Melanie Sykes - Taking On The Menopause

It’s The Menopause – What Are You Going To Do About It?

I am 47 this year and my friends are all around the same age, some in their early 50’s, and I have become very interested in the menopause, firstly because its going to happen to me obviously and also because I know people going through it.

The pattern is said to be hereditary , so I asked my mum about her story and she had not had any symptoms by the time she was 52yrs but at this time she found out she had breast cancer and the drugs that treated that fast tracked her menopause. Fighting cancer made menopause seem like a walk in the park for her.

I have been reading up about it and to be honest some of the symptoms I’ve had my whole life like anxiety, irritability and poor memory, but mostly I can’t check any more off the list, so it’s not happening yet.

That said I see no harm in preparing myself for it with knowledge and talking to women with different experiences. The hot flashes are the big symptom we all know about, but there are others.

Symptoms of Menopause and Perimenopause

Night sweats

Irregular periods

Weight gain (especially around your waist)

Lowered libido

Dehydration of hair, skin and nails

Mood swings, including depression and anxiety

Osteoporosis – the drop in oestrogen impacts your ability to absorb calcium

Myra Johnson, a friend of mine from the fantastic children’s charity Together For Short Lives, shared her recent experiences with the menopause with me, and why she decided against HRT.

Myra Johnson On Taking Control


New year 2016 didn’t start with the usual bang. It arrived with an unseasonal hot and sticky heat wave – a relentless burning internal fire that wouldn’t go out. It felt like someone had re-set my biological clock as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. I knew menopause was likely – I was 51 – but imagined it would be a gentle visitor, giving me time to adjust. Mine has been violent and unforgiving. But 15 months on, I’ve slowly got to know a new part of me and understand this strange new adventure.

To begin with I just couldn’t cope. At worst, I as having 30 or 40 all-consuming hot flushes day and night. And my period stopped overnight. I’d always been a 28-day cycle girl – you could set your watch by it. The hot flushes were like a tidal wave every morning – making it impossible to put my make up on, get dressed or get ready for work. I thought I’d disappear in a huge puddle. Night time was hideous – my bed turned into a sea – waking up soaked, clammy and exhausted. By day the hot flushes crept up my body in seconds – I’d go from looking normal to bright red on my face, neck, breasts, hands – everywhere – soaked in seconds. You could see the sweat running down my face. Not the look of a supposedly dynamic PR Director. My husband and sons got used to me stripping off wherever I was in the house – walking around naked. Not so easy to do at work – but my colleagues have been lovely and are used to my strange ways – they even made me a special fan. But imagine presenting to a conference room of 100s with that going on!

Hot flushes are only a small part of this new me. My hair is coarse and porous, my nails flake and break, my skin is thinning. I can live with this, but what’s more alarming is what’s going on in my head. At times I’m filled with self-doubt, forgetfulness and lack confidence.

There’s nothing you can do about it. I try and embrace it now – go with the flow. I’ve gone from despair to taking control and taming this “beast”. It’s just another chapter of womanhood – and something you need to experience. That’s why I took an important decision to resist HRT. I don’t want extra hormones or to fool my body. I’m letting it do its thing. I found a welcome friend in the form of high potency Starflower. It’s been a miracle and really dumbed down the hot flushes. Talking about it helps, as does a great diet, exercise and acceptance – but it’s far from easy and I have very dark moments.

There are some positives – after years of being under-weight I’ve gained some welcome curves. No longer completely flat chested! I’m trying to work through it all – and believe that one day I’ll emerge as a bolder, stronger woman, ready for my next adventure.

Myra Johnson is the Director of Communications & Engagement for Together For Short Lives.