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Women of a Certain Age

We don’t read much about older heroines of a certain age who are going through life changes.  While romance has come a long ways from pregnancy epilogues, there really aren’t many books featuring older women going through menopause or complications from that stage of life.

(If you know of any, please let me know.  I asked on Here Be Magic and didn’t receive very many recommendations.)

Some of it’s the stigma associated with periods and women’s health in general.  A boy was horsing around at school and took Princess’s purse. She yelled, “give me back my tampons!” and he dropped it like it’d caught on fire. For years, I couldn’t even get That Man to pick up a box of pads or tampons at the store for me.

Women are schooled not to talk about menstruation or health issues involving female reproduction. Yeah, it can be gross, but it’s important that we talk about these issues.  I’m trying to be more open with my daughters, even when they plug their ears and try to run away.

I’m 46.  No spring chicken. I started to see some minor changes in my period back in April, which up to that point, had been as regular as Old Faithful. I figured I was just edging into peri-menopause and wasn’t concerned.

Though the next two periods were quite heavy. Heavier than any since high school. Wake up in the middle of the night and change out the super tampon heavy.  I wasn’t a fan, but still not overly concerned.

Then I skipped a month. When I started again in July, it was bad.  But I figured, hey, I’m due. I skipped a month.  I had a pap scheduled, but I had to bump it out two weeks. Then another week. Because the period was still going (it ended up going for 8 weeks, most of them very heavy days). I didn’t want to reschedule a fourth time, so I went to my PCP anyway and said, hey, something’s going on here.

It was light enough that day that she went ahead and did the pap, but warned me that if I had fibroids (which we both suspected at that point), that I might need a hysterectomy. My mom had told me about her experience, but she was in her 50s when she had issues, and she just waited it out. The bleeding gets better once menopause hits.

But I’m years away from menopause yet. This could be going on for 5 or even 10 years. Or more.

And this was a bad period.  Not just in length, but volume.  I couldn’t leave home without changing everything, and taking spares.  An hour tops was how long I could go without changing out everything, super tampon and pad, without changing my clothes. One night we went out for dinner. I’d only used a pad, because it had been lighter a few days (the day of my pap, actually). I had to get up 3 times during dinner to change everything in the public bathroom and used up all my spares before we got home.

Thankfully I work from home for the Evil Day Job, so when it was at its worst, I could easily change my clothes if needed.  And I did, several times, when a meeting ran long, or just because. That’s the bad thing about fibroids. The bleeding is bad, but then there’s a GUSH and it’s just awful.  Nothing’s stopping that flood, not even a fresh super tampon.

My PCP confirmed I had fibroids but also noted my left ovary was larger than usual. She recommended I get to a GYN, so I called my old office.  I had to wait forever, because my doctor is that good, but if anyone was going to be talking about taking anything out or performing some kind of procedure, I wanted it to be her.

I finally saw her on Friday and they did another ultrasound. I definitely do have fibroids and my left ovary is above the “watch” size.  With just fibroids, we could try a few other things, but I’ve had my kids.  I don’t need to preserve my fertility, and as I get older, the risks for cancer go up.  So we decided to just take everything out now while the getting’s good.

Surgery’s scheduled for 11/30.  The sad thing is that when That Man had surgery years ago, all he had to worry about was scheduling time off from work and the rides back and forth to the hospital.  For me, I’ve got to figure out food, house chores, and the dogs. TM has already said he’s not cooking, and the last thing I want to do while trying to heal from surgery is eat nasty McDonald’s every night.  UGH.

So I’m packing my freezer now of homemade comfort foods.  This weekend alone I added two meatloaves and shepherd’s pie.  I’ve also got beef & barley soup ready to freeze, and I’m hoping to get fancy spaghetti sauce and chicken soup in the freezer over the next few weeks.

Of course, this is going to be right in the middle of basketball season with the two youngest girls playing on different nights in different towns/courts, and I won’t be able to drive for at least 2 weeks.  Plus all the practices after school to coordinate.  Luckily Princess is driving, and band will be over, so she can help pick up her sisters as needed.  Both Littlest and Princess have agreed to cook their favorite dishes (tuna casserole and baked ziti), so between them and the freezer, we won’t starve or go broke eating crap out all the time.

Thankfully I work for a great company with excellent benefits, and with Middle’s ACL surgery this year, we’ve already hit our out-of-pocket max.  This won’t cost me anything, and I’m set to take off the month of December to heal without worrying about my paycheck.

I’m still going to try and do NaNoWriMo first!  It’s perfect timing.  We’re still going to host Thanksgiving (another reason to make sure I get the house clean). And maybe after a few weeks of healing, I’ll be ready to write a little later in December and get some nice wordage.

Thanks for your good thoughts over the next few months!

8 thoughts on “Women of a Certain Age

  1. I hope everything goes well! I have small fibroids on the outside, but also needed to get a couple of things *inside* whacked off. I also hold good thoughts that you won’t have hot flashes. I’m 53, and HRT has saved me! Please keep us posted how you’re doing afterwards!

    1. Thank you, Sandy! I’m expecting horrid hot flashes, unfortunately. My mom is still suffering from them after 15 years. My GYN said we’d discuss options if the symptoms get too bad.

  2. I hope everything is good after your surgery. I’m dealing with almost the same thing, though menopause is in the rearview mirror by about 5-6 years. Spotting required a D&C last year, now it’s back. Another D&C scheduled, but I suspect everything will wind up going bye bye in the next few months. The years leading up to menopause, I had periods just like yours. They were going to do an ablation, but then discovered a DVT in my leg and that put a stop to that. By the time the DVT was gone, the periods were mostly gone. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced THOSE kinds of periods at the same time you’re taking blood thinners. I was just glad I had wonderful books like yours to read while I was housebound for 10 days at a time. Good luck, and remember to take it easy afterwards.

    1. Ugh, Robin, I can’t imagine! That must have been horrible. My GYN said we had other options we could try first, like yours – but I’m glad she decided to just jump forward and do the hysterectomy. I’d rather get it over with then have to go back again and again, and my questionable ovary sealed the deal. Aw, hugs, so glad I could help! I will definitely be reading lots too!!!

  3. Will be keeping you in my thoughts Joely, I hope everything goes well!

  4. Many sympathies! Since I’ve had my uterus and ovaries out I certainly don’t miss my periods in the slightest, and mine were rough. :/ But I’m also not much of a fan of being surgically menopausal either.

    Re: books about women who’ve gone through menopause–let me commend to your attention these lists curated by author Catherine Lundoff, who wrote an urban fantasy centered around women who become werewolves when they hit menopause:

  5. I have very serious, very vehement words to say about TM’s refusal to cook. I’m sure you’ve already thought of most of them, so I’ll spare you.

    Reluctantly. And with much tongue-biting.


  6. I hope the healing is going well! I know, I’m a bit late to the party, but wanted to send along positive vibes anyway.

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