Thursday, July 19, 2012

Confessions of a Menopausal Woman

When this all happened around the 12th of June, I said immediately I had to blog this for my dawlings.  I have been asked when I was going to release it, and I suppose it's time.  This is so typical of me, which means it's not short.  So grab and drink and enjoy my struggles as a menopausal woman.  Your day is coming.  It was embarrassing as well as hoot to experience.  To honor my WOW gal pals....

Warning*  Screen protection possibly needed     

I think it started happening around my 35th birthday.  My doctor starting using crude words like "peri-menopause", hot flashes, night sweats and other such words that offend.  I was young.  I was not in danger of becoming one of those slightly demented menopausal women.

Well welcome to dementia!  In full transparency I will admit that from time to time I would experience a burst of heat and question, "Was that a hot flash?"  You young ones out there take note. A hot flash is much like falling in love or labor...when it's real you don't have to question "was that?"  You just know this is real.  But it is an insidious little threat.  It creeps up on you in the second half of your fourth decade.  Sometimes even in the third decade.  Don’t think just because you are a youthful 32 that you are out of the reach of this new exciting dimension of your life.  No my sisters, beware the treacherous nature of this beast.  It's ever so slight, and ever so sly that you shake your head in bewilderment wondering what that was that just happened.  You may have a slightly older best buddy whom you share your inner most thoughts with, and with bewilderment you tell her of these unusual occurrences.  You are shocked when she chortles a laugh so huge that she lunges for the bathroom. Yet another joyful occurrence of this stage of life, leaks happen.  

My own blessed sister, as a child she was referred to as "the brat".  But she turned out okay and she's one of my biggest cheerleaders.  :)  She shared with me the harrowing story of how her teenage son had a banquet to attend.  It required him to shower, wear dress clothes and a tie; complete with all the proper hygiene issues…deodorant, hair styling and clean underwear.  She told him they had to leave in 30 minutes.  In true teen fashion, he waited 25 minutes to START to transformation from sweaty, smelly, cross country odor teenage boy to ready for the banquet as an elegantly coiffed young man.  She was rushing him out the door and into the typical mom van when half way down the the gravel road, she sneezed.  Uh oh.  She whipped the van around to return to the house because now she required a dry change of underwear and pants.  She chastised him that now they were going to be late because had he finished his dressing earlier; she could have still peed her pants, gone home, changed and still arrived in time, no one the wiser.  That would be the perfect world.  They were late and true to his nature, my nephew excused his lateness with the explanation, “Mom sneezed and peed her pants.  So we had to go back for her to change."   Ack!  Could ya just die?  My poor sister.
My handsome nephew Michael.  He's trying out his
Presidential look.  What he's really thinking, surrounded by these
lovelies, is "I'm the man.  Yes, I am the man."

Because I love my sister dear to my heart, I will not post her photo here.  I will however introduce you to my nephew Michael - the heinous teenage boy who blabbed my sister’s bladder issues to a gymnasium of awaiting banquet attendees.  

Yes. My friends welcome to menopause.

I recall around age 41, I was asking my son to check and see if the....the....that thing...was still on.  He (rightfully so) objected to the ambiguity of my question.  He asked for further explanation.

"What thing?" he asked me.

"That thing that is in the middle of the wall by the back door."  I used gestures to draw out the back door.  Still he had that wrinkle in the center of his forehead.

"There's a lot of THINGS on that wall mom."

Exasperated because he could not understand my clear English, I had to enunciate my words.  "That TH-ING on. the. wall.  It has that bronze hoody thing over it that sucks out air or smoke.  It's square." (I drew a square with my hands for clarity.) "It gets hot, you put pots of food inside and it cooks it."

"The OVEN?" he laughed, yes he laughed at his mother.  Which I am sure is prohibited somewhere in the Bible, probably in the book of Jericho.  Yes, the book of Jericho where the wise sayings are kept that were not included in the proper books of the Bible.  Wise things like don’t cross your eyes or they will stick that way.  Don't swim for 30 minutes after you eat.  Cleanliness is next to Godliness.  Don't sass yo momma nor laugh at her NEITHER henceforth!

So I asked him to check and see if the hot box where I cook food aka OVEN was left on.  And that's when it started.  The thing about these menopausal symptoms is they don't come and stay and get it over with.  No, one may hit you for a couple weeks and then disappear.  No sooner did I get over that "forgetting plain words mid-sentence" symptom, than it's cousin "Night Sweats" showed up for a visit.

