Educating Jose

If you’ve been following this blog you know that I’m 48-years-old, married to a 35-year-old man and have left the metropolitan city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada for the small town of Pearl Lagoon in Nicaragua, Central America.  You also know that I’m going through menopause…at least, I think I am. I’ve done my research and know that there are about 34 recorded symptoms tied to menopause. I’ve had a few of them and sometimes all at the same time.  What makes this experience more interesting than I’m sure it usually is, are my husband Jose’s reactions. He speaks a mixture of Creole, Spanish and English and sometimes what and how he says things is hilarious, though he doesn’t mean it to be. He also tries to be very serious and squints to show just how serious he is. To me, his serious face is just too cute!

Most North American men have at least heard about menopause and/or have known a woman, usually a mother or wife, who has passed through it.  They’ve at least seen women fanning themselves or turning bright red when a hot flash strikes or they have heard the talk about the “change”. My husband is a menopause virgin. Until he met me, he had never heard the word nor had he observed any of the typical menopausal woman behaviours. You must understand that in Pearl Lagoon women don’t talk about their menstrual cycles or menopause symptoms quite the way we do in North America. You might hear a woman say she “got sick” which means her monthly visitor has arrived but if you didn’t know those code words, you’d just think she picked up a cold or a stomach virus. To make matters worse, it is hot here! Really hot! So if you see a woman fanning herself, you’d never think she was experiencing a hot flash.

Statistics show that many marriages fail while a woman is going through menopause. This is attributed to the mood swings and loss of libido that can happen during this phase of a woman’s life. I decided that I wanted my less than a year old marriage to be one of the ones that survive menopause. So, in my infinite wisdom I schooled my husband about the 34 symptoms and explained to him some of the behaviours to look for. Me and my big mouth! Now every time I’m irritated with him about something, he says, “Is this part of menopause?” This of course makes me want to strangle him even more than I did before!

I’ve got to him his props though. He has been very patient, understanding, supportive and loving. I’m sure there are times when he’d like to run screaming as far from me as he can, but he just shakes his head and says, “It isn’t as easy as you think”. Then he puts his arms around me and tells me how much he loves me. That’s when I realize how blessed I am to have this young man as my husband. And you know what? I think we’ll make it beyond this first anniversary!

When Will You Reach Menopause?

This is a reprint from a WebMD Feature that was written by Gina Shaw and reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD. I’ve left the links intact.

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It’s a question many women wonder about, especially if you’re thinking about planning a family and your 20s are but a distant memory.

How many more years of fertility might you have, and how much longer will it be before you start experiencing “the change?”

As an obstetrician-gynecologist, Christiane Northrup, MD, of Yarmouth, Maine, has spent years caring for women when something went wrong with their bodies. These days, she doesn’t see patients anymore, devoting her time instead to speaking and writing. At midlife, she has a new plan and a new mission: teach women everything that can go right with their bodies when they reach midlife. What she is proposing may seem nonsensical to some and like a breath of fresh air to others. She wants midlife women…

Here’s what does — and does not influence the age at when a woman reaches menopause.

The Top Factor

There are a number of factors that affect a woman’s age at menopause, but one is more important than any other: the age her mother experienced menopause.

“Menopause is strongly genetically linked, so you’re very likely to fall within a few years either way of the age your mother was at menopause,” says Nanette Santoro, MD, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine and a member of the board of directors of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

This isn’t always true, of course. Some women reach menopause at an unusually early age — before 45 or so — with no known cause, which could be the result of an inherited issue or a one-time genetic mutation. “These can be random events, but can also be passed on,” says Howard Zacur, MD, PhD, who directs the reproductive endocrinology and infertility division at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

So if your mother reached menopause at 40, but her sisters and your grandmother were all around the average age of 50, it’s unclear whether you’ll follow her path or theirs.

But if most of the women in your family, your mother included, reach menopause early, late, or somewhere in the middle, you can eye your calendar with some degree of confidence.

Menopause Age: 4 More Influences

Your mother’s age at menopause is a key factor, but not the only one. Here are four others to consider:

  1. Smoking. No other lifestyle factor does more damage to your ovaries than smoking. So if you smoke and your mother didn’t, you’ll probably reach menopause earlier than she did. If she smoked and you don’t, you probably reach menopause later than she did.
  2. Chemotherapy. Most forms of chemotherapy used in younger women are at least mildly toxic to the ovaries. Many women go through temporary menopause while undergoing chemotherapy; if cycles do return (they don’t always), you can still expect to reach regular menopause a couple of years earlier than you otherwise would have.
  3. Ovarian surgery. “The more you operate on the ovaries, the more healthy tissue gets damaged,” says Marcelle Cedars, MD, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. So if you’ve had diagnostic surgery for endometriosis, for example, Cedars recommends using medical options (such as hormonal suppression) to treat the condition in order to avoid repetitive surgeries.
  4. Ethnicity. “Certain ethnic groups may have menopause at slightly different ages,” says Santoro. “Hispanic and African-American women reach menopause a little earlier, and Chinese and Japanese women a little later, than the average Caucasian woman, who reaches menopause at about age 51.5.” Those are averages; every woman is different.

