My Choice

Like most women, I always knew the day was coming when I’d have to deal with menopause. I wasn’t especially worried about it, as I didn’t want to conceive any more children and considered menstrual periods to be an annoyance I would gladly do without. I’d heard about hot flashes, night sweats, and all the rest of the possible symptoms, but I also knew that not all women had to deal with those and blithely assumed I’d manage to just sail through it all. 

But then I had my first hot flash.

It seemed that one minute I was riding in the car with my husband, heading home from a trip to the shopping mall, and the next minute I felt a sensation I could only describe as being cooked from the inside out. I actually panicked a little before I realized just what was happening. And then I ordered my husband to pull into the nearest convenience store so I could buy a cold drink with as much ice as possible in it.

Eventually, I learned to cope with the hot flashes without being quite so dramatic. And that was a good thing, because they came with relentless regularity. I was averaging about ten to twelve hot flashes a day and woke up at least three times a night with them. I would usually manage to fall into a deep sleep in the early hours of the morning, just before it was time to start my day. Tired and crabby became a normal state of being for me, no matter how hard I tried to feel otherwise.

Still, I knew this phase wouldn’t last forever, and that many women found relief using natural remedies. I tried them all, but none made the slightest bit of difference, much to my great disgust. I heard hormone replacement pills almost always helped, but I had also heard they were considered to be risky, so I simply soldiered on. My doctor told me typical menopausal symptoms last three to five years, so I believed the only thing to do was get through it.

Unfortunately, my symptoms didn’t let up after I passed the five-year mark. When I mentioned it to my doctor, he said that since the symptoms were lasting more than five years, I was probably one of the minority of women who would have them long-term…meaning many more years, and possibly, for life. Alarmed, I asked my eighty-six-year old mother when her hot flashes had finally ended. She thought about it for a minute, and then said,” I don’t believe I’ve had a hot flash for at least five years, maybe a little bit longer than that.” I know she doesn’t have a great memory, but that was still not the answer I wanted to hear.

So at my next annual check up, I talked to my doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). He told me there were risks, but they were extremely small for the first three years, and that he would support whatever decision I made. I thought about enduring another twenty years of hot flashes and night sweats and then asked him to call in the prescription. I knew the pills slightly increased my chances for breast cancer and blood clots, but that was a risk I was prepared to take, especially since I had no family history of cancer.

We all have the right to make educated and personal choices about how we handle our health, including how we manage menopause.

Ann Coleman

I learned quickly that not everyone approved of HRT, and since we live in a time where minding other people’s business is considered not only acceptable, but often downright mandatory, I was told by many that I was foolish to take the pills. Naturally, many of those who said that were men or women who had gone through menopause with few or no symptoms. “Hot flashes are natural,”  I was told. “Women have been coping with them for centuries.” I never actually pointed out that disease and death are also natural, but that doesn’t mean I have to embrace them, but I thought it once or twice. My body may be my own, but my choices about it were apparently up for general discussion.

It’s been four years since I started HRT, and I’m gradually weaning myself off the pills. So far, the hot flashes have been minimal and tolerable, so I hope that is a good sign. I didn’t stop taking them because I gave in to outside pressure, though. It was a personal choice I made after my husband was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Suddenly the world of cancer and its treatment became all too real, and I was no longer willing to take the risk, no matter how small.

In short, I simply changed my mind.

The lesson I’ve learned from it all is this: We all have the right to make educated and personal choices about how we handle our health, including how we manage menopause. And we have the right to change our mind when presented with new facts or new circumstances. We don’t have to explain our choices to anyone or apologize for them when others disagree. I will forever be grateful for having a doctor that simply presented the facts and let me make my own choice about how I handled my menopause symptoms, because he recognized what many people do not: the symptoms were mine, the risks were mine, and ultimately, my body is mine and mine alone. 

Resources about HRT and Hot Flashes/Flushes:

Ann Coleman is a woman in her late fifties who loves reading, writing, working with shelter dogs, working on her house and yard, and helping her extended family. She writes about recognizing and appreciating the positive aspects of aging on her blog Muddling through My Middle Age.

Write for Navigating the Change.

