How I Handled Menopause and HRT
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) isn't suitable for everyone, and there are some huge risks. One of them being that you may develop breast cancer. That didn't and still doesn't worry me in the slightest, as my bladder cancer is classed as terminal anyway.
Another risk is from blood clots. Thankfully, I had read an article on how cancer patients are more at risk with blood clots due to having cancer treatments, so I at least know what to look for.
Hormone replacement therapy for bladder cancer survivors
HRT can also help the body by providing protection for our weakening bones as osteoporosis is common during menopause. There are many types of treatments available.
Some women take a combination of estrogen and progesterone, and most women without a womb will take the estrogen-only HRT. They come in many forms, there are patches, which is what I am on, as well as gels, vaginal creams, pessaries, or rings.
Side effects of HRT
Of course, taking any medication does come with side effects. Even though you are just replacing a hormone that was once there, your body will need to adjust and accept the hormones.
For the first 3 months or so, you may experience some breast soreness, headaches, nausea, stomach pains, indigestion, and even some vaginal bleeding or discharge. It should eventually get better on the HRT. I can't say that I have noticed any side effects, thankfully.
Lifestyle changes to help during menopause
Lifestyle plays a huge part in our lives, and we can help ourselves by exercising. No matter how small the effort, we need to get moving. As the saying goes, "Use it or lose it".
A healthy diet will also help. I have gone almost vegetarian and am choosing natural, organic foods. Lots of homemade soups, chickpeas, and lentils (the hubby isn't so keen however, he is supporting me). Last night was chickpea balls with red lentil pasta and a homemade tomato sauce, and it was truly delicious!
Drinking tea to help decrease caffeine intake
Without sounding like a nag, stopping smoking, lowering your alcohol intake, and cutting down on caffeine can also have a huge effect on your body.
I am allowing myself one coffee a day, and for the rest, I'm having ginger and lemon tea. Be careful with how much lemon you use as its acidity can erode your teeth, so perhaps make some fresh mint tea, too, with mint leaves.
It is so easy to make: cut up some fresh ginger and allow it to "brew" or "steep" for a few minutes, and then add some chopped fresh lemon. It's refreshing and gorgeous.
Ginger helps with the body's inflammation and has long been used in alternative medicine to help with nausea (it can also help with chemo nausea), digestion, and it helps to fight the flu, among many other things. It is also meant to help reduce muscle pain which is something that I have a lot of.
Complementary and alternative therapies
If you wanted to try some complementary and/or alternative therapies, both St. John's wort and black cohosh are meant to help and reduce the symptoms of menopause, like low mood, hot flashes, sweating, and palpitations.
Please, if you are thinking of going down the complementary medicine route, check with your doctor, as sometimes there are interactions or contraindications between medications - both natural and medical.
Essential oils can also help with symptoms of the menopause.
Clary sage is thought to calm the hot flashes. You should dilute 3 drops of it in some type of oil (coconut, sesame, and sunflower are all good). Rub this over the back of your neck or all over your feet - repeat as necessary.
Clary sage is also thought to be able to uplift your mood, so another way of taking it would be to drop 1 to 2 drops on a tissue and inhale. Peppermint is a good oil for hot flashes, too. Again, a few drops on a tissue and inhale.
The oils entering your body this way are said to have an antidepressant type of effect to them.
Lavender - I adore lavender. Lavender is my go-to oil. Headache? Lavender. Cold sore? Lavender - and so on. Lavender helps to balance your hormones. It is also really good for anxiety, sleeping, nausea, high blood pressure, and it is also an anti-inflammatory. It helps to settle tummy issues, and lavender tea can help with bloating and digestive issues.
You can add a few drops to a tissue or add some to your bath. If you are going to make lavender tea, then place 4 teaspoons into a teapot, pour in boiling water, and let it steep for a few minutes.
Geranium is another of my favorites, again a balancing oil, so it helps the body to find its "homeostasis," its balance. If you inhale geranium, then studies suggest that this also has an antidepressant effect, so it can help with low moods and anxiety.
HRT after cystectomy
Whichever way you choose to deal with your menopause, GOOD LUCK! It's challenging.
Read Part 1 of Anita's journey with menopause after a radical cystectomy and hysterectomy, and how she and her doctor decided to try hormone replacement treatments.
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