May Madness: Motivation

For me the scariest symptom of menopause has been apathy. The days when I have no motivation to do anything. Not even fun things, or things I would normally enjoy. The worst days are when I tell myself to ignore the chores and errands and just do something I really want to do and can’t think of a thing. Not even something simple like watching a movie holds any appeal.

I tell myself to just sit, stare out the window but after 30 seconds I feel guilty and like I am insane. I have too much to do to sit and stare out a window. Life is short, I can’t waste these hours, days, months to menopausal angst!

For two weeks I was feeling really good despite terrible insomnia. I was motivated and actually happy about getting some cleaning done. I worked in my sketchbook, watched “Poirot” and didn’t mind making dinner. I was the calm, patient, kind, loving mother. I took breaks when I needed to (because I was tired from the lack of sleep) but emotionally I was happy. Life was good.

And now I am starting to sleep better but apparently my estrogen has again plummeted. The first sign was when I cried when Kris Bryant hit three homeruns in one game for the Cubs. Sure they were happy tears but not something I would normally cry over. And then there was the response to my son turning his nose up at the quiche I made. “Fine. Don’t eat it. I am never making dinner again.” (And no this was not said calmly.) And I knew I was back on the bottom of the menopause rollercoaster.

The last two days I have looked at my overly ambitious to-do list (made when I was feeling motivated) and just shook my head. I’l slog through the next two or three weeks somehow and hope for a few good weeks in June.

Today I will just be sad that I don’t feel like setting up my new day planner. I love doing this, apparently just not today.

Til tomorrow…

May Madness: Menopause

I am cheating today as this is also my entry for Carrot Ranch’s weekly flash fiction topic. This week’s 99 word topic is about growing older. And did you really think I would go the whole month of “M” words May and not address menopause? Silly reader. 🙃 At least I am able to look at menopause with a sense of humor right now.

Menopause

A woman spends the latter half of her life in three phases:

Perimenopause – Characterized by so many different symptoms you are sure you are losing your mind. Coping mechanism is eating brownies while hiding in the pantry. You long to live alone in a mountain cabin.

Menopause – This phase has many false starts.   Six months without a period and then you get surprised by your ‘friend’.  Still eating brownies, you now wake up in the middle of the night and have to endure  hours thinking about brownies.  

Post-menopausal –  The sun comes out again and you live happily ever after.

More on the Rock

I think menopause is like childbirth. Once you are on the other side all the gory details quickly recede from memory.” – Tracey: April 17, 2019

So I had my follow up appointment with my doctor and it went very well. For one thing she explained about how in the last appointment she could really only do the pap smear because the insurance company won’t let you schedule one appointment for two things, like talk about menopause and a pap smear.

So we had a good talk about all my symptoms (which I had written down and she made a copy of) and she did the biopsy and scheduled me for an ultrasound later in the week. And she said we will see a lot of each other until we get things figured out.

ONE WEEK LATER

I get my results back from various tests:

  1. My FSH level is now 12. (Up from 6.7 last time, down from 22 two years ago.)
  2. My ultrasound showed three fibroids.
  3. My ultrasound also showed a 7mm thick lining of the uterus indicating I am not in menopause.
  4. My biopsy showed polyp cells.

MY INITIAL REACTIONS

  1. Considering how bitchy I feel right now I am sure another FSH test today would be back in the 20’s.
  2. Oh, these must be the culprits of all my woes!
  3. What? I never thought I was in menopause.
  4. What? I thought I was being tested for endometrial cancer.

REACTIONS AFTER SOME THINKING AND A BIT MORE RESEARCH

  1. FSH is not rational. And how does one manage Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) if your levels are all over the place?*
  2. Something like 70% of women have fibroids and mine seem pretty small (if I remember correctly) so probably not an issue.*
  3. Ah, I think the doctor was making sure I wasn’t in menopause and all the bleeding was caused by polyps/fibroids. It would be pretty funny (not) if I actually was in menopause already and just didn’t know it.
  4. Well, maybe I was tested for cancer too but she was looking for polyps which she found. Am I the only one who hears biopsy and thinks cancer? *

I am writing down all my questions so I don’t forget anything.*

From the on-line ‘Sketchbook Revival’ I am participating in.

