Posts Tagged ‘menopause’

Premarin is a hormone replacement therapy available for women of a certain age or any woman no longer producing estrogens naturally. I called it my “princess pill”. A tiny purple capsule that when introduced into the body creates calm where there was chaos and balance where none existed. Ahhhhh.

At the age of thirty-two I underwent a hysterectomy. There were strong indications at that young age such a surgery was necessary, so I checked myself into the hospital and gave up my reproductive organs to a glass lab jar. There was little talk post surgery about what to expect once these organs were no longer in place. Looking back, any information might have proved helpful during the year following. A year my children refer to with horror as “Mom’s Dark Ages”. At best a hysterectomy is a surgery incorporating both physical loss as well as emotional upheaval. For many women being told they can no longer bear children can make for a difficult transition. A supportive mate and family can help to make this an easier time, but like many journeys in our lives, this  is one traveled by yourself.

During that year my emotions ran the gambit from crying for no reason, lapsing into unexplained bouts of hilarity, or suddenly being angry.  My family, alarmed at the changes in my personality, approached me cautiously in the morning not knowing whether they might be greeted by “The Good Susie” or her evil twin Suselzabub. Most unsettling.

To add to the myriad of emotional issues that befell me that year hot flashes arrived with a vengeance. For men, or ladies not yet there, these fiery episodes send heat crawling like a blanket of lava up your body. Your face approaches melting temperatures causing you to want to rip your clothes off and throw yourself in a bed of ice. Often they are accompanied by profuse sweating leaving you looking for all purposes like an overripe tomato left too long in the sun. Good news, once one eases up you become so chilled you need a parka to warm you up. Lovely.

Doctors, to my mind, often dismiss ailments in women as “emotional” or “imagined”. For nearly a year between fanning myself and losing my mind I explained my symptoms during my doctor’s visits. Usually this was dismissed as either non-existent or unimportant enough to pursue further. Finally, at the end of a frustrating year I went to a woman doctor who immediately wrote me a prescription for Premarin. Three weeks later life as I knew it had returned to nearly normal (or as normal as my life gets).

Once I had no prescription for two months during an out-of-state move. My husband at the time announced that if that ever happened again he would happily crawl across a field of cut glass to get me my meds. Nice.  Thus was born the term “Susie’s princess pills”. Ah yes.

Up until three years ago once  day I took my little pill and life rolled along like a calm sea on a balmy summer day. I went to my doctor for my yearly physical and was told Premarin had too many side effects and that she would no longer be prescribing it. Really? So I’ve been taking it all this time with the side effects and suddenly it’s a problem WHAT?

Sure enough before long the dreaded heat from within began once again to make its presence known followed shortly by my hair molting in the bathroom sink. Then came a bout of dry eyes attributed to the lack of hormones in my system. Thankfully that was three years ago and all but the misery of hot flashes have somewhat abated. Still, I miss my little purple pill with its blessed healing powers. Ah well.

There are pros and cons regarding Premarin. Heated discussions continue in medical circles on whether to or not to prescribe it. On the con side it increases the chance of a stroke. On the plus side a happier patient with stronger bones, higher libido and lusher hair. Certainly your body sings a more joyful song when your hormones are in balance.

Last week I was waiting in line at the prescription counter. A package marked Premarin sat on a shelf behind the counter. I considered scaling the counter, grabbing the goods and running.  After weighing Premarin or jail I picked up my order and left. Looking back I’m not convinced I made the right choice. Ah well. Life is full of hurdles. I will survive this one as well.

This dessert is sinfully easy for how it presents itself and is my Mother’s number one request when she visits.

Cherry Crisp

2 cans cherry pie filling
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 pkg. deluxe yellow cake mix
1 cube butter, melted
1 10 oz. pkg. crushed pecans
Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray.

Spread both cans of cherry pie filling along bottom of pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Mix cake mix, butter, and pecans together in large bowl until well blended and crumbly. Sprinkle over cherries.

Bake for 25-30 mins. until browned and bubbly

Serves 6-8



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HOT, HOT, HOT. No, I’m not sitting in some tropical lanai soaking up glorious afternoon rays. It feels as if I am from time to time, but only momentarily. Instead my internal thermometer has gone awry sending heat searing through my body on one hand then urging me to pull on a parka and heated gloves fifteen minutes later. Heeeeeeeeeeeelp! Apparently menopause has dropped upon me like a plague from the heavens, and I’m feelin’ the heat, brother, feelin’ the heat.

Remind me again how wonderful it is to be female. Site verse if you have to. Several other times in my life, both during hard labor, I had to be reminded of the glory of being a woman. This, it would appear, would be the appropriate time to hear it again.

