The Truth About Premature Menopause

Being 32 + the menopause = a whole lotta physical and emotional drama!

Premature menopause is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy (when the radiation beam is aimed within the pelvis) often stop your ovaries from working and a whole host of variants means function may or may not return.

In my case, I was told before I started treatment it was highly unlikely function would return and I would start the menopause.  I hadn’t accounted for how early in my treatment it would begin.  About half way through my treatment I started feeling like my bones were pulsating fire through the my skin and I was going to pass out from the furnace burning inside me. Initially I put it down to treatment then it suddenly dawned on me that it could be the menopause.  Because I was in treatment there were points that it is hard to differentiate what is being cause by what, so I was advised to wait until treatment was over and see how I felt.

Waiting to see what happened was fine with me.  I went into a strange denial and clung to a strong hope that it was a side effect of the treatment because early menopause meant no more children and that couldn’t be possible!

I was lucky to already have two wonderful children but a third had always been a strong possibility for husband and I and of course the moment I was told that I probably couldn’t have anymore – all I wanted was another baby.

So I secretly and very deeply in my heart harboured a prayer that maybe I would be the one in a million woman who goes on to have another baby.

Meeting with a gynaecologist after treatment finished smashed this carefully guarded hope as he (and later blood tests) confirmed I was very much in the menopause.  I realised a number of things I was feeling were not me ‘struggling to cope after cancer’ but genuine results of a hormonal change.  They included;

  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Disrupted sleep – often accompanied by night sweats
  • Weight gain *sobs quietly into coffee*
  • The skin of a teenager
  • Mood swings and irritability usually accompanied with headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating on anything
  • Fatigue and seriously low energy levels
  • Depression

Oh the joys of being a woman.  As if periods aren’t annoying enough, they finish with this!  As I said, some symptoms could be a side effect of either, or both?!

I was put on HRT as the lack of oestrogen in my cervix meant that internal scar tissue wasn’t healing properly and growing cells which, if left, could turn cancerous – seriously?!  Feeling symptoms melt away was a joy and overtime I physically began returning to normal – apart from the weight gain *still sobbing into coffee.*

Me and Mine
Me and Mine

Emotionally, things took a little longer.  Logically I know that I am lucky and I have nothing to be upset about.  Some women will have to go through this or similar situations that have led to infertility, without having any children at all and my heart aches for them.  Emotions aren’t logical though and not being able to have another child was added to a list of things I had lost to cancer and grieved for.

Now I am able to see that two children, with their mess, arguing, and inability to sleep through the night, is more than enough for husband and I to handle – every cloud!

A few facts about Premature Menopause

  • During menopause ovaries stop producing eggs, periods begin to stop and hormone levels change.  It marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
  • Menopause typically happens between the ages of 47 and 53.
  • In Britain 110,000 women between the ages of 12 and 40 are affected.
  • Premature menopause affects approximately 5% of the population before the age of 45.
  • Premature menopause can also be caused by removal of the ovaries or medical treatments such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy. The exact number of women affected by all causes combined is unknown.

Visit The Daisy Network for more information about premature menopause and making decisions about infertility.

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2 thoughts on “The Truth About Premature Menopause

  1. Just read this having taken my first HRT Kilofem pill with a different pill to take later on tonight. ‘Nice’ to know someone else going through this even though I have only had the hot flushes as menopause side effects – and yes, crazy that taking HRT increases risk of cancer also!!

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  2. I had two sons by the time I was obliged to have a total hysterectomy. I didn’t want any more children and my partner had just died of cancer… but the thought there would never be another possibility was heard to take.
    Oddly enough, the one thing no-one bothered to explain was the fact that removing the whole kit and caboodle would surgically shove me into instant menopause.
    Risks aside, I’ve been taking HRT now for the past 17 years (with all screening clear so far!) and no regrets.

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