ONE WEEK BEFORE THE NEXT APPOINTMENT

I must confess I think I am secretly hoping she says, yup, you need a hysterectomy. How does May 20th sound? (After bowling season ends and just before school lets out.) Perfect. And then we’ll set you up with HRT and by Flag Day (June 14th) you’ll be right as rain. But I am pretty sure major surgery is not going to be the first option.

My biggest fear is that I will spend months/years being miserable while various drugs and uncomfortable procedures are carried out and in the end I end up getting a hysterectomy anyway.

In the meantime I am surviving one day at a time. I’ll watch “Poirot” and work in my sketchbook and listen to Cubs baseball.

AFTER THE APPOINTMENT

It was a good visit despite being 30 minutes late. My doctor had two patients in labor so I didn’t get upset. Even crazy hormonal me can’t be mad at tiny babies trying to be born. And once the appointment started she was very focused and explained everything. I got all my questions answered and we have decided on a course of treatment: I am getting a hysterectomy!

I have a large polyp in a bad place and something about a clearly visible blood vessel feeder. So that is why I am having such long/heavy bleeding. I could just have the polyp removed but then I couldn’t have HRT and there is a chance I would just get another polyp. I can’t have HRT because of the fibroids. They are small now but HRT may make them grow and then they would cause bleeding.

By having the hysterectomy I can have HRT for my other symptoms. I won’t have to worry about uterine cancer (another potential HRT risk), fibroids or polyps and no more periods!

Once the insurance company gives the okay I will schedule the operation. It is done robotically, four small incisions, one night in the hospital and about 2 weeks recovery time. I won’t be able to drive for a week or two or swim for four to six weeks. I am dithering between before or after our planned summer vacation.

After the surgery my doctor and I can figure out the HRT. Apparently the FSH level is ignored and she goes strictly by symptoms. So it sounds like there may be some trial and error there.

There is a plan, an end in sight. I am sure once I schedule the surgery and it gets closer other feelings will be generated but for now I will enjoy my feeling of relief.

I don’t know why but I am absurdly happy with this sketch.

Flash Fiction (Eminence)

Eminence: a person of high rank or position or a lofty place

Here is this week’s entry for Carrot Ranch. There just may be a touch of fantasy in this scenario!

I dragged myself into the kitchen and apathetically checked the fridge.  Spouse and small child would be home soon and looking for dinner.  That was part of my “job”, cooking, meal planning, grocery shopping. I could feel the surge of pre-menopause hormones coloring my brain.  I wasn’t even hungry, why should I cook dinner?   I checked the freezer. The emergency frozen pizza had already been eaten this week. I started to cry and told myself, “enough”.  The eminences would have to fend for themselves this once. I retreated to the couch and a movie.  “Double Indemnity” suited me perfectly.

The Rock is Still Hard

When last we left our intrepid peri-menopausal heroine she was agonizing over whether to try HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or not. After further on-line research she decided to give it a try for six months, just to get through the summer…

And so I picked up my prescription took it one time and then got a call from the doctor’s office saying my blood work came back and the dosage was all wrong. Jeez. In June 2017 my FSH was 22.0. This time it was 6.7 which doesn’t make any sense at all. (FSH should be going up the closer you get to menopause.)

So a new appointment was made for the 2nd week of April (because the Doc has a medical conference to go to in March so that is the earliest available appointment). But I feel better because I know this appointment is really going to focus on HRT and all my concerns. I have all my notes about crazy periods and different symptoms and will remember to tell her that I am only looking for short term relief. I thought I would wait and write a follow up post after that visit.

