Katherine had a premature menopause following a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s disease and treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She was prescribed the pill for many years before starting HRT. She finds support in an early menopause group.
At the age of 20, Katherine was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes. A few months after finishing chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment she began getting lots of hot flushes and feeling really strange; as well as being emotional, having night sweats and skin rashes. Fearing that the cancer had returned, she was somewhat relieved when, following blood tests, her GP confirmed that she was experiencing a premature menopause; a side effect of her treatment. Thinking that the diagnosis might reverse itself with time, Katherine’s GP prescribed the contraceptive pill.
In the years which followed, Katherine continued to take the pill. Yet while this relieved her symptoms, she received little support or advice about premature menopause. Despite mentioning it to a number of doctors, including her cancer specialist, she felt that nobody understood or didn’t think it really was very important;. Finally referred to a menopause clinic twelve years later, Katherine felt reassured that she was in the right place and talking to people who have the right experience;.
Following tests at the clinic, Katherine was put on HRT which has given her a lot more energy;. Keen to avoid the risk of osteoporosis associated with premature menopause, she intends to stay on HRT indefinitely. She has been particularly impressed by the support offered by the early menopause group at the clinic. Group meetings, run by a specialist menopause nurse, have provided a valuable forum for the exchange of information and an opportunity for Katherine to meet other women going through a premature menopause and to share experiences.
From a physical point of view, the menopause has not been a big deal; for Katherine compared to having cancer. She is thankful just to be alive and healthy. What it does mean, however, is not being able to have children. This has become more poignant in recent years as her friends have started having children. She is hopeful, however, that through egg donation, adoption or fostering she may be able to become a mother in the future.
Katherine was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in November 2009.