Monday, June 8, 2015

27 and Menopausal

     Something I struggle with on a daily basis is the wonderful world of "premature menopause" {PMM} &, in my opinion, it's something that is not talked about enough in the young-adult I thought I would tell you my story, my secrets, & my PMM tips & tricks. So, let's go!

    To begin, let me give you a little meno-411...according to the web, the term menopause is described as "a normal condition that occurs when a woman stops producing eggs & estrogen". It also says the "average" timeline for menopause is around age 51 & can last anywhere from 2 to 10 years. Sounds rad, right? Oy-vey!

     For me, during the very first week of treatment (at my very first visit actually) my Radiologist, Dr. S, told me that my impending 28 pelvic-radiation treatments would completely obliterate my ovaries, not only making my monthly periods stop (not gonna lie - I didn't mind this part so much!) but, ultimately, leaving me sterile & unable to ever have children. When my first surgery rolled around about 3 months later in August 2010, I had the discussion with my surgeon, Dr. B, as to whether or not to remove my ovaries then however we both decided that since this surgery was already going to be incredibly invasive (tumor removal, multiple lymph node removal, rectum resection, & permanent colostomy) we decided that we would hold off until we thought it was the right time. As usual, life had a different plan. In July 2011, I had a recurrence & after being referred to a specialist in Pittsburgh, a complete hysterectomy was added to the to-do list. So on September 21, 2011, in an 8 & 1/2 hour surgery, I said goodbye to my ovaries & uterus (as well as a handful of other body parts, haha!) & hello to premature menopause at the age of 27. The effects were immediate...& I mean IMMEDIATE. My hot flashes began while I was in the ICU only hours after surgery & continued throughout my 11 day stay at UPMC in a room where the air-conditioner was not putting out cold air. Not even lying! There isn't a lot I remember from that hospital stay but I do remember Chad literally wetting washcloths & laying them on the vents of the air conditioner to cool them off as much as he could & them putting them all over me from the chest up. I also remember going in with my ever-present Colorectal Blue hair streak but because of my hot flashes & the ridiculous amount of sweating that accompanies them, I left the hospital with lilac hair & a blue-stained neck. 
     As time went on, menopause made itself more & more obnoxiously known: unpredictable & unmanageable hot flashes, night sweats so bad that I would be up changes my clothes & sheets 3-4 times a night (I eventually figured out that putting a dry towel on top of my sheets would turn out to be a life saver as was my cooling gel pad that I ABSOLUTELY recommend), & most recently, cystic acne which I cannot figure out for the life of me. AHHH! It all can be incredibly frustrating! 
     Ultimately though, I think the most difficult issue I had - physically & mentally - was was with my weight. In addition to Xeloda (my last type of chemo), menopause also wrecked my metabolism & the ability to have any sort of control over my weight. I ended-up gaining over 50+ lbs & topping off somewhere around 5'0. Because of my age & the fact that I have already had 1 recurrence, I wasn't & still am not able to take any sort of hormone-replacement therapy so my body is literally producing ZERO estrogen, which can be problematic is various ways (estrogen replacement is said to help with hot flashes, skin issues, & weight problems to mention a few). 
     Over the past probably 2 years I had been slowly losing weight but plateaued around 140 for the longest time...then one day I came across "Estroven". It's an over-the-counter soy-based, herbal supplement  which you take twice a day to help manage menopausal systems. I chose the "weight management" option which not only helps with hot flashes & night sweats but also does just what you think...helps maintain weight. I started taking Estroven on March 22 & have noticed SUCH a difference. Not only do I have more overall energy, as of yesterday I am down to 127 lbs! Of course, I know not all of my weight loss is attributed to Estroven...I have also tried my best to change my diet  as best as possible, including only "Zero" sodas so I can still get my caffeine fix without the calories or sugar & "Ice" Sparkling Water drinks (Strawberry Watermelon is my jam) thanks to the recommendation from my dear friend RJ but I really do think taking Estroven has been a HUGE factor is helping me regain the ability to maintain & control my weight. I am feeling more confident & less self-conscious about my body, which is a strange but incredibly liberating feeling. I still have a way to go until I completely satisfied & happy with my body but I'm getting there - it's just going to take a little more time & effort. 
     As for my hot flashes, yes I still have them but they are definitely not as intense as they once were...I can deal with that. If you're looking for something & you can't do anything estrogen-based, I sincerely recommend trying Estroven...they have so many different types to chose from so you should be able to find whichever you think is best for you...and no, this post is absolutely NOT sponsored in ANY way. I truly believe in this brand & it is a part of my everyday Cancer Survivor, Premature Menopause life.