Funny how the one thing you don’t worry about is always the thing that bites you in the ass. At my last appointment I got my pap smear and promptly forgot about it. (I suspect when I made the appointment the receptionist heard pap smear and didn’t hear the part about HRT and that is one reason the appointment went the way it did.) Anyway, last week I got a call saying there were endometrial cells in my pap test and they need to do a biopsy. Wait. What? What does this mean? Probably nothing good.

After the first flash of panic subsided I did some reading. It wasn’t overly helpful but it could explain some of my symptoms.

So now I wait. All thoughts of HRT are on hold while I see if I have endometrial cancer. And if the cells are benign could they still be causing some of my miseries?

I am worried that I am going to feel miserable all summer. That I won’t get to be the parent I want to be. I have all these fun ideas of things to do but if I am exhausted and crabby and impatient it ain’t going to happen. I am scared that during this horrible phase of my life I am going to permanently ruin the relationship between my son and I.

Right now I am scared of all the unknowns. All the uncertainty. I tell myself this is normal and to get back to my life as it is for now. The kitchen floor isn’t going to mop itself. This is a known fact so I might as well deal with that.

And so it goes, the see-sawing between panic and it’s probably no big deal. The hope that in two weeks I will have answers and hopefully solutions and get to have a decent summer after all. I can hope. 🌈

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

You probably don’t want to read this post. It is full of frustration and indecision and fear. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day or good mood so seriously, you don’t have to read this. But I have to write this. I have to get all this out of my head and throw it into the universe. I am secretly hoping by doing this that I will magically be shown the path I should take. So here goes.

I had my doctor’s appointment on Friday and I got what I wanted, hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Only now I am afraid to take it. Let me start with the doctor. I have seen her a few times but I don’t really feel comfortable with her. I can’t be positive but she looks like she has had plastic surgery (face lift kind) and something that plumps lips. And she has blonde hair that looks dyed. I feel like I am looking at a Barbie doll. I am not questioning her competency or intelligence but it made me uneasy looking at her.

Secondly the office was really crowded and she was running rather late (I thought) for a 10:00am appointment. Things felt rather rushed I realized later. She asked me about getting tested for the breast cancer gene, how I wanted the therapy delivered and we talked the cost of bio-identicals. Bam, Bam Bam.

When I climbed into bed Friday night I realized I had made a pretty big decision in a rushed and ill-informed manner. I panicked and then told myself it wasn’t set in stone.

We were very busy Saturday, lots of errands and by the time we got home I was exhausted. I laid down on the bed and started crying. The fact that I am in a lose-lose situation hit home. I suppose an important fact I should add here is that my mother died of breast cancer at the age of 33. There can be no doubt that colors how I think.

And now it is Sunday morning. Spouse and small child went up to Phoenix for the Nascar race so I have the whole day to myself. I am still in my jammies, still in bed with my name on a homemade blueberry muffin. (Just waiting to digest my thyroid meds, about 1 hour.)

So let’s run through some scenarios:

SCENARIO ONE: I get tested for the breast cancer gene, find I have it and decline HRT. Now I get to continue to feel miserable and hear the ticking time bomb ALL THE TIME.

SCENARIO TWO: I get tested, don’t have it and take HRT. I feel better but still worry because frankly it seems like nothing conclusive has been discovered about HRT and cancer without the gene.

SCENARIO THREE: I don’t get tested and take the HRT. Will I still feel better? Or will all the worry about probably triggering cancer cells (if I have them) cancel that out?

SCENARIO FOUR: I don’t get tested and I don’t take HRT leaving me right where I am now. All I can do is hope that once menopause kicks in I feel better. Let’s say that takes another 2 1/2 years at most. (I’ll be 55 then, surely I will be in menopause?!) I have already survived 2 1/2 years of this craziness. My biggest fear is that the mood swings and irregular periods and hot flashes are going to get so much worse before subsiding. That is what triggered looking for help in the first place. I am afraid I am going to get worse and have the summer from hell. Life is too short to lose a whole summer if you don’t have to.