Night sweats was quite rude.  He did not intrude on your day time chores, but mercy about 2 am he was guaranteed to strike up a party.  You slept peacefully for 3 - 4 hours to be jerked away by the presence of Night Sweats in your bed.  Yes, he was that rude.  He would crawl under the blankets and take up all the room.  You would awake gasping; throwing blankets aside so fast those tornado sirens two counties over begin to wail.  Stumbling your way to bathroom, you flipped up the switch and would peer at the wet, wilted face in the mirror.  Unexplained slimy moisture coated every square inch of your body and soaked through your night clothes.  No explanation why in a room where your water bottle has ice chips floating, should you awaken with damp clothing and a coating of rich slime covering your body.  Confused you would strip out of your garments, and stare stupidly at them, trying to determine how you came to be so WET in the middle of the night.

Night Sweats stuck around for a couple months and I quickly learned to just leave a pair of PJ's on a hook in the bathroom....along with a towel, deodorant, underwear, powder and other weapons against unwelcome wetness.  It is not beyond the realm of possibilities to even decide that a shower was the only thing that would allow you to dry up enough to go back to sleep.

So after mental confusion and night sweats tore through my life and left, then entered an especially fun visitor called "Aunt Flo".  Everyone over the age of 20 or so is well acquainted with the special characteristics of "Aunt Flo".  She is not of the variety that would strike a pouty pose and demand that you "kiss her grits!"  No, Auntie Flo is someone who comes for a visit every 28 days or so if you are VERY lucky.  Otherwise she may come to visit every 14 days, 26.5 days, 45 days, or even 60 days.  Her appearance depends upon what kind of mood she is in and how nice her accommodations are. She may be VERY cranky and arrive with suitcases of cramps, swelling or other horrendous adventures. As young women we welcome the visit of Aunt Flo because her presence assures us that we won't be expecting any OTHER little visitors.  So we put up with her visits, her irritability and unpredictability.   Of course, I should mention the flip side for those who hunger after the arrival of the other little expectations only to have their hope and dreams shot to…well you get the point.  So her arrival is met with all the regular baggage and goodies with other special gifts like disappointment, depression and disgust.

But there comes a point where the ole biddy knows her days are numbered.  We no longer welcome her presence because we are done with her business.  You know those relatives who seem to sense when dinner is about to be put on the table and they show up at the door?  Flo figures out that you are at the point you are entertaining the idea of kicking her to the curb and not dealing with her again.  So one month she arrives and determines that she is not leaving.   Just to trip you up, she may arrive early or late, but either way you are at a function getting ready to venture out onto center stage and suddenly you feel her presence.  And it's such an INTENSE presence that you are running to a restroom, flinging aside little old ladies and small children in your race to the privacy of a ladies room stall, praying you reach it before everyone else becomes aware that AF has arrived.  Welcome to a new pinnacle of your life...the flood stage.  In her despair of losing her welcome in your life, she decides to visit on a whim with excess baggage to spare.   
These might work.
I once had dinner with a woman who was a victim to high flood stages.  She rode home ensconced upon a dozen of my son's diapers, while praying that was enough to get her home. Your mate will become concerned for your heath and ask worriedly, "Honey is this MUCH Aunt Flo good for you?"  You weakly wave your hand at him.  You fear if Aunt Flo catches his concern, she will be encouraged to stay even longer.  So you suffer through this presence and eventually she gets tired of her own games.  Her visits stretch out further and further.

And you would think that was good, but then the Mutha of all menopausal issues.  The books, manuals and doctors refer to this blandly as the "hot flash".  For me, I had this complication called Breast cancer, Estrogen FED breast cancer at that.  Since Aunt Flo was still an irritating factor in my life, the doctor decided he would medically kick her to the curb until I could surgically finish her off.  So at 10 am, I reported to the clinic dutifully to receive the injection in the posterior side of my person, that would kiss Aunt Flo good bye forever, 

By 10 pm I was quite certain my face was melting off.  I had been sitting quietly minding my own business, reading through a book when it felt as if someone tossed a heated towel upon my head.  I suspiciously looked at the dear Mr. sitting across the room staring at his computer.  I watched him for a moment and could not ascertain that he had anything to do with the sudden influx of warmth I was feeling.  I went back to the book and tried to ignore the growing heat of my scalp.  Finally the heat grew so intense that I stood up and walked to the sink, thrust my head under the faucet and hosed down my head.  Mr. Man looked aghast and exclaimed, "What in the WORLD is wrong with you!"  Apparently this behavior unnerved him.

I rose up from the sink, gave him a good dose of stink eye and informed him, "Nothing is wrong, dear.  Go back to your facebook."  He continued to view me with disbelief and confusion as I paced, doused and paced some more.  I felt liquid fire raining down my head and melting my face, leaving great drops of molten flesh in giant clumps on the floor.  They turned to ash the following day, making it easier to vacuum away.

