Helen Seymour is in perimenopause, or at least she thinks she is. In her weekly column we will follow her on her journey towards the menopause, learning as she does all about the big M.
“How’s the libido?”
“It’s good. It’s great actually.”
“Better than before?”
I’m back in Professor Studd’s offices in London for my three-month check-up. I’ve brought a complete set of blood tests with me. His blood tests cost £250, and I can get them done for free on the public health system in Dublin, so I bring them with me. Professor Studd studies the results for a moment, making growly noises.
“Your oestrogen and testosterone are too high,” he says. “I’m going to lower the dose. We’ll take you from 3 squirts of oestrogen daily, down to 2 squirts daily, and we’ll reduce the testosterone from once every three days to once every four days. How are you feeling?”
“Amazing” I reply.
“Hot flashes, temper, anxiety, headaches?”
“All gone” I say.
I tell him how unbelievably brilliant I am feeling. I tell him how my close friends have all noticed significant changes in me, and that I can track those changes directly in line with taking HRT. I tell him, truthfully, that I never want to come off it.
“How long can I stay on it?” I say.
“Oh, I think until you’re about 95,” he says smiling.
“Excellent” I say.
He’s pretending he’s joking, and I’m pretending to smile at the joke but we are both completely serious. At least I hope we are, because at this stage, you would have to lock me up to take me off HRT. We discuss a recent mammogram I’ve had, then he checks my breasts. “Normal” he declares, and then he picks up a small recorder and begins to dictate a letter to my GP in Dublin, as is standard procedure. There are photographs on the walls of Professor Studd shaking hands with the queen. He is younger. The queen is also younger. She’s wearing a yellow dress, and from the colour tone of the photos, it looks like they were taken in the late 70s, which would put the queen in her early fifties.
I noticed these photos on my visit last October, and when I first saw them, I thought “Oh that’s nice, he met the queen”. But now, a fresh and much more interesting thought occurs to me — was the queen on HRT? Oh my lord, she must have been. Why else would she be shaking hands with Professor Studd? Why else would she be smiling at him like that?
Why else would she have had the energy to carry out those royal duties? Endless tours of foreign countries, standing in the hot sun for hours on end. And even today, at 92 years of age, her hair, her skin, her health and vitality have all the hallmarks of a woman who took HRT.
And now I come to think of it, the queen mother lived to a ripe old age, and she looked marvellous as well. Oh my goodness, the Royal Family takes HRT! I look at the photos of Professor Studd shaking hands with the queen and I imagine the conversation.
“How’s everything Ma’am?”
“Hot Flashes gone?”
“Completely. We toured India and Dubai, without incident.”
“And the libido?”
“Splendid. Phillip is delighted with the results. As am I.”
It really would make sense if she was on HRT. And then another thought occurs to me. If you see a strong successful woman in her fifties, looking great and killing it at her chosen profession, chances are she’s on HRT. Yes, Michelle Obama, I am talking to you. And Oprah. There is no way those A-list superwomen are getting through the crazy hormone stuff of menopause without a little TLC from the HRT. Ellen Degeneres. There’s another one. And yet, very few of them talk about it. Why?
I’m having coffee with Michelle next week. I’ll let you know what she says. Just kidding. But I might write to Ellen. See if we can get her to open a show with the words “Let’s talk about oestrogen”. If Ellen can come out on national TV, she can definitely start breaking a few of the taboos around menopause.
A closing note on my trip to Professor Studd. He has reduced my oestrogen and testosterone based on my blood test results. So even though I am feeling fabulous, it is important, particularly in the first year, to keep an eye on things as the hormones settle in, and to readjust if necessary. This is one of the benefits of being with a doctor whose life’s work has been dedicated to menopause, and who is treating you for nothing but that. Their sole focus is your menopause health.
Ireland’s first dedicated Menopause Clinic “The Menopause Hub” opened its doors in December 2018. Contact Loretta Dignam on (01) 2107948 or 086-8146603, or visit www.themenopausehub.ie for details.