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Menopause Journal: Can I sail through menopause?

Life During Menopause

Sally died of lung cancer when she was 61. She must have been menopausal during our sailing years. At night we'd rock in our cradle berths and talk about everything—our children, our parents, our work, religion, men, health, our own childhood antics or dreams of sailing in the Caribbean. But menopause never came up. I don't know whether she took hormones or not. I do know that she was a strong woman and faced death as another adventure, gathering friends and family around to see her off on another voyage.

Sally's faith was not in technology. The toilet on her boat was a green sand pail adorned with the ABC's. She had no radio, no radar, no depth finder. The motor never worked. When there was no wind we'd wait, row, or depend on the kindness of strangers for a tow.

And, naturally, I learned that losses are inevitable. Hats, glasses, buckets, even the spaghetti I was draining for supper went overboard.

Since Sally's death, I've continued to sail. I have my own boat and have learned to get and use information from multiple sources. I have an engine that usually works, a radio, a depth finder and, like Sally, a compass and charts (maps of the water that show depth, rocks and navigational markers). I'm in awe of the people who sailed before waters were charted. And I'm grateful. Charts give me the information, all too frequently, that I'm not where I think I am. It's strange how another woman's experience, medical reports, measurements and charts can do the same.

Sailing is better documented than menopause, the waters better marked. Sailing is seeing, sensing, adjusting and gaining perspective. It makes me keener.

When charting a course, I consider alternatives based on the particulars of the situation. Sometimes it makes sense to go where the wind takes you. For my menopausal journey, I've started gathering information. But I'm trying to chart a course for a voyage that's already under way.