And that was the easy part. After I had a full hysterectomy, the injections became unnecessary.  It did not however lessen the power of these so called hot flashes.  I occasionally would hop in the shower mid-day just to try to cool off the furnaces being fired within.  All I succeeded in doing was creating lots and lots of steam, and then more steam.  Who needs a steam room?  I would turn the faucets on and wait for the cooling effects of those inviting jets of water.  But alas, I just got hotter.  As the stream of water drew closer to my skin, the radiating heat of my body simply changed the water over to steam.  Eventually... after 5 minutes or so, the skin temp would lower slightly from the evaporation of the steam and the water would finally hit my flesh.  ahhhh.  I'd dry off and about 5 minutes later I would be ablaze yet again.

Last winter, I generated so much body heat that I was able to reduce the thermostat down to a mere 63 degrees and run through the house in short sleeves and jeans.  At night I lowered it still to 58 degrees and set the digital thermometer to activate about 10 minutes before the husband's alarm.  He didn't need the alarm, as the sudden influx of heated air woke me so completely that I was up scrambling for the fan remote.   I totally did not understand the hysteria my husband would awaken with every morning and start yelling before he uncovered his nose, and thrust his big toe from beneath the behemoth of blankets he insisted upon.  I lay comfortably under my sheet and laughed at the nonsense of his piled pillars of fleece and flannel.  

The room was barely tolerable and I kept a bottle nearly frozen water at the bedside to help quench the fires of Hades that burned within my skin.  I had enough excess heat; we easily could have powered the homes on our block and the ones beyond.  Oh to harness the power of the menopausal power surge.  

These menopausal meltdowns come on so silently and sneakily you are always unprepared.  You learn to make excuses for the perpetual red's always a good answer.  "Mrs. Blankenship are you okay?  Your face is simply an intense shade of fire engine red, are you having an allergic reaction?"  That was the most recent question posed to me.  I answered her, "No darling, it's steroids."  "Ahhh," this nurse answered, "That will do it."  And yes it does, but the answer serves a second nefarious purpose.  Those acquainted with red steroid face are also acquainted with 'roid rage.  A friend's husband once told her menopause really meant MEANOpause.  Close enough.  Both mean....step away and no one gets hurt.  It's hard to think clearly or kindly when in the midst of a full onslaught of nuclear, menopausal meltdown.  The nurse took her leave and she did not bother me again until it was time for the doctor to arrive.

I have looked lovingly at tile floors in the middle of malls, and wondered just how long I would have to lie upon the floor to cool down to a reasonable 400 degrees.  One such occasion was about 3 weeks ago at the doctor's office.  Actually I had been through the waiting room experience and was now in the TINY little waiting room, wishing once again they would not shut the door.  Seriously, I am there waiting for my plastic surgeon who is well aware that I am now a blazing furnace of furious fire, awaiting fresh kindling to ignite.  All these lovely rooms about 6 x 6 in size have a huge sheet of fabric hanging in front of the door.  You could be butt naked on the other side and those people in the hall would never know.  So why, WHY do they feel the need to close the door of a tiny room?

As you might suspect, I was politely sitting there in a backless gown waiting for the first parade of doctors to come through.  It wasn't long before I smelled "singed hair" and an ungodly heat envelope my face.  Uh oh, I thought.  I'm about to set blaze.  I dared not touch the fabric curtain for fear of setting off the fire alarm.  So I fidgeted and fanned myself to no great avail.  I longingly eyed the floor, knowing that the thin nature of the gowns they provide would be able to access the blessed coolness of the tiles if I dared climb down from the exam table.  I had already run that scenario through my mind.  I got stopped at the question, "how will I get myself up from the tile if I hear someone outside the door?"  

Everyone is ever so polite, they knock before barging in.  They expect you to allow them in, considering that you are there to see THEM.  They see no need to wait for permission to enter.  My inner Diva - Rosey kept egging me on, reminding me how blessedly cool the tiles would be in an air conditioned room.  But my practical side reminded myself, how many people come in and out and how well do I believe the Janitor really cleaned these floors?  I opted out of the idea of rolling on the floor.

By this time, the mascara had melted, the nose was runny, the eyes tearing from the volume of sweat rolling into them.  When a woman experiences a power surge, you simply CANNOT wait it out.  IT REQUIRES action.  After ruling out the rolling upon the floor, I headed for the little sink on the counter.  I grabbed a fistful of towels, and plugged the sink drain.   Filling the sink, I leaned over and thrust my arms into the chilled water and relaxed in the cooling effect.  And in walks someone.

