Coping with Sudden Menopause

Are you experiencing instant menopause brought on by cancer treatment or other life challenges? Here are some ways to support yourself in feeling happier, sexier, and stronger.

Cancer treatment can cause menopause as a result of surgery, chemo, or radiation therapy. Anytime you have an illness resulting in hysterectomy or a drug that turns off the estrogen factory, you are in menopause. Many women choose hormone replacement therapy (HRT). But when my own estrogen faucet abruptly turned off after two years of birth control pills, I chose to ride the rollercoaster of “the change” without the aid of hormones. What I’ve learned is that it’s possible to live a full, vibrant, and sexy menopause anyway.

What works for each woman is different, but cancer survivors share a common challenge in that most are told NOT to take estrogen or any other hormones after treatment. Doctors usually prescribe aromatase inhibitors to suppress Estrogen production and prevent a recurrence of the cancer. While this is a wonderful strategy in helping you to stay alive, it can make life a living hell. Stripped of her estrogen overnight, a woman can suffer a wide variety of symptoms, including vaginal pain and dryness, loss of libido, hot flashes, night sweats, nausea and digestive upset, insomnia, and mood swings.

Based on my own experience with HRT-free menopause and the experience of my clients, here are three suggestions to help you cope:

  1. Spend time alone.   Menopause is a transition as deeply transforming as puberty. Normally women have years to transition, which makes it a little easier. Be kind to yourself by taking time alone as your brain and body structure is radically changing. You are becoming something completely new and need time to integrate.
  2. Engage deeply in a new hobby.  Creativity is one of the best outlets for the mood swings, and a great distraction from all the bodily discomforts that sometimes come along. When menopause claimed me I finally started painting and learning the flute, things I had wanted to do for years. Both activities bring me joy and get my mind off my worries.
  3. Support your body with rest, good food and exercise.  Yoga or exercise helps reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and nausea. Certain foods CAUSE hot flashes, while others help REDUCE them. Get familiar with what foods trigger you and avoid them. During the course of the last three years in sudden menopause, I went paleo, started exercising daily, and slept as much as possible. After three years I’m starting to shift back to only 6-8 hours of sleep a night, but for a while I needed more than that.
  4. Every day is different with menopause. Most of the time I feel more even keel than I ever did, more strong. But sometimes a storm takes me, like yesterday when I woke up spitting nails for no reason, and then wound up going back to bed after an intense dizzy spell. By the end of the day I felt like myself again, but I literally NEEDED that whole day in bed to recover my usual loving and serene self. And at the end of it I was able to sleep well for the first night in a week.

    I would love to know how these tips work for you. Please take a moment to share a comment below.

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