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Louise - Interview 22

Age at interview: 36
Brief Outline: Louise experienced a premature menopause following an operation to remove ovarian cysts. Mood swings, persistent hot flushes and sweats, and loss of fertility impacted significantly on Louise's well-being. She has now been on HRT for over four years.
Background: Louise is a postgraduate student. She is single with no children. She had a premature menopause at age 31 following removal of ovarian cysts. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.

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Louise’s menopause story began with stabbing period pains in her late twenties. Subsequent surgery to remove large ovarian cysts left Louise with half an ovary on the right side and a quarter on the left with uncertainty over whether the ovaries would continue to function. She describes the realization that she may never have children as ‘one of the worst moments’ of her life.

Within months of the operation, Louise began to experience persistent hot flushes and sweats day and night' ‘I could be flushing every ten minutes’. Alongside this, she became increasingly ‘emotional and grumpy’ to the extent that friends recommended she see a doctor. Herbal remedies, such as black cohosh, had no effect. Exhausted, sleep deprived and unable to function, Louise consulted her GP who confirmed a premature menopause and prescribed HRT.

For Louise, the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks, although she is aware that long-term use may have consequences. She has now been on HRT for over four years and has found it very effective in treating her menopausal symptoms. However, she describes the early stages of being on HRT as ‘horrendous’, with the low and medium dosages failing to manage her moods and flushes and causing breakthrough bleeding. After six months, she was put on the highest dose which successfully regulated her cycle, relieved the hot flushes, and leveled out her moods. Louise explains how she felt ‘almost like a human being’ after months of not ‘feeling like a person at all’.

Louise describes her thirties as being ‘quite a treacherous time’ during which she has been forced to change ‘pretty much every element’ of her life. Unable to continue working in her previous physically demanding job, Louise has embarked on a new career and is currently completing a PhD. Although supported by a close group of friends with whom she enjoys an active social life, her inability to have children ‘still burns inside’ her and she has become more reserved, hiding away from relationships and commitment. On-going gynaecological problems, with further cysts and increasing cyclical pain, have culminated in the need for a complete hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries. She hopes this operation will be a ‘final curtain’ on her problems enabling her to move forward. As well as dealing with her own health issues and menopausal symptoms, Louise has had to care for her mother who has motor neurone disease. In spite of everything, she remains very positive about her life now and in the future.

Louise was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in March 2009.

 

Louise had an early menopause at 31 following treatment for ovarian cysts. She realises she may...

Louise had an early menopause at 31 following treatment for ovarian cysts. She realises she may...

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I’d got abnormalities on my sides of my ovaries but they wanted to go in for a sort of much more depth and find out a lot more. I had a conversation with the registrar about two months later when I went back for an appointment to get the results from the scan who explained that I had got cysts on both my ovaries. And they were quite substantial cysts. And I had a brief conversation about whether I’d had children, whether I wanted children, very briefly about some of the consequences of having cysts on my ovaries. But not really a great deal of detail.

How old were you then [name]?


I would be what we are in 1999 so we’re talking I’d be in my late twenties.

Yeah that’s it took a few years for me to from the first point of being diagnosed with something wrong to actually surgery to happen. I signed the forms, it was quite an emotional time I guess because at that point I had the conversation with my consultant about the chance of never being able to have children, they might have to take my ovaries away, I might have to have a hysterectomy at that point they didn’t know and so I signed the forms not knowing what the outcome was going to be only that it needed to happen basically and so I think I was quite emotional when I went in. Well I definitely I mean and I certainly cried when they put me to sleep.

 

Louise began HRT after surgery when her hot sweats and moods became unmanageable

Louise began HRT after surgery when her hot sweats and moods became unmanageable

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I had my operation in the October and it’d be about the April the year after I was still regularly seeing my GP and he was still signing me off work because I still wasn’t fit enough to work and it probably I think it was April time when I started. I was having slight symptoms probably a month before of flushes, hot sweats, not really thinking too much about it to be honest. And then it got to the point where literally I could be flushing every sort of ten minutes and just a sweat burning up getting hot getting cold hot cold hot cold and my moods, if people turned round to me and said, “You’re awful, you’re either laughing, crying, shouting, screaming” and that can be in like a one minute period and they’re like, “There’s something wrong with you, you’re not particularly right. I think you need to go and see the doctor.”

So I went to see my GP in the April who said that she was pretty sure that I’d got the menopause had come on and did I want to go on HRT. At that time I was finding it difficult to get through the day. I was tired I was exhausted, people didn’t want to be near me because I was so emotional and grumpy that I got spoken to about the risks of HRT what the benefits could be for me and at that point in time I decided that I couldn’t really function as a person the way that I was. I’d try I think I’ll try a couple of alternative therapies. I decided that HRT had to be something better than what I was going through at the time. But that in itself wasn’t the best of times, the initial three months of going on HRT were horrendous. Although the symptoms went of the menopause my mood was still quite fluctuating I didn’t feel like myself I couldn’t focus but it was still better than the menopausal signs that I’d had.

 

Louise’s early menopause meant she couldn’t have children as planned.

Louise’s early menopause meant she couldn’t have children as planned.

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I guess I’ve been up and down emotionally. When it first happened, when I first found out I didn’t really know much about it, see how it goes. And when I lost part of my ovaries and I guess that bit where it sinks in I might never be able to have children I guess that that was probably one of the worst moments of my life. Now again although I’m happy with my work and happy with my life it’s hampered my life in some ways. Yeah it’s always a bit I can never fulfil in life.

I mean I’ve never been openly “I want children I’d love children” but I’ve always had at the back of my mind a plan for my life and part of that is work and trying to find some career for myself. But part of that was always to have children. I would have always liked children. Well it certainly wasn’t dominantly in my mind with my boyfriend I had long term plans but it was certainly in his mind when I wasn’t adverse to at some point “Yeah we will settle down and we will have children.” I guess because I’ve hidden away from relationships because it is something that I’ve thought about and I guess my options I would be looking at adoption now. Who knows? But it’s something that’s still burns inside me.

 

Louise had surgery to remove ovarian cysts and then had many difficulties in caring for her mother

Louise had surgery to remove ovarian cysts and then had many difficulties in caring for her mother

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The biggest part the menopause, well the side effects of the operation and the menopause, is my role within the family and having to live and care for my Mum.

Tell me a little bit about that.

It’s quite a difficult time, my Mum’s got Motor Neurone disease. It’s very rare very slow progressing but my Dad works long hard hours as an engineer and could be out from seven till six at night. And my Mum’s quite proud, she’s worked in care herself so she doesn’t particularly, it’s been a battle to get someone to come in and for her to allow us to get social services involved because we couldn’t cope. I’d then have to make a decision where I was living away, having to come back physically unwell myself but having to look after my Mum because my Dad couldn’t do it, she wouldn’t have anyone else and because she couldn’t let her health deteriorate although I’d let my health deteriorate. So trying not to hide from my Mum my emotions, my health problems and then go home and be ill literally. So I guess that’s one of the biggest things, it’s sort of affected that. Now she’s much more aware because it’s like I’ve been much more open, it’s hurting me, I’m not very well though she probably would pick up on the fact that I was white when I was going hobbling around but yeah the lesser of the two evils really but now she gets support in, we’re getting more support in and so my day becomes much more relieved and I’ve become much more of a daughter I guess instead of a sort of twenty, well twelve hour carer at her beck and call where there’s no mother-daughter relationship because we’re too busy having more of a professional sort of relationship where I’ve become a carer and not a daughter.

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