My name is Leticia and I’m 50. I haven’t started menopause but I’m pre-menopausal.
I never had the chance to see my mother going through menopause when I was growing up because she had a hysterectomy at 37; my maternal aunt had one too in her late forties, and my grandmother was old school and never talked about menopause, so my two older sisters and I had no real guide to know what was in store for us when we got older. I remember my mother had hot flashes because she’d always make us run off and get her something to fan herself with, but when they did her hysterectomy they left an ovary and told her she wouldn’t go through menopause, or at least that it wouldn’t be so severe. My mother passed away when she was 54; she was the glue that held our family together, and once she was gone my father wasn’t so great with us, so we all kind of drew away. My mother was such a great person that even having those hot flashes never really changed her—she was good, she had a huge heart. And she never had mood swings that I saw either.
I had my first period when I was nine years old, which was miserable and shocking because I wasn’t prepared for it in any way. I thought I was dying because nobody said anything. I think many of the health issues I have with my period are because it happened to me at such a young age. As things are right now the first day of my period every month I have to wear a Tampon, a major pad and a Depends. The questions I have at this stage are more about what’s going on with my menstrual cycle. It’s here today and it’s gushing and, well, that’s normal. How is that normal when I never had it before, or how am I supposed to know whether or not that is normal for menopause? Starting about two years ago I began getting hot flashes in the middle of the day; I’ve always run at a high body temperature, so at first I thought nothing of it, but now I get sweats on top of that. The night sweats are what get me, because I wake up and I’m drenched. It’s bad. I get a lot of headaches when I’m about due for my period, they last for a week and feel like a migraine but they’re not. I also get very dry on the last day, so much so that it’s almost a burning sensation. And I get diarrhea too which is fairly intense, my joints swell, I get extremely fatigued. At one point I also had frequent mood swings where I felt like biting someone’s head off, I wanted to kill somebody, and that wasn’t me because I’m a happy person. It would be before, during and after my PMS, so it was three weeks where I was a real monster. I don’t get the pre-period soreness in my breasts anymore, which is mysterious, nor do I get the bloating, which is a plus. Overall, my body’s changing strangely, and I’ve always wondered if other women have these same particular kinds of problems.
It has affected me at work because I felt I wanted to be left alone, I couldn’t help it. I personally don’t like to be touched, that’s just me, but that got even worse when I was going through those first couple of years. I didn’t want to be talked to, I only wanted to go in, do my work, get out, and go home and hide. I could say that that was some degree of depression, but I was fully functional. People irritated me and I wanted nothing to do with then, especially my colleagues at work. Again, it was weird and it wasn’t me. Before I worked with vendors and now I work directly with the public and I don’t have those problems at all anymore.
When I had cervical cancer in my late twenties they wouldn’t take anything out because of my age. I thought they should have taken it all out, but according to my physicians I wasn’t of sane mind to make that decision. I was never able to have children anyway because my cervix faces backwards instead of forwards. So they tortured me because that’s what they do.
My last boss, who happened to be a woman in her mid-sixties, suggested that I take soy isoflavones. I researched that on the Internet and there are pros and cons to it but the cons outweighed the pros in my mind so I never took that route. I keep searching for other natural remedies but there’s very little information in that regard that I’ve found to be useful. I did start buying i-cool supplements and that helped a little, but your body gets immune to it after a period of time, as with most things, so I stopped taking it. It did make a difference for a while but basically now I’m back to where I started.
When I was in my late thirties I had a doctor who kept telling me that I was going through menopause; I just chuckled and said okay, but I still have PMS, I still have my period and it lasts a whole week. He kept telling me that women started menopause in their mid thirties, and I’m thinking okay, how do you know? I changed physicians a couple of times after him, and this last doctor, a young woman who hasn’t even come close to menopause, told me she could give me prescriptions for this or that. The way I see it, getting involved with taking prescription drugs is only going to mask the problem.
I think I’ve changed in some ways that are useful, including being more tolerant of other people. I’ve lost a good amount of weight, about eighty pounds in the last two years. I gained a hundred pounds taking birth control pills, then I got off them and started having Depo-Provera shots, which may have helped me drop twenty pounds but I was still huge. Then I stopped all of it because I didn’t know what health effects they were going to have later on. I know many women will disagree, but I find that now it’s easier to lose weight than when I was in my twenties and thirties, and all I really do is walk with my dog about two miles every day. I also do not eat past 6 o’clock at night; I have a large breakfast and lunch, and when I get home something small and a protein shake. I’ve also cut out most dairy products—I don’t eat butter anymore, and I love cheese but try to limit that too. And luckily I no longer have those nasty food cravings for sweets of every type in every form; it wasn’t chocolate in particular, just anything with sugar.
My advice for women would be to talk to older women who’ve already been through menopause, and if you have your own wisdom or knowledge then share it. Your doctors aren’t going to give you any useful information because they don’t know; males don’t understand, and females who are young can sympathize but they don’t understand either. I told my current physician, who’s a very good doctor, that I was noticeably dry and not interested in sex and her response was don’t worry, it’ll pass and by the way do you want me to write you a prescription? I said no, I don’t want any more drugs, I don’t need any more drugs! If you can find something natural that works then stick to it, because in my opinion all drugs do is fix one thing while ruining something else. We’re getting to an age where we need to take care of ourselves. I have high blood pressure and I use verbena-leaf tea every morning for that and it does the trick. Also, the whole idea of not walking around in your bare feet, of always making sure you’re wearing shoes both indoors and outside, I know is a Latin thing that Native Americans believe in as well. Certainly we were told never to walk around in bare feet while we were having our periods because soaking up all the moisture and cold through our feet would give us menstrual cramps; I’ve always worn shoes and I’ve never had bad menstrual cramps, so maybe there’s something to it. My niece is 15 and we can’t get her to wear shoes and she has severe cramps. When you put your feet on hot concrete your body absorbs that heat, and if it’s cold and you stand on tile you’re soaking up the cold through the bottoms of your feet. I don’t know if that has to do with how it can affect your internal organs, but my mother, my aunt and my grandmother all said wear your shoes because without them you’re going to catch a cold or get something even worse.