You would think they would have seen other menopausal women having a literal melt down before.  The young man simply raised his dark eyebrows and I blurted out, "Sorry.  I was having a menopausal meltdown.  It was either this or rolling naked on your floor."  He barked out a laugh and thanked me for choosing the sink.  He tore off a length of those waxed sheeting they use on their beds and offered it to me to "dry up?"  Who raises these kids?  The only thing that paper is good for is cooling off cookies.  I wiped up as much as possible and finished up with another fistful of towels.  I looked at the young man with suspicion as he choked through a few questions about how my pucketts were doing.
They hurt.  The Short answer.    And then I asked him, "You're not going to tell everyone how you found me plunged in your little office sink are you?"  He grinned unabashedly as he assured me he would not...until I had left the clinic.  THEN he would tell the rest of the office.

The young resident wrote a post it note to put on my chart..."Patient states that while she is forced to endure tiny exam rooms, please pull the curtain and leave her door ajar."  I told him, they were warned.  I could not be held responsible if they closed me up in a room and found me topless and flopping around on the floor.   He left the room chuckling and despite my admonitions, he SHUT the door again.

Again, I opened the door and scooted behind the curtain, only to have a nurse stop and ask if I needed assistance.  I replied that I did not, I was just hot.  Then SHE shut the door again.  ACK.  What was it going to take to get them to respect a woman's need for air flow?  I went to the cabinets and started riffling through.  There was a stack of gowns.  Maybe I could wet one and use it as a cold compress against my sizzling skin.  But then I still had to explain a wet gown, those possibilities were too embarrassing.  I tossed aside that idea and opened another drawer.  Ohhhhh, this drawer had sample silicone implants.  I picked them up and they were cool to the touch.  Oh the blessed coolness of a foobie.  And like a fool I placed each one against the burning fiery flesh of my face.

Oh well, they have already figured out that I'm a tad off the center beam.  Some weeks back Dr. Puckett walked in, looking absolutely whipped.  I told him he looked he exhausted and he told me he was.  It had been a really busy clinic day.  I told him that I would hug him but for the fact I was sitting there topless, it probably wasn't appropriate.  He couldn't quite contain the yelp of laughter before putting on his stern doctor face.  But his eyes were now twinkling when he agreed; it probably wouldn't be considered very appropriate.  Dr. Puckett's eyes remind me of my father.

The residents have heard of my reputation.  I share with ONE female resident how I offered to bring lunch to my radiation oncologist.... barbecued breasts...chicken breasts that was.  She reacted the same as my dear Dr. Beidermann...she busted out laughing.  She did not however slide off her stool like Dr. B did.  She asked what I planned to bring the plastic surgeon's staff.  I told her I have always wanted to make a boobie cake….  They knew that I was the one who named my Tissue Expanders after the doctor who installed them...Dr. Puckett meet the pucketts.

So I really shouldn't have been surprised at what happened next.  That courtesy knock followed by the door thrust open with the doctor with a number of students and residents in tow.  Yes, there I stood holding silicone foobies against the flesh of my burning cheeks...which had just hitched up in temperatures that were certain to boil the silicone.  I must have looked like a deer in headlights, but the hysteria that emitted from the mouths of those residents was certainly out of proportion to the situation.  I think the first resident had not waited before sharing his story of finding me nearly shoulder deep in the wash sink.  Never before had there been more than one resident to meet me.  I counted 3 standing shocked still beside him trying to stifle their mirth, and I'm not counting the one that was still in the hallway bent over at the waist, grabbing his stomach and hooting for all he was worth.

He bit his lips, and reached over to take the foobies from my hand.  Then he looked at me with his twinkling eyes and grinned, "if that is how high you want these implanted we have quite a bit of talking yet to do."

Yeah.  Not funny.  

On the other hand, my plastic surgeon… SURGEON cracked a joke. (You have heard the story? no?  How does God differ from a surgeon?  Answer:  God knows he’s not a surgeon.)  However, I also give praise that I believe every doctor I have seen through my trip through breast cancer was handpicked and anointed for ME personally.  Each of my doctors has been exactly the one I needed for who I am and what I needed.  Every single one of them has listened to my concerns.  They had provided superb compassionate and skilled care and still laughed at my antics.  They were perfectly picked by God to fill ALL my needs.

That fill went well and nothing else happened out of the ordinary.  I explained to the residents that I was battling some powerful heat surges that some fool called hot flashes.  They were young.  They were not yet aware how these things were NUCLEAR hot... they all smiled politely, nodded and appeared to be choking back their own giggles.

I got dressed and gently moved down the hallway.  I passed the nurse's station just in time to hear the proclamation...."well when she's here, we can't claim it's been a boring day!"

One final word.  In the Wizard of Oz, that Wicked Witch of the West got a bum wrap.  All she needed was a cold bucket of water to cool her off because she was "melting."  The poor dear wasn't evil, she was just having a nuclear meltdown power infused hot flash!  

1 comment:

  1. I'm always the one saying, "Is it hot in here?" when it's really not, so I'm really NOT looking forward to hot flashes!!