Brenda Winkle, 50, from Oregon in the USA, is a motivational speaker and educator who shares with us the abrupt way she found out she was post-menopausal!
IN 2019, AT AGE 47, I WAS A single parent to a teenager and working two jobs while running a business. I was stressed and exhausted, ignoring my body’s whispers of intermittent abdominal pain, refusing to slow down.
Those whispers turned into excruciating pain, which led to a life-threatening health crisis and emergency surgery. Turns out it was a gallbladder issue I’d ignored for months. By the time I admitted I needed help, I was so sick I was hospitalised and put on IV fluids with no food or drink by mouth for five days. I then waited for the inflammation in my pancreas to subside so I was stable enough to have surgery to remove a gallstone lodged in the cystic duct of my liver, which had caused liver problems and life-threatening pancreatitis.
After surgery, I kept telling my doctors my body had changed. My periods had stopped; eating dairy gave me gas; my hair was thin and fell out in clumps in the shower every day; my skin was so dry it looked like I had scales on my legs; I gained weight, especially on my belly; I also had night sweats and sleep interruptions. The medical team assured me it was all part of surgical recovery. Some doctors said it was just a shock to my system; others said I was still recovering from the anaesthesia.
My family history showed that my female relatives reached menopause before the age of 50. “That’s impossible,” my doctor said, claiming I was far too young. She told me I was misinterpreting my symptoms and blamed stress and weight gain, then offered me appetite suppressants. I was only eating 1,500 calories a day and still gaining weight. I knew my body needed nutrients and I wasn’t willing to starve myself. But I felt frustration and shame that the only solution offered was to stop eating.
NEW DOCTOR, NEW TESTS
Then COVID came and regular doctor appointments fell by the wayside. In 2021, I moved to a new state and got a new doctor. He asked for the date of my last period, which had been nearly two years prior. Alarmed, he said that wasn’t typical for a woman my age – 49 by then – and recommended invasive biopsies and tests to rule out ovarian cancer and thyroid issues. I suggested starting with something less invasive, such as blood tests. He agreed, so we did that plus several other tests.
But when his email arrived, I was shocked to see, “FSH levels in p