TV presenter Trisha Goddard, 63, went through the menopause while being treated for breast cancer.
When my doctor said: “You’re perimenopausal,” I replied: “What does that mean?”
I was 50, had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and had never even heard the word before.
But when I Googled it, it made so much sense.
My periods had always been erratic, but over the previous two years, they’d become further apart and I’d been having mood swings.
I had off days, low moods and a feeling of “urgh”. I’d also been forgetful and struggled to concentrate.
I’ve worked in television for many years, and I never got nervous, but I’d been experiencing slight anxiety and I didn’t know why.
There was nothing I could put my finger on. It was like: “I don’t have anything to feel like this about?”
I’d also had a huge loss of libido, but at the time I thought it was because I didn’t fancy my then-husband [psychotherapist Peter Gianfrancesco, 60] any more.
My mum had died four years before on July 24, 2004, so I’d wondered if my symptoms were caused by grief.
I’d also had mental-health issues in the past and I thought: “Please tell me I’m not going into depression!”
When I had another period after my first bout of chemotherapy, the doctors freaked out because my cancer was oestrogen-linked, and the idea was to kill off all oestrogen.
So they upped my dose of chemo and I basically went through the menopause in 48 hours – it normally takes three to five years, so it was like being thrown at a brick wall.
Everything was more severe because it was drug-induced, and I had horrific hot flushes.
My mindset was positive though, because it meant chemo was working and my life was being saved. They might not be nice, but it would have a positive outcome.
The fact my breast cancer was oestrogen-fuelled meant I couldn’t have HRT, but I found red-clover tea to be a godsend.
I discovered it in a tea shop in Norfolk halfway through my chemo treatment in 2008, when my make-up was running down my face and the woman behind the counter said: “You’re having a hot flush! Have you tried red-clover tea?”
Now I have it every evening.
The menopause meant I had to make other adjustments, too. My whole life I’ve worn nighties, but I don’t wear one any more.
The vaginal dryness I experienced caused soreness and chafing when I ran long distances, but I discovered non-hormonal, moisturising pessaries, which were a revelation.
I divorced Peter in 2017. Our problems weren’t just about libido – they were about lack of connection and the whole thing, but my symptoms threw fuel on the fire.
If you understand the reasons for someone’s behaviour, you can support them, but if you don’t, then it’s a whole different take.
The menopause isn’t a feminist issue, it’s an education issue.
Men should know as much about it as women, because relationships suffer from women being told they’re “moody” or “frigid” or “no fun” when actually they’re going through the menopause.
Peter was supportive when I was having chemo, but neither of us even knew about the perimenopause.
When schools teach children about the birds and the bees, I think they should teach them about the menopause, too.
As parents, we need to talk to our children about it. We should explain that it’s a natural part of life, so it’s not hush-hush.
Mindset matters. I take the view that as we reach menopause, we become wise, influential, and strong. Rather than mourning, we should celebrate becoming leaders of women.
- Listen to Trisha’s TalkRadio show Saturdays, 1-4pm. Follow Trisha on Instagram @therealtrishagoddard.
What is the menopause and what age does it usually start?
Menopause is a natural part of ageing, which usually happens when a woman is between the age of 45 and 55.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to go through menopause is 51.
It occurs when oestrogen levels in the body start to decline.
During this time periods become less frequent or they can suddenly stop, and after menopause occurs women will be unable to become pregnant naturally.
Around one in 100 women experience menopause before the age of 40, and this is known as premature ovarian insufficiency or premature menopause.
Many celebrities have spoken out about their own experiences, including Lisa Snowdon, Davina McCall, Michelle Heaton and Zoe Hardman.
What are the symptoms?
Menopausal symptoms can start months or years before your periods stop, and can last until four years or longer after your last period.
- Hot flushes
- Changing or irregular periods
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Anxiety and loss of confidence
- Low mood, irritability and depression
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex
- Reduced libido (sex drive)
- Problems with concentration or memory
- Weight gain
- Bladder control
Fabulous Menopause Matters
An estimated one in five of the UK’s population are currently experiencing it.
Yet the menopause is still whispered in hush tones like it’s something to be embarrassed about.
The stigma attached to the transition means women have been suffering in silence for centuries.
The Sun are determined to change that, launching the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign to give the taboo a long-awaited kick, and get women the support they need.
The campaign has three aims:
- To make HRT free in England
- To get every workplace to have a menopause policy to provide support
- To bust taboos around the menopause
The campaign has been backed by a host of influential figures including Baroness Karren Brady CBE, celebrities Lisa Snowdon, Jane Moore, Michelle Heaton, Zoe Hardman, Saira Khan, Trisha Goddard, as well as Dr Louise Newson, Carolyn Harris MP, Jess Phillips MP, Caroline Nokes MP and Rachel Maclean MP.
Exclusive research commissioned by Fabulous, which surveyed 2,000 British women aged 45-65 who are going through or have been through the menopause, found that 49% of women suffered feelings of depression, while 7% felt suicidal while going through the menopause.
50% of respondents said there is not enough support out there for menopausal women, which is simply not good enough. It’s time to change that.