Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hitting menopause at 30-something

All I knew about menopause eight weeks ago was that it was not supposed to happen to me for a good 15 or so years. I'd half-heartedly heard my mom and her friends mentioning 'hot flushes' a few times, but apart from that I knew very little. We tend to only Google things when they are bearing down on us.

And so, it was a bit of a shock a few nights ago when I found myself typing the words 'hot flushes' into my Mac's Google bar. You see, menopause has hit me. And it's not as if I wasn't warned. It has been brought on, after all, by artificial means (Lucrin, but more about that later).

Let me rewind. Just before the end of 2008, a routine gynae appointment ended with the words: 'You need an operation. You have endometriosis." When I got home, that was another thing I had to Google. I am now an expert on the topic. And from not even being able to pronounce 'laparoscopy' I am now preparing for my second one.

I had my op a few days after that appointment. Turns out I had Stage 3-4 endometriosis (endo) and it was 'one of the worst cases' my doc had seen.  Initially I was upset my previous gynae had not picked it up, but in hindsight, I should also have been more in tune with my body and identified it myself years ago. I thought I'd be in the hospital for a few hours and be discharged by the evening, but ended up having to stay the night (and almost a 2nd night). Most of the sites I'd researched had said it was a 30 min, same day procedure. If you're reading this because you're about to have the same op, be prepared: if they find signs of endo and they have to laser or burn the adhesions, your 'look see' op turns into a bigger procedure and you need to give yourself more time to recover than you'd probably thought. It wasn't scary, don't worry. It's just that it does take its toll on the body, although I also think mine reacted quite badly to the anesthetic. 

When I got home at about 6.30pm the day after the surgery (which was at about 2pm), I was not the happiest soul. Two wonderful friends had to almost carry me up my steep flight of stairs and shower me, dry me off and help me into bed. Walking was very painful for a few days. I had expected the recovery to take about two days, but I was off work for five days, plus a full weekend, and even when I returned to work, my energy levels were very low. Granted, my op had been almost two hours long and my anesthetic had therefore been longer etc, but I think women going in for a similar procedure need to allow themselves more time to heal. 

Anyway, I am showing signs of my early menopause now; forgetting my initial point! I was given an injection of Lucrin in hospital and was told I would need one every month for three months. It was to put my body into menopause so that the endo growths would quieten down. After that, I was assured, I could emerge from menopause.

I had my 2nd injection of Lucrin about 10 days ago, (it's very expensive at about R1770 a jab and takes at least 24-48 hours to order and my medical aid - Discovery - doesn't cover it) and my mild symptoms of menopause from month one when my body was obviously still absorbing the drug have turned into raging side effects.

My hot flushes which I thought were 'cute' a month ago, are now bloody irritating. They literally strike every 20 mins and I feel like a thermostat-controlled urn which boils every now and then and then goes into silent mode. I can be sitting at my desk at work and all of a sudden, I can feel my arms stick to the desk and my face burn. It lasts only about two minutes at the most, but happens all day and all night long. Googling has revealed that every woman's body is different, so I this may not necessarily be your experience. I guess it may also not be mine: when I actually do go through the natural, real thing, it could be different for me. My other side effect seems to be memory loss. It's like fuzz these days!

Once my Lucrin course is over, I will have a second op to determine if all the endo is gone and I guess if the doc does find any, he will nuke it. I am hoping that this will be the end of it for a while! After that, as soon as my body recovers, I plan to start trying to fall pregnant. That, they assure me, is the ultimate cure. Ahh, but that is another post entirely!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Melting gay hearts around the world

I am seriously impressed with Iceland. Reading about the country's new openly lesbian Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, sworn in on Sunday, (1 Feb 2009) made me think twice about going to Iceland one day on a holiday. How cool (excuse the pun) to be in a place where sexuality is secondary to competence; where tales of titillation about someone's sleeping partner are not told; where old and young show more concern for policy than prejudice. Well done to the Icelanders -- the rest of the world, including South Africa, could take a lesson from you.

South Africa may have the gay rights on paper but lesbians and gays are still being persecuted, sometimes killed, for who they love - especially in black townships. Homosexuality is still very much taboo in African culture, and even our presidential favourite, Jacob Zuma, has gone on record with comments that incite violence against gays. Not to mention that Zuma got off a rape conviction - just. The victim was a young lesbian who's since had to go into hiding, fearing for her life.

Contemplating a Zuma presidency, after election time around April/May is too awful to contemplate. It's also on totally the opposite spectrum to the appointment of the Iceland PM. I sincerely hope that South Africans learn more tolerance in this area, otherwise, God help us all. We'll have to flee to Iceland!

(Image courtesy of BBC News)