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Surgical Menopause – getting into your Menopause too early

 

Four months ago I had my ovaries removed. It was a shock. One minute I was fine, the next I was doubled up in pain, certain that my appendix was rupturing. A quick trip to hospital and an ultrasound showed a large tumour on my ovary. I asked if it was cancerous. The Emergency Department Consultant could not tell me. The only specialist who was not on holiday could not see me for 10 days. Why do all specialists go on holiday at the same time? It was the same when my sons needed grommets. They were all away. Shouldn’t doctors have to stagger their holidays like any other professional?

My initial meeting with the specialist was not positive and I thought about seeing someone else, but I was not keen on a 3 month wait. I was frightened that I had cancer, so I went with the first person available.

The appointment started badly when she asked why I was there. I told her that I have a tumour on my ovary and was promptly told that “we don’t call it a “tumour”, it is a “mass””. I knew at that point that it was going to be a rough road. Every other doctor from the ED Consultant through to my GP called it a tumour. There was even an arrow pointing to it on the ultrasound scan which is marked “tumour”. However, I was told firmly that I was not to call it that. I don’t know if this was supposed to make me feel better, or happier or reassured. Either way it achieved nothing and I spent the following week looking up ovarian cancer websites and trying to prepare myself for the worst. The specialist said she could operate a week later so I filled in all the admission paperwork and then hit the chocolate. It did nothing for my waistline but it made me feel brighter. Where there is chocolate there is hope.

I arrived at hospital the following week, petrified and with a bag full of chocolate to get me through the recovery in hospital. Green and Blacks I love you. I will buy shares. It was only your milk chocolate that got me through the following weeks. If you noticed a profits spike in April and May, that was down to me.

After waiting in reception for 2 hours I was taken to a ward full of people waiting to have gynaecological surgery. I was apparently third on the list. Why I had to be there at 6.30am when they did not intend to operate before 11am, beats me.

Once I was in a gown and tucked up in bed, the nurse looking after us all decided we all needed to have an enema. I think she was bored. I was expecting a tube up my bottom so was quite relieved when it just turned out to be a tablet. A modern enema involves a tablet being stuck up your bottom and being told to hold it as long as you can before you race to the toilet. There were 8 of us waiting for surgery. The nurse gave us all an enema within minutes of each other. There was one toilet on the ward. The outcome was predictable to everyone except the nurse administering the tablet. I learned a lot of new yoga positions as I was standing in queue outside the one toilet, trying desperately to hold on. There was no commode available. As I was wheeled off for surgery, I hoped the nurse with the smart idea was the one to have to clean up.

I woke up in my own room after the surgery. I was hungry but the nurse told me that I had to be on clear fluids until my bowel had moved. That proved to be a long time. Why did they give me an enema in the first place? Chicken consommé does not help you have a movement. If it goes in liquid, it comes out liquid. I decided that they were just malicious. Three days of chicken consommé and lime jelly later, I was ready to strangle someone, so I lied. I told the doctor I had been to the toilet. The food ban was lifted. I ate chocolate. It was good, really good. In fact it tasted like manna from heaven. My 6 year old saw it on offer at the local supermarket. My husband and son emptied the shelves. My cupboard overflowed…There is no painkiller as effective as a large bar of Green and Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate. Just liquefy it and hook me up to a drip!

I knew that having my ovaries removed would send me into surgical menopause. What I did not know was how quickly it would happen. The various websites were quite vague about it. I knew that I would need to go on to HRT until the age that I would naturally go into the menopause (generally assumed to be around the age of 51) to replace the oestrogen that was no longer being provided.

I thought that I would be given HRT immediately. Apparently not. The specialist decided it would be good for me to experience what menopause was like before allowing me to have the oestrogen patches. The hot flushes kicked in 2 days post-surgery. I endured 5 days of hot flushes and night sweats before discharging myself against doctor’s orders. Only then did she agree to give me the patches. She told me that women should be able to deal with menopause when it happens, whether or not that is down to surgery. I beg to differ.

I did wonder why I, as her patient, had to suffer because of her beliefs about HRT. It made me wonder how much else of her advice was her opinion, versus official recommendations. I went to see my GP five days later and she was brilliant. When I told her I was still suffering hot flushes and night sweats, she upped my dosage of HRT, saying that nobody needed to suffer unnecessarily. The hot flushes and night sweats stopped within 24 hours. My doctor is the best!

It was a long five weeks until I found out I did not have Ovarian Cancer. The specialist forgot to email my GP with the results, so she found out from me that I was in the clear.

The HRT patches work well. I have had to put an alarm in my phone to remind me to change them twice a week, but apart from that it is all fine. My tummy is squidgier than it was and it was a few weeks before my sons were able to bounce on my lap again. However, I have recovered well and am now back to exercising and back on motherly duties again. All credit to my in-laws who moved in and looked after the children for me while I recovered. All credit to my eldest son who reminded my husband to keep resupplying the chocolate.

