When I was in my late 40s, I started to get severe night sweats that were so bad, I would have to change my pajamas several times through the night. I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep and was exhausted all the time – it was sleep deprivation at its finest. I also had hot flashes during the day, along with anxiety. I just didn’t feel like myself and it was awful.
I went to my primary care physician to find out why this was happening. I regularly work out in a gym, so I thought perhaps my body was going into repair mode and I was building muscle. He didn’t recognize that I was in menopause at all.
Amazingly, I first learned these night sweats were menopausal symptoms when I was diagnosed with cancer at age 52, and my doctor “confirmed” I had already started menopause.
I worked as a sales and marketing representative for a propane company and traveled frequently for work. My job was demanding, and I pushed myself to excel, but as my menopause symptoms intensified, I began to struggle. I suffered from sleep deprivation, brain fog, and exhaustion. Getting through the day became a battle, with ammunition like caffeine and Tylenol becoming essential gear in order to survive each day.
Every single one of the doctors I went to, which included my primary care physician, an oncologist and an endocrinologist, dismissed all of my symptoms with an eye roll and condescending attitude. I felt so deflated, mistreated, and underserved.
Instead of proposing ways to reduce the severity of the night sweats, my primary care physician asked “Are you depressed? How's your marriage? Do you have family issues?” He had no interest in addressing my real issue, which was that I couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep.
My oncologist said “It's just menopause! Deal with it!” He also told me “I can't help you, it just has to run its course.” My endocrinologist offered nothing except to increase my dosage of thyroid medication to hope it would help a bit with my symptoms.
I am a smart and successful woman, but they made me feel like I was being irrational, like I had unreasonable expectations, and that maybe I was actually depressed. At that point, when it seemed like there would be no end to the sleepless nights and the constant exhaustion, I just felt sad and broken.
My doctor prescribed sleep medication but I still had the night sweats and couldn’t sleep, but now combined with the medication I was more exhausted than ever. I was also offered anti-depression and anti-anxiety drugs but I was not interested in the laundry list of side effects that can come with them. Still not one doctor tried to address the root of the symptoms.
These unrelenting symptoms also impacted my career. I was fortunate to have a female manager who allowed me to step outside to deal with a hot flash when needed. As nice as this was, I didn't want to be labeled, discriminated against, or suffer any negative consequences so I tried to hide my symptoms, keep my head down, and suffered quietly and alone.
At the age of 52, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemo and radiation therapy. The treatment caused fatigue, anxiety and night sweats which lasted for the better part of a decade afterwards. The doctors told me that taking hormones wasn't necessary and that I would push through it, but these symptoms never went away.
Finally, only a year ago, my daughter told me about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and told me that the symptoms caused by hormonal imbalance sounded exactly like what I was going through. I went online to www.biote.com and after seeing videos of people talking about the same symptoms I had been struggling with, I used the online physician locator to find a doctor just 30 minutes away.
My hormone therapy consists of only testosterone because I’m a breast cancer survivor. Within 24 hours of starting the therapy, I slept through the night without night sweats and woke up feeling refreshed and energized. It was, with no exaggeration at all, a life-changing experience.
I am so grateful to my daughter, and we often talk about how it was such serendipity that she found the answer for me. Even just a few years ago no one talked about menopause and there were certainly no effective treatments. I am so grateful for the chance to be myself again and am hopeful that sharing my story will help other women who feel they have nowhere to turn. We’ve come a long way just to be able to have a conversation about menopause, but there’s still so much farther to go.
About the Author
Wendy Connors is an active social media influencer and a part-time Team Lead on a merchandising team at a large retailer. Wendy lives in Westborough, MA and invites you to connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube at Aloamum.