 

 

The Crying Game

My adventures with menopause continues.

Of the 34 symptoms of menopause I’ve now experienced four of them including: breast pain, hot flashes, body odour change, smell sensitivity. The latest symptom is mood swings.

A person with a mood problem is like a human roller coaster. One minute she’s up, the next minute she’s down.She never seems to be able to get off the ride. Her mood swings are intense, sudden and out of control. Chronic and severe mood swings are a psychological disorder, a health problem every bit as real as a physical ailment. In fact, sometimes they’re the result of a physical problem, like a premenstrual syndrome. And just like a physical problem, they can be treated. You should contact your doctor to get more advice.

I’ve always been very sensitive. As a child you only had to look at me the wrong way to get me crying. As I got older I stopped crying almost altogether because I realized that it wasn’t getting me anywhere except that I would end up with clogged up nostrils and red eyes. Then I had my four children and anything concerning them would have me weeping. When they were little it was Camara’s bicycle accident, Camarran and Caileb’s hernia repairs and Cainen’s coffee table accident. As they got older it was derogatory remarks, broken hearts, concussions, athletic disappointment, injuries from poor choices and having to make difficult choices in their best interests.  Basically, I’m a sucker where my children are concerning.

There are also television commercials, movie trailers and other sentimental acts that make me cry but I can usually see them coming.

So how do I know this is one of the symptoms of menopause?

Easy! It happens at the strangest times, sometimes without provocation, and I can’t control it. It feels as if my heart is breaking—literally!

Here’s the most recent incident. My husband and I were lying in bed early on one just talking and laughing about everyday things like laundry. All of a sudden, I burst into uncontrollable sobs and I can’t stop crying. Poor Jose! He didn’t know what to do. He hugged me and wiped away the tears but he couldn’t keep up with how fast they were coming. He kept asking me what was wrong but I couldn’t even speak to explain to him that I wasn’t crying for any specific reason. It lasted about 10 minutes and just like that it was done. It happened a few more times over the next couple of days and both Jose and I were able to identify what was happening. He would hold me until it passed and I would just roll with the deep sadness as it washed over me and then was followed by hysterical laughter…and more tears!

For some of us women, menopause is a very difficult time. It comes with so many changes that we have no control over. But is also a difficult time for the men who love us. They don’t know what to expect and they don’t know how to help us. It is important for us to share as much with our husbands as we can. Explain to them how we feel. Explain the lack of control we have over the changes that our bodies are experiencing. It will help them to understand and to continue to love us.

If you have experienced this symptom and would like to share please do. It will help your sister in menopause…and her husband.

 

The Fear is Real

I’m scared. No. I’m terrified. At what exactly escapes me but the feeling is real. I can feel it in the pity of my stomach. My heart is pounding and I feel as if I can’t breathe. I’m having an anxiety attack.

I remember the first time I had an anxiety attack. It was the middle of winter about four years ago. I was riding on a subway during morning rush hour. I was all bundled up against the cold Toronto weather and even though I was in the subway car, I was still cold.  I got on at the end of the line so the car was not full yet. By the time the subway had travelled six stations there wasn’t even standing room and many passengers were being left on the platform. All of a sudden I started to feel hot. At that point, I wasn’t even thinking of menopause or hot flashes just that there were too many people in such a small space. As the train entered the tunnel fear gripped me and my heart began to pound loudly in my ears. I frantically unwrapped my scarf, tore the hat from my head and unbuttoned my coat at quickly as I could. At the same time all kinds of horrible thoughts ran through my head—what if we get trapped in the tunnel? What if there is a bomb on the train? I’ll get trampled when everyone panics and tries to get off the train—and I knew I had to try to hold it together at least until we arrived at the next platform. But could I?

I stood up and tried to make my way to the door but we were packed in like sardines and no one was moving.

“Excuse me.” I said to the woman standing in front of me. She looked through me as if I hadn’t said a word so I repeated the words but a bit louder.

“And where would you like me to move to?” she said in an accent I didn’t recognize.

“I’m getting off at the next stop.” I said as calmly as I could.

“Good luck!” she said derisively. And that’s when I lost it.