SCENARIO FIVE: I accept the crazy situation and move to a one room cabin (two with the bathroom) up in the mountains on a lake. I walk around the lake and do a photography project where I take a picture of the same tree everyday and document the changes until I am done with this phase of life. There are no inconveniences and keeping warm with just a woodstove is a piece of cake. I eat healthy by default only shopping at farmer’s markets and local places. I sleep when I am tired and hardly ever have to clean as it is just me. Okay, this isn’t a viable scenario but it is in my head so I am putting it out there.

And then there is the as yet unknown scenario. I think about how the anti-depressant made me so sick and wonder if I should try St. John’s Wort? Studies appear somewhat inconclusive but it is used a lot more in Europe. And yet I find myself hesitating. Has anyone out there used it? Can you share if it worked or not?

My biggest fear is what happens if I run out of hope? If have nothing left to try? I like to think I will be okay just soldiering on. If I continue the yoga and meditation and 10k steps I will survive one day at a time. And one day I will wake up and it will be like magic, my energy and enthusiasm and patience will be back.

For now I am holding tightly to that hope, it seems that is all I can do.

As for today, I will survive. Later I will get dressed and go to the library and pick up the copy of “Enchanted April” that I requested. A trip to Italy this afternoon seems to be just the thing. I have lots of happier posts to work on too and I figured out my next sketchbook idea which I am excited about. I will enjoy the peace and quiet and not having to cook. I’ll take a nap if I feel like it.

And now I wait patiently for the universe to send me my answer. Thank you for listening.

Two Months In

Honestly I am not sure where to start. At the end of January things were not going well, and not for lack of effort. I had to go to the doctor anyway (to renew my thyroid medication) so I talked about all my peri-menopausal symptoms and said (out loud) “I am ready for some drugs”. I was thinking hormone therapy, progesterone specifically, but my primary care doctor is against it. She recommended a mild-antidepressant shown to work on hot flashes and mood swings.

The idea of an anti-depressant left me, well, depressed. I have been thinking I just needed something to help until I get into full blown menopause. I know anti-depressants have been used in my circumstances but I was feeling pretty uneasy about this. And since I was overdue for my pap smear anyway I got a current referral for the GYN I used for my IUD and made an appointment. (For any male readers I know you have no idea what I just said, that is okay, just keep reading.) I was curious to see what she had to say because frankly she seems to have a completely different take on menopause than my primary care doc.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get a GYN appointment before the first week of March. In the meantime the antidepressants arrived in the mail and after doing a bit more research I decided to start taking them. The plan was to see how they made me feel and still get a second opinion from the GYN.

I took the pills for four days and thought I caught a stomach bug. I was nauseous and exhausted. I slept two hours Friday afternoon, eleven hours Friday night, another two hours Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t eating much, mostly crackers and ginger ale and when I did eat a scrambled egg and a piece of toast I felt sick again. I checked the side effects on the pills and stopped taking them.

Three days later I felt better physically but was still feeling quite unmotivated concerning life in general. Mid-February I got my period, another bad one. Crampy and heavy and not helpful in getting anything done. But it only lasted seven days which was nice for a change.

And then I had a good week where at least I was sleeping well and getting something of one sort or another done everyday. I loved the snow and was happy to get out in it. Focus was still a problem though.

And here it is the end of February and I feel like a yo-yo. The last few nights have been broken sleep but yesterday I got a nice amount of pesky tasks done and that made me feel good. And today I feel….okay? But sort of ready for a nap. And my breasts hurt.

One more week until my doctor’s appointment. Every few days I find myself googling “what symptoms progesterone relieves” and every time I find myself nodding my head and reminding myself to ask for the bio-identicals. My thought is if it is something my body used to produce then there shouldn’t be any yucky side effects. And I don’t care if that thinking is wrong, I am going with it. Do not even think about trying to set me straight!

Why yes I am feeling a little prickly these days.

So now you get to wait along with me to see what happens next in the journey to menopause saga. I am pretty sure we are due for a happy upturn in the plot. Stay tuned.