The Menopause

Let’s celebrate!

Did you know today is World Menopause Day? They literally make a day for everything. I know these days are a day of awareness. For those who are going through these conditions, it’s a day where those who aren’t experiencing them can stop and listen. It’s a day where you can take a health audit of your current status. People who aren’t in the know get educated. Charities and societies can create events and raise funds to help current and future people in need.

I know it’s a good thing.

However, I can’t help looking at it as a big banner that my body is a failure. I know it’s a little self-absorbed to be thinking of yourself but for crying out loud, there seems to be one day after another after another that seems to correspond to my status in life. Can I not go back to being normal, oblivious to these titled days?

Failure

I’ve never really looked at myself as a failure until cancer. A couple of months ago I had to write a few sentences on how cancer has made me feel like a failure for Marie Curie. I don’t know if they actually used what I wrote, I never heard much from it. Failure is a strong word but that’s what’s happened, my body failed.

When I told my family what I had to do they were horrified to hear that I had been asked. I guess I just take it all in my stride. I didn’t think much of it, so I had to sit and think for a bit on what to write… it’s not something I really thought much of before. Now, apparently, it is all I can think of.

I’m definitely struggling more this side of the diagnosis than ever before. Being diagnosed and having treatment seems to be the easy bit… but is that because my mind is protecting me from what I’ve been through? It’s so much easier looking back on things. It never seems so bad but it was, it was awful.

The Silence

For nearly two years I’ve been dictated on where to go and what appointment to attend. As soon as treatment is over though you’re dropped.

There’s silence.

Silence is great for the recovery period where you’re managing to get up and out. But as time passes you realise it can’t carry on. You need to pick your life back up. The trouble is, what life? You can’t go back to the one you had before, you’re not the same person. There are all these new insecurities and anxieties that were never there before.

Premature Ovarian Failure

Menopause is a funny one really. It’s not one I really know a lot about. I mean, I know the physicality of it and I’ve read all there is to know about it until I’m blue in the face but my experience of it is pretty dull. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy caused premature ovarian failure, in other words, put me into an early menopause. I experienced a few hot flushes when my treatment ended before I got an appointment for the early menopause clinic but that’s about it.

Taking HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), replace the ones that I no longer produce artificially. Because I take this, it means any symptoms of the menopause are gone. I take this for the rest of my life or until I’m of normal menopausal age… I guess that will be for the next 25 years. Then I get to experience the true side of the menopause, I imagine.

I’m supposed to monitor my general feelings of well-being and if I feel something is not normal or is out of sync then I can call the clinic and alter the dosage. What is normal though?

My normal may be different from your normal. I don’t think I know or have a normal anymore.

New Normal

I hear quite frequently that after cancer you have a “new normal”. It’s a normal that is different from your old one and different to those around you. I hate that phrase. Nothing is normal about this and finding that “normal” seems near impossible.

On the upside, I’ve had my appointment through for my next CT scan. I’ll be glad to get that one done. My previous 3 month check up was only an X-Ray, so at least having a more in-depth scan will calm the mind some. It’ll be the first since I had my N.E.D (No evidence of disease) back in May.

Keeping Busy

The Beauty Bus is brilliant at keeping the mind busy. If I’m not careful I can find myself in a silent world where my mind is screaming at me about all the things that are wrong. I try not to focus too much on these details but some days are harder than others.

The funding for the Bus is coming along amazingly. Thank you to those who have donated, shared and spread the word about my cause. I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing support team around me who believe in my idea.

Donations are still open so if you would like to donate or share then you can do so here

Baby, it’s just never gonna happen

I really wanted my next post to be a vlog and I’ve been wracking my brains for days on end about what my next topic should be.
Obviously this is not a vlog. On this topic, I needed to be clear and concise and I can’t do that without thinking about what I’m gonna say and how it needs to be worded.

So I’ve brushed over this topic before but I’ve never really gone into the nitty gritty.

Infertility.

I’m infertile. My eggs are naff. They’re non-existent. There will be no babies.

This isn’t because of my cancer. Vaginal cancer hasn’t made me infertile and it’s not fucked me up down there. I function normally… In case you’re wondering 😉

Radiotherapy made me infertile. As my radiotherapy was directed in the pelvic region it didn’t just target my tumour. Radio beams hit my womb, ovaries, intestines, colon, stomach, liver, kidneys, the lot. For those of you that have never experienced radiotherapy let me just explain the effects as best I can… It burns you. After treatment you generally have a red mark where its been targeting. Or sometimes your skin peels like you’ve been sunburned. It can blister, swell, redden, peel or all of the above.

