“Aren’t you lucky? No more periods!” I have heard this many, many times over the past few years. The reality is quite different to the freeing experience other women believe it to be. It is hell. I have been thrown off a building, had my spine shattered, and a cacophony of other traumas have been inflicted on me. Early menopause is the worst, I can state without compunction. Endometriosis led me to have my IVF/ICSI daughter. She is our joy. I had one follicle, despite being on high doses of hormones that encourage many eggs to come forth. She was one of two eggs in this follicle. Both fertilized, but her twin perished before embryo transfer. We so wanted to give her a sibling. After our dark pasts, we wanted her to have blood family, as a kind of buffer in life. My last endometriosis surgery saw me almost bleeding to death. I was rushed back to surgery the next day, after having the doctor warn that I could very well die, and that if the bleeding was stemming from my reproductive organs, I would need a hysterectomy to save my life. I prayed that these organs would be saved. I wasn’t willing to give them up just yet. The bleeding came from blood vessels near my belly button. I was so grateful to have been spared a hysterectomy. When I saw the doctor for a post-op consult, he showed me a picture that still holds me spellbound, and renders me heartbroken. He couldn’t believe it himself. When he went in, he captured the moment a healthy egg was being released from my fallopian tube. It was white as snow, determined. He reassured me that I was ovulating, and that IVF was able to go ahead. We were thrilled. We saved, and we planned. I had another period, and then realized that the following was late. I couldn’t bear the thought that my body had shut down as a result of the trauma I had gone through.
I started to feel ill. Constant migraines, vomiting, dizziness, intense sweating and body heat. I couldn’t remember things, nor could I get my thoughts together. I put on weight virtually overnight. I looked puffy. My hair became like straw. I saw my IVF doctor, and it was broken to me that my FSH levels were double that of a normal, healthy woman in her early thirties. “Unless it comes down, IVF will not be an option,” she said sadly. I was put on strong HRT, in the hopes it may reverse what was happening. I put on two stone in a month, and had abscesses in my breasts. I had to be taken off it after two months. It had failed. I had two tumours on my face, and one on my breast. I had thought they were warts, but a dermatologist referred me to a plastic surgeon for their removal. We all concurred that the hormones had fed them. The day I found out whether these tumours were cancerous, was the day I also found out I was in full menopause. I was thirty-one. I sobbed from the depths of my soul as it was explained the health problems which can occur as a result of going into menopause so early. I already had fragile bones, as a result of my fractured back, and the many surgeries I had endured. A bone scan found I was now at high risk of neck fractures and forearm breaks, among other areas. I couldn’t take HRT after having had the tumours, to deal with the hot flushes and many other symptoms. I felt so very alone. The women I knew were falling pregnant, extending their families. It was never discussed with them, nor did they ask. People couldn’t understand why I was sick all the time. They certainly couldn’t comprehend the mind-shattering depression. I felt guilt for my little girl. She wanted so much for me to have another baby, and my heart broke when I saw her joy at holding her friend’s siblings. I felt as though my body had failed. I tried many alternative health practices, and spent thousands on herbs, potions etc. I was so delighted when I saw a spot of blood that I told everyone that I believed a period was beginning. It ended up being a normal part of menopause. I was still sent for regular FSH tests, and the last one was in the 90’s. It should be under 10. We booked a holiday and left town whilst I came to terms with the diagnosis, in its entirety. It was a time of deep grief, not helped that I wasn’t sleeping. When I say not sleeping, I mean I went weeks without having more than one hour. I felt old before my time. I had a five-year old, yet I felt eighty. I had nobody to talk to about any of it. The loneliness was unbearable.
Since the start of 2013, I have taken matters into my hands. So much has been out of my control, and it feels good to be proactive about what I can do. I go to the gym daily to be in the best shape possible, and do weight-bearing to insulate these fragile bones. After trying every remedy on the market for the insomnia, I saw my GP, and take a powerful sleeping pill every third night so I can rest. To those who are going through this (only 1% of women go through early menopause), my heart goes out to you. I can’t see the silver lining in being in a state not meant for another twenty years, but I have uncovered strength I never knew I had. A toughness despite my being soft. One has to be, when people think hot flushes are funny, that it’s hilarious to say that women in menopause have more swings than you would find at a park. I go gently into this new phase of life.