Thursday, September 4, 2008

Peri-Menopause, Menopause and Hormone Replacement Therapy

Entering A New Stage In Life

I wanted to share with other women today, my experience with peri-menopause, menopause and hormone replacement therapy and some of the major side effects I was unaware of in going through this process. It was extremely difficult to write this article since this was a time in my life I was truly challenged and the memory I have trouble dealing with since this was an extremely emotionally charged time. It is my sincerest hope that through this article you may find camaraderie and answers to ease the concerns you may have as we all face this period of life together as women.

Growing up I used to over hear my mom or grandmother talking about “going through the change.” Of course back in the day of my childhood, I assumed it meant looking for coins in her change purse! I would then run to my piggy bank and offer my meager coins up to my mom and grandmother, proudly stating, "I have some quarters for you"! They simply laughed and nonchalantly replied, "not that kind of change, darling". And it was left at that. I knew not to pry further since this was the era in time when we didn't talk much about this kind of stuff.

Then as I grew older and became much, much wiser at the age of 14 years old, I learned what it all meant as I entered into puberty. Oh, ok, I understand now, it is something only older women get and what makes them mean as a hatter....Sooo I have lots of time.

Boy..... that was an the age of 38 I began to experience feelings in my body that literally made me feel as though I was going insane. Hot flashes, anxiety, panic attacks, night sweats with nightmares, migraine headaches, mood swings....whoa....the mood swings were something else. Intimacy, well just forget about that! And yet I had literally no idea what was happening to me at the tender age of 38 years old. I had heard about menopause but I was way too young for that.....right? No way!

My husband and children learned to stay out of my way by the mood gauge....was I smiling or sneering? Was I laughing or grumbling? Was I slamming things or cheerfully doing my house chores? My home had become a place where the ebb and flow of our lives rose and fell based on my was terrible! And yet I had no idea what I was dealing with or why I was behaving so badly. As hard as I tried, I could not stop the bad behavior. My family had become my hostage.

My husband tried flowers, thinking I am sure, offering something beautiful would cheer me up only to be met with a glare since something for no reason had made me angry earlier in the day totally apart from anything my hubby had done.

Then he tried the humble offering of chocolate, ....great make me fatter! Now I am indeed incensed! The poor man was beside himself and helpless to be able to do anything for me as hard as he tried.

The turning point came when I had a terrible nightmare along with my night sweats and I came to find out what night terrors were. I was dreaming of earwigs crawling all over me…I leaped out of bed flicked on the light in terror, screaming, waking my husband from a sound sleep, and even with the light on and my eyes wide open I pointed to my pillow and still saw earwigs all over it. My husband was floored and scared at what was happening to me. I was acting like an insane person. He shook me and tried to get me to really see what was there, and it was nothing. I broke down at that moment and after enduring this for more than 6 months, I stated then and there, “I was going to see my doctor today!”

The Saga Begins

I am about to share a story with you about a period in my life that caused severe sadness, frustration and fear because no one in the medical profession could help me. I was on my own basically!

In meeting with my doctor I learned about the term peri-menopause. What the heck was that? My mom never spoke of this! Apparently women at anytime past age 35 can experience a pre-menopausal state that mimics the “change” but is actually a shift in hormones and can be a precursor to menopause over the next 10 years or more prior to the actual onset of menopause. Wow...I now felt years older than I actually was and my state of mind reflected this. My doctor started me on hormone replacement therapy, an Estradiol patch since she explained it is absorbed through the skin and was not assimilated by the liver which can bring about clotting disorders. In essence it was the safest method for me at this point in my life and would stabilize my estrogen levels since she was convinced this is what I was experiencing.

Within 3 days I was walking on a cloud of contentment and I was full of harmony and love once more and a pleasure to be around. My worries were gone, all anxieties were diminished and I was sleeping like a baby. My husband and children were slack-jawed by the transformation. Our home was back to normal again and I was welcomed back with loving arms and a serenity filled our home once again.

Out of devotion to my family, I stayed on this remedy of gold for 3 years until my doctor now recommended a combination of my patch and Progesterone. The drug of choice was called Prometrium, supposedly the safest and most natural choice next to our own bodies production of this hormone. This was to create a balance so that I would not create a side effect from only estrogen treatment known as endometriosis. Unfortunately, the patch could no longer be used since my skin became sensitized to the glue and I broke out in welts that lasted for a week or more. So I was forced to go by route of oral medication and take the risk, but for fear of return of the raving lunatic, it was worth it. I know because I tried to stop taking Estradiol and within 2 days, “She” was back. So I began my new regimen. Luckily all went well in regards to the clotting disorders, however....

