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Liz - Interview 24

Age at interview: 38
Brief Outline: A premature menopause coinciding with plans to have a baby has had a profound effect on all aspects of Liz 's life. Prescribed HRT to relieve her menopausal symptoms and to prevent osteoporosis, she finds support in an early menopause group.
Background: Liz is a teacher. She is divorced with no children. She had a premature menopause at age 36. Ethnic background/nationality' White European.

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A missed period in her mid-thirties, accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, sore breasts and tiredness convinced Liz that she was pregnant. To her despair, however, a negative pregnancy test, further missed periods and the onset of severe hot flushes and sweats led her to suspect that she might have started the menopause.

Living and working in Portugal at the time, Liz consulted various doctors including a gynaecologist who confirmed that her ovaries were ‘beginning to slow down’, advising her to ‘eat some soya products’ and take fertility drugs. Unhappy with this advice, she returned to the UK three months ago where her GP referred her to a menopause clinic. Although ‘incredibly upset’ with the diagnosis of early menopause, Liz felt relieved that she could now move forward.

With a family history of osteoporosis, Liz was prescribed HRT and advised to take it for twelve years until she reached ‘normal menopause age’. Starting on patches, Liz saw an immediate improvement in her symptoms. However, psychologically, the patches were a constant reminder ‘that there’s something wrong with me’. She has since changed to HRT in tablet form and, now on a higher dose, is experiencing relief from her symptoms.

Experiencing the menopause at the age of 36 has had a significant impact on Liz’s life. She describes experiencing ‘a rollercoaster of emotions’. Apart from the embarrassment of standing in front of a class ‘sweating profusely in a vest top in November’, Liz feels she has been ‘let down’ by her body which she has never liked or valued. She has noticed a decline in her sex drive. Moreover, the issue of children remains unresolved in her relationship. While Liz is reluctant to go through the process of egg donation, her partner is still interested in trying for a child.

Liz is full of praise for the caring and sensitive manner of the health professionals she saw at the menopause clinic. In addition to supporting her through a traumatic consultation, they discussed the pros and cons of HRT, advised her of her options with regard to having children, and provided a range of useful information. An early menopause group set up by the clinic has given her a much needed support network, putting her in touch with women of a similar age. Although she acknowledges that regardless of age, women’s experiences of the menopause are similar in terms of symptoms, the meaning of the menopause for younger women is different.

Liz was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in March 2009.

 

Liz talks about the effect of her early menopause on her relationship

Liz talks about the effect of her early menopause on her relationship

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With my partner he’s been fantastic throughout. He’s had to put up with a lot but he’s also like I said last year after I’d had that procedure I decided that day that I never want to try to have a child again. And I thought because this is happening to me then I’m the one to make the decision and I hadn’t even considered his opinion, which is wrong, because he is part of this relationship and last week I discovered that actually he still really wants to try for a child which has thrown a spanner in the works again. So I don’t know.

So how do you feel about all that?

I don’t feel that I can go through it. I don’t want to go through the egg donation process. It’s very long winded. It takes a long time. I’m 38, going on 39. He’s 45 next week so by the time, if we were to go down that road it would take another couple of years at least which would mean he would be in his nearly 50 and it’s again it’s that whole rollercoaster ride of emotions and I don’t want to ride it. I’ve just had enough. And I don’t think I can do. I have considered adopting in the past, that might be a possibility, I don’t know. I’ve also given him the option of, as hard as it is, of us separating and is it okay to cry on camera and him finding somebody else who could give him a child.

How does he respond to that?

He was very upset. I don’t know, I mean I told him that I wouldn’t like it but I would understand and for him to think about it, because he has to think about it It isn’t fair on me to deny him that possibility if he has that possibility if he could have it with somebody else. So it has made, I don’t know, we’re still very close but that’s always at the back of my mind and I’d much rather give him that option, like an opt out clause. And whether he takes it or not I don’t know. I hope not but I don’t know.

 

Liz takes HRT because of a family history of osteoporosis

Liz takes HRT because of a family history of osteoporosis

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I hate taking chemicals and I have a huge problem in accepting the fact that I needed HRT but once it was explained to me why I needed it and the benefits of it and also because in my family has a history of osteoporosis and my mother, my mother is only 57 but she needs a hip replacement, two knee replacements, she’s got osteoporosis and osteoarthritis and that terrified me. So as soon as I was explained the benefits of going on HRT at this age, I’ve decided to take it. I don’t want to risk it. And I’d rather do that than trying possible alternative therapies that might or might not work, whereas HRT has been proven to work. I’ve also had a bone density exam done. My hips are fine but I have below average density in my spine. So again that was quite scary and that’s why I’m on HRT.

 

Liz experienced a 'rollercoaster of emotions' when an early menopause cruelly mimicked the...

Liz experienced a 'rollercoaster of emotions' when an early menopause cruelly mimicked the...

