Age at interview: 48
Diagnosis: Medically-induced early menopause (following treatment for endometriosis)
Age at diagnosis: 43
Background: Jacqueline works part-time as a librarian, and lives in a regional area with her husband and child. She is from a British background.
About Jacqueline: In her early 40s, Jacqueline had her ovaries and uterus removed due to severe pain, later found to be caused by endometriosis. After her surgery, she experienced hot flushes, mood swings, and insomnia. Jacqueline’s gynaecologist had not told her about early menopause; her GP made the diagnosis. She did not take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) due to concerns about breast cancer in her family. Lifestyle and dietary changes have helped alleviate Jacqueline’s menopause symptoms.
More about Jacqueline: In her early 40s, Jacqueline experienced severe pain related to her ovaries and underwent two surgeries. The first surgery involved the removal of one ovary, and the second involved a hysterectomy and removal of her second ovary. During the second surgery, Jacqueline was diagnosed with endometriosis. Her gynaecologist did not tell her that she would experience early menopause, and she was diagnosed by her GP after seeking help for hot flushes, insomnia, mood swings, low libido, and tiredness, which she experienced following her second surgery. Due to concerns regarding a family history of breast cancer, Jacqueline did not take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). However, she was given sleeping tablets to help with insomnia.
Jacqueline recalled that the early days of early menopause were ‘hard.’ She described being in a ‘very emotional state,’ tiredness due to sleep disrupted by night sweats, and ‘aching joints.’ Initially, her hot flushes were almost hourly, which she found ‘debilitating.’
Jacqueline felt she was not given enough information about symptoms of early menopause she might experience following her surgery, nor the chance to have a ‘decent conversation’ with her health practitioners about the condition. She felt that the approach of her gynaecologists was very ‘medical,’ focusing only on the ‘problems’ with her uterus and ovaries. Jacqueline felt that they did not look at her ‘as a complete human being’ going through a ‘huge change,’ and believed that she would have benefitted from a referral to someone to ‘talk about it’ with.
A librarian, Jacqueline read nursing and medical journals and books for ‘reputable sources’ of information about early menopause. She also talked to an older sister who had experienced menopause, and described being grateful for the support of her partner, friends, and work colleagues.
Jacqueline tried taking herbal remedies such as red clover extract and evening primrose oil, but said these did not alleviate her symptoms; she found lifestyle and dietary changes more helpful. To protect her bone and cardiovascular health, Jacqueline takes vitamin D and calcium supplements, and exercises frequently. She also tries to avoid crowds, which she says worsen her hot flushes.
Jacqueline reflected on the importance of accepting that ‘things have changed’ and that she is ‘not the person’ she was ‘before the surgery or menopause.’ She advised other women experiencing early menopause to find people they can speak to because ‘you can’t go through it alone.’ While Jacqueline feels that she is ‘still learning’ how to live with early menopause, she said that it ‘does pass’ and she now thinks it is an ‘opportunity,’ which she finds ‘really empowering.’
 In general a family history of breast cancer does not prevent someone from using HRT.