came from the bathroom. "Oh, no!! Does anyone have a tampon?" Catherine smiled and reached into her bag. She walked into the bathroom area and found a young, redheaded woman looking around frantically. As Catherine handed her the tampon, she felt as if she were passing the baton at an Olympic event. This young woman was her team member, and it was her turn to run.
* Jenna Cassell
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is not a sudden event. It is a normal, natural and slowly evolving part of a woman's life. Your body's level of the hormone estrogen falls to very low levels, and your menstrual periods stop. You are officially considered to be going through menopause when you haven't had a period for twelve months in a row, if other causes have been ruled out.
Menopause usually begins between the ages of forty-five to fifty-five, with the average age being fifty-one. There is a wide range, however—in rare cases, women reach natural menopause as early as their thirties (called premature menopause) or as late as their sixties. Smoking can speed up menopause by one to two years. Surgery to remove ovaries also causes menopause.
Before natural menopause begins, you go through a phase called perimenopause. You may have intense symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings, and you may have changes in your period. The good news is that menopause brings relief from regular periods and cramps.
Luckily, there are many steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms—through eating changes, exercise, stress reduction techniques, medication and nondrug alternatives. We'll explore your choices in the following chapters. The important thing is to listen to your body, observe the changes closely, and work with your health care provider to keep your body strong and comfortable as you go through this life-changing time.
Think about ...
my attitude toward menopause
My positive thoughts about menopause are: ______________________________________ ______________________________________
My biggest fears about menopause are: ______________________________________ ______________________________________
Five ways my life will improve after menopause are: ______________________________________ ______________________________________
My goals for menopause are: ______________________________________ ______________________________________
My goals for life after menopause are: ______________________________________ ______________________________________CHAPTER 3
HRT (Husband Response Therapy)
First of all, this is not a "Dear John" letter, as you may have thought. Things aren't that bad. It's a note to try to help you understand what I'm going through. I'm sure if I tried to discuss this with you in person, you'd be backing your way out of the house, slinking into the sanctuary that is your garage, as I went on and on. So I'm putting it in writing. Go get yourself a cup of coffee, a cold beer—whatever—but please read this.
I don't know where to start. All of a sudden it's as if I'm no longer in control of my body. I'm gaining weight. I'm tired all the time. I'm easily annoyed (I guess you know that) and it seems as if I have no interest in sex—but then you were the first to figure that one out, too. At first I thought I was crazy, that I was losing my mind! Then I began to talk to my friends about my symptoms and discovered they're all feeling the same way. It's safe to say, so are their husbands. Most of our mothers never discussed "the change" with us. Their generation avoided the subject, so in many ways this is all new to us.
I've discovered, oddly enough, that this is all normal for women my age: the hot flashes, the anxiety, the irregular periods ... I could go on, but I'm sure you don't want all the details. All you need to know is that you're not really married to a nutcase. I'm normal.
On top of all these horrible symptoms, there's so much confusion over what to do about them. I could take hormones and get rid of most of them, but then I may be exposing myself to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, dementia ... that list goes on and on, according to the Women's Health Initiative study. So I'm not sure what to do. I want to get help but I'm afraid of the long-term consequences.
Whatever I decide, know that I want you by my side, even if as I say that, I'm pushing you away. When I snap at you for saying something I would have laughed at a few days ago, I silently ask myself how I could be so thoughtless but I can't seem to get past the anger to apologize. For those times, I'm saying it now. I'm sorry.
I don't expect you to read all the books I'm reading. I don't really want you to come to my doctor visits. I just want you to tell me that you still loveme, to put your arms around me every now and then, to pamper me just a little, and to stay the heck away when you can tell I'm about to explode. That's all.
I've been reading a lot lately and I've found that more than half of women who are postmenopausal feel that they are the happiest they've been in their entire lives. Hold that thought, we'll get there.
Love, Me * Kimberly PorrazzoCHAPTER 4
You're dying for a caffeine fix because you have the energy level of a woman who's just given birth after twenty-four hours of hard labor. But experience has taught you that within a mere 120 seconds of sipping that cup of Komodo Dragon Bold Java, you'll feel like you've been buried in an anthill and dowsed with boiling water. So you drink water—again. Of course, you've learned to be in close proximity to a ladies' room shortly after gulping down that 32 ounces of natural spring nectar.
Call your Menopause Buddy.
Your gravity-challenged body becomes home to creeping cellulite deposits. You need glasses to read the carbohydrate and fat grams on those Barbie-size boxes of frozen diet meals. You begin to sleep on the side of the bed closest to the bathroom because you're spending a lot of time getting up in the middle of the night to go there. You have to change the bed sheets frequently because of something called "night sweats."
Call your Menopause Buddy.
Mental-pause is a strange brain disorder that occurs during this season of life. You are forever asking yourself questions like: Why did I get out of my chair? Was I supposed to call someone? Why am I staring at that computer screen, was I doing something important? What is my firstborn's name?
Call your Menopause Buddy.
My best friend and I have been on the Menopause Buddy System for about ten years now. When we were both age forty-five, she would say things to me like, "Honey, you look awful. I just don't know how that feels." She never had hot sweats, she still got up at 5 a.m. to work out three mornings a week, and she didn't have beastly mood swings.
"I'm so blessed," she would offer. "My mother never had symptoms either. But I know you must feel just terrible." Lucky me, I thought. My mother turned into the Wicked Witch of the West during menopause and passed that legacy down to me. Even the mailman was begging me to go on hormone replacement therapy!
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Menopause by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Susan L. Hendrix. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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