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Well when did it start? It started about I would say two and a half years ago now, almost three actually, my partner and I had just started this relationship. I had been married, I had been in a relationship for ten years and in a marriage for ten years and I had never wanted to have children. From a very young age I had always said I don’t want to have children and throughout my marriage I continued to say I didn’t want to have children and then I separated, got divorced and subsequently started this new relationship with my partner now who had always wanted children and I don’t know it must be a question of timing or the right phase in your life I suddenly felt that now was the right time to start thinking about having a baby and actually getting quite excited about it. At the same time that we had decided to start trying for a baby was when my body decided to play tricks on me as I like to say it. I skipped a period I was late, I must have been I can’t remember how many days about fifty something days late which meant that both my partner and I were getting very excited.

We put off doing a pregnancy test until a good few weeks just to be absolutely sure. I was feeling nauseous, it wasn’t morning sickness but I was feeling quite sick throughout the day, my breasts were very sore and I felt really tired, couldn’t sleep at night. My period had disappeared. And then it came to the day that we decided that’s when we’d do the pregnancy test and we did the first one and it was negative and I just couldn’t understand why.

I was completely oh, okay first of all rollercoaster of emotions, completely bewildered, really shocked, very disappointed and incredibly sad, both of us were. After the initial tears and the disappointment then came the overwhelming sense of what’s wrong with me then if I’m not pregnant and I’m not having a period, I’ve got all these other symptoms, what could it be. Which then makes you start worrying so then you go onto the internet and do the internet searches and type in your symptoms and they come back with a range of either it’s a tumour, it could be the menopause, could be a thyroid problem, could be a number of things. So I decided to go to the doctor.

I went to my local GP, I registered, saw a doctor straight away. She immediately said, “I think you’re going through an early menopause. I’m going to write to the local hospital where they have an early menopause clinic and I will refer you to the hospital”. A few weeks later I got an appointment went to the doctor and the day I went to the hospital, [name of hospital], I was told that “Yes, this is it, this is the early menopause. You’ll never be able to have children. If you want to have children it will have to be egg donation and we need to start you on HRT immediately”. And that was three months ago.

 

Liz, who had an early menopause, says that she took part because she would have loved to have had...

Liz, who had an early menopause, says that she took part because she would have loved to have had...

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Can I ask you finally why you decided to take part in the research?

Because I would so have loved to have been able to click on a website that would give me the information and not scary information. Just practical, real life information, or just to know that there’s someone out there who has actually been through a similar [experience], because every situation is different and every case is different but who actually can possibly understand you and know what you’re going through and who isn’t 50 something years old. I would have loved to have done that because I felt very lonely and isolated and scared and so I just thought that if somebody could just, click on this website and get that information they need, and just to know, as a spring board, it’s not going to be the B all and end all, but it’s a spring board to something more and that’s important.

 

Liz had an early menopause at 36. She describes waiting with ‘mothers and their newborns’ when...

Liz had an early menopause at 36. She describes waiting with ‘mothers and their newborns’ when...

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So tell me about your visit to the menopause clinic then, what happened?

 

Okay that was hard. I arrived in reception and I said, “I have an appointment at whatever time it was” and the receptionist said, “For the fertility clinic?” and I just grimaced and I just showed her the piece of paper and she just went “Ah” and showed me, and told me where to wait in the waiting room. Unfortunately and I understand this, it’s the women’s clinic, they see all types of women but unfortunately the day of my appointment was the day when all mothers and their newborns were bringing in their babies to be weighed for their first monthly weigh in or what have you. So I arrive, actually I arrived very very early. I read all the notice boards which was all about ante-natal Pilates classes and post-natal Pilates classes and yoga for pregnant mothers for pregnant women and yoga for mothers and children and then on the board a little bit at the bottom there was something called The Early Menopause Clinic and something about that so I wrote down that number. But to sift through all of that before you actually find what you think might be related to you. Because you don’t know, because it hasn’t been said, and although I knew until it’s been said officially I didn’t know, well you don’t want to know. So I sat there getting more and more upset because there were just babies and pregnant women all around me and at one point I just had to walk up and down because I felt like I was going to cry. And then I got called in, [name of nurse specialist] saw me first, talked about my history, went through it all and then the doctor came in and then she said, “Yes, this is the early that was it this is the early menopause for you. I understand that you don’t want to have fertility treatment but if you do, you do realise that it will have to be egg donation”. And for some strange reason I don’t comprehend why that came as such a shock. It really did. I can’t understand why because it’s obviously logical. If you’re not ovulating it’s because you don’t have any eggs and so therefore. But until it’s actually been said and then they said that you’d also, I had to start the HRT as soon as possible basically.

 

Liz begs men not to say ‘it’s your hormones love’ because it doesn’t help

Liz begs men not to say ‘it’s your hormones love’ because it doesn’t help

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Never say “It’s your hormones love” because it may be true but it doesn’t help really. My partner says it a few days later when I’ve calmed down and we can both laugh about it. It is true, it is our hormones, but please don’t say it. Try and be as supportive as possible. Don’t feel, don’t take anything that is said personally, don’t feel that any outburst or any display of emotion is directed, it might be directed at you, but it isn’t normally because of you. So try not to take things personally and just give us a hug basically.

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