After about another 4 years of doing this, and by now I was in my mid 40’s, I began to feel pain in my joints as though I were becoming arthritic. Fatigue also began to set in and I was experiencing severe vertigo around my monthly cycle. It was so bad at times I would fall down and vomit. I was then put on drugs for this.

I saw specialists, Eye doctors, ENT doctors for the dizziness and vertigo since now it was believed I may have Menieres Disease, however, I did not experience any hearing loss. Working out became next to impossible for how weak I felt for someone who used to work out regularly. My illnesses were making it impossible to continue. My menstrual cycle also became heavier and caused me to have to stay in the supine position during the first couple of days making life impossible to live fully. Was the hormone treatment not working anymore?

The frustration from my ongoing symptoms caused me to spiral into a deep depression. Not willing to succumb and accept this fate, I knew I had to start asking some hard questions.

After a long stint of 2 years of unexplained illness and many visits with doctors of specialty medicine who either ignored or did not wish to find any other cause other than a disease within itself instead of a side effect to something I may be taking, I felt helpless and overwhelmed. Some doctors I found simply did not want input from me, the patient, since that would be admitting the patient may know more than the doctor.

Refusing to accept their opinions any longer or continue to live like this, crippled each month, I returned to my GP doctor for a battery of blood work. She wanted to check for Rheumatoid arthritis and hormone levels. Fortunately, I was clear of the rheumatoid arthritis and my hormone levels looked good, but a marker was found for Lupus and my doctor said we will monitor it since it is only in the early stages and this is what is causing my joint pain. Now I was worried about a whole new onslaught of problems and my vertigo was still unresolved.

I began to do tons of research all over the internet to learn as much about lupus as possible. I never turn from fear, but face it and arm myself with as much information as I could. After all.... the many doctors I saw were no help. In doing my research I stumbled on information about drug induced Lupus. I became proactive and read in great detail about the individual pharmaceuticals which have been linked to this disease of the immune system, and guess what Ladies?....oral contraceptives were on the list along with antibiotics and others, so I then researched Prometrium side effects, and lupus can be induced or exacerbated with the disturbing dizziness and fatigue which took hold in my body, along with increase in Gall Bladder Disease ....which was removed by the way in 2001 while still on HRT.

The pamphlet said that taking at bedtime would alleviate many of these symptoms, however, vertigo would strike me in the middle of the night and I would fall out of bed. Not one single doctor I saw made the connection with my symptoms, including monthly symptoms with the drugs I was taking even though I tried tirelessly to help them see the equation. Even I can figure out 2 + 2 = 4. Cause and effect....process of elimination. Another reason we need to take charge of our own health at times.

Taking My Life Back

Out of my research came a new found sense of empowerment because the information insinuated hope within the research that suggested once the medication was removed, the lupus along with the other symptoms could be reversed in as little as 6 months to a year. Now what do I do? If I go off my HRT I thought the person I become will return and they will be shipping me off to the funny farm.....not a pretty picture. But the lupus and all the problems with vertigo were far scarier. My body was more out of control now than before I had started HRT. Now my focus turned to alternative therapy of peri-menopause without the drugs. I poured over all the information I could find to substitute my hormone replacement therapy. This is when I learned about change in diet, not just exercise either, but utilizing Yoga as a holistic therapy. Certain teas were better than others, removal of caffeine from my diet and other changes from a list that is endless help to correct many, if not all of my symptoms.

I stopped taking my HRT without the supervision of my doctor, but did it gradually, from everyday to every other day, and so on and so forth while also starting my new life with Yoga and new dietary changes. I held my breath with the anxiety of the “whacky woman” returning and my body never being right again. To my delight, she was never seen again. I was amazed! My body adjusted and all my holistic approaches were working…vertigo stopped after 3 months of cycles and the heavy bleeding also subsided to minimal to very short cycles. Next doctor visit I informed my GP that I was no longer on HRT and feeling great. What could she say except she was of course curious as to how I was doing? I told her about my research and she was aware but not convinced of these findings since they were quite rare and not conclusive. I was determined though to follow through with my own treatment at this point since I was living proof that the findings are conclusive, at least in my humble opinion. I became a walking billboard of proof. I continued to experience the pain in my wrist and shoulder joints, but my strength returned over the next 6 months. After a year and almost to the date of taking my last pill, the pain in my joints had subsided and has yet to return. Vertigo was no more! I was living my life once again! A huge weight was removed from my shoulders at last!

