STORIES Breast Cancer Awareness (meno)pause for thought No more chemo, just zolodex, zoladronic acid and 10 years of tamoxifen. Should be a breeze right?? Well turns out maybe not. The aim of the Zolodex and tamoxifen is to lower my estrogen levels so it can’t fuel any remaining cancer cells. Effectively what it is doing is putting me in the menopause. At 36. The needle used once a month for Zoladex! I’d read the side effects when I was prescribed the drugs but I was in the middle of chemo at the time. You could have told me I would be growing extra heads or having my eyeballs scraped out and it still wouldn’t have seemed as bad as chemo. But now I was actually starting them I started to realise the side effects may not be as easy as I first thought. The side effects were things you would normally associate with the menopause, primarily hot flushes and mood swings. Doesn’t sound too bad. Well. Mood swings….more like swaying hammocks in a force 9 Gale! Since losing Toby I more or less gave leave to my emotions. I became very toughened and was often told I came across as the ice queen. I rarely got upset and was always fully in control of my emotions. It became a point of amusement to many but also frustration to others. But whatever way you looked at it I don’t think you’d describe me as moody or overly emotional. Well you can change that now! In the space of a couple of days I had an emotional meltdown where I burst in to tears over something that I would usually have resolved with a hand gesture. Later that night I went into fits of hysterics over something only mildy amusing. I just couldn’t control myself. This was followed the next day by me snapping at my children like a cranky croc. It felt like every emotion, however small, would bubble up and expand inside me until I felt like i was going to explode if I didnt get it out! Unfortunately it bubbles within the space of a few minutes so there isnt time to rationalise or regain any control. People just need to stand back and let me go! Then just to help settle me, Mother Nature throws in her other secret weapon. The hot Flush. Woah mama! Casually walking up the high street I started to feel a bit warm. Then a bit warmer. Then OH MY GOD SOMEONE HAS SET ME ON FIRE!!! I stopped in my tracks and ripped off my coat like it was a coat of flames…… No cooler. So off came the cardigan. Then off came the top. Had I been wearing a bra (a perk of fake boobs…bras aren’t compulsory!), the vest top would’ve been off as well. There I was, standing in the middle of the high street, with a pile of clothes at my feet, still sweating. I daren’t move incase it raised my body temperature by a fraction of a degree. As things started to settle I wandered, still half naked, into boots. Paying for my items looking like I’d just stepped off a Thai beach the cashier said “is it warm outside?!”. I gave a subdued nod and turned round to be greeted by the rest of the shoppers in all their winter coats with icicles hanging from their chin. Clearly not the weather then. These hot flushes have now become a regular fixture. Like the mood swings they offer no warning. I’ll just be merrily going about my business then BAM! INFERNO!! At the moment I can manage them when they hit at home. I can quickly make adjustments to the temp around me and sit still until it passes. But if I’m out and about its unbearable. The worst is in the car. I’m surprised my car hasn’t exploded with the amount I switch the thermostat between high heat and freezing aircon! Another joyous side effect is infertility. I haven’t made a secret of the fact I don’t want more children. I’m more than happy with the two I have and don’t relish the thought of going back and doing it all again. But its always nice to have the choice. Having the decision taken out of your hands is cruel. Knowing how settled I am with how my life is at the moment makes it much easier for me to accept this side effect, but I can’t imagine how hard it would be to go through this before you had finished having children. Does save money on contraception though. Every cloud. All in all menopause, premature, medically forced, or natural, is pretty shit. But its something every woman will have to go through at some point. Makes me think Mother Nature is one vindictive little bitch. But maybe thats the mood swing talking.