Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Acknowledgment and relief

I've recently begun to feel a huge sigh of relief come over me. I started Estradiol last Wednesday. This is a synthetic form of estrogen (no animals harmed in the making, distributing or testing of this - its made in a lab) in the form of a patch. I change the patch on Wednesday and Saturday and do this for an undetermined amount of time. Basically, when I have reached "normal menopause age".

While the Estradiol has greatly improved my symptoms, the main reason for this hormone replacement therapy is that my body is void of any estrogen at all. The normal woman's body produces estrogen until they're near 60. The female body NEEDS estrogen to avoid bone loss, dementia and osteoporosis among many other diseases and conditions.

The hot flashes and insomnia are still with me but the mood swings are nowhere to be found! I love it! I'm even more chill than my oh-so-chill husband.

More to come...however I am busy co-organizing the Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey protest which we will be conducting next week at the Sprint Center...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Denial, acceptance, support from my husband...

We both cried when we heard the news. My husband is a wonderful man; so supportive and caring. I'm not sure if we ever would have had children however, it tore us apart to not make that decision ourselves - that decision was made for us. I know God has a plan.

I immediately began doing research. The more I learned the more frightened I became. Then later, the more I accepted this. Its not like "I have hepatitis" is the equivalent of "I have menopause" instead, its more like "I'm going through some changes and need support and understanding from those closest to me". And that was my first step - not being ashamed.

This blog is partly in reaction to my unwavering sense of stubborn to not give in to the humiliation I initially felt. I am an extremely private person so, this is a bit suprising to many people in my life. I think, if word of this blog spreads and I could help support just one person going through this, it would all be worth it. Well, it would not be in vain.

There is literally nothing out there in regards to information about premature menopause. The only information is in regards to premature menopause resulting from cancer/chemotherapy or a hysterectomy. It's been frustrating reading the same thing countless times, "....between the ages of 47 and 55..." and "....menopause occurs around retirement which gives you a chance to really take care of yourself"...."...your children have just left the house for college".

I wanted to scream, "I am only 35! Why is this happening to me? I'm just starting my life and my career! My only children at this point are 4-legged and won't be attending college, does this mean we can't have biological children if we want to?"

Ironically, I have noticed I have completely "chilled out" these past few days. Feels amazing like, for the past year I was winding myself and my sanity tighter each moment. Now, its unwinding. Very slowly and yet surely.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FSH and other acronyms

I've done hours upon hours of research. What exactly happens to your body when you "go through menopause"? Why do you get hot flashes, insomnia, and horrendous mood swings? Why can't you get pregnant anymore? Why does it usually happen to women in their 50's and what went wrong that it happened to me in my 30's?

I learned the most important acronym during a woman's lifetime from puberty to menopause, is the FSH level. FSH stands for follicle stimulating hormone. This hormone is one of the things that can tell a doctor what phase of life a woman is in. For example, a woman in her child-bearing years would have an FSH level of somewhere between 5 and 25. A woman with an FSH above 25 would most likely be nearing menopause (also referred to as perimenopause) and a woman with an FSH level above 50 would most likely be in menopause.

What exactly is menopause? Well, contrary to popular belief menopause is not just when a woman starts having hot flases or getting moody. Menopause is (according to MY understanding through my doctor and research) when a woman has not had her period for a year, and has elevated FSH levels. Some women begin experiencing hot flashes and mood swings however have their period for another ten years. This is technically perimenopause, not menopause.

Apaprently I am quite extraordinary because less than 1% of women experience menopause before 40.

Whe body stops producing estrogen which leads to the ovaries no longer releasing eggs. But, actually there are no more eggs. When we are born, we have the most eggs we will ever have so you can see that throughout life our egg supply dwindles until we have no more eggs left.

When the body stops producing estrogen it seems everything kind of goes "out of whack" and, "out of whack" can lead to hot flashes which easily leads to insomnia which is an excellent (yet bothersome) segue into mood swings.

