Thirteen years ago one cold foggy evening I held a knife to my husband’s throat. We weren’t married then and after that I’m very surprised we ever did get married.
Those were bleak days. I would pack a suitcase every weekend and leave him. It may have been for something as stupid as him making a comment on my washing up. I cried all the time. I felt like some other being had possessed my body when I wasn’t looking and was now determined to destroy all I held dear to me.
The knife incident was the final straw. It was one month before Christmas. Andrew didn’t want to be murdered before the festivities. You can’t really blame him and frankly I didn’t want to spend my life behind bars for killing him. Although I feel sure I would have got off due to hormonal imbalance and me not being of sound mind, although it can be argued I’m not of sound mind most of the time anyway. But that’s a whole other blog. I was also suffering severely from Bartholin cysts. If you’ve never heard of them they are little cysts that develop on the inside of the vulva, on, of course, the Bartholin gland. They make it hard to sit down. They throb and sometimes bleed. Taking a pee is nightmarish. The many years I had them no doctor seemed to know how to treat them. By the time I got an appointment to see a doctor they would have gone down. I was given creams, antibiotics and told to shower rather than bath. The antibiotics helped but the cysts would always return.
So, I went to the GP. Of course, some may have said I needed a psychiatrist but I felt the GP was good to begin with. He was. I was told I was peri menopausal and put on hormone replacement therapy. My life changed. The terrible tension I had suffered stopped. The cysts went away and never came back. The migraines I had been suffering with for many years stopped. My eyes, which were always dry and gritty suddenly felt normal. It was like a miracle had happened. I continued taking Femoston 2/10 my HRT tablet for the next thirteen years. But then my periods got heavier and more painful. I began having brown staining before a bleed. I went back to the doctor and asked if I could change to something else that would perhaps stop my periods. I felt sure they must have stopped and I was simply having a break-through bleed on the cyclical HRT. This was the beginning of a whole new nightmare for me. They began telling me I had been on the HRT for a long time and it was time to come off. You know what they say about opening Pandora’s box or poking a hornet’s nest? Don’t do it. I changed doctors for a completely different reason and went to request my HRT medication and was told I needed to see the doctor first. I made an appointment and saw a male doctor who banged angrily on the table when I told him what I wanted and declared ‘I would not get that poison from them’ My blood pressure had been slightly raised on a previous visit and he told me I could have a heart attack or stroke any day. I did not leave feeling reassured.
I like to be in charge of my own body. After all it belongs to me. My quality of life matters only to me and those closest to me. A GP who doesn’t really know me has no idea the kind of nightmare I am living. To refuse me a drug I had been on for 13 years was both distressing and worrying for me. I was fully aware of the risks and took as much care as possible to check on them. The buck was passed to the menopause clinic at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxfordshire. I met my consultant and after a long chat she agreed that if my quality of life was severely affected then I was a candidate to stay on HRT for as long as needed, but it is always a good idea to wean off if at all possible.
Let me tell you weaning yourself off something that not only helps you feel like a normal functioning adult and also does wonders for your skin and the aging process is not an easy thing to do. However I agreed to go on a patch which I was assured would stop me bleeding. However, three months and I was still staining badly a week or more before my bleed. The stomach cramps were now worse and continued past my break through bleed. An ultra sound was arranged. It showed a thickened womb lining. I was given a different medication to encourage bleeding in the hope this would eventually thin the lining. It didn’t. A second US showed the lining was still thick. It was decided a hysteroscopy should be performed so they could look inside and if anything needed removing they would remove it. So, under I went and they discovered multiple polyps which were removed. My womb lining was scraped and home I came. Weeks later I went back on my old HRT and felt fine. Then after a few months we tried the patches again and I attempted to reduce my dosage by cutting a small piece off each time.
Then the nightmare began. I suddenly went from being a happy fun-loving woman to a grumpy, exhausted wreck. My joints began to ache. Tiredness overwhelmed me. It would take me twenty minutes to make the bed. I would stop to lie on it several times in between changing the sheets. I was tense, irritable, and no fun to be around. My eyes were dry and gritty again. I couldn’t work. I kept crying. I couldn’t pull my aching tired limbs from the bed in the morning. My sex life was non-existent. I didn’t care if I never had sex again. My back ached. I moaned. Cooking dinner was a chore that wore me out. I was a shadow of my former self and no one seemed to care aside from Andrew. I googled joint pain and tiredness. I came to the conclusion that I was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome again along with fibromyalgia. Some people even suggested this may just be my age. At a certain age you stop wanting sex apparently. But I also noticed that the day before I was due to change my patch I suddenly felt increasingly worse but would feel marginally better the following day after the new patch had been put on. This encouraged me to contact my consultant at the menopause clinic and to also do some more research myself on HRT, the risks, the preparations, the delivery and so on. I also researched Tibilone. I was also tired of being tired and of not feeling sexy anymore. I pushed my case as hard as I could and requested Tibolone, fully expecting to be refused. However, my eyes were so red and sore that she was convinced I was tearful. ‘We can’t have you like this,’ she said understandingly. My blood pressure was taken, the risks of stroke were laid out to me. I said I understood and wanted to try it. My blood pressure unfortunately was 140/80 and considered far too high. I explained that I had been anxious about attending, had a difficult time parking, eventually sliding my Seat into a disabled space. She agreed to me having my blood pressure taken at my GP surgery and arranged a blood test to check my oestrogen level.
That evening she emailed me. Hurrah, I was extremely low in oestrogen. I had not been absorbing the patch very well. That night on her advice I went back to taking HRT in pill form. The next day I felt brighter, more energetic but still with joint pains. I collected my Tibolone later that day and started it that night. I woke up the next morning and felt so much better. We went out with my stepson and grandson and larked around Waddesdon Manor. I returned with my husband and met friends for lunch. We came home and then I went shopping. I felt more alive than I have in months. Today was my second day on Tibolone and let’s just say there has been a little more action in this cottage than there has been for some time.
Yes, it could all be in my mind. Maybe I expect to feel better but I can’t explain why my eyes are back to normal. Why I feel happier, why things feel and seem so much better. It’s like being brought back from the dead and that really isn’t an exaggeration.
I’m not advocating HRT for everyone but I would certainly recommend it if you are suffering terribly from menopausal symptoms. Do check out the risks yourself and if someone tells you ‘It’s just your age, don’t accept it’ You can get older and still have a life.
I shall be monitoring my symptoms over the next few months and I am very much hoping that things stay as they are today.