My Cancer Story: A Ladies Room Meltdown

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Closed Door

When I found out in June 2014 that I needed a complete hysterectomy, I asked my oncologist if I should expect mood changes.

“Most likely not,” she said, “since you’re well into menopause. But if you do, they’ll start at three weeks. That’s when all your residual estrogen will be gone.”

I stood in the shower three weeks later, tears running down my face. This has been hard, I thought. I’m probably just reacting to all I’ve been through.

But gradually, as the weeks went by, my mood darkened and the crying increased. By the time Cliff and I arrived on Bald Head Island for a four day vacation in October, I was experiencing what I can best describe as a deep gloom. The gloom would sometimes envelop me for an hour or two; other times it lasted for several days.

Our first night on the island, we stepped into one of our favorite haunts, the bar in the Bald Head Island Club. Soon we were chatting with a couple celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary.

Ten minutes later, the husband called out, “Heck, we’ve been married 53 years. We don’t need to sit with each other. Let’s switch places!” The wife jumped off her bar stool, and Cliff traded places with her.

The wife was quirky, sending out sentences that were difficult to interpret. I struggled to converse with her. I looked over at Cliff, laughing away with the husband. The tears started to roll. I slipped of my stool and headed for the the ladies room.

Now an important part of this story is that the ladies room at the Bald Head Island Club is just about the prettiest ladies room I know. A visit there makes for a festive bathroom trip.

But no matter. Not tonight.

I cried as I walked into the stall.

Open Door

I cried in the stall.

I cried at the sink.

???????????????????????????????

I cried in front of the seahorse print.

Seahorse

And that’s when I knew.

If you cry in a beautiful ladies room while an eccentric couple and your husband gab at the bar, you are not a happy person. I like quirk. I love characters. I can make conversation with a flea, and I’ve never thought husbands and wives need to stick together like Velcro. This was not me!

Hormones (or lack thereof) had transformed me into a sad shadow of my former self. I needed help.

Photo Credit:  Thanks to my new friend Margot for the stunning ladies room photos!

(The story will continue in the next blog post…)

 

20 responses »

  1. This is so poignant. I hope there is a happy sequel.

    I’ve read that maca powder is good for female related mood concerns. I am taking some because it is touted as being good for many things. Not sure how it might be helping or not helping.

  2. I had a similar event recently, I think I need some maca, what is it? I feel like there is very little expertise in dealing with these sorts of menopause problems, I would love to be able to find some good advice but so far, no luck.

  3. I use macafem and it has helped so very much with various menopause symptoms including moods. I swear by it. Have been taking the minimal dose for two ish years now. http://Www.macafem.com if you are intersted. I played around with dosage for awhile but now only need minimum. Good website.

  4. Wondering…is your new friend Margot (the photographer) the quirky wife from the bar?

    How about that for a sentence 🙂

    Mind boggling what hormones, and lack of them, can do to us! Hope your feeling better these days.

    • Nope. I met Margot later in the weekend and since she lives part-time on the island, I asked her to go back and take the photos for me. I bet she thought I was a bit wacky (which I am!) Anyway, she got great photos! I do hope to see the odd lady again since she lives on the island. I want to try to be sweeter to her another time and see how it all goes.

  5. I can really identify with how hormones can affect mood in ways that can be devastating. In my case, although I did have a hysterectomy (post-menopause), these problems overwhelmed me as far back as perimenopause. Something was terribly wrong for sure, when I had feelings of doom and despair on vacation under the star-studded night sky and amongst the warm-evening Plumeria breezes of my favorite place – the Big Island of Hawaii. I hope that your further posts on this, of course, will bring with them all of the solutions that worked for you!

    In researching this area, I found that women who retain their ovaries post menopause continue to produce androgens within the ovaries. Indeed, there is one study in which researchers found that even estrogen continued to be produced in the postmenopausal ovary (as reported in 2013 within the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism). So, having your ovaries removed (even after menopause) can definitely affect hormones. But, how can these hormonal differences
    influence mood?

    As Dr. Uwe Rohr indicated, in a 2002 article in the journal Maturitas, when there is an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone, and/or when both may be low, this can be associated with depression in women. Indeed, too much, or on the opposite end too little testosterone have both been associated with depression in women.

