Menopause

 

Menopause

Menopause (noun)
the period of permanent cessation of menstruation, usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55

I’m not sure how the dictionary definition of menopause could be so simplistic, since this experience is anything but, and then let us layer in multiple sclerosis on top of that, since the MS isn’t enough!

I’m writing about this a) because I’m likely going through it and b) because I haven’t seen much in the way about MS and menopause, other than I’ve heard from women with MS who have been through it. Some say they didn’t really even notice since many of the symptoms mimic each other.

These details are for women who have had regular menstrual cycles throughout childbearing years, and are never meant to take the place of questions to your ob/gyn.

Let’s start with peri or pre which is “around menopause.”Β  During this time you can expect to experience the early symptoms of menopause: changes in period cycle, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and / or mood swings. This can start eight to 10 years ahead of actual menopause (during your 30s and 40s).

Symptoms of perimenopause may include: irregular periods (you can still get pregnant!), periods that are heavier or lighter than usual, worse PMS, breast tenderness, weight gain, hair changes, increase in heartbeat, headaches, loss of sex drive, difficulties concentrating, memory issues, muscle aches, Sound familiar? Yep MS!

Menopause officially beings when the ovaries produce so little estrogen that eggs are no longer released (this also causes your period to stop), and remember, women are born with a certain number of eggs and that’s it! An official “diagnosis” of menopause is when you have gone a year without having a period. Due to health and other reasons (family history) you may go through menopause earlier than the standard.

Your doctor can do blood work to check hormone levels. For someone with a history of regular periods, this might be in your early 50s. For me this is a bit more complex because my neuro told me to go on the pill (and stay on it) early on after diagnosis to help control symptoms while ovulating and during menstruation and it worked really well. So well that I haven’t had a period in over 10 years and I never plan to again!

As estrogen levels drop, you might start experiencing: hot flashes (get in line!), night sweats (nothing more fun than changing sheets half awake), depression, anxiety or irritability, more mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, dry skin, vaginal dryness, frequent urination. I’m telling you, MS can give menopause a good run for its money.

There are many options for treatment (or not), but always talk to your healthcare provider about any new or changing symptoms. Just like MS there is no reason to suffer in silence.

What has your experience with menopause (and MS) been? Please do comment!

Signed,
Sweating in 27 degree weather…period, end of sentence

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Body

body-shape

Body (noun)
the physical structure of a person or an animal, including the bones, flesh, and organs

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a like/hate relationship with my body. Growing up society norms were dictated by magazines, TV, movies, stores, and peers. And with the advent of the Internet we now have a narcissistic streaming medium in our faces 24/7. When you Google “I hate my body” you come up with 78,400,000 hits in under one minute. Seventy-eight MILLION, four hundred thousand!

In the last few years the body positive movement has taken off. I believe in feeling comfortable in your skin, but overall health is important too. The one that has resonated with me is the Body Image Movement. Taryn Brumfitt is an Australian lady who after competing as a body builder, and working out for months and months, many hours each day, said enough. She set out around the globe with a shoe-string budget to interview women of all looks. Her documentary Embrace is truly a global movement. Every woman, man, teen, child, should watch this movie, it’s that important.

It took me a while to watch the documentary, but one day while on the treadmill, I gave it a go. As the speed and incline increased, so too did the silent tears streaming down my face. As Taryn’s and countless other women’s stories unfolded, I saw some of each of them in me. Her movie is available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, amongst others.

When asked if they like their body, 80% of women will answer with a resounding no. And on top of that girls as young as four think they are fat and are already comparing themselves to unrealistic, unattainable, bodies.

Three years ago I started working out with my trainer, now sorta, kinda older brother I never really wanted. When we met I told him if he was going to tell me I couldn’t have chocolate anymore, he could turn around and walk out because I would NEVER be that person. In the nine months that followed I lost 18lbs.

My goal was to build strength and a side effect of that was weight loss. I felt great and looked good. I didn’t really change my diet as much as my sugar cravings went away to be replaced by healthier options. And then I had a bad flare-up resulting in IV steroids and other meds for side effect management. It took a good six months to feel better, and although I exercised on and off I didn’t truly get my groove back until much later. It gets more and more difficult to emotionally bounce back from flare-ups each time.

Fast forward to February of this year and I was on vacation and told my body, “it’s time to get going again.” I’ve been working out almost every day since. And whether it’s being a few years older or the Zoloft I started taking in December, the weight isn’t coming off the way it did a few years ago. I’m not eating anymore than before, but I think the Zoloft might have halted my metabolism, although it’s afforded me the ability to work out in the first place, amongst many other things that I have accomplished this year.

I’m not just casually strolling on the treadmill. I’m doing full on drenching sweat equity exercising between cardio and free weights. And I’m also well into boxing and I LOVE it! I LOVE boxing! Sparring with gloves and mitts is one of the best workouts I’ve ever had. It combines cardio and strength training and I get to hit things without getting hit back, yet!

While losing weight is a goal, I am learning to be kind to myself. Recognizing that my body has held up to surgeries, procedures, full out blissful dancing at concerts, skiing, car accidents, and two autoimmune diseases, and it still keeps going. That demands a modicum of respect for my body. Today I am strong, confident, and happy.

Dove body image campaign 2004