Going Through Premature Menopause Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of
Learning that you’re in premature menopause is unsettling. Whether your early menopause the result of a medical diagnosis or due to surgical removal of the ovaries, the concerns are the same. You may wonder about your future reproductive options, your sex life, your appearance, your general health and how you will identify as a female without having a period. Scary stories from women who have experienced early menopause might cause you to worry, but going through premature menopause is nothing to fear.
In light of Angelina Jolie’s recent revelation about her decision to remove her ovaries to protect herself against having ovarian cancer in the future, The Stir spoke with Juliet Farmer, a breast cancer survivor who like, Jolie, made the choice to remove her ovaries to protect against future cancers. Farmer had the procedure at age 32 and has been in menopause ever since. She talked to The Stir about her experiences dealing with the symptoms of menopause. Farmer struggled with hot flashes and was place on a anti-depressant by her doctor to combat them. She is dealing with bone thinning and osteoporosis, telling The Stir, “I’ve had several broken bones since menopause, and my endocrinologist is keeping close tabs on me.” Farmer also discussed her struggles with weight gain, her decreased sex drive and using lubricants to deal with vaginal dryness.
While I absolutely applaud Farmers decision to remover her ovaries to protect herself against the risk of developing ovarian cancer in the future and I admire her honestly in opening up about such personal issues and sharing her story about life with early menopause, it’s important to note that not all women who experience early menopause face the same difficulties as Farmer. This isn’t a judgment on Farmer at all, her experiences are her own, but as a woman in premature menopause myself, I find The Stir’s characterization of the condition extremely one-sided.
Premature menopause can occur several ways– through surgical means of having the ovaries removed or for medical reasons where the ovaries cease function. I fall into the latter categories, as my ovaries stopped functioning by the time I was 27 as the result of an autoimmune issue.
The Stir doesn’t address whether Farmer is taking hormone replacement pills, but it should be noted that such treatments do exist and can help alleviate symptoms. While I have had a bone density scan and it revealed that my results fall on the lower end of normal, I strength training regularly and thus far have had no broken bones. My medications prevent me from having hot flashes, but even before they were under control they weren’t as horrible as I’d feared. A year ago my OB was concerned about the aging of my vaginal tissue, but after a year of treatment on a course of medications that works well for me, at a recent checkup he said everything down there looks age appropriate and functions normally. At this point I take a daily pill and live a symptom free life, expect for the fact that I don’t get my period.
It’s important for woman like Farmer to share their experiences, so that those facing the difficult decision of removing their ovaries or dealing the the diagnosis of premature menopause can know what their future looks like, but one person’s experiences should not be presented as indicative of the condition as a whole. Living with early menopause has challenges, but it’s nothing to be afraid of.