Friday, July 18, 2008

Menopause - New Growth or Going to Seed

I’ve been spending the last several days photographing and looking at flowers. In all stages. Buds, opening blooms, full-on vibrant blossoms, fading flowers. All different. All beautiful.

Since the advent of the Big M, I’ve suffered some confusion as to whether we goddesses are blossoming anew or beginning to wilt. Certainly, for me, the answer depends on the day. Or the hour. I sometimes feel like I’m the subject of one of those time lapse films where the flower goes from closed to open. Then in a diabolical turn, the film reverses and I go from open to closed. Closed, open. Open, closed. I don’t know if I’m blossoming or going to seed.

But what if it isn’t one or the other? What if it’s both? It seems that the nature of the menopause transition makes us more comfortable living with paradox. It sure makes us more comfortable dealing with change! Each of us may be growing and blooming into a new form, a new “me”. At the same time we have seeds of wisdom that we disseminate to ourselves and one another. Like the rosebushes in the garden, we are budding, bursting forth into the sunlight, flashing our brightest colors and dropping a few petals here and there. All at the same time. All different. All beautiful.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Who Are The Menopause Experts? Menopausal Women!

I had my mammogram the other day. And since the x-ray technician performing my exam was a menopausal goddess, we struck up an instant rapport. Upon finding out about the Venus group, she asked me to distill what we’d learned together - sort of a 25 words or less synopsis because other mammos were waiting to be grammed. I summed it up this way. “Every woman is different and has to conduct her own risk benefit analysis to decide what is best for her. And the way we get wisdom is through woman-to-woman sharing.”

After agreeing wholeheartedly, she shared that two of the gynecologists at the big medical center in our nearest city offer no other recommendations for women suffering menopause symptoms than HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy.) “And they are young! In their 30’s still.” Proving what I’ve always suspected: that hardening of the attitudes is not an age-related phenomenon.

Although menopause is not a disease, it is still important to be followed by a physician. Notice that I say “followed” by a physician. It’s all too easy to find ourselves being be “led” by our health care providers. You and your primary care provider must work together. If you cannot form a partnership with your doctor, then find another who will work with you. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. You are responsible for your own healthcare. Educate yourself.

My professional training in nursing school covered the area of women’s health as the “Reproductive” module. We learned a great deal about fertility, the birth process, and diseases of the reproductive system. We learned almost nothing about menopause. 1200 pages of textbook and virtually none of it dedicated to the second half of a woman’s life.

Even today many health care practitioners have learned little more, or they have only learned some standard practices that may exclude some of your choices. In all fairness, so little research exists on The Big M that it’s no wonder there is a dearth of expertise among health care personnel.

We must become our own experts in the areas of women’s health and menopause, and more specifically on our own individual bodies. Thankfully, there are a great many menopausal goddesses out there willing to share all they’ve learned and to offer support and laughter as we travel this journey we didn’t choose.