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Living with Surgical Menopause

Sara Hawkins, Ovarian Germ Cell Cancer Survivor.

Sara Hawkins, Ovarian Germ Cell Cancer Survivor

After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 35, I have had 2 major surgeries. One was the removal of my tumour and effected ovary. They wanted to leave everything else in situ as putting a young 35 year old woman into early menopause through a surgical intervention of a total hysterectomy is not ideal. This brings about many other risks and complications.

Although with best intentions, this was not to be for me. It unfolded that only 4 months after my first open abdominal surgery, that there would need to be another. This time for a total hysterectomy.

This would put my body into surgical menopause at the age of 35. Cancer, the gift that keeps on giving.

Now, I won’t dress it up. Menopause is not fun or glamorous. But it is of necessity. I would rather be menopausal than have cancer. It is a fair trade.

However, I should also say – it really is not the end of the world. I have to work at it. It doesn’t always come easy – but mind set is everything for me. This really helps me manage. Oh, and a hefty dosage of hormone treatment every day definitely helps!

After my surgery it took me about a week and I got my first hot flush. What the hell was that?! The most bizarre experience. I always wondered how I would know if it was a hot flush or whether I was just feeling hot – MY GOODNESS – you know! It is an odd sensation that just creeps over your whole body!

I started with hormone replacement patches. These were a bit of a pain. I used to get people asking me if they were nicotine patches if anyone ever saw it. Strangers in the swimming pool or gym changing rooms would ask me and then be horrified when I said it was HRT! I would genuinely get women looking me up and down and saying, “Well you aren’t old enough”, like I had insulted their womanhood – I got some really weird responses.

The patches sorted out my symptoms, but unfortunately my skin reacted to the glue and I had to change to the tablets. Luckily the transition has been fine.

An example of some of my symptoms are:

  • Fatigue – I just struggle to do things like I used to. I get wiped out. I constantly push myself to the limits to keep going, but sometimes, even a day of socialising and you will see the energy levels drain from my face.

  • Clumsiness – I bump into doors and walls, I trip myself over, and I drop things. Not all of the time, thankfully and is often to others amusement!

  • Nausea – this is horrible and often in relation to tastes, textures of foods and smells. There may be a taste, texture or smell that I am usually fine with, but all of a sudden I won’t be able to cope.

It is a bumpy road, but one that I can safely say is made easier by exercising, being positive and accepting that sometimes it is ok to make allowances for the difficulties your body is going through.

Remember to be kind to both your mind and body when navigating through menopause. It can be a bumpy ride.

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