Early menopause was the least of my problems, but it was certainly the beginning. I knew something wasn’t right, but I accepted simple explanations that undermined and dismised my concerns instead of trusting my intuition. I can’t help but to wonder if these last few weeks may saved my life, starting with attending the WisePause Lifestyle Tour in LA recently, as part of AARP’s Disrupt Aging campaign.
During the conference I was really focused on women’s overall knowledge and concept of aging. Personally, I had already experienced an early menopause, a process which left me feeling completely alone and uninformed. No one knew what I was going through, including my doctors. By the time I began asking for real answers I was post-menopause already. I suffered because I didn’t know or believe I was going through menopause. It happened shortly after having my triplets so doctors attributed many of my symptoms to the difficult pregnancy and stress of bringing home three micro-preemies with extra support needs. Here’s the truth.
Early menopause should have been a red flag.
As a mother, I’ve spent years as a fierce advocate for my children. Somehow, I failed to effectively advocate for myself. The symptoms I had during my early menopause should have inspired me to dig deeper and push harder for answers. I wondered if other women knew more than me or if they felt just as naive. I was curious if the day would be full of awkward moments and silence.
My PR contact, Brady, met me upon arrival. Little did I know that our conversation was about to change my life. She reiterated that the content I would be creating (this post) should be from my own perspective. That was perfect because I always keep it real with my readers. She gave me some suggestions about questions I could ask myself while in attendance. One of her suggestions was to think of what I might want to hear or know more about. Self advocacy was high on my list. Of course, I hate asking others to do things I’m not willing to do myself, so I came home with a renewed commitment to take charge of my health, ask more questions and trust what I know about my own body to gauge concerns. If I would have exercised the same commitment when I began going through menopause, I would not have gone through it so blindly, nor in the absence of medical support.
My mind was racing with ideas about what I wanted to share with everyone. There was so much great information.I planned to write about my experience immediately, but I got derailed. I felt sick. My body was aching. I wasn’t myself. My legs hurt. As some of you already know, I’m recovering from right shoulder surgery, but my left shoulder was also hurting beyond a tolerable threshold. It’s been hurting for a while. My back hurt near my left kidney. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to cry, but even that was a struggle. My eyes felt gritty and dry. This wasn’t the first time, like many of my other symptoms.
I called the advice nurse and decided to only report the symptoms of my legs and kidney pain. The nurse told me I had to pick one issue for the call. My frustration was high but I picked discussing my kidney pain. The nurse discussed my symptoms with a doctor and a urinalysis was ordered. I was advised against going to the emergency department.
Did I listen to that advice? No way! I had already made the commitment to myself and honestly, to all of you. I was going to lead by example. My gut was telling me that more than one thing was wrong and any of those things might be serious.
Two trips to the ER and several trips to the doctor.
I work two days per week at a local hospital doing newborn photography. I was talking to some of the nurses about the conference and what really resonated is that even many nurses are not getting enough information about aging and menopause. Where is the break in information delivery? Many nurses are patient advocates who regularly encourage patients to ask questions, exercise their rights and insist on thorough care. However, many of them also struggle with self advocacy. We need to change this narrative. I don’t remember exactly who said this, but a quote I heard at the conference really stuck with me.
We are living longer lives but not healthier lives.
That, right there! That’s how we DISRUPT AGING! We need to live healthier lives, and that means being informed. We have to accept responsibility for our roles in living healthier lives. I’m not just talking about diet, exercise and general lifestyle. We have to educate ourselves so we can make informed decisions that have healthier outcomes. Our doctors might not answer the questions we forget to ask. If we are not satisfied with the answers, there is nothing wrong with getting a second, third or even fourth opinion.
I was ready. Despite being discouraged from going to the Emergency Department, I went. Then, I went back. To keep the new trend going, I also went to my Primary Care Physician, OB/GYN, Ophthalmologist, Optomotrist, and Sports Medicine Doctor.
I was not okay.
Symptom by symptom, I reviewed all of my concerns with each appropriate medical professional. I insisted on exams, tests and imaging. Some people might think that I got some bad news. Maybe, but let’s spin that perspective. I think it was all great news! I got answers. I got a plan. My future is looking bright and healthier. Here are some of things I found out about my health during my short period of crisis.
- I have blood clots. I’ve already started blood thinners and have a plan with my doctor to determine whether I will need to take them for three months or for my lifetime. Imagine if I would have kept ignoring this! I know it wasn’t the first time.
- Oh, what do you know. It’s a kidney infection! I just finished a round of antibiotics and will have follow up tests to make sure I am infection-free.
- Learning that I have emphysema hit a bit hard, but I’m coping with that reality and have made some immediate changes.
- In addition to my chronically dry eyes, they are not producing enough tears. I’m starting a year-long treatment and am hopeful it will help.
- I was right, there is a tear on my left shoulder, too. To allow for a little more healing from my right shoulder surgery in May, I’ve scheduled surgery for my left shoulder and bicep tendon for mid-December.
I’m doing better!
I feel like I’m on the right track to living a longer, healthier, happier and less naive life.
Early menopause should have been my red flag. That should have been my wakeup call to pay better attention to my own body, ask more questions and insist on better answers. If you’ve had your own red flag issues, it’s not too late to change your narrative. We can do it together. Let’s live better.
Let me just say this, again. When it comes to aging, we are living longer lives but we are not living healthier lives. We have to change that. Let’s DISRUPT AGING!
I don’t exactly what I was expecting, but it was way better!
This event was a lot of fun! The attendees were a wide range of ages. Women of color were represented and celebrated. Ladies kept it real up in there! By the way, it turns out that women don’t just grow old, shrivel up and crave eternal abstinence. That sex drive might out live us all.
There’s so much left for us all to do. Are you ready?
o Ask More.
o Expect More.
o Rest More.
o Laugh More.
o Love More.
o Dress More.
o Undress More.
o Live More.
Who would have ever thought that a little day-trip to the WisePause Lifestyle Tour in LA courtesy of AARP’s Disrupt Aging campaign, would save my life! That’s what happened, though. Just a little change in perspective might have saved me from a pulmonary embolism, brain aneurysm and more. I was not okay, but I am now!
And a special thanks to Brady!
If you want check out some behind-the-scenes, be sure to check out my Instagram, and look on the Travel highlight.