Patching Through Change

Patching Through Change

By Cynthia Good

I’d passed the marquee hundreds of times without a second thought. But now, after months of inexplicable symptoms (anxiety, insomnia, racing pulse, joint stiffness and worse), I was desperately seeking tickets to the show.

Menopause The Musical now has special meaning.

I had chalked it up to the pressures of launching a national magazine, dealing with crazy deadlines, raising children and so forth. But my ob-gyn called to say, “You’re in menopause.”

At first she had nodded vaguely as I listed my symptoms, dismissing them with “You’re just stressed.” Now there were conclusive test results.

At the age of 45, I was not prepared for this news. So I went into reporter mode, turning to the Internet for information and solace – but finding little.

There were warnings of impending brittle bones, elevated cholesterol and heart disease. There were threats that synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to combat the troubling symptoms and resulting health problems may result in cancer, stroke or even death. Hmm, any more cheery choices?

But I had to do something?

One night it got so bad that, in a fit of husband’s-snoring-induced rage, I found myself pounding on the poor man’s back.

Where else to turn? Most of my girlfriends weren’t there yet. And if they were, they weren’t talking about it. For generations, menopause has been someting to hide – a taboo topic.

So I visited a slew of doctors, from acupuncturists to endocrinologists. A neurologist confirmed that my headches were the result of estrogen withdrawal and advised “letting nature take its course.” A second gynecologist sent me off with samples of patches and Prozac. An anti-aging physician recommended natural hormones. The internist just didn’t know.

I read four books on the topic, doubled up on yoga classes and began wearing polyester nightshirts. I ate flaxseed by the handful and stocked the refrigerator with everything soy.

Infuriated by the silence surrounding menopause, I checked my ego and began speaking up to pretty much anyone who’d listen, hoping the dialogue would soften the blow and result in more solutions – for me and everyone else.

When a woman in the checkout line at the grocery store began loading soy milk and Snickers bars on the counter, I had to say it: “I’m going through menopause. How about you? Should I skip the black cohash and go straight for the chocolate?” My husband cringed but didn’t run.

At first, I steered clear of the controversial HRT, envisioning the patch to be this giant, dangerous slab of gaffer tape. In desperation one sleepless night, I sliced off a bit of the trial patch and stuck the tiny dot to my abdomen. The symptoms that had seemed to suck the life out of me totally subsided!

My twenty- and thirtysomething co-workers shook their heads with a smirk – now able to make sense of my recent, and unpleasant, personality change. (Sorry, guys!)

I feel like me again with the patch, but I haven’t quite figured it all out. (After all, I am writing this at 1 a.m. because during menopause even Lunesta doesn’t always work.)

The most honest advice I have yet to receive came from Colleen, a consultant for, who admitted there’s no one solution for all women. It’s a matter of trying different things and sharing with each other what we learn, even if it means risking humilation on the editor’s page – or in the grocery store line.

This article originally appeared in the August.September 2006 in PINK Magazine.

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