Menopause Mondays: Getting Hot with Karen Giblin
Shmirshkies often like to switch things up – we love to remodel. We change the color of our hair, the paint on our walls, the length of our dresses, and we rearrange our furniture at the drop of a hat. Often if we don’t like something, we get rid of it. However, redecorating the shmirshky is not as simple as recovering a throw pillow with the newest trendy fabric.
In Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, I included a chapter titled, “Shmirshky Redecorated” in which I discuss surgical menopause and share the experiences of women who have undergone the removal of their uterus (hysterectomy), their ovaries (oopherectomy/ovariectomy), or both. It’s helpful before having any surgery to seek a second opinion and have open conversations regarding the risks and benefits of the surgical option.
Have your doctor prepare you for the post-surgical hormonal responses that you may experience and answer all of your menopause questions Although this is not a game of Monopoly, you may wake up from surgery holding the – GO DIRECTLY TO MENOPAUSE card. No need to fret, in Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness I created a Shmirshky Daily Symptoms Chart (pages 168-69) that makes it simple and easy to familiarize yourself with the over 34 symptoms of PM&M (perimenopause and menopause). You can use this to chart your menopause symptoms and help your doctor develop a customized post –surgery plan.
I’m excited to introduce you to Karen Giblin, Founder and President of Red Hot Mamas North America, Inc., the nation’s largest menopause help and education program providing mid-life women’s health information and support. Karen created Red Hot Mamas in 1991 after her own experience with surgical menopause. Here is her personal story:
Q: On the Red Hot Mamas website (www.redhotmamas.org), you mention that undergoing surgical menopause led you to start your organization. Do you mind sharing more about what that experience was like?
A: I was 40 years of age when I had to have hysterectomy with the removal of my ovaries (oophorectomy). It was performed because I was experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding and had chronic pelvic pain due to endometriosis. My decision to have this operation was decided upon after having a series of consultations with my gynecologist. Each visit was about 215 minutes in duration and the consultations covered basically the pre-operative information- what would be removed, possible complications, etc. After these discussions, things went pretty much in fast forward, and before I knew it, I was in the hospital recovering from surgery. That is when suddenly I felt the impact of the surgery and I felt so ignorant that I failed to prepare myself for the recovery issues that followed – pain control issues, menopausal symptoms that suddenly appeared which were very disconcerting for me, and I was not armed with knowledge about treatment options to alleviate those symptoms. It became very apparent that I was not properly prepared for the surgery, nor the recovery period thereafter.
My immediate post surgical menopause symptoms were – hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, crawly feelings on my skin, insomnia, fatigue, forgetfulness and irritability. I felt as if I were lost in the Bermuda Triangle as I could not find solutions to these issues.
Q: Wow! It’s devastating to think that surgery may cause as many problems as it solves. What advice can you share with women who may be going through this?
A: Best advice is for those going through either natural or surgical menopause, is to know your body, be able to identify any changes which occur, and become educated about what you can to do to help yourself. Also, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what treatment options are available to ameliorate your symptoms. It’s also vitally important to pay attention to your health through good nutrition and exercise on a regular basis. I also advocate women to have an open line of communication with a healthcare provider and discuss their menopausal concerns. If I had done all of these things, perhaps, my journey as a surgical menopause patient would have been far easier for me.
Q: I absolutely agree! My motto is: Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT. Do you feel that menopause research and resources have changed much since you first went on your personal quest to learn more?
A: Since I went through menopause, there has been an abundance of books, articles and research about menopause and treatment options. There have been headline stories in newspapers and on TV news programs about menopause. Unfortunately, there has been a barrage of mixed messages, which leave women feeling frustrated and confused about what they can do to prepare themselves for menopause and ways they can manage their troublesome symptoms. Women need to see the big picture as they receive information and find a healthcare provider who can carefully explain how they can better control symptoms, have a less turbulent time, and clear recommendations as to how to optimize their health at menopause and beyond.
Q: I encountered the same confusion and frustrations in my own research. I admire what you have done. It is so important for women to understand that they are not alone, to trust how they feel, and get the menopause help and support they deserve. Thank you for your lovely testimonial, by the way (link to testimonial page). Now, I have to ask, how did you come up with the name, Red Hot Mamas?
A: My daughter inadvertently named the program “Red Hot Mamas”. She would see me having hot flashes and turn crimson red and would call me her red hot mama. I thought it was apropos, so I called the program “Red Hot Mamas.”
I just love it!