A week ago, I was told that I am now officially post-menopausal at only 43, determined via blood tests which indicated that my estradiol levels had dropped from 4000+, to around 85 (ideally they should be below 70, but they said they’ll double check that just before Christmas. I have been shoved through this process in 8 weeks, starting with the Zoladex injections I started on August 13th. Helen, my specialist, said that chemo has essentially aged my ovaries by around 5 years, and this was now to finish it off. The blood tests were to determine if the Zoladex had done its job… it has, although it’s also interfered A LOT with my sleep (difficult dropping off, waking up at random times, and waking up early)… as apparently “waning levels of estrogen may make you more susceptible to environmental and other factors/stressors which disrupt sleep.”
Last week, I started exemestane. I only started the drugs on Friday. I was told that these drugs provide a better prognosis for those who have 4+ lymph nodes infected (and the fact that I had 5/32 infected was a better statistical risk than if it had been e.g. 5/20), even if that is a difference of 2-3%, added to all the other treatments I’ve already had, it all helps! I was also told that hot flushes would be reduced (thankfully, I don’t think I’ve had these … yet), although it could well have an impact on my joints (also increased risk of osteoporosis, so a DEXA scan was undertaken to establish baseline levels). To be honest, I didn’t read the rest of the list of possible side effects, because I’ve done that with most of my meds, and it’s not made any difference to which side effects I will actually get!
It was a bit of a shock, then, on Sunday, when I found my knees creaking as I headed down the stairs, and as the week has gone on, my hips, back and shoulders are joining in! Looking for solutions, back at the Younger Women Together event we were told:
- Herbal remedies are suggested in the first place, though not anything with phyto-oestrogen in it, which includes red clover, black cohash, soya supplements (although levels within food are fine), and obviously no HRT.
- Glucosamine, rosehip, fish oils are good for joint pain; Sage in high doses is good for hot flushes, and Evening Primrose Oil for mood swings. Taking supplements is cumulative, so try one at a time, allow 6-8 weeks to see if improvement in symptoms.
- Complimentary practices: acupuncture (hot sweats), aromatherapy (wellbeing), hypnotherapy, massage (relaxation) and reflexology (stimulate energy)
So yesterday I started with glucosamine, plus I’m experimenting with taking the medication in the morning, rather than in the evening. The ovarian suppression clinic also give me the maximum dose of Calcium and Vitamin D tablets (my Vitamin D level was already pretty good – as I’d been taking 2000u of that since last autumn). I’m already taking Vitamin B12 and a daily Probiotic tablet, and I’ve got Cod Liver Oil and Evening Primrose Oil on standby (bought in the panic of early treatment, when you line everything up, and spend stupid money on things you end up not needing, because you’ll do anything to make the process easier!).
As my cancer is fuelled by oestrogen, one of the main ways of reducing the risk of a recurrence, or of developing metastatic (stage IV, incurable) cancer, is to remove as much as possible of it from my body. Therefore, anything that replaces anything like oestrogen is not a good idea (apparently it’s not about the amount of oestrogen, it’s how it behaves with cancer cells).
And BBCare have also been providing more information today:
Breast cancer treatments can cause menopausal symptoms during and beyond treatment. Find tips for dealing with hot flushes and other side effects in our guide this #WorldMenopauseDay.https://t.co/79ixgft5ez
— Breast Cancer Care (@BCCare) October 18, 2018
As have ‘Let’s Talk Menopause’:
— Juliet McKee Photo (@JulietMckee) October 18, 2018
Along with a range of celebrities being prepared to speak up more:
Menopause is being discussed more than ever due to celebrities talking freely about their own experiences!
How Davina McCall and Zoe Ball are helping to end the stigma of menopause https://t.co/97ktlFNy4x #mentalhealth #WorldMenopauseDay pic.twitter.com/3NEEwmXVEK
— Talent. (@Talent_Inspire) October 18, 2018
BBC Three have provided a video about early menopause:
— BBC Three (@bbcthree) October 18, 2018
And with my recent engagement with rehabilitation exercise – a friend had told me that keeping walking, gentle exercise, swimming, etc. are all going to help:
When you are going through the menopsuse with all its uncomfortable symptoms, like hot flashes and mood swings, you may not feel very motivated to exercise. But regular physical activity can make menopause symptoms more bearable #WorldMenopauseDayhttps://t.co/m4v5IGm7mz
— Clan Fit Edinburgh (@ClanFitEdin) October 18, 2018
I wouldn’t normally share a Daily Mail link, but this one has captured some of the best tweets from today, and who knew that there’s an International Menopause Society, and the British Menopause Society, with The Daisy Network designed for those going through the menopause early (added note: although they seem mostly concerned with polycystic ovaries, treated with HRT)… and wow:
I can trump you – had 4 menopause’s … ?
— Jo Taylor (@abcdiagnosis) October 18, 2018
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.