May 10, 2024

Simone Vanden Heuvel’s Menopause Journey

This is a firsthand account submitted through SWHR’s Share Your Story portal, as part of SWHR’s Women’s Health Perspective series.

My story may seem boring compared to others, but I am just now learning that I may have been doing things wrong. I had an emergency total hysterectomy at age 41, due to a tumor on my uterus (ultimately found to be benign). I immediately fell into hot flashes. I actually told the nurse I was coming down with the flu or something after the procedure, ha ha! A hormone therapy (HT) patch was placed on my backside, to be changed weekly.

After a year or so, I found out there was a history of breast cancer on both sides of my family. This prompted me to consult my doctor and make the decision to discontinue the HT patch. I was told at the time that there was a very small chance of getting breast cancer, but I didn’t want the risk at all.

I’m learning now that the decision to stop HT may not have been right for me, based on research I’ve read on the topic from experts like Dr. Pauline Maki, who studies HT and cognition. But I’m also learning that beginning HT late may not be the best answer either. Today, I have night sweats mostly, rarely daytime hot flashes, although they aren’t totally gone. When I was forced into menopause, my doctor told me the hot flashes would last 10 years, and they almost did. Just as it seemed I was almost in the clear, I met my fiancé and the hot flashes and night sweats returned! It is now 10 years later, I’m still with my fiancé, and just the night sweats remain (for the most part). I’m still confused with how best to use HT for me. This topic is where I’ll be starting the conversation with my doctor at my next appointment.