>Those of you who have been reading my blog know that last August I had a hysterectomy. After surgery I was thrown headlong into menopause. For most women, menopause is a process that happens over the course of months or years. A woman has a chance to learn about her body and educate herself about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and its benefits and side effects. I suppose as a woman entering my 50s I should have been more cognizant of HRT alternatives, but I hadn’t even started with menopause symptoms, so I just floated along in my hormone-rich cloud.
When I discovered that I needed to have my hysterectomy I went into overdrive self-education. The one thing I learned? It’s a jungle out there! There is so much conflicting information, studies, and advice that I felt that I was basically led in a big circle, ending up right where I started–clueless. I did find an excellent web site–Hystersisters.com (yes, it is really called that). Hystersisters is a web community of women facing this major, life-changing surgery, and women who have been through their surgery, all sharing questions, answers, support, and information. It is a wonderful resource, and has tons of information for both before and after the operation. Again, though, there is really too much information. It was difficult to know what was the right answer for me.
Of course, every woman has a different story and different advice. I would listen to their stories, file away the information, but still, I realized it was all about me and my experience.
So, after my hysterectomy, I plunged headlong into almost unknown territory. After reading some of the recent studies, I had decided that I would try to go HRT-free, at least at first, until I had a chance to see how my body was going to react.
The first two months were wonderful. I had few, if any, symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, etc. And, best of all, I had no headaches. I have had frequent headaches, including migraines, since I was about 10 years old. I felt that they were hormone related, as there had always been a cylical nature to the headaches. Plus, after talking to other post-menopausal women, I learned that many times headaches disappeared, or at least eased up tremendously, after menopause.
After a couple months, though, I began to have what I called “warm flashes.” No big deal, just an occasional warm feeling a few times through the day. As time went on, “warm” became “hot,” and quite uncomfortable. A hot flash at night, becomes “night sweats,” because you are under the covers, get hot, sweat, throw off the cover, get cold, then start the whole cycle all over again. Not conducive to sound sleep! But again, thinking of the potential side effects of HRT, something I felt that I could deal with.
Then the anxiety attacks began. These were something totally new to me. They made feel edgy, like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. It got so I was feeling nervous most of the time. At that point, I decided, enough is enough. Bring on the hormones!
But, which ones? There are a multitude of choices out there. When I called my doctor and told her that I wanted to begin HRT, she first wanted to prescribe Premarin. I won’t go into details, but as an animal lover and vegetarian, I knew that was not the route I wanted to take. (If you want to know why, follow this link.)
So she suggested a similar synthetic hormone, made from plant sources. I was fine with that, and so I started taking Cenestin. Soon, the hot flashed dissapated, the anxiety went away, and I was sleeping comfortably. Then, the headaches returned.
They returned in a big way. Although I seem to have fewer major, knock me down flat, throw up all night, hide in a dark room headaches (only two since they came back), I now seem to have daily headaches. They are not major, but they they interfere with my life. Who feels like working out, running, talking, when dealing with a headache? Aside from the fact that it is really unhealthy to take over-the-counter medication so frequently, it didn’t even make a dent in the headaches. Taking my prescribed migraine medications too often is also not healthy, plus they are expensive (not to mention that the insurance company only allows a certain amount per month).
I began to feel that I was at the end of my rope. I called my doctor, but she didn’t return my call (that can be a whole other blog post, she did a great job on my surgery, but I really don’t like her). Finally, I took myself off the hormones. That lasted about two weeks. The hot flashes quickly returned, along with mental cloudiness. Then, last Tuesday, the day after I gave in and picked up a new prescription of the Cenestin, I went for a fateful run.
My hubby and I went for a run before work. I was running less the he was, so as I turned around, it so happened that another women, heading the other way, and I started running together. Amazingly, because we only ran together for about a mile, we, as women will sometimes do, managed to discuss menopause, hysterecomies, hormones. It still makes me smile to remember how quickly we covered all these topics. Most importantly, she started to tell me about bioidentical hormones.
After my chat, I began some research, finally with a purpose. Bioidentical hormones are basically identical to those that your body makes. A doctor will measure the balance of hormones in your body, then prescribe treatment that will address your body’s actual needs. Although they have been around for a long while, recently celebrities such as Suzanne Somers and Oprah have helped popularize and publicize their efficacy.
So, after a little more research, I found a local doctor who prescribes bioidentical hormones and is also in my insurance network. He is also an OB/GYN, so if I like him I can replace the doctor that I don’t care for. A win-win! My appointment is on June 8. I’m waiting for the new patient forms that they will be sending. I am so excited, that I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas (which should give you an idea about how discouraged I have felt!).
Keep your fingers crossed for me. I will keep you informed.