32 Comments on “My Choice

  1. Kim, I really found it to be so helpful! My symptoms didn’t disappear completely, but they lessened significantly, and I was able to tolerate them with no issues!


  2. Nice one! I wish I’d had your doctor. When humor won’t cut it, time to stay open to alternatives of dealing with one’s “personal summer.”

    Your final sentence: Mic drop!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well said. I have not had hot flashes that bad, but I remember when I first started getting them it was so strange. I remember being in a hotel room and thinking “is it really hot in here?”. I made a decision to take medication for osteoporosis that can have scary side effects on a few people. Later the doctor suggested I change over to another medication that you had to inject every day. My reaction to that was NO WAY. I stayed on the original one for about 4 years, and my bone density improved. But now I am not taking anything. We’ll see. Maybe your body will have got the message while you were doing the HRT and now knows not to do the hot flashes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s another great example, Meg! The bone density medications do improve bone density, but some people get nasty side effects, and everyone has an opinion on whether you should take them or not. I’m glad you chose what was right for you. And yeah, I’m wondering if maybe my body has realized that I’m not going to put up with the hot flashes anymore, and that’s why they’re not so bad even though I’m almost weaned off the hormones!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Ann. I was fortunate that I didn’t have unrelenting hot flashes. But I did develop terrible dry eyes after cataract surgery. I tried HRT to see if that might help my eyes, but unfortunately it didn’t. So I discontinued it after a year.
    I appreciate your sharing with honesty. It’s your body and your decision. It’s unfortunate when people feel inclined to give unsolicited advice!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry it didn’t help your dry eye, I know that can be hard to live with And I really don’t understand why people feel so free to give unsolicited advice. It’s rarely appreciated. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a long-hauler hot flash-wise too. I think they may be getting better, but I always think that before summer hits (why don’t I get them more often in the winter when I need to warm up?). The worst part is waking up in the middle of the night with soaking wet sheets. It sounds like you have made a series of choices based on your doctor’s input and your own needs, wants, and medical background… just as it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry you’re another long-hauler, Janis! The thing that makes the symptoms bearable is knowing it won’t last forever, but when you don’t know that, it’s even harder to tolerate it. And I’ve woke up with those wet sheets too on occasion. I’m lucky in that I usually don’t get the night sweats very bad, but I know some women experience them every night!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have been in a very similar situation. My main problem with the menopause is vaginal dryness and I have tried everything (crazy procedures that made it worse), every lubricant on the market and finally started HRT. HRT made me aggressive and I decided that I had enough mental health problems. One honest doctor suggested my time for conventional marital relations was over. I am still happily married but have found a vegan ‘Vaseline’ product that helps for everyday use.
    It is our choice to change our mind. Great article by Ann.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry! I don’t blame you for stopping the HRT if it effected your mood. I have that problem with some steroids, which is why I rarely ever take them. And I couldn’t agree more that it’s out choice what treatments we receive and what risks we take! Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Absolutely true – no-one should police our bodies but ourselves (after listening to expert advice of course). I had a relatively early menopause (menstruation ceased at 48) and sailed through it so I never really considered HRT – I regarded this as reward for the trauma of painful periods which plagued me for decades – but had I suffered as you did, it would have been a different matter.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a good friend who is a twin, and she had no menopause symptoms whatsoever, while her twin sister suffered terribly. It’s so odd how it can effect different women in such very different ways! I’m glad you didn’t have any symptoms, especially since you’d had pain with your periods before. You deserved a break!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. We certainly do live in a day where others feel the need to ask about personal health decisions, and it is beyond annoying, for sure!! Glad you were able to make the choice right for you and got some relief…our visit to Canada one winter was a sure welcome with my flashes…snow was my friend, lol!

    Liked by 2 people

    • When I’m in the middle of a hot flash, a Canadian winter sounds like heaven! And yes, it so odd how people feel comfortable telling us how we’ve made the wrong choices with our health. If the speaker isn’t my doctor, I’m not listening! Thanks so much for the comment!


