|5- Knowledge Is Power.|
(Continued from Blog 3-'Sweats In The City').
TUES.13th APRIL '10.
'WHAT AN EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTING DAY. MY APPOINTMENT LEFT ME FEELING VERY ANGRY. AFTER BEING IN A MATERNITY UNIT WAITING ROOM (BABIES!) I WENT IN AND THE SPECIALIST SAID "WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?". DUH, BASICALLY GETTING INFO. WAS LIKE GETTING BLOOD FROM A STONE. SO FAR NO-ONE HAS SPOKEN WITH ANY LEVEL OF SENSITIVITY. IT'S UNLIKELY MY HORMONE LEVELS WILL CHANGE BUT I'M TAKING 6 MONTHS OF HRT JUST TO SEE*. HE KEPT SAYING VERY MATTER OF FACT "YOU CAN HAVE A BABY WITH A DONOR EGG"** LIKE THAT MAKES IT ALL O.K. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW, I CARE ABOUT MYSELF N THE PRESENT AND HOW I MOVE ON. I HAD TO ASK THE QUESTIONS, I HAD TO ASK ABOUT COUNSELLING. IT'S LIKE NO-ONE CARES.'
This was the day I saw the specialist at the hospital to discuss options and hormone replacement therapy. I was led to believe by the endocrinologist (a pleasant lady who I wish I'd had more contact with) that my results would be explained in more detail. Although I appreciate the quick turnaround of patients and how busy doctors are, I foolishly thought he'd have read my notes before I entered the room. The irony that the consultation room was in the outpatients maternity unit of the hospital was definitely not lost on me. I think I actually laughed out loud when I sat down to wait and looked at all the pregnant women and babies around me. Needless to say it wasn't a joyful laugh but one of disbelief!
As it happened I found myself having to explain my situation to date which, considering it was all so fresh and raw, proved quite challenging for me. I'd barely had time to even start to process my diagnosis, let alone describe it in detail. In hindsight I should have taken someone with me to the appointment, I would recommend others to do this. What I still don't understand to this day is how matter of fact and blasÃ© the specialist was, as if we were discussing a common cold! It's not about wanting sympathy but a woman who has recently discovered she is infertile should surely be treated with a certain amount of compassion. *The fact that I thought maybe there was a pill I could take to jump start my ovaries again, that maybe HRT does this, speaks volumes as to how little was explained. I left the hospital that day none the wiser as to what it all meant, all I knew was that it felt as if the bottom had dropped out of my world and I was left swinging, helpless and lost.
It never ceases to amaze me how certain people come in to your life just when you need them, as if it's divine timing! I am forever grateful that at the time I was working with a lovely lady who, after I had confided in her, paid for me to see a specialist she knew privately. Her generosity, not just in the obvious sense, but of spirit completely blew me away. I had an appointment on Harley Street in London where I spent half an hour with someone who went through my blood tests with a fine tooth comb and explained what all the different abbreviations and numbers meant. This man looked me in the eye and acknowledged how difficult a time it must've been for me. That in itself meant more than I could possibly express. **He was surprised I hadn't had a pelvic scan just to make sure everything looked o.k should I ever wish to conceive using a donor egg in the future, just another pro-active measure that I was clueless about because it had never been mentioned before. (As I look back I wonder if this was because when the hospital specialist asked if I was intending to try to get pregnant, I explained that I was single and it wasn't something I was contemplating at that time. On my speaking those words there was a perceptible shift in his demeanour, I guess I was no longer someone who needed immediate help and so the conversation returned swiftly to HRT). I left the private appointment knowing that I couldn't change the outcome of my diagnosis but educated as to why HRT is vital for a woman of my age.....nothing to do with reversing the menopause! Immediately following that meeting I went a few doors down Harley Street and had a pelvic scan which revealed that everything looked pretty good. This is just another example of knowing your body better, it may not have been necessary at that time but in light of the situation I was in, I didn't want to have any more surprises sprung on me at a later date should I ever choose to try and conceive with a donor egg.
There are some things that, although quite obvious now, I wish I had done differently. I wish I had accepted the offer of company, not just on that first occasion with the specialist but every time I went to the hospital or doctor, at least for the first year. I'm quite a proud and private person, I worry that if I rely on anyone else it'll mean I'm less able to cope on my own. I also know that I tend to suppress my own emotions in order to protect those around me and I wanted to face everything head on, in my own way. As it turned out though, I wasn't really coping very well alone so in hindsight I should've let my guard down and accepted help and support. The second thing would've been to write down the information that i was given. I had taken a list of questions with me to that first meeting but ended up thrown in the consulting room by the specialist's demeanour, an exchange that I was hoping would empower and educate me felt more like an outer body experience!
I never saw Premature Menopause coming, never imagined it would happen to me. As time passed by I started thinking more and more about how women can know their bodies better. Looking online I found home FSH testing kits (see Blog 3 'Sweats In The City' for more information about this hormone). It occurred to me that if you are a single female in your thirties and want to have a family but aren't with a significant other (and don't want to go it alone) then how do you know if everything is 'working' o.k so to speak? I quizzed my G.P about this a couple of years ago. Can a woman request to have blood tests? If she took a home testing kit and the results gave her cause for concern, would this be enough for the doctor to follow up on? The answer was "No", I was told you have to have been trying to conceive for a couple of years with no success before that becomes an option. Great then, what use is that to someone who is single? How does that help the woman who refuses to settle in a relationship for the sake of (hopefully) getting pregnant, instead choosing to wait until they find someone they can picture having a future with? I don't know if you can request to have these tests if you have private medical and it would be interesting to know if this is in fact possible.
I will stay on HRT now until I am in my early fifties when Menopause would usually occur. It is important that my body's oestrogen levels are 'normal' as this is vital to help prevent osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones leading to an increased risk of fracture or break. I have a DEXA bone scan every two years and so far so good! I've been fortunate that the first type of HRT I tried seemed to work well for me, it would appear some women have to persevere with different forms before they find the right one. The biggest difference it made for me personally was that it helped lift the very dark mood I was in. It's impossible to know to what extent hormone levels were responsible for that mood and how much was the effect of the diagnosis but either way I am grateful for those pills! The lifting of that cloud didn't mean I felt particularly 'happy' but it enabled me to function, to be able to start trying to move through each day without what felt like a blanket wrapped around my head. I'm going to visit the subject of counselling in a later blog, I'd rather call it healing really as I think that counsel reveals itself to everyone differently. It may be talking face to face with a therapist, it may come to you from the pages of a journal or it may speak to you through the sounds, sights and smells of nature. Through any type of challenge that life throws at us, amidst any period of darkness I believe it is imperative to find some positive measure that helps to ease the struggle.
NB: www.daisynetwork.org.uk a site dedicated to Premature Menopause was a good source of information that helped clarify some details for me during those early months when I was searching for answers! More recently, 'The Premature Menopause Book' by Kathryn Petras was recommended to me. This book covers everything you can think of when it comes to this subject and is written by someone who herself has been through it! From symptoms, various ways to manage your hormones to dealing with the emotional realities of this condition. For reasons I'm not entirely sure of, I chose not to bury my head in research during the first few years but had I known about this book, well, I think it would've helped!
To be continued.........
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