It was the heat surges that finally caused me to take notice. I joked with my husband that I must be going through menopause. I was 39. Actually, I thought it was likely my thyroid or perhaps a virus. Deep inside, there was the softest whisper of a concern, but really I was just thinking that now I must remember to call the doctor at nine.
The doctor confirmed it was menopause. I was completely taken aback. The doctor suggested I go on Hormone Replacement Therapy. Her biggest argument for HRT was it would help protect against bone loss. I was sure that I didn’t have bone loss. As it turned out, I was already had osteopenia, the first step before osteoporosis.
The doctor continued that Menopause additionally causes reduced skin elasticity (wrinkles), vaginal dryness, diminished acuity, sexual intercourse discomfort, tender joints, weight gain. It was such an unhappy list. I couldn’t quite believe it. The white examining table paper crinkled as I shifted uncomfortably.
The doctor concluded by telling me that below 52 years, the average age of menopause, HRT was not correlated with increased cancer risk.
So, thus began life with the Patch, but I haven’t liked it, nor the idea of artificial hormones coursing through my body; the need to change patches with clockwork regularity.
At a time when I had experienced a lot of loss, losing my fertility felt like an additional blow. At 39, I had four children eight years and under, including a one-year-old. My complete self-definition was wrapped up in being a young mother. Now, I was no longer in the young adult chapters of my several nutrition books-best nutrition for breast-feeding. I was at the end, before the Golden Years. Trivial sounding, I know, but nevertheless impactful. I was again alone, in a place through which my friends had not yet travelled.
My body changed. Recently, I have gone off the Patch and my body has changed again.
It is true that our minds can stay younger in self-image than our bodies stay in physical form. Sometimes, I really am quite astonished at what I see in the mirror. In my mind, that is not how I imagine myself.
Also, without glasses, I see a little less well than I did before. Without glasses, sometimes I can still see that long ago me so young and agile and lithe. With glasses I also see me, I am just more wizened and wise and wonderful. At least, this is what I feel most times…
It goes without saying that different women cope with unexplained ovarian failure differently. Many mourn silently, I managed to channel the loss and my energies into something, creating something else. Unexplained ovarian failure is what really started me writing my first novel Landslide. It made me feel that I needed to really explore death and loss before it once again blindsided me.
Melissa Leet’s first novel ‘Landslide’ is published by Atrim Press this week