  9. It is so important that people understand that they are in control concerning their own health decisions. What is good for one person, may not be good for another. The important thing is knowing what is best for your own self and trusting your instincts as to what is right or wrong. In the end, you are the only one who must live with the decisions you make…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly, Linda! Healthcare in general is not “one size fits all” and dealing with menopause is no exception. We all have different symptoms, and different tolerance for risks, and so (with the help of our doctors) make the decisions that are right for us. We shouldn’t have to defend those decisions to anyone. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I rode through the hot flashes and night sweats, determined to avoid HRT. Then, my joints began to ache. I was miserable. After talking to my doctor, I decided to try low-dose HRT, as a transitional measure. I only took it for a year, and when I weaned off, the joint pain did not return. I wanted to be very careful, as my mother had uterine cancer, most likely as a result of extended HRT.

    My personal experiment worked out fine. My mother, though, after a dozen years, has a recurrence of the cancer.

    I think that it takes a practiced ear–listening to one’s own symptoms, and comfort levels, to navigate the shoals of this choice. My mother’s generation was fed hormones, without reflection or nuance. It was recommended “to save the skin and heart,” without scientific bases for these claims. And she is paying the price.

    I like how you phrased it, “trusting your instincts,” because, yes, you must live with the desisions you make.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see how you would be extra careful, after witnessing what your mother went through. And yes, I remember when HRT was touted as the wonder drug that would rid the world of menopause symptoms and was pushed very hard by the medical community. Then the side effects surfaced, and now we realize that there is a risk in taking them. I think each of us has to make our own decision, based on our symptoms and family history of cancer, and then live with that. And yes, that really does mean trusting out own instincts. Best wishes for a full recovery for your mother, and thank you for this comment!


  11. well said Ann, it should always be our choice but you were blessed with your choice of doctor!

    I had 8 years of excessively strong hot flashes and rejoiced in each and everyone knowing it was the end of my menstrual cycle. I now realise I had suffered from endometriosis, not a label for it in my day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you to have such a positive attitude! But I’m sorry to hear you had endometriosis, as I know how very hard that can be. And I can see why you would feel that hot flashes are a small price to pay for not having to endure that any more. I was lucky in that my periods were mostly just an inconvenience, and my hormones didn’t really cause any problems until I hit menopause. Each woman is different, and that’s why it’s absolutely okay that each woman makes different decisions regarding how she treats her body, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      • exactly … I was booked in for a hysterectomy several times, I had every possible symptom for 40 years so constant hot flashes were a small price to pay!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. So well done, Ann! Your description of a hot flash is so right on – cooked from the inside out. Like you, I had horrible hot flashes that lessened my quality of life. I thought I’d go scot free, since when I asked my mom about menopause she scoffed and said she’d never had one hot flash. However, thinking back she’d told me labor was a breeze and that I was a perfect child. Hmmm. I lasted about a year before deciding that HRT was the right choice for me. My gyn doctor was totally for it – he gave me reams of research papers of why he believed in the benefits of HRT for women (I also had heavy, heavy periods why going through menopause). My night sweats were so bad that I had to change my clothes and even the sheets halfway through the night. HRT helped me tremendously. Through my docs advice, I used the patch, which seems to distribute the medicine a bit differently, and I was able to use the smallest dosage necessary. I’m past menopause, finally (well, yes, still the occasional hot flash, but not bad) and I’m still on HRT because of the other side benefits. At some point, I’ll stop, but I’m in no rush.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does sound as if your mom might have been in the habit of sugarcoating things, just a little bit! But I’m glad that you’ve found HRT and that it helped you. I really believe that each of us experience menopause a bit differently, and we have to manage the symptom according to our own, unique needs. I’m glad I took it, and I really only quit because of my husband’s cancer. But my hot flashes are, once again, seriously disrupting my sleep, so who knows? I may even go back on them. I’m planning to discuss it with my doctor at my annual visit!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Having a good doctor who listens and shares his/her research on the topic really makes a huge difference. I hope you bring up the patch with your doc – may be the way to go for you. Weirdly, my insurance will pay for oral HRT (with higher dosage and to me, less safe) but it will not pay for the patch (called a Combipatch). I’ve made phone calls and stressed that it seems that the health of women 50+ is not being accounted for. In the meantime, I find it worth my body to pay for the patch myself.

        Liked by 1 person

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