|I keep this photo as a reminder. I still feel like this girl.|
I decided to write about this after my appointment at the Cardiac Clinic last week. I've put on a few extra pounds after Christmas. Who hasn't right? But I was shocked to see myself on camera. They say the camera adds 10lbs. It looked more like 20 to me.
Some days it's hard for me to accept the fact that my body is changing and that I will never be the same as I was when I was in my twenties. Everyone reaching 40 goes through this. I know I'm not old, but when I look at how quickly my body is changing, it makes me feel ancient.
I try to count my blessings. I know that in the grand scheme of things I'm VERY fortunate. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful to have relatively good health considering...
But today I just need to moan and whinge about all the ways my body has changed. I hate being a complainer but I just need to vent about it all today. I'm feeling sorry for myself.
When I was told I needed a radical hysterectomy at the age of 32, I looked for every book I could find on menopause so I would know what to expect. They all said the same grim things - expect to gain weight, have hot flushes, deeper wrinkles, and have issues with your bella vagine. Then there were the bigger issues - brittle bones, heart disease and forgetfulness. There were many more symptoms but those are the main ones that I struggle with.
|Still me, just softer.|
But sadly here I am at the age of 38 and I am struggling with those issues. I'm not as invincible as I thought I was - and it makes me want to cry. I made the decision to deal with menopause naturally. I don't take any hormones or supplements. I believe the body will regulate itself if you allow it to. That wasn't the case after surgery though. The hot flushes hit me like a tonne of bricks. I filled my prescription and was on HRT for two years before I decided that it wasn't good for me.
There's a lot of conflicting advice out there. My team of cancer specialists in Canada were adamant that I do NOT take HRT due to my strong family history of breast cancer (and me having ovarian cancer already) and our family history of stroke and heart attacks. They said that as long as I ate well and exercised, I should be able to manage menopausal symptoms.
The advice from my doctors here in New Zealand was vastly different. They said HRT was absolutely necessary because I am too young to be without hormones. I am at risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease. According to them, a woman needs estrogen in her system to keep things healthy.
Who does one listen to??
|Pre-menopause 2003 (10 years ago). Flat tummy and no back fat.|
I store my fat all in my upper body - around my face (double chin), arms, armpits, boobs, back, midrift and a little in my inner thighs. Otherwise my hips, legs and bottom are pretty fat free. They've filled out - which I'm happy about - but they aren't giggly. So that's something to be thankful for.
Another thing that changes in menopause is sex. This is where I'm at a disadvantage because I don't have a partner. Being a single woman in menopause isn't easy. If I'd had a loving partner who knew my body, I think it might be easier. But my bella vagine has changed. You lose elastin in your skin. I'll surely never get a boyfriend after writing this. Those of you who know me are now trying to picture my vagine. Sorry about that. But this is important to mention. One day you will all go through it. And guys, one day your partner will go through it. Pay attention.
|A softer version of me.|
I'm lucky that's all that's changed I suppose. I've read horror stories. But as I said, our biggest sexual organ is our brain and I think that women can use menopause as an excuse to stop having sex, particularly if they didn't enjoy it when they had a healthy vagine. It's a bit sad but hey, it's life. If we all kept having sex like we were in our twenties we'd never get anything done right?
If I knew how much my body would change, would I have opted for the radical hysterectomy? At the time I was so unwell. My periods were so heavy that I was flooding maternity pads in an hour. For the first two days of my period I didn't dare leave the house. It wasn't uncommon to sit down and get up a few minutes later in a puddle of blood. It was embarrassing. Not to mention my low energy from my depleted iron levels. That was the start of pre-menopause. My weight began creeping up due to lack of energy. Plus at that time I was on 4 blood pressure pills which wasn't helping.
Then I developed another ovarian dermoid cyst indicating that I needed help. I had a few options. I could have had a partial hysterectomy where they just removed my uterus and left part of the ovary which would mean I'd still get natural estrogen. The risk with that option was the fact that I had a polycystic ovary and there was the possibility that I'd need another operation down the road to remove it. We also suspected that it wasn't working properly anyway. I decided to have the full radical procedure. I didn't want to worry about it later on. You don't mess around when you've had ovarian cancer once.
When you have a surgical procedure in New Zealand, they ask you if you'd like to take whatever parts you've had removed home with you. It's a Maori tradition. They believe that the soul is still in that part and they give it a proper burial. I was intrigued. I didn't want to take my uterus and ovary home but I asked if I could please see it after the surgery. I needed closure.
As I was waking from the anesthesia, they brought it in to the recovery room to show me . I was still groggy but through my blurred vision I saw that the uterus was enlarged with two fibroids. The ovary had a large dermoid cyst on it about the size of an orange. They were clearly unhealthy and needed to be removed. I felt better about my decision. That first week in hospital, I felt lighter and better than I had for years. I was convinced my ovary was full of poison. I was lucky to have had a normal menstrual cycle for 20 years but it was clear to me that the ovary had worked overtime and was sick.
|Yep, you got it... 10 years ago...|
Okay so I was far from normal.
I couldn't have children but I believe my life wasn't meant for me to settle down and have a family. I got to see the world and connect with so many people. I stayed youthful and never had to "grow up". Growing up is over-rated. I still see myself as a 24 year old. The world is my oyster.
I was created with some of the good genes from my parents to keep me young looking. I was a "late bloomer". I was teased for being skinny and flat chested. I got my physique from my dad who is a very lean man and my skin and hair from my mom who is in her mid 60's and still doesn't have grey hair and very few wrinkles.
Unfortunately I also got my blood pressure and the cancer genes from both parents. This is why I wasn't meant to have children I believe. I wouldn't want to pass those genes on. It wouldn't be fair.
I realize that people REALLY struggle with weight and that even though I call myself "fat", there are people out there worse off. I just know what my body is supposed to look like. I know how I used to be. I'm not happy with the softness around my midsection. I'm not prepared to just accept it and let it grow (because if I do nothing about it, it will). I am going to work my tits off (literally). I'm entitled to be neurotic sometimes, aren't I?
|Ten years later and 10kgs heavier.|
It's a tricky one. Being too thin indicates not enough estrogen. Being too fat around my belly is dangerous for blood pressure. I'm aiming for being strong and fit and healthy.
Seems Kilimanjaro has come at a good time then. Bring it!
Follow my transformation. I bloody hate exercise. Did I fail to mention that? I've got to be prepared to make this a lifetime goal or to accept my soft "plush" body as it is. Only time will tell. For now I'm going to fight it! I'm clearly not ready to become a woman yet. People tell me I look good. I know I can do better. This is not for anyone but me.
I'm delusional. Now that I've written it all down I feel better. I look at the photos and see myself differently. I look good. I'm not FAT. But when I look down at my belly rolls hanging over my yoga pants I disagree.
We all have body dysmorphia in some way or another. We see ourselves differently than others see us. Sometimes we see ourselves negatively and sometimes positively. This is why I like photos because you can choose the best photos of yourself and only look at those. But we have to look at our naked body every single day. If I have to look at it, I want to be proud of what I see.
Be kind with your comments. This is not some ditch attempt to get compliments. I don't need them. I won't believe you anyway. But if you'd like to share how you feel about your body or getting older or if you're going through pre-menopause or early menopause then I want to hear from you.