Menopause After Surgery: The Joys of Being a Woman
I had my bladder removed and a hysterectomy on August 19, 2017. In March of 2018, I saw an Endocrinologist who diagnosed a fair few things wrong with this old body of mine, one of which being that I had gone through the menopause. I had literally no estrogen in my body!
I decided, after a brief chat about hormone replacement therapy (HRT), not to push my luck, and I declined her offer of putting me on it. I felt this was the right decision at that moment, as she had also referred me to Rheumatologist, Gastroenterologist, and a Cardiac consultant.
My body had been through so much
I had enough going on in my body at the moment, and I was eventually diagnosed with Raynaud's (my feet had gone purple and cold, and my fingers had gone pure white), Erythromelalgia (a rare disorder which makes my skin burn and my body hurt), pancreatic insufficiency (my pancreas was making zero enzymes, so I wasn't digesting my food), and finally, moderate heart failure. So, as you can see, even without the cancer, my poor body is shot to pieces, and I really didn't want any more medication.
The surgical hysterectomy
The surgeons had left my ovaries in, hoping that by leaving them in my body, it would delay the menopause. They say that after a surgical menopause when they leave the ovaries in, you will go through the menopause within 5 years of having your hysterectomy. By leaving them in, your ovaries continue to produce testosterone for up to 20 years. It is testosterone that plays a part in our sexual desires and pleasure.
Menopause has so many symptoms, and everyone experiences it differently. However, some of the main symptoms will be the same due to the lack of estrogen. They can be: hot flashes, depression, mood swings, tearfulness, vaginal dryness, insomnia, fatigue, night sweats, and a reduced sex drive.
I didn’t feel like me
Fast forward 8 months - I had become really snappy, crabby and could even be a little nasty at times. I wasn't sleeping well at all; my body ached from the moment I got up, but more worryingly for me was that I had started to confront strangers who I felt were doing "something wrong". Now, this shocked me as I don't like any type of confrontation at all, but here I was yelling like a fishwife at the gardeners for taking up two parking spaces!
It affected my marriage
That wasn't all: my poor husband Tim could do nothing right. I had begun to doubt that my marriage was working. I was finding faults in everything and everyone. Every night I would go to bed and hope that tomorrow would be a better day. Each morning, I woke with a deep rage inside me. I went from zero to DEFCON 1 in a matter of seconds.
I knew that this wasn't me! (Although, I did keep questioning whether I was this nasty woman or not). In the beginning, I guess I didn't notice my moods changing as, to be honest, I have so much pain on a daily basis, I just put any symptoms down to my illnesses.
Anything and everything set me off
November 2018, I had gotten out of control. I felt like I wanted to explode; everything and anything set me off. I hated being this "me". Constantly picking faults, nagging and feeling terrible inside, but it was like my mouth had no filter and it just said what it wanted to say. I knew I had to do something, or my marriage would not continue, and we were both be seriously unhappy.
I told my doctor everything
I took myself to my Doctor and told her everything: the sleeping, the feelings of rage and anger, the tears of frustration, EVERYTHING. I had even sworn at our dog, Sherlock, which wasn't me. The doctor was lovely, and we spoke about all of my diagnoses and what has been happening over the past few years. I explained my fear that my "confronting people" would get me into more trouble, and I didn't want that.
We decided to try an HRT
She went off and spoke to another doctor, due to my medical history being so complicated. She returned and suggested we go with an HRT (hormone replacement treatment), an estrogen patch at first, as my body had long stopped producing estrogen. She put me on the lowest dose, and we would see how I responded. I felt relieved; I felt that she had really listened and understood what I was going through.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to read on about Anita’s experience with HRT and her other lifestyle changes to adapt to menopause.
Have you talked to your doctor about navigating sex with bladder cancer?