I went back for my annual visit a year later and my blood work revealed the Lupus marker was no longer present. It had vanished. I had reversed the symptoms and onset of this drug induced version of lupus. I had healed myself despite all the doctors’ best intentions or lack of…and I was amazed and elated! My doctor was pleased and saw me as a case study of proving the information accurate. Her skepticism was also gone!

What does this have to do with mineral makeup and natural skincare, which is what I do as a business? Well, not a darn thing, but it does have to do with health and well being not being mutually exclusive from what I provide to my customers in safer cosmetics. It is about the whole package. Plus the added benefit mineral powders and organic skincare offer in relation to helping us look years younger, protect us from free radical damage while preventing us from drying out our skin and helping to protect us from further UV damage.

My favorite quotes, “It's beauty that captures your attention; personality that captures your heart” ~ Anonymous ~

"A woman is like a teabag, you never knows how strong she is until she gets in hot water "~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~

Is Big Pharma Looking Out For Us

Taking care of your inside as well as your outside is so important, and I truly care about other women who may be experiencing the same thing I went through with little to no information provided by her doctor. This is why I share my story with you today. Sometimes we must take charge of our own health and well being and not rely 100% on our doctors. They are only human and most are not immersed in holistic knowledge of alternative medicines but push to promote medications.....all you have to do is turn on the TV today to see the many commercials promoting drugs and to go ask your doctor about it…wow! Plus in time past it was discovered bonuses and kickbacks were part of this business for each prescription a doctor writes. Not all participated, but many did, so don't kid yourself. Selling drugs is big money which means big business. Furthermore, these large drug companies consistently lobby against the holistic manufacturers as their products being nothing more than snake oil and may have dangerous side effects. Are you kidding me? Fortunately the holistic remedy industry is winning their fight.

I believe the pharmaceutical drug companies want us as a nation to become drug dependent and complacent by allowing others in the medical industry to tell us what to do and how to live. It no longer is about your health but about having us believe we need and require these pills just to survive in today's society. Never mind the fact we are over medicated these days and walking around in drug induced comas, but it is also about the possible serious side effects which occur without allowing our bodies to do what comes naturally...heal itself.

Now with side effects from the medication we may be taking, they dupe us into believing we need more pills to correct those which in turn leads to a vicious cycle of dependency which clearly can affect our overall health and well being. Many drugs are very useful in the case of diseases and infections because they very well may save our lives. However, in cases such as mine, doctors should be looking at side effects more closely and take a patient seriously when they are making a connection between a drug they are taking and a symptom. Remember my vertigo a symptom of my HRT?.....without my own research, I probably would have ended up on more pills to help with the onset of lupus. Which I say, "rather than foist more pills on us, remove the underlying cause which in many cases are pills!"

Now I am turning the curve of 50 years old this month and I feel good. I am experiencing beginning stages of actual menopause and I am wading through it well. Typical changes with drier skin, some hot and cold flashes, but for the most part my Yoga and diet are holding true to my body’s needs as I go through the process of life’s subtle alterations. Nothing major and it feels gradual and natural. After my experience with HRT, I continue to take care of myself through holistic means and Yoga and because of my better understanding of how medications affect the body, I even find it difficult to swallow an aspirin these days.

My husband also no longer worries about me since he sees the changes no longer affect our relationship as they did before. Plus he hated seeing me on all those drugs since it was clear they were affecting my health and my state of mind. Now our relationship is better than ever and he is grateful he has his wife back. To fully understand what I had endured, he educated himself about the female body and the changes it goes through. He is truly my soul mate to the very end and I love him for all of his patience. "Love 'ya sweetie! I thank the Lord everyday for you!"

Now, whenever I see my doctor and I have a funny symptom going on, my first words out of my mouth are, “what are my alternatives without the use of drugs because I will not take them unless it is life or death.” She gets a chuckle out of me, yet admires my tenacity for taking back control of my own health care. Simply, fix it if you can without pills!

Please though, do your own research since my story is not a substitute for your own doctors’ advice, but simply to share. If I can help any of my ladies understand about peri-menopause, hormone replacement therapy, or menopause through my own experiences and the side effects you may or may not be aware of, then I won’t feel remiss in spreading the information. And of course it is all personal preference. I know many ladies who are doing quite well on HRT without any ill side effects including my own doctor and feel they just couldn't live without it, but for me it became a living nightmare accompanied with side effects I could no longer endure. But at least armed with information, you can make a fully vested intelligent decision and perhaps solve a mystery if you are experiencing similar problems as I had.

I wish all the best to those who traveled this road before me and those that will follow.

Be well and Namaste!

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