    Dr. Rohr also noted that following surgical removal of the ovaries, androgen levels have been reported to decline as much as 70% within 24 hours! So, it isn’t surprising that women might experience depression or mood swings following hysterectomy that includes removal of
    ovaries.

    What becomes essential to know here is that androgens made from our post-menopausal ovaries can be converted to estrogens outside of the ovaries! Some of the androgens produced by our postmenopausal ovaries can be later synthesized into estrogens in certain tissues. This would be particularly important if lack of estrogen was leading to mood disorders. Many of us really feel this lack of estrogen, and any post-menopausal ovarian estrogen (noted earlier), albeit in small amounts, would be absent (in the event of an ovariectomy). This would then worsen our already low stock-pile of this sadly “deprived” hormone. Additionally, if low testosterone can be associated with depression, then this could be a dramatically significant problem, too.

    I’ve personally found that light use of a non-prescription phytoestrogen cream, along with taking some “Holy Basil Leaf” extract capsules (found to reduce anxiety in some studies) help me to control some feelings of depression (via phytoestrogen) and anxiety (via Holy Basil
    Leaf Extract). I use the phytoestrogen occasionally (in the recommended amounts) on my arms – the inside of my elbow and underside of my upper arms- where the skin is thin and the estrogen easily absorbed. These two remedies do really help me, as well as taking some calcium/magnesium tablets that have a calming effect as well!

    Barbara, I’m still working on this subject of anxiety, depression, and menopause! When I get things a bit more complete, I will indeed, send you that post I promised!

    ——————————————————–

    • Phyllis,

      Thanks so much. Great info and I certainly look forward to your blog post (or several posts as your time permits). Love the name “Holy Basil Leaf!!” That sounds like it could heal from its name alone.

      • Hi Barbara,

        Just a few more thoughts. How come my few thoughts seem to take up a whole page?! But, here they are, and hope they might be of help to some:

        This is such an important, and very fascinating discussion! Maca seems to have potential to decrease depression and anxiety without any direct effect on androgens and estrogens within the body. Here’s the link to the research: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18784609. Additionally, in some very recent animal research, it seemed to increase noradrenaline and dopamine levels, both of which may have important roles in the process of depression (Here’s the link to the research: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24730393) This is interesting, and encouraging!

        My approach that I talked about in my earlier post as to using phytoestrogen to help decrease and prevent some feelings of depression came through my direct experiences (and also, from knowing about research that showed estrogen to help some women with depression). I found that the prescription for “estriol” cream from a compounding
        pharmacy that I had used throughout most of my 50’s seemed to fend off feelings of depression. But, somewhere towards the middle of that decade, it was working less well.

        I decided to try a pharmaceutical bioidentical hormone, “Estrace” or bioidentical estradiol. It seemed to work better. Only problem was that I began to find that I was having sustained heart palpitations when the estrogen started to “wear off.” These were pretty long-lasting, and I felt so uncomfortable with the palpitations that I discontinued the Estrace. This is when I found out that a non-prescription brand of Phytoestrogen could produce some of the same effects without the troubling heart palpitations.

        However, and this is probably critically important, I also boosted dopamine levels with a natural form of dopamine (derived from mucuna pruriens seed). Mucuna Pruriens (or Velvet Bean) has been used in Ayurvedic Medicine for thousands of years. The capsules that I use contain 15% L-Dopa – the immediate precursor to dopamine. You can buy Mucuna Pruriens through many sources, such as Vitamin Shoppe, or online, through Amazon.com, for example.

        I have to say that it really was primarily the Dopa Mucuna that saved me from feelings of depression and horrible moods toward the end of my 50’s and into my decade of being 60. I simply would not be the same person without it!

        Since dopamine is a critical neurotransmitter, it would be important for any person to seek medical advice to ensure that the use of Mucuna Pruriens is appropriate for them, as well as to determine the appropriate dosage. Since increasing this neurotransmitter worked so well for me, I find the research on Maca, as affecting depression through influence on dopamine, to be so interesting!

        I hope that you are doing well now Barbara!

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