Saying I’m writing from the other side of menopause sounds very dramatic, but since that’s what I’m doing, I’m going to use it to my advantage. At least before I admit the real truth, which is the only drama accompaning my trip to menopause took place in my head. But until last Thursday, my first full day in menopause, dramatic was how it all seemed.
Immediate, abrupt, final. All kinds of serious adjectives were blurring my expectations of ovary removal when in actuality, I didn’t seem any different from the day before. I didn’t feel any of the symptoms instantaneous menopause would supposedly bestow on me. I didn’t experience any of the changes I had envisioned for myself.
Contrary to popular opinion, my hormones were not running around wreaking havoc. No anxiety, sadness or moments of craziness. My emotions seemed in check, like always. And as I tried to pinpoint anything that seemed out of sorts, the one unexpected feeling that kept emerging was relief. A strong sense of relief that this ordeal was over. I happily discovered I still felt like me. I wasn’t sweaty and I didn’t feel “old.” However, that may feel, I wasn’t getting it.
Many thoughts contributed to my mood the days leading up to surgery. I felt sad then, but I fought the emotion. I questioned it, but didn’t truly allow myself to grieve for this latest loss. For that’s what ovary removal is, a loss and for me, it was losing a perception of my younger self. Still, I refused to give in to it. Instead I wondered why my bilateral mastectomy was easier to accept. Why didn’t I mourn that loss? Was it because that needed to be done?
I know everyone is different. We all reach acceptance of our choices on our own terms and my choice of bilateral mastectomy over lumpectomy was the way to go. It allowed me the most peace of mind. It was the only decision I could make that granted me the gift of waking each new day without regret.
It was my choice, I accepted it and I was ready for the day to became a reality, so why did giving up my ovaries take a larger mental toll?
Perhaps, because the ovaries weren’t the definitive source of cancer, its problems consist of “maybe” and what might be. I was giving up a great deal for a “maybe.” Perhaps it’s because the notion of ovaries inspires our view of fertility, of motherhood and when we take that away, we’re left with an unfamilar old woman. I was giving up an idea of who I was. Was my identity tied tighter to my ovaries than to my breasts? And just how much are we supposed to give up, anyway?
I was haunted by these questions, seriously disturbed by thoughts of post-surgery personality. How was I to be? What was I really losing here? No wonder I was sad. That’s a lot of crap to carry around. The morning after proved I hadn’t changed when I woke feeling as I always do. I hadn’t really lost anything at all, except the thing I wanted to lose…estrogen. Other than that, I was the same, only now I had a lot less on my mind. Which is a good thing, because apparently when you’re in menopause, you can lose track of your thoughts. At least that’s what they tell me.
Have you chosen to remove your ovaries? Did you see it as a great loss?