Updated: Feb 5
Turn the heat down, turn the fan up, open the window, dress in layers… Sound familiar?
Let’s go there. Menopause at 39!
I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed 11 months ago, my oncologist told me that because I had been taking medication to suppress my ovaries there wouldn’t be much different from what I was already experiencing regarding hot flashes, sleeping, and night sweats. BOOM! Surgery and then an insane increase in daytime hot flashes, stripping off layers of clothing, standing in the fridge, lifting my shirt over our AC unit, and sleep quickly became nonexistent. If I could fall asleep, I couldn’t stay asleep or fall back to sleep. The number of times a night I woke up was upwards of 15 and this was a recipe for a very cranky unwell gal.
In my experience, medicated induced menopause versus medical menopause was quite the ride. Every bone in my body ached, I felt like a 90-year-old getting out of bed each day.
I live in Canada, we have varying degrees from Summer to Winter of 60 degrees, Summer can be plus 30C and Winter -30C. I am always 100C! Melting, just always melting!
With my cancer being estrogen and progesterone positive removing my ovaries became part of my treatment plan, decreasing the amount of estrogen being produced in my body in hopes it would slow down and or stop cancer cells from growing. I am also BRCA2 positive, which is a genetic mutation increasing my chances of ovarian, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer. Removing my ovaries also is preventative in my case to eliminating another area of my body that is prone to tumours.
So… how do we as young women deal with the side effects of our medical treatments?
Many push through, push past, live, and just keep on keeping on. I tried that; it was hard! Kudos to all of you, that is not easy physically or mentally.
I explored the following;
Limiting caffeine (none after 5 pm)
Cut out alcohol
Essential oil sprays
How did things go?
I found eating/snacking later in the evening affected my sleep patterns. I started intermittent fasting in, 16:9 ratio. Eat within a 9-hour window and no eating and clear liquids only in the other 16 hours. This has improved my sleep and energy. I found I adjusted quickly to this and have been doing so for several months. A great resource to find out more on this topic can be found here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide
Caffeine and alcohol always set off my hot flashes, I also instantly retained water and felt puffy and unwell after just one drink. I wasn’t a big drinker, to begin with, and decided this was not working for me. I have come to terms that this is a decision I am comfortable with; I don’t enjoy drinking like I once did. I HATE the way I feel immediately, and it’s affected my sleep and increased my hot flashes. Caffeine, well I am NOT going to go without coffee, but I do find that I can’t have it after 5 pm. It disrupted my sleep and increased my hot flashes. I often experience the hottest flashes drinking caffeine.
Sage makes an essential oil spray called HOT FLUSH, you mist 2-3 sprays above your head and take deep breaths in. I do this before bed and have had great success with this. Placebo or not, I can’t live without it. I have used it a few times in the day when I am experiencing a hot flash and it’s refreshing and distracting until it passes. (https://www.saje.com/ca/product/solace-4319.html)
Meditation and Yoga – I started Yoga 6 months before being in medical menopause, I have continued this journey and it is a sense of self-care and overall, wellbeing. I usually sleep better and feel generally well when I practice regularly. Meditation was something I discovered when lying awake in the middle of the night wondering when I would EVER get back to sleep. I downloaded a few apps and quickly became dependent on these to fall asleep and go back to sleep when I was up in the night. Sometimes listening to 2-3 a night. I found a sense of grounding in each meditation; I tried various ones and fell in love with body scans that ended in sleep. Some personal recommendations are:
Supplements, I take magnesium every evening which has helped improve my bone pain. I still am achy and have recently discovered claritin has helped. I ensure I take a multi-vitamin and vitamin D daily, as being so young in menopause the risk for osteoporosis is elevated.
So… if all of these things gave me some relief, a sense of control and normalcy why medication?
Three months after my surgery I was struggling with my sleep to an extreme level. I was waking up 15 times with night sweats and not able to fall back asleep. I did not ever feel rested and my quality of life was minimal as you can’t enjoy your day when all you want is the night but my sleep anxiety would start to kick in knowing I wasn’t going to sleep well. I met with my family doctor to discuss and she agreed it was not ok. She recommended a mild antidepressant Escitalopram which would help relieve some of the side effects but not cause any additional ones. I was desperate to try and get my life back. I have two small kids, a full-time job and this gal needed some sleep. Also sleep heals, I learned this the hard way and know that rest is what our body needs to repair and eliminate toxins. I was all for giving it a shot, I found it immediately helped me. I was sleeping better and had 90% less hot flashes and night sweats and no other symptoms.
Before cancer, I barely took a multi-vitamin. I feel strongly about doing what you need to do, what works for you might not work for the next and to explore as many natural options as possible, but not to be hard on yourself if you need more.
Cancer at 37, Menopause at 39 means I have a long life ahead of me to live. I am not ashamed of my needs; I am empowered that I am making decisions that work for me and my body. I balance and still use all of the above mentioned. I love yoga, I meditate nightly, and don’t miss alcohol one bit.
No evidence of disease (NED) means I need to live each day I have, and no one is waiting to give me a gold star for not taking the meds or techniques required to feel good. Power is within you, take this as permission to do what you need to do, get back your life in a new way that you can enjoy and live to the fullest.