As a child, I had always dreaded the start of my menstruation. I had seen my mother go through it and then my sister a few years before me. By 1980, I had seen and heard enough to know I wanted no part of it. But because Mother Nature knows best, at twelve years old the inevitable happened.
I can still remember my mom sitting me down and having the “talk.” As if the weird changes to my body weren’t already enough, she spoke about boys and sex and the dangers of unwanted pregnancies at a young age. This talk with my mother was as unwelcomed as the changes to my body, and even though she meant well, I was embarrassed and couldn’t help feeling like I had lost my innocence.
I would spend most of my teenage years and early twenties harboring feelings of contempt towards my period and cursing at its inconveniences of heavy flows and terrible cramps, and I would naively wish for the days of menopause. Of course, then, I did not have the entire picture.
By my forties, I was more mature, and I had started accepting and even appreciating my menstruation cycle and all the benefits it afforded to my body. I understood that menopause, generally, was something that happened to our bodies as we aged, but in my head that was not something I had to concern myself with right at that minute or anytime soon.
The fact that I was already in my late forties and had not started experiencing any symptoms of menopause, or perimenopause for that matter, made me feel younger than most and “ahead of the curve,” whatever that curve was. I had friends who had started talking about their own experiences with menopause, and because I was not there yet, I considered myself lucky, even blessed. After all, my mom didn’t reach menopause until her late fifties, and my older sister had also not started experiencing any symptoms either. So, why would I be any different?
Then, in 2018 the security of that imaginary curve abruptly ended. I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and I needed to start chemotherapy right away. Many concerns ran through my head, but the possibility of induced menopause was not one of them. However, after several rounds of chemotherapy and two subsequent stem cell transplants, each starting with more chemotherapy, I never experienced another period. There was no perimenopause, no irregular periods, and no hot flashes. My period simply ended at forty-nine years of age. After twelve consecutive months of no period, it was declared I was officially in menopause.
After several rounds of chemotherapy and two subsequent stem cell transplants, each starting with more chemotherapy, I never experienced another period.@kyjarden
Now, I know you might be saying forty-nine is not that young an age to be in menopause, but remember, I told you my mom’s menopause did not happen until her late fifties, and my sister who is older than I am, to date is still not in menopause. Strangely, the abruptness of it all, left me feeling such loss like I had been cheated. Here I was cheating death yet worrying about menopause. The loss was comparable to the loss I felt for my innocence at twelve years old when I first started my period. Here was Mother Nature again, this time exacting some serious payback for my ungratefulness over thirty years ago.
I must confess that my main reasons for resenting menopause, some might consider superficial. Sure, I was not going to miss the cramping, the heavy flows, and the occasional mishaps, and there was definitely no desire left in me to have more kids. But I was going to miss my body’s natural production of estrogen and the benefits it provided to my body. Benefits such as bone health, supple skin, beautiful hair, healthy well-functioning sex life, and general overall health, that would now be diminished. Am I the only one who thought about these things?
So now, four years after reaching menopause I am learning how to cope with it. I must admit that it’s not as bad as I imagined. Sure, my hair is thinning, the rate of my aging process seems to have increased, I have to work a little harder at maintaining my desired weight, and I have a few occasional hot flashes, but I am also almost four years post AML and transplant and still in remission and that puts all my superficial concerns in perspective.
I’m grateful to be alive, and menopause is the least of my problems. As older women, we have to find what makes us happy and healthy and pursue it with all of our hearts and souls. I try to live a healthy and normal lifestyle. I keep my mind active and functioning with reading and writing and figuring out the mysteries of life. I spend most of my days busy volunteering for a couple of charities and trying to live a stress-free life. I wish I could say, my diet consists only of healthy, organic nutritious foods, but that would be a lie. Food is one of my comforts and getting it right is still a work in progress. What I have gotten right though is my acceptance of menopause. Menopause is a natural part of the aging process in all women, and I give thanks to the Lord every day that I am here to experience it.
Janice has spent over thirty years working in finance while managing her responsibilities as a wife and mother of three boys. These days, she’s passionate about volunteering with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and has developed an appreciation for the calmness and security of a simpler life. Life has been a series of lessons in love, self, resilience, and growing older, all of which she shares in her blog Sincerely Jan.
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