Not only do I light up like a Christmas candle with no notice leading people to ask me if I’ve taken up bobbing for French fries, but I shed clothes and add them at such a furious pace it must appear as though several personalities are fighting for supremacy beneath my blond roof. In the space of five minutes my temperament might fluctuate from sunny to dark to silly and back again. Rick keeps asking where the real Susie went, and I have no definitive answers. If you see me, please send me home.

Certainly I have seen evidence of the effects of this phenomenon before. Women in the mall sweating in mid-January looking as if they’d recently competed in the Boston marathon suddenly stripping down to their skivvies behind the Tupperware kiosk. It isn’t pretty I’m here to say.

Asking my doctor if there was anything to do about it she replied in her usual helpful way, “time and patience, time and patience, dear girl”. Really? Dear girl? If girl was the correct adjective most likely we wouldn’t be engaging in this particular conversation. Fortunately for her there weren’t any sharp objects immediately within my reach.

There are pluses to aging, truly there are. Wisdom, hopefully, arrives in one form or another, and an acceptance of oneself with all the fine attributes and less desirable traits making up who you are as a person. The mirror is less kind perhaps, but all the wrinkles and irritating creeping lines come from years of living, smiling, lying in the warm sun, and bouts of sadness which encompass what makes up the average life. When you reach this point adult children, if such is the case, are generally on their own, or at least living independently. Missed are the days when their little hands held yours tightly but grandchildren perhaps are in the picture adding yet another dimension to your world. Time previously tied up with the day-to-day interactions usually present when children inhabit a household, is suddenly freed up to allow exploration into those things put off since first announced their impending arrival. It’s a double-edged sword, as many things in life are. Loss often shares company with gain and thus the balance of life continues.

My daughter is feeling the pain incumbent with children growing up and looking past their front door to the world beyond. There is no pill for it. They are going to go someday, and this is something you should celebrate. In the job description for parents pushing our offspring out of the nest is an integral part of the program. Encouraging them to fly alone with us encouraging them on their way is as it should be. I grew up in a household with my mother and maternal grandparents. At nine my mother remarried. Suddenly I was whisked out of my familiar life in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Placed in the back seat of a new Buick I was carted half way across the world (to my mind at least) to Southern California. Had they taken me to Jupiter, it couldn’t have been more alien then from where I came. Naturally my grandmother, who really served as my second mother, was devastated to see us go. My grandfather had passed on when I was six, so our absence would leave the large house unoccupied except for her. My mother says my grandmother never uttered a word of discouragement but she could see the sadness in her eyes as we packed and went on our way. All of us with children who grow up and consequently move out or away share that pain at one time or another.

Multigenerational family units exist in many cultures, perhaps more common in Asia or Mexico. New members are introduced, children added, and numbers culled due to death or divorce, but the core family remains intact. If it works for you, then it works I would think. There are times when I wonder if I’d enjoy this sort of arrangement. Other times after a loud family get together, I question whether I have the inner strength to survive such an experiment.

Each decade as it approaches opens a new chapter in my life, offering new opportunities to learn and grow. This one I am occupying at the moment can at times be challenging, but “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”. I’m sure this too will pass and the hot flashes will subside. Just another bump in the road.

These potatoes are the best. The little bit of lemon added to the crunch. Yum. Note these can be changed up for red potatoes, just don’t peel them.

2Fabulous Greek Lemon and Garlic Potatoes

5 large russet potatoes,  peeled and cut in large chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup melted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 9 x 13″ casserole dish with cooking spray. Place potatoes in dish.

Mix together all remaining ingredients except cheese and salt. Pour over potatoes. Toss to mix well.

Cover dish tightly with foil. Cook for 45 mins.

Remove foil and stir to rotate potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Place in oven for additional 40 mins. (or until browned and crunchy) stirring several times.

Season with salt as desired.

Serves 4

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Photo by Susie Nelson

As my parents are getting older, as are we all, my mind often drifts to the aging process and what lies ahead around the bend in the road.  Aging, from my observation, is the gift that keeps on giving.  Around forty I found myself reading the newspaper at arm’s length and digging for the large print Readers Digests while sitting in the doctor’s office. That was the first sign that time was passing, or it was for me, and my optometrist confirmed it by diagnosing my condition as “forty vision”, handing me a pair of glasses and saying “welcome to middle age”. Around fifty, began to examine the skin on my face noticing it seemed to migrating slowly towards my neck and for lack of a better word, puddling there, and alarmingly like lemmings other parts of my body were following suit. I have a heavy chested friend who claims when she turned 55 her entire chest slid under her arms, and without support can now be found resting beneath her clavicles. This I accepted without visual confirmation.