I started to yell and push “I need to get off this train…let me off this train!” I stepped on feet and pushed people left and right in my rush to get off the train. I made it to the door leaving many grumbling people behind me and banged my fists against the door yelling “let me off this train!” It seemed an eternity before the train pulled into the station. The doors opened in slow motion and I barged out of the subway car and onto the safety of the platform. I stripped off the coat and sweater I had on and stood bent over panting. There would be many more anxiety attacks after that one but they say you never forget your first.

My most recent one was yesterday. My husband and I were spooning in bed watching a Spanish soap opera, he with his arm around my waist and his head just above mine so that I could feel his hot breath on the back of my neck. In an instant I was fearful. I flung his arm and the blanket from around me and sat bolt straight up. I flicked on the lamp on the night table and gulped for air. Luckily, Jose has seen this before and he knows what to do now.

He asks me “Anxiety attack?”

I nod and start to describe the feeling to him but as I talk about it, the feeling intensifies so I stop. I need a distraction. I get out of bed, turn on all the lights and put on music because it is always a good distraction as is movement. So far, these anxiety/panic attacks are the worse part of menopause.

The website http://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com says anxiety can be a vague or intense feeling caused by physical or psychological conditions. A feeling of agitation and loss of emotional control that may be associated with panic attacks and physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and palpitations. The frequency of anxiety can range from a one-time event to recurring episodes. Early diagnosis may aid early recovery, prevent the disorder from becoming worse and possibly prevent the disorder from developing into depression.

Panic disorder is a significant and debilitating emotional state characterized by overwhelming fear and anxiety. These feelings can be vague or intense caused by physical or psychological conditions. The frequency can range from a one-time event to recurring episodes. If your life is totally disrupted by this symptom, better contact your doctor.

I did see my doctor about these attacks and of course, she prescribed medication that can become very addictive. I only took it once when I need to have an MRI and I knew that I would lose it inside that machine. Instead, I distract myself as best I can. I turn on the lights and I move my body by dancing or exercising and that seems to help.

If you have ever had an anxiety or panic attack, please leave a comment about what you do to cope with them. You’ll be helping your sister in menopause.

Whoo, hot flash!

My husband Jose asks the best questions. As I’m fanning myself and saying “Whoo, hot flash!” he looks at me innocently and asks, “What is a hot flash?”

Now you have to understand that he’s a young man of 35 and he’s from a Central American country so a hot flash is not necessarily something he has been exposed to. On top of that is the fact that his English skills are good but he doesn’t understand all the North American terms and euphemisms so I try to find the words to explain it to him using analogies because that he understands clearly.

“Well,” I begin searching for the right words as I continue fanning “it is like a fever but your body temperature rises from normal suddenly and you are burning up and sweating.”

“Does it hurt?” Is his next questions, because there can never be just one.

“No it doesn’t hurt but it makes me very uncomfortable and sweaty.” I tell him.

“Is it dangerous?” He queries.

“Only if you get between me and relief!” I chuckle remembering a scene from Sex and the City 2 where Samantha has a hot flash while in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and strips off her clothes in front of a group of traditional Muslim men. She didn’t care that she could go to jail or be killed for her “nudity”. All she cared about was cooling down.

“And how long is that going to last?” he ventures.

“It is just another one of the 34 symptoms of menopause baby, so your guess is as good as mine.” I concede.

“Women really have a hard time with their periods and now this menopause thing.” He says scratching his head.

“You said a mouthful.” I laugh.

Fortunately, not all women experience hot flashes as they go through menopause. The website www.34-symptoms-menopause.com says that about 75 to 85% of American women get hot flashes. It is described as a “transient sensation of warmth or heat” that spreads over the body and creates a flushing or redness on the skin. The cause is a decreased supply of the estrogen hormone. The night time version of hot flashes is called night sweats.

I’ll tell you all about my episodes of night sweats another time.

My hot flashes are not frequent and they are mild so I haven’t looked at any treatments or remedies but lease leave me a comment about your worse hot flash or what you do to keep cool. You’ll be helping your sister in menopause.

 

How Long is This Going to Last?

My breasts hurt. They have been hurting for about a week now. So bad in fact that I don’t want to touch them and I sure as heck don’t want them touched by anybody else.

Like any breast lover, my husband believes a woman’s breasts are to be played with and enjoyed especially as an integral part of foreplay. So imagine how miserable my poor husband is that he can’t come close to my chest without me wincing in anticipation of pain. He asks the obvious questions. “Does it hurt here?” as he pokes and prods by tender mammary glands. “Does it hurt today?” And finally after a week of breastlessness, he asks the big question, “How long is this going to last?”

I look at him quizzically because I don’t understand the question. I wonder if he is talking about my breast pain or if he has expanded the topic to menopause. I assume we are still talking about my breasts and offer, “Well it is normal up to about two months if the pain isn’t too bad.”

