My ovaries are packing in. Giving up the ghost. Limping and stuttering into utter irrelevance.
And it is shite.
Really. What the hell is this all about? The restless legs. The itchy skin. The sweats. The anxiety that free floats from wherever. The foggy brain. The weight gain. The erratic bleeding – so heavy that even super-sized Tena Lady nappies are defeated. The lumpy tender breasts. The weird dry facial skin. The hair that just fucking sprouts from places it just fucking shouldn’t. The moods and tears and loss of confidence.
Clearly I’m paying for never having suffered PMT in the past. This is my ‘pay-back’ time.
And like PMT, you’ll get short shrift from the NHS with peri-menopausal dysmenorrhoea.
A referral to the gynaecologist:
Heavy bleeding? He asks. Are you sure it’s heavy? I mean, we often hear women describe their bleed as heavy – but we do have to explain to them that blood always looks more plentiful than it actually measures…
And I describe how several work meetings have ended recently, with me soaking the seat I was sitting on. The blood and clots easily defeating the three ‘night-time super’ towels; the large tampon and the toilet paper wading I’d panicked into sporting.
I explain that I have not have a day without bleeding of some sort since April 2015.
I tell him I’ve got to the stage where my skin is sore and raw and I’m developing an allergy to toilet paper and sanitary towels.
He coughs. Ah. Right. That sounds heavy.
He’s looking up my fanny at that point. With a fucking light. Then in he dives and I think for a few minutes that I’ve the lost gold of eldorado up there or that he’s about to pull out a very large rabbit or something. It wasn’t a subtle internal.
Then there’s some talk of the mirena or the mini pill – me behind a curtain getting dressed again and him casually continuing as though he was customer service at the Marks and Sparks dressing rooms. Until finally I emerge, sweating from the heat and the awkwardness and the effort of getting dressed and of trying to carry on this weird disembodied conversation and he explains that the ‘solution’ he’d recommend is a radical hysterectomy. They’ll remove my uterus and fallopian tubes and ovaries and cervix. And Hey presto – I’ll be fixed.
He wants me to agree a date.
I’ve just sat down and want to time to think.
I baulk at the pressure being applied.
I just don’t trust as easily and quickly as a 20 minute consultation. Who is he? Why is that all he can offer? Is that all he can offer?
I’ve a lifetime of doubting any and all ‘Authority’ behind me. And lack of a medical degree has never held me back before… I’ve taught myself the right questions to ask; forced myself to understand other medical conditions for cases I’ve been involved in – I’m not going to automatically accept that this is it.
It’s no surprise to me that this is another area of women’s health that is woefully poorly understood.
I’ve no sentimental attachment to my womb. To be honest, I’ve not thought that much about it – even when I was pregnant (which was relatively often). I don’t define myself by my possession or otherwise this internal pouchy thing.
My child-bearing days are clearly over – but that doesn’t trigger any sense of bereavement. I have 5 kids. Babies are astonishing. But I’ve done my bit. It’s lovely to see others with their newborns – and I always feel a stab of nostalgic longing – but then I remember how wonderful the freedom from childcare actually is.
So my reluctance isn’t based on some irrational ludicrous attachment.
I do, however, have a reluctance to submit to medical procedures and interventions and surgery that might not be absolutely necessary. And which may or may not impact on the quality of my sex life (yeah yeah that matters to me though you’d have thought by his reaction that I should have been well past that stuff). And which are presented to me by a man who displays this unfathomable depth of ignorance – or indifference to – my feelings and fears.
He’s not to know – but I’m the same woman who fought for home births (after the first poorly managed hospital birth) and who breastfed them until they were 30 mons (at a time when the breastfeeding uptake from birth to 6 weeks was sitting at an appalling 2% for my home village). I’m the woman who did this because of her deep suspicion of the control sought by medics and of the power that they had taken from mothers and midwives.
What happened to HRT – or to the herbal remedies my Mother used? There must be something better than this fucking butchery that is so calmly presented to me as ‘the solution’. If this is all caused by diminishing and fluctuating hormones isn’t there something that would help regulate that? And what about endometrial ablation?
I re-enter the non-out-patient world feeling vaguely violated by the internal and unsettled by the option. And ashamed by my even bothering about something as inevitable and natural as menopause when the entire clinic was populated by women, mostly my age, wearing ill-fitting synthetic NHS wigs.
I haven’t a fucking clue what to do for the best. Which is why, so far, I’ve done nothing.