Menopause Journal: My Mother, My Menopausal Mentor

I've been monitoring my progress. Not much has happened. Still no period. I got lost on the way to a conference at China Lake, but a mistake in the directions meant everyone got lost. My feet hurt when I get up in the morning. Is that a sign? The weather waivers between hot and cool, and I can't tell whether it's the weather or me. It was definitely hot at my niece's wedding in Louisiana.

That became an opportunity for research. My mother is in her 80s, my cousin her 60s. Each is widowed, but vital and with no obvious ill effects from menopause. They represent both genetic sides of my family. My cousin has a full dose of the "Allen gene"; my mother only married an Allen. They are good mentors, I think. They live in their own homes, teach and travel abroad. My mom drives a sporty Saab and is the trimmest, most fashionable dresser in the family. After the wedding, I asked the two of them, "Were either of you ever diagnosed with menopause?"


They laughed.

I persevered. "Okay, just tell me about menopause."

Both had hysterectomies, but kept their ovaries.

My cousin said, "Well, I may have had a real miserable menopause, but I don't remember it. I don't actually know if I've had it or not."

My mother chimed in, "I must have had it because I'm 85, but I didn't know I was in menopause until it was all over."

My cousin adds, "Unless we've never gone through it. Then I guess we could be in a carnival."

They agreed about the minor annoyances of hot flashes, but nothing traumatic.

"Did your feet hurt when you first got out of bed?" I asked.

"No," said my mom. "Don't believe all the horrible stories you hear about people going through menopause. Don't even listen to them."

Some women are miserable. Somebody should listen to them.

"And if you have symptoms, doctors can give you something to make them better."

"Do you mean hormones? " I asked. Do either of you take them?"

"When I was about 70, Dr. Wilcox said he thought it was a good idea. He gave me an estrogen patch."