Ahhh..the joys.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Menopause at 35?: Day at the Doc

Menopause at 35?: Day at the Doc: "Yesterday we had an appointment with the BEST gyno I've ever seen. Ladies, if you want a referral - please message me. She spent over and ho..."

Day at the Doc

Yesterday we had an appointment with the BEST gyno I've ever seen. Ladies, if you want a referral - please message me. She spent over and hour with my husband and me answering our questions, and even pulled out her iPad to learn more.

I learned many things yesterday. First of all, menopause is when you're a year out from your last period and have elevated FSH levels. Age 35 is extremely young and rare, and the doctor was somewhat concerned. She kept referring to "ovarian failure" which, I don't really like to think my ovaries are failures! She took more blood which is being sent to Mayo Clinic (no worries - they send their samples there) in fact they took eight vials of blood. I hate needles, especially really long, big, fat needles in my arm for a couple minutes. I was so terrified. Then I saw the vials on the counter and nearly passed out. Then I asked the nurse if I needed a blood transfusion since she had taken so much.

She (the doctor) said is was not possible for me to get pregnant however she once saw a 45 year-old woman who hadn't menstruated for several years, get pregnant. Anything is possible, but she would be suprised.

She immediately jumped into talking about hormone replacement therapy. This is when I learned the most. And, this is how I understood it: the average woman's body stops producing estrogen in her 50s, when she is menopausal. At this point the body starts to feel the affects of decreased estrogen. These might be osteoporosis, bone loss, heart disease and dementia. Since my body has stopped producing estrogen at age 34, there are many repercusions other than hot flashes and mood swings. Basically I'm 20 years early to have a decreased estrogen supply so I'm pretty much setting myself up for all those fun things later in life.

I've done a lot of research on my own in regards to HRT and I don't think its safe, or the best option for me. First of all, increased levels of estrogen have been linked to breast cancer and blood clots. I brought this concern up to her (doctor) and she very sweetly said, "Sarah you don't have any estrogen. Putting you on estrogen replacement would give you a little estrogen, certainly not elevated levels that would cause breast cancer."

One of the main reasons I am against HRT is that animals are harmed in the process. With Prempro, the company abuses horses. Urine from a female horse (mare) is used to make Prempro. Therefore, female horses are kept confined in tiny stalls. They're kept pregnant their entire life in these stalls. Very miserable existence. Plus, who wants to take a pill made from urine??

She (doctor) talked to me about Estradiol. I have yet to research this - I intend to today. Estradiol is transdermal (in the form of a patch or gel). The intent would be to give my body some small amounts of estrogen to hopefully ward off bone loss and dementia later in life.

Like I said, I need to research estradiol on my own but she did give me sample patches to try. She said they would help the hot flashes, mood swings and even sleeplessness within a few weeks.

Need to start working but that was our day yesterday. I still have so much information that I want to write about (fertility, hormones, holistic remedies, etc) I feel like a walking menopause directory!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hot flashes, insomnia and mood swings, oh my!

My mom often spoke of her hot flashes. I may have thought she was exaggerating because I just couldn't understand how in the world your skin could feel on fire, or you could break out into sweat in the dead of the winter.

I was dead wrong. She wasn't exaggerating.

Hot flashes are, for me, the number-one-bar-none-worst part of this journey. Or wait, is it the insomnia? Or maybe its the roller-coaster of emotions that make me feel like I'm taking a ride on Ozzy's Crazy Train.

Hot flashes are so incredibly uncomfortable. A hot flash comes over you within seconds. You feel hot as hell, uncomfortable and occasionally its difficult to breathe. Quite possibly the worst part is the sweating. My face breaks out (or at least I feel like it breaks out) into a billion beads of sweat and its very uncomfortable. Not the kind of uncomfortable that working out and being sweaty brings, but uncomfortable like a heavy and intense flash of humidity.

Like I said in a previous post, I began experiencing "night sweats" when planning for my wedding. Since it never occurred to me I could be anywhere near menopause I didn't even consider that as an option. Night sweats seemed to go along with the stress and anxiety of everything going on in my life at the time. Looking back on it, I really should have known, shouldn't I have?