While this has been a long story I think the main points I wanted to make are that if you are told that there is something wrong that may be very serious, read around. Don’t just read around the subject, read online reviews of the hospital and the specialist you are seeing. I wish that I had, as the same comments I have made above, had previously been made by others having similar surgery at the same hospital, with the same consultant.

Be willing to look further afield for a consultant and a hospital to have the surgery done at, if this is an option where you live. I looked within a 10 mile radius of my home, at 3 possible hospitals and I based my choice purely on opening hours, not on online reviews. If I had gone as far as 30 miles, I may have had a different experience. Finally, read up on the after effects of the surgery, any follow up medication you may need and the pros and cons of it. Use reputable websites, such as those of national or international charities specialising in your condition. Go into your doctor armed to the teeth with information, don’t just take the specialist’s word for it. Knowledge is power and power is confidence. If you are confident of your information when you face your specialist, you may have a lot better experience than if you accept without question, the information that specialist gives you. Finally, take to the hospital whatever it is that will make you feel good afterwards, as a quick boost every now and again, can only be a good thing for your recovery.

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Top 10 Ways to Beat the Heat

The scorching summer heat is hard on our bodies, our moods, and our electric bills. Don’t let the temperature get you down, though. These ten tips will help you keep cool even if it feels like the sun is out to get you.

10. Drink More Water

You know how important it is to stay hydrated all year round. When you’re sweating a lot, either because of exercise or the summer heat, drinking enough water becomes even more important. As the CDC suggests, think of your body like an air conditioner:

Whenever your body heats up from physical activity or the hot weather outside, your internal air conditioner turns on and you begin to sweat. And remember, now that your air conditioner is using its coolant (your sweat), it is important to refill the tank — by drinking lots of H2O.

As with other hydration myths, water isn’t your only option, but it’s free and easily accessible for most of us. Even if you have to trick yourself into drink more water and learn to love the taste of it, you’ll be much more comfortable if you keep refilling your water glass.

9. Keep Excessive Sweat at Bay

For many of us, sweat-inducing humidity is the worst part of summer. Even if you don’t have excessive sweat issues, you can get the sweating under control with a few tricks, like applying antiperspirant at night so it works more effectively and wearing breathable clothing materials, such as cotton.

8. Make a DIY Air Conditioner

Running the AC the entire summer gets expensive. You can make your own pseudo-air conditioner on the cheap with some basic materials, such as the styrofoam-and-fan version shown above. Don’t like the look of that? There are several other DIY cooling options to try.

7. Optimize Your Fans

Did you know that if you face your fan out, rather than in at night, your room will stay cooler and you might be able to sleep more comfortably? Day or night, you can use a temperature controller (or build one yourself) to automatically turn the fan on or off based on the temperature and save your energy—literally. If you have a ceiling fan, run it counter-clockwise (the “summer” higher-speed setting) for optimum cooling.

6. Keep Your Food Cool and Avoid Using the Oven

Summer might be a great time to eat outdoors, but some foods and drinks aren’t that enjoyable when heated by the sun. You can make a zeer pot (aka evaporative cooler) for your food and drinks with just two containers or create ice blocks for your cooler using old milk cartons. When it’s too hot to cook, consider making cold soups, relying on electrical appliances like the versatile rice cooker, or try these “no-cook” or “oven-free” recipe ideas.

5. Exercise Comfortably, Even in the Heat

Just because it’s hot out doesn’t mean you have to stop exercising. You can get used to exercising in the heat and use common sense strategies such as switching to water sports, avoiding the sun when it’s strongest, and exercising in short bursts. Precooling techniques can also prevent you from overheating when you work out in hot weather.

4. Optimize Your Windows

You might not need to run your air conditioner if you pay a little more attention to your windows in the summer. Close the windows and use insulated drapes to keep the sun out during the day and open them at night when the sun is down. You can also hang a damp towel in front of the window to cool the air flowing into your home and open opposing windows or windows on the top and bottom floors for maximum air flow.

3. Cool Your Car Down Quickly

This Japanese trick will get your oven-like car closer to bearable temperature. Roll down one window and open and close the opposite door a few times to cool that car down.

2. Stay Cool While You Sleep

Summer heat is worst when you’re trying to get some shuteye, because a higher body temperature makes it harder to fall asleep. If you feel like an insomniac in summer, cool your head with a special pillow like the Chillow, sleep on top of a wet sheet (aka the “Egyptian method”), or try one of these other strategies in our cool sleeping guide or this infographic.

1. Know Your Body’s Best Cooling Points

Finally, if you’re stuck in the heat and can’t find get to a cooler place, know your body’s best cooling points, e.g., your wrist and neck. By applying a ice cubes wrapped in a towel (or any other cold object) to these pulse points, you’ll cool down more quickly and effectively.

Continue reading “Top 10 Ways to Beat the Heat”

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