By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: July 15, 2010
I was 40 years of age when I had to have a hysterectomy with removal of my ovaries (oophorectomy). The reason for my surgery was to stop abnormal and heavy bleeding and pain which was occurring during my menstrual cycles. When I first was told I needed surgery, I sought out various medical opinions and all the doctors agreed that I needed to have this surgical procedure. I had a great doctor and I was getting care at a world-renowned medical center in Connecticut.
However, in retrospect, I now know that I did not ask the enough questions while contemplating this procedure. I would have liked basic information about reasons for performing hysterectomy, types of hysterectomy procedures, what were my options, preparation before procedure performed, and issues related to stay in hospital. I did not know things like postoperative recovery time and the need for hormone therapy and its many adjustments that had to be made after surgery.
Hysterectomy was an elective surgery and my decision to have this operation was decided upon after having a series of consultations with my gynecologist; each visit about 15 minutes. 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 quite 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 and the recovery period thereafter.
My immediate symptoms were troublesome and problematic affecting my quality of life – hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, insomnia, fatigue and major forgetfulness. I felt as if I was lost in the Bermuda Triangle and I certainly could not find solutions for these disrupting concerns.
When returning home from the hospital, a friend drove and accompanied me to a local book store. I needed to find answers. What was happening to my body and my emotions? I was embarrassed to ask the store clerk where I could find a book on menopause. And, in 1991, there weren’t many books out there. I found one book written by Dr. Lila Nactigall.
When walking to the counter to pay for the book, my embarrassment took over, and I hid it under magazines to avoid people seeing me buying a book on menopause. At that time, menopause was a mystery to me and I did not want to openly admit to anyone that I was in the throes of it. We’ve come a long way since that time and so have I. In fact, I’ve even co- authored a book with Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, for clinicians entitled Manual of Management Counseling for the Perimenopausal and Menopausal Patient…A Clinician’s Guide. And another new book which I co-authored with Dr. Mache Seibel entitled Eat To Defeat Menopause.
I think I was blessed somehow with my experience of menopause. Being a public official, serving my third term in office (6 years) as Selectman (Town of Ridgefield, CT.), many women heard that I had a hysterectomy. They began calling me. They were breaking the silence about menopause. At first I thought it was to find out how I was feeling, but it was not.
They were calling me in quest of information about menopause – both natural and surgical menopause. I knew at that time a new direction needed to be taken in women’s healthcare as menopausal health needs of women were not being adequately addressed in the typical office visit with their gynecologists.
I thank these women for sharing intimate details about their menopause experience with me and for their willingness to discuss the positive and negative aspects about menopause. That is why I passionately embarked on developing Red Hot Mamas – to specifically help women obtain necessary information which equips them to communicate more effectively with their healthcare providers and share in decision making in efforts to optimize their health. Red Hot Mamas is designed to help women understand what to expect when menopause arrives and provide strategies to help them better manage its course. I always say, “Take charge of menopause before it takes charge of you.” As a result of our educational efforts, we are now the nation’s largest menopause education program and have worked in over 200 hospitals and physician group practices in the USA and in Canada, providing free monthly educational programs to women.
We’ve reached into every nook and cranny of the menopause world providing menopause education. Our free, monthly programs are offered at numerous sites across North America. Our website www.redhotmamas.org has received numerous health e awards and this newsletter is one more resource for women to learn and find information about menopause and their health.
We’ve paid attention to the health needs of women in the menopause transition and provided them an opportunity to gain access to important health information. And, everyone loves our name Red Hot Mamas. I’ve saved the best for last. After I had my oophorectomy in 1991, my young daughter used to say “You’re a red hot mama.” I thought this name was apropos and I named our program Red Hot Mamas Menopause Management Education Programs.