Some people might be uncomfortable with this post. I decided that I couldn’t NOT write about it because it’s an important part of my experience. If you have a misogynistic world view then please move along to foxnews.com. Or stay here and learn something and possibly read some Gloria Steinem for fuck’s sake. Some might call me the queen of overshare but I think it’s important to communicate. My career is built around this concept and I believe in it.
Hot flashes. I know. This is your mother’s complaint. This is what sends her into a shrieking banshee fit when she is trying to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the ungrateful crew on the couch. Well, It’s happening to me. They happen several times in the day and at night. Last week I ripped off my wig in the middle of Target’s toy aisle permanently scarring some poor kid I’m sure because there was sweat dripping down my face from a hot flash. I wake up with my undies and tank (all I can stand to wear to bed) soaked with sweat and I’m shivering with cold. I’m guessing this is menopause. It could be permanent or not but they warned me it was coming. The Total Body Irradation (TBI) fried the one last ovary that I had left. Women my age say “Great! No more periods!” Women 20 years older than us know that we are losing something. We start our periods at age 12 and it’s a sign of impending adulthood. At menopause we are losing a piece of our youth. As annoying as it is there is something I miss about having a cycle. With all the surgery, chemo and septic shock etc it has been awhile. But there is something primal and dark about bleeding every month that tells you that your body is doing what it is supposed to do. With the change in hormones just before the sight of blood is often a relief. Especially if you been, ahem, less than careful that month.
And speaking of that, Jeffrey will probably hate me and sneak around at work for a few weeks avoiding the group of lovely ladies there who read this blog, but yes, I’m still allowed to have fun. Things have changed some over the months. I remember at the new BMT patient education class they got to the part that talks about side effects from the radiation. If you can recall, I received 3 days of twice daily TBI treatments last lasted about an hour each. I only have vague and delirious memories of those days. I wore just my blue dot boxer shorts and did what I was told only responding to questions with a nod of my head and possible mumbling if you were lucky. My skin was burnt, my body numb and my head foggy. I wasn’t thinking about anything except going back to my bed and going to sleep. The training class listed the immediate side effects:
- nausea and vomiting
- mouth and throat sores
- jaw pain
- swollen salivary glands
- dry mouth
- skin redness
- hair loss
- low blood counts
Yeah, yeah, I got it, that’s all normal. Long term side effects and risks?
- hormone problems
- vaginal atrophy
- lung, heart, and kidney problems
- secondary cancers
Wait… what? Go back. Can you tell which one is confounding me? As it turns out, vaginal atrophy is actually a thing. I asked the nurse to please define. She said that it gets smaller (her words). Jeffrey gave me a smirk and I knew what he was thinking but it didn’t stop him from saying it aloud. Then I asked if there was anything that could be done about that. She said there are dilators and medication. Jeffrey, still grinning, said something about finding my own treatment somewhere in my nightstand.
Turns out, that’s a part of the menopause bit. So are the migraines I’ve been getting. I didn’t make the connection before. You see, we are just women, and we are afraid to talk about the dark side except in hushed whispers to BFFs or co-workers. I’m piecing it all together from the internet and statements from nurses and doctors. I’m going to address it more directly tomorrow with the doctor. While I was inpatient the docs have attempted several times to put me on hormone therapy. I actually took estrogen for four days before I realized it and stopped. The next hospital stay another doctor mentioned started hormone replacement therapy. Did they just forget that I had breast cancer? My tumor was ER+ and PR+. This means that my tumor type feeds off of hormones. Medications with hormones including birth control and hormone replacement therapy are out for me.
So, ladies, please share. How do we deal with menopausal symptoms?
Here is a picture of my new pretty little eyebrows and lashes. My hair is growing in a dark ash color with unconfirmed grays. They might be blonde. Not sure. Either way the amazing Jon will fix it up in the next month or so. So get used to my new look because I can’t wear anything on my head right now because it’s too damn hot!