Kelly's story: when menopause strikes at 34
Updated: Sep 9, 2019
At 32, Kelly opted for a fertility-sparing treatment for endometrial cancer, with the hope that one day she could be a mama. After realising that she was one of the 'unlucky women' and the treatment didn't work, Kelly had her uterus removed. Today, the 34 years old shares what early menopause is truly likes for a young woman and how to manage it.
My fertility-sparing treatment
After she was diagnosed with uterine cancer (also called womb or endometrial cancer), Kelly tried high-dose hormones to protect her fertility.
This treatment is successful between 50-75% in early stages of the cancer so younger women can go on to carry a pregnancy before hysterectomy.
When you're one of the unlucky women
I was one of the unlucky women where the treatment didn’t work. After 1.5 years of hormones, irritability, weight gain, and uncertainty with cancer still present, I decided to have the hysterectomy to regain quality of life.
During Kelly's surgery, her oncologist unexpectedly found a swollen sentinel lymph node, which came back as positive for microscopic metastatic disease.
Although I was able to keep my ovaries during surgery to avoid menopause so early, due to the lymph node invasion, I had to undergo both external and internal pelvic radiation. The radiation killed my ovaries and put me into menopause at age 34.
Is menopause manageable?
Menopause certainly is manageable, but it’s a daily reminder of all I had to go through—as well as a reminder of the fact that I am infertile and can never have a biological child.
Kelly's 3 secrets to manage an early menopause
It's really hard to go through menopause prematurely at a young age, especially if you've been doing cancer treatments for a while.
Kelly admits that one of the most annoying parts of menopause has been trying to lose the weight she gained while on fertility-sparing treatments, and the weight loss is slow-going. But there's still plenty you can do to manage the symptoms of an early menopause.
1. Take control of your health
For hot flashes and night sweats, my doctor put me on a low dose of antidepressants, which has worked wonders. To ward off bone density loss, I take calcium and vitamin D3 supplements daily and lift weights 2-3 times a week. To avoid premature heart disease, I take omega 3 supplements and resveratrol (red wine will work too!). I have some unexpected acne and skin issues.
2. Use humour
My best advice would be to take symptoms with humour, if possible. All women experience menopause eventually.
3. Tap into the feminine experience
Look to older women like family members or colleagues as a menopause mentors and use your experience to forge new relationships.
Thank you Kelly for sharing your experience and insights. We look forward to seeing you all in the Girls Rocking Cancer Community on Facebook or Instagram. You can also reach out to Kelly on Instagram @healthaftercancer where she chronicles survivorship.
Kelly and Mel