The weight gain was pretty obvious. Bless every one's hearts around me for not saying something especially because I was more swollen than usual for my wedding. Thankfully I have had no trouble getting the weight off. Now, its obvious that too was a sign I was near menopause (the weight gain).

The mood swings actually didn't become dominant until just recently. I actually think I handled the past year pretty well considering I was engaged, married, dealt with some pretty difficult people and relationships, had my dog pass, and am trying to make a career as a writer. Now, I look back and can see times where my mood swings were more severe than was standard for me.

Sleeping sucks. I mean, trying to get back to sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night sucks. Actually sleeping is heavenly, when it happens. I've always been a sleeper and definitely never had any problems with it! I had my doctor prescribe me something to help with the "insomnia" (waking up at 2am, 3am and not being able to fall back to sleep) she prescribed Rozerem. I would not recommend it. First of all it didn't do anything for me at all, and secondly the possible side effects are terrifying! So, I occasionally take a generic form of Tylenol PM. Other nights, I just don't stress if I wake up and can't go back to sleep.

I am against HRT (hormone replacement therapy) for both animal welfare and health reasons. I've learned a lot about acupuncture, herbs and oils as remedies for the symptoms related to menopause. I will go into detail about my findings in my next post. I have to go to work, and I have an appointment with a doctor at 1:00 today to make sure there is no underlying cause of the premature menopause. Which, I'm sure there isn't, just need to be thorough!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


It took 34 years of living, 19 years of dating and well over 1000 first dates to find my soul mate.Our first date was July 5, he proposed September 5 and we were married December 4.

I never thought I wanted kids. This suprised many people. I have worked with kids in many different capacities throughout life. Most recently, as a dance and cheer coach. I was a role model, mentor and confidant for girls ages six to 18 for years. I have two nieces and acquired eight more nieces and nephews through my marriage.

My now-husband and I were honest with each other about the fact that neither of us thought we wanted children. At least, no time soon. When we married, I was 34 and he was 37. We had by no means written off procreation entirely, just any time in the near future. After all, we are newlyweds.

I am naturally high-strung and anxious. During our three month engagement and planning our wedding I became moreso; anxious, emotional and even gained quite a bit of weight. I had gone on the birth control pill years before and never really had much of a period in fact, I can't remember the last time I bought tampons or pads. My doctor's take on this was, "Don't complain! Lots of women wish they didn't get their period!"

During the planning period I also began to have night sweats. I thought these night sweats were most certainly due to the stress and anxiety of moving and planning a wedding.

Once married, my husband and I considered having children. Maybe the reason neither of us ever wanted children was because neither of us had ever met anyone that a) we could imagine spending the rest of our life with and b) procreating or parenting with.

I was always hesitant to have children due to my parents' messy divorce when I was a child. However, once I met him, I knew this would be forever and a messy child-custody trial would never be an issue.

Premature menopause runs in my family. My mom began menopause at 36 and two paternal aunts were done by 40. When my husband and I discussed having children we knew I should have a blood test to determine where my hormone levels were; if they were near perimenopause we might speed up our process of getting pregnant and if I was not nearing perimenopause we would stick to our original plan and wait a few years.

My annual was approaching anyway so I didn't make a special appointment. Instead, I had my regular doctor run a blood test at that appointment. She was going to check for everything from hormone levels to cholesterol and the health of my thyroid.

Since our wedding, by changing my diet I'd lost the "I'm in love and planning a wedding" weight and was back to a size 6. I don't eat meat and cut out all dairy. However, also since the wedding my "nights sweats" became morning sweats, afternoon sweats and evening sweats. Also known as "hot flashes".

My appointment was on a Monday. My doctor told me to call her office on Wednesday for the results of the blood test. Friday morning, I realized I'd forgotten to call. I called her office and left a message for her to call me.

That evening at 6:30, my doctor called me back. I will never forget her exact words, "Your tests were fine. All your results are fine; your blood sugars, cholesterol, thyroid, everything. But..... I can't believe this because you are such a baby but your tests also conclude you're post-menopausal."