With me, by the end of my treatment from the tops of my thighs to my lower ribs front and back my skin changed colour. I went from a fair skin, that tans slightly in the sun but burns easily, to a skin that looked like it’s spent 20 days in the Sahara slicked up with oil. Without sounding racist my skin colour was a different ethnicity.

So with that on the outside, its no wonder it damaged my ovaries. So this probably brings you to the question what we’re my fertility options? There were none.

From the day I was diagnosed, to the day of treatment beginning, there was 3 days. I had a very aggressive tumour. It grew rapidly and with the size of it already (10 cm), they couldn’t risk any more time, in case it spread. It did, but they didn’t know that at the time and they hoped it wouldn’t. The option of harvesting any of my eggs for future IVF treatment was never on the table. It would have meant that I would have to be on a selection of hormone drugs to up my ante for egg collection. Not only that, but to retrieve said eggs it would also mean an operation and the tumour was in the way of the route they would take to collect my eggs.

At the time of being told this I didn’t care of the situation. When you’re that sick all you want is to get better. I never processed this part of treatment. I never dealt with it. I just thought logically and got on with what needed to be done.

After radiotherapy, brachytherapy (an internal form of radiotherapy – they target the tumour directly with radio beams) and chemotherapy I was then under the care of the early menopause clinic.

You can only be officially declared menopause free when you’ve had no period for over 12 months. However I still needed to see them to see what function I had left. A simple blood test works for this to see what your FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level is. This is the hormone that helps release the egg. My FSH was 84. I remember saying to my doctor “that’s good then?”… Umm… No. On average, it should be between 4 and 20. At 84 it means my body is trying to kick the ovaries into action. So with this, they knew that’s it. It’s HRT (hormone replacement therapy), artificial hormones to replace what my body can no longer produce.

If I didn’t take this? My body would be too screwed when I get old. Osteoporosis, brittle bones, muscle deterioration, heart disease, strokes, the list goes on. I’ve got enough to deal with already don’t I?! So I take it.

Hey, fun fact: did you know that although I’m on HRT I can still have a period if I wanted to! Not a real period, but apparently, some women who go through the menopause early feel they’ve lost a bit of their womanhood. Or naturally your body still bleeds monthly. HRT is expansive like the contraceptive pill. Actually, some use the contraceptive pill as their hormone replacement. Look-wise there’s no difference in the appearance of the pills and the packet they come in. For me, I didn’t see the use of having a period if it wasn’t doing anything. That’s one nuisance I’m glad to be rid of!

During this consultation with my early menopause doctor she asked if I had a sister. Yes, I do, I said. She smiled and said good. She explained that in the future she could be an egg donor for me. I shot that down immediately. I love my sister, don’t get me wrong but that is just crossing too many lines for me personally. Until recently I realised she asked this because the NHS will not fund egg donation. I would have to find my own donor or fund it myself… This is about £5000+

I’ve always had strong opinions on where I stand with such tricky areas like IVF. I just wouldn’t do it personally. I couldn’t put myself through that emotional trauma. I have nothing against IVF or IVF babies I just don’t want it for myself. So it’s never really been an option for me. I never sat down and considered it.

I’m very much a practical thinker in life. And being this way I think has helped me considerably when I’ve had to deal with such emotional situations like this. Don’t get me wrong, I am deep down to my core devastated that I can’t have my very own baby. And it hurts so bad some days when social media is covered with friends babies or pregnancies but that’s OK. I have my cry and I move on. I deal with it.

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Fertility is such a hairy topic for those who go through problems, have IVF or just plainly can’t have babies.

You can’t talk to someone who’s had babies. They don’t get it. They have theirs. And you can’t talk to those who don’t have babies but still can, because they can’t relate either. My friends and family know my situation and they let me talk when I need or want to. They help. But things move on, the feeling of sadness goes at the end of the day, it’s not a topic that they will always be thinking of.

Friends please don’t stop the social media posts if you are reading this! I’m not hating on you. It’s just some days are harder than others and it’s issues I have to deal with not you.

So you may think, but hang on what about fostering or adoption? That’s a good route. And yes, I would agree. It was my option this time last year. But since then my cancer has gone metastatic when it gets to the stage 4 region (did you know I had to Google that bit? I’ve never officially been told its stage 4) you’ll never be cured from it. You have to constantly deal with the thought of it still lingering. It will come back.

I can’t put a kid through such an unstable future. You may not agree with my reasoning but this is the way my life is.

So this is the way it is. My kidless future.

It’s a very different perspective when that option is stolen from you and not a choice you’ve made yourself.

If you have any questions or I’ve not been clear on anything please feel free to message. I’m very open on my infertility and treatment.

Also, if you find you are like me, and have gone through the menopause early, then there is a great charity that can help with people who can relate. The Daisy Network

Kudos if you have got this far! I know it’s a long post! ✌🏻💜