"Forget the hormone replacement therapy," I tell Steve. "I'm going right for the hard stuff: heroin." Steve gives me that oh-no-here-we-go-again look. "I'm serious. I need something to get through this."
My hot flashes are relentless: I get as many as 8 or 9 a day. Though I bought a paper fan and carry it everywhere, this doesn't seem like a long-term solution. I've also been polling women about their hot flashes. My friend Jane, who's in her 50s, had terrible hot flashes for about 2 years. My grandmother experienced them well into her 90s. "Some women never get over them," my mother explained. She herself had hot flashes but went on hormones for 20 years, and only stopped when her sister (also taking hormones) got breast cancer.
Chances are you've heard about the link between women on HRT and the increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, and breast cancer. I wasn't sure
exactly what the risks were, until I did some research and found that The Women's Health Initiative Study (WHI), which followed 16,000 post-menopausal women on HRT, was halted in 2002, when it found women on hormones showed increased cases of cardiovascular disease, breast and colorectal cancers compared to those taking placebos. Another estrogen-only study was also halted because it found .
I'm leery of taking hormones, even though I've read that the study was done on older post-menopausal women, and that hormones for younger women may be safer. I bring up the heroin idea at my annual checkup with my gynecologist, but she looks at me as if I might be serious, and says instead that I'm a good candidate for HRT.
"The risks are minimal for someone your age," she tells me. "We'd start you on low dose birth control pill [similar to HRT] and keep you on for the shortest amount of time." And I'd be protected from getting pregnant accidentally. I'm not worried. Being menopausal is the most effective form of birth control I've ever been on. Sex? I once had a sex drive: now it's gone missing.
I decline the hormones. I want to try alternative methods first. I scour the internet and find
"You don't need to come back into the office if you change your mind," says my gynecologist, looking doubtful. "Just leave a voicemail. I'll call in a prescription."
I'm giving the alternatives three months. If my hot flashes don't improve, I'll score some estrogen.
What alternative methods have you tried, reader?