Along with the other glorious gifts bestowed on we humans as we crest fifty and head down the other side, is menopause.  I have several friends who are suffering through it at the moment.  Last week I attended a luncheon with eight ladies, some friends, others acquaintances. Once seated and perusing the menu, I looked over the top and immediately recognized obvious symptoms of the malady in the two ladies sitting directly across from me.  The lady to my left had a face and neck so blotchy and red she looked as though she’d just been retrieved from a vat of hot oil. To her direct right was a woman with patches of dampness bleeding out here and there on her lovely silky blouse. Poor thing was literally mopping herself dry with her table napkin and eyeing the tablecloth in case it needed to be pulled into use.  Yup, been there, done that.  For me, perhaps fortunate, or perhaps not, my equipment was recalled by the factory at thirty-two so I was thrown into early menopause and although suffered through the year following with mood swings, night sweats, and hot flashes, put it behind me not to be seen again.

Menopause also effects men. Typically as with many things in life, men get off a little easier then women during this process. Although severity of symptoms vary, their hormone levels disappear at a slower pace and their symptoms generally much less severe.  Sometimes it seems we women have more written on our chore boards than the guys do.  Correct me if you feel I’m wrong, and I’m confident you will.  For example, conception. Most men are enthusiastic participants in the pre-game events, but unless things have changed since the writing of this blog down the road it’s pretty much up to the woman to bring home the trophy.

Do men age more gracefully?  That’s a toughie. According to some articles I’ve read, many men believe they do. Nature seems to be kinder in their direction in some ways, leaving the fairer sex to deal with more fat cells, and a tougher fight to lose weight after childbearing and over forty.  Men, however, suffer with hair loss issues, sometimes at an early age, and as the years stack up their booster rockets in the romance department might require a little performance additive.  Some men, however, are still siring children in their eighties.  Good Lord.  I must admit I consider that more on the minus side of the board than the plus.

Truly I think the worst effect on men with regard to menopause is having to cohabit with their women going through it.  They get a glazed look in their eyes and are often seen carrying one of those electrified fly swatters in their back pockets in the event of a “hormonal emergency”.  Unable to speak for other women, I can say when I was menopausal I was a hot mess. My husband at the time threatened on many occasions during that first year following my hysterectomy to deposit me in front of the local market with a sign around my neck reading, “Needs a Home – Doesn’t Play Well With Others”.  Hindsight being 20-20, I know now I was merely a puppet for my hormonal puppet masters who were actually pulling all the strings. At the time, I simply thought I was going crazy.

For men there is no high ground when a woman is deep into it.  Safety dictates a man simply agree with everything your lady says when “in a mood”, and, well, no that’s about it, simply agree with everything your lady says.  Avoid answering any loaded questions such as “does this make my behind look big, or how did the meatloaf taste?” Change the subject, purchase a ticket for Mozambique, sign up for overtime even if it’s not offered, but never offer an answer to a direct question about your wife’s cooking or appearance whether positive or negative.  Either way it will not end well, and in the case of the meatloaf if you do answer, you most likely will be doing the cooking from that question on and run the risk of wearing whatever meatloaf remained on your plate.  Not good, not good at all.

In the end, they gave me hormone replacement, which was as close to heaven as I have come, and without divine intervention may ever come.  The black cloud lifted and the sky was filled with white puffy clouds floating over a field of daisies blowing in a soft summer wind.  Life, once again, was worth getting up for. I overheard my husband saying to a friend, “I would crawl bare legged over a field of glass in a blizzard if Susie ran out of Premarin”.  Words to live by. Smile.

For you ladies going through it, this too will pass, and for those of you looking forward to it, take a deep breath and remember those around you love you, and even though you’re in the grips of a hot flash it’s important to remind them you love them as well.

This comforting stew was perfect for a blustery, rainy day.  Loved it.  I served it with artisan bread piled high with hot pastrami.  Yum.

“I’m trying very hard to understand this generation. They have adjusted the timetable for childbearing so that menopause and teaching a sixteen-year-old how to drive a car will occur in the same week.” – Erma Bombeck

Crockpot Cabbage, Potato and Leek Stew

2 Tbsp. butter
2 leeks, white and upper green part only
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large head of cabbage, chopped and rinsed
3 carrots, sliced
3 potatoes, cubed
1 large yellow onion, quartered
3 green onions, chopped
1 large ham hock
8 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

To prepare leeks, cut off tough green leaves and end of top of bulbs. Cut in half lengthwise and rinse with water in between leaves until clean. Slice in 1/2″ slices. Melt butter in deep skillet over med. heat. Add leeks and garlic. Saute for 8-10 mins., stirring frequently to sweat leeks.

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place leeks in bottom and top with onions, carrots, and green onions. Place ham hock on top. Mix together chicken broth and seasonings. Pour over vegetables and ham hock. Add chopped cabbage and use spoon to submerge below level of broth. Cook on high for 1 hour then reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 8 hours. Remove ham hock from cooker and take meat off of the bone. Discard bone and return meat to cooker. Cook for 1 more hour on low.

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