My Drift

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

My Drift

It’s Getting Hot in Here

I was somewhere in my forties when I told my doctor at my annual checkup that I felt very hot sometimes.

“It’s not hot flashes,” I assured her. “I just get really hot.”

Fast forward twelve months to my next annual checkup. My doctor checked her notes and opened with a question.

“Are you still having the hot flashes?” she asked.

Denial, as they say, isn’t just where they found baby Moses floating in a reed basket. My doctor gets points for not chuckling as she wrote “hot flashes” in her notes the previous year.

The average age of menopause for women in the United States is 51. Perimenopause, which is a slightly less hellish condition, can begin up to 10 years before the main show. It was perfectly normal for me to be having hot flashes at that time, but I wasn’t going there. Not me.

Hot flashes, by the way, are kind of like 2 a.m. infant feedings. They’re pretty humorous until they happen to you. Then they’re not one bit funny. I guess we should have known that something that starts with “men” was going to be troublesome.

And “pause?” It’s not a pause. It’s the end. If your identity as a woman is connected to your ability to bear children, that’s over for good and you’d better find a hobby.

As a fourth grader, I joined my fellow female classmates one afternoon in the school cafeteria to view a short film called “Growing Up and Liking It.” Produced by a company that made feminine hygiene products, it was blatantly commercial but factual, nonetheless. It was rife with information that no one, including our mothers, wanted to discuss with us, so the school showed it, and we giggled. It was, to be sure, good preparation.

Maybe if they made an educational film for menopause, we would all be better prepared to deal with it when it occurs. They could call it “Growing Old and Tolerating It.” I’m thinking the makers of Premarin® could sponsor it, or maybe the people who make cotton nighties, or chardonnay. Rather than giggle, we would probably laugh out loud.

A friend advised me at one point to put my drink on my wrist, promising that it would quite amazingly cool down my entire body. It didn’t. It was even less effective when I started drinking red wine. I can remember walking outside coatless on a frosty January day to get some relief. My coworkers were concerned for my sanity. In short order, I became chilled and needed a blanket. We’re advised to “wear layers,” but eventually, the constant donning and removal of clothing articles makes us feel like Barbie dolls, or Colorforms.

Until menopause, I loved to sleep in silky gowns and night shirts because they made it so easy to turn over under the covers. Victoria’s Secret was my go-to vendor for sleepwear that was comfortable and didn’t tangle up. One night I realized that my polyester nightwear was acting like a crock pot, and my body was slow-cooking inside it. I had to get rid of numerous nightgowns and have since been on a search for the perfect one. Like the perfect handbag, it doesn’t exist.

I know what you’re thinking. Get some hormones, girlfriend, and get them now! Sadly, if your breast cancer was estrogen receptor positive, which mine was, you can’t take estrogen even 22 years later. Because of familial links, I had to advise my sisters to stop taking hormones upon my diagnosis, which they did. A year later, one reported she had such awful symptoms she started taking them again.

“I’d rather die than feel like that,” she assured me. I didn’t argue with her.

My friend Peri worked in marketing for one of the big beer companies. Her hot flashes turned her face the color of a faded Razorback jersey. “And I work with all men,” she mourned.

Maybe the term “menopause” means that we need a pause from men. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?

I always try to find something to laugh about when life gets rocky. I firmly believe a sense of humor to be an effective tool for navigating the toughest of situations. Still, I cannot help feeling that menopause is like a comedian with bad timing. It just isn’t very funny.

I’ll leave you with a meme. I don’t know where the credit for it should go because a friend told me about it, but here it is.

To the twenty-something girls who think the fifty-something women are jealous of them: Enjoy your next 240 periods.

Now that’s funny.

Menopause by the Numbers

  • 51 years old the average age for onset of menopause.
  • 50 million women in the U.S. are currently in menopause.
  • 12 months must pass without a period.
  • 8 possible years of perimenopause can last before menopause.
  • 5 years symptoms may last.
  • 80% of women say menopause did not decrease their quality of life.
  • More than 75% of women experience hot flashes during menopause, making them the most common symptom.

Source: The North American Menopause Society


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