“Two months?” he says in disbelief.

“I think that is the worst case scenario.” I respond trying to comfort him.

“I hope so” He says “because it would be very hard for me not to touch the girls for that long.”

I choke back laughter at the sad look on his face. You’d think someone close to him had died! “Hard for him! I’m the one in pain!”

Then he asks the big follow-up questions. “How long is this menopause thing going to take?”

This time I can’t help but laugh. When I finally find my voice I answer, “Only God knows!”

“What?!” he says.

“Baby, I’m only perimenopausal. I’m not even really in it yet.” I chuckle. “It takes years.”

“So I’m in for a long hard time” he sighs.

“At least we’ll be going through it together.” I offer.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t make him feel any better.

My research indicates that pain, soreness, or tenderness in one or both breasts can occur in menopause. It can be generalized discomfort and pain associated with touching or application of pressure to breast. It can be likened to the pain just prior to a period or when you just start breastfeeding. Consult your doctor if the pain is severe or persists for two months or more, also if the breast pain is accompanied by a breast lump or nipple discharge.

I’ve tried hot towels, cold towels and pain relievers. If you have experienced breast pain and would like to share your story or tricks for pain relief please do. You’ll be helping your sister in menopause.

What’s that smell?

My husband Jose, yes we got married in July 2012, complains that I’m rude to him. There apparently have been times when I’ve told him that he stinks and needs to go take a shower. He would not complain. He would go bathe with bath gel but I’d still tell him he smells. So he’d go back and bathe again with sweet-smelling soap but for me the odor lingered. So his third trip to the shower would be without soap, gel or anything and I would finally be satisfied that the odor was gone.

And then there were the times I would make him brush his teeth multiple times before I’d allow him to kiss me. He says that some days he would cry because he doesn’t understand why I’m treating him badly when all he is trying to do is make me happy.

Of course, I don’t remember any of this and am quite appalled that I would put the poor dear through all that.

Now I know that changes in body odor is one of the 34 symptoms of menopause but no one said anything about a heightened sense of smell!

My poor husband can’t wear anything with a scent and if you know Jose you know how much he loves cologne, scented lotions and even his deodorant is scented. So he’s having a real hard time with me and this particular outcome of menopause.

I’m 47 now and the doctor doesn’t quite think I’ve started menopause, but rather thinks that I am peri-menopausal. Jose could tell you different! Thankfully he loves me and is in it to the finish so puts up with all the changes that are happening and that are to come. Luckily he believes that “talking is understanding” so we do a lot of talking to try to maintain our relationship. We also try to continue to have a lot of sex but we are starting to notice changes in that area to. But that’s another post topic.

So I want to hear from you. Are you experiencing any changes in body odor or sensitivity to odors? Please leave me a comment.

 

 

Peaking Sexually

A couple of year ago I celebrated my 45th birthday and nervously waited for my libido to kiss me on the cheek, look tearfully into my eyes and say a heartbreaking, final good-bye. I’m happy to report that that didn’t happen. In fact what did happen, albeit a few days after my birthday, was some of the best toe-curling, expletives eliciting sex I’ve ever had! I’ll apologize to my children for what I’m about to write because no one wants to know that their parents have sex, never mind great sex!

I’ve been told that a woman doesn’t reach her sexual peak until sometime in her late 30s or early 40s but that by 45 it is all over and we can only look forward to being frigid and needing no man but God. While God and I have a great relationship, I need someone with more of a physical presence in my life than Him. So while I was looking forward to the joys of 45–no more doing things on others terms and finally being my own woman–I was not looking forward to sending my libido packing and was thrilled that that dreaded moment failed to materialize.

My partner at the time was almost 10 years older than me and he actually complained that he wasn’t 18-years-old and couldn’t keep up with my appetite. He was actually quite capable of keeping up with me and often I was the one begging for a food and water break!

Fast forward almost two years. I’m almost 47, and I am in a very different relationship. This partner is 12 years my junior, yes, that makes me a cougar, though he pursued me! My libido is very much alive and kicking and we are having sex at least three times per day and not just run-of-the-mill maintenance sex but sweat-dripping, multiple orgasm producing sex. This young man is a sex machine!

This blog will explore a number of issues including the older woman and younger man union and sex after 40, but it will also explore the onset of menopause and its effects on sex and relationships. We will actually delve into the 34 identified symptoms of menopause. Did you know there were that many? I didn’t know until I started to experience all 34 symptoms…at the same time! I tell you about how my young man reacted one particularly hormonal day.

I hope you’ll join me for this next exciting chapter in my life and that you’ll share your stories.

Loving sex in my 40s!