Many years ago, while working in the women’s healthcare industry, I decided that I would not put up with menopause when it came calling. The minute the first flush hit, I would be off to the doctor for a Hormone Replacement therapy (HRT) prescription. I would not be one of those women who, red-face and sweating, stripped off layers of clothing and threw windows open, only to complain a few minutes later that they were cold as they reapplied the layers. Absolutely not in my future thank you very much. I had a plan.
As I approached my mid to late forties, my mind unchanged, the first few signs of change appeared. Undeterred by the bad press surrounding HRT and breast cancer, I firmly believed that HRT was the only way forward for me. In consultation with my family doctor, he confirmed my suspicion that each of my symptoms were indicative of declining oestrogen production. It made perfect sense to rebalance my body with the missing hormones. As I have all the plumbing still in place, I needed two hormones to keep everything healthy. Starting with the smallest dose possible, a transdermal patch the size of my thumbnail, combined with the mini-pill to be taken during the second phase of my cycle, I left the pharmacy full of enthusiasm. After all, based on my work-related knowledge, I had made a logical decision. Feet up and coffee in hand, I began to read the patient information leaflet to refresh my memory.
Being prone to anxiety at the drop of a hat, and skilled at building the proverbial mountain out of miniscule mole hills, this was not a good move. The leaflet read like an A to Z of ways I could die as a result of sticking these pieces of plastic to my body. My gut reaction was to throw the box in the bin, batten down the hatches and ride out the impending storm. However, my scientific head regained control and began to work out when to start the pack, noting the dates in my calendar, setting alarms and reminders. How very logical and organised.
Feeling optimistic that the patch would reduce my symptoms (sweats, flushes, insomnia, anxiety, aching joints) I eagerly awaited the next cycle, ready to slap on a patch. Perimenopause had other ideas. My cycle was no longer the regular ticking clock it once was. Mine had clearly lost track of time. On the verge of randomly starting a pack, the absent cycle eventually reappeared one morning at work. Why do periods always turn up when you’re at work and have to scrabble around for the emergency tampon lurking at the back of the desk drawer? Armed with my patch and the instructions, I skipped off to the ladies loos. Following the instructions to the letter, I selected the appropriate area of skin, made sure it was free from moisturiser, peeled off the backing and stuck it on. Marvelling at the tiny square of plastic I readjusted my clothing, strode back to my desk, a woman taking control of her symptoms, a woman on HRT. How long would it be before I saw improvements? I was prepared to give it three months to do its thing before tinkering with the dose. I had the knowledge and a plan. What could possibly go wrong?
Life had other ideas about my plan. In fact, I’m certain it was sniggering. The patch was exceptionally sticky and developed an affinity for things other than my skin. Hours later, the little plastic square had migrated to my knicker elastic, hanging precariously as it looked for its next destination. Fortunately, I spotted it just as it released its grip and began to free-fall towards the loo. With Jedi reflexes, I snatched it out of thin air and firmly slapped it back on again. Pesky plastic!
This incident was the first of many. Every time it went AWOL, I managed to find the little sticker (I am being polite here) and return it to its rightful place. All except for one incident.
While holidaying in Orlando, we decided to give the roller coasters a miss for one day and relax in one of the water parks. I spotted the ideal flume ride for me. It had just the right amount of speed and thrills combined with a reasonable drop at the end to make it fun. The queue was not horrendous and soon it was my turn. Tucking my elbows close to my sides, firmly crossing my legs, I launched myself down the tube. It was every bit as exciting as it looked, the last drop being the equivalent of a three-storey building. The run-off channel brought me to dramatic halt as I sent an enormous fountain of water over bystanders.
Giggling hysterically, I clambered out while surreptitiously trying to remove my bikini bottoms from between my butt cheeks. This was a common occupation near the flume ride exits. At least my bikini top had stayed put, unlike the poor girl in the next lane. As I finished rearranging the bottoms, I realised I was missing something. Oh heck! My HRT patch had come off in the run-off channel. What was I going to do? Had it washed down the drain or had it attached itself to some unsuspecting soul? Embarrassment got the better of me. I did not wander back to the ride, demanding everyone stop while I looked for it. Nor did I search my fellow holidaymakers for my errant patch. I simply chalked it up to experience, one that generates a little smirk when I think back on it.
HRT and I were not to remain friends for much longer. Following a reappraisal of my menopause management plan, I dropped the medical approach and focussed on neglected parts of me, my mental and spiritual health. I’m glad to say, this approach seems to be working out so far, and I no longer have to spend hours trying to remove sticky fluff from my butt.