An interview with Brooke Sumner

Brooke is a Senior Account Manager at Ovia Health. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, and two sons. Today, she sat down to talk with us a bit about her menopause experience — the expected, the unexpected, and everything in between. 

Can you tell me a little bit about how menopause has been for you — how are you feeling right now? What’s come up for you during this process?

It’s been frustrating. I would say the weight gain has been the most frustrating part. It changes my day-to-day life — from what I wear, to how I feel in my body, to how I navigate life. Sometimes I notice it in the little moments, like scooting between a chair and the wall and realizing that my body has changed. 

I saw an endocrinologist for a bit and she had me try a number of things to help me feel better in my body, but they were either temporary or ineffective. Her answer was usually just, “You’re just at that stage of life.” It’s really frustrating and unmotivating. 

Were there any other symptoms that caught you by surprise?

Yes, I’ve had joint pain for the last couple of years. My primary care provider didn’t think it was arthritis but didn’t really know what to call it. The more I read and learned about menopause, the clearer it became that this joint pain is likely a menopause symptom. It’s disappointing that my provider never brought it up!

That’s very disappointing. 

But the thing is, even knowing that something could be a menopause symptom is just the beginning. It’s in my personality to want to fix something when it’s not working, but with menopause you can’t usually just fix your symptoms. 

And even beyond the physical and mental symptoms, it can be a signal of a new time in your life. 

Right. I’ve known for a while that I couldn’t have more kids because I had to have a hysterectomy. But still, it’s an emotional step in a woman’s life. It’s emotional to realize this is a chapter in my life that’s happening. I wasn’t quite ready for it. Menopause happens at a time when many of us are going through other emotional personal experiences and that emotional piece can exacerbate the physical pain and discomfort. 

Plus, the people around you don’t always get what you’re going through. It would also help me to be able to give my husband information about how menopause impacts my health, beyond my personal experience. He still remembers when his mom went through it, but there are so many misconceptions.

That’s such a great point. Friends and family helping to destigmatize menopause is huge. What did you expect from menopause?

I expected hot flashes. Period. That was all that I expected. And I have a master’s degree in health education! I did not expect the moodiness, internal thermostat that is always set to 100 degrees, inability to lose weight, and the constant crying. Also I don’t know if you can really call it a “hot flash.” I get hot, but it doesn’t come and go – it stays around. It feels like you’re hot from the inside out and it’s miserable.

But mostly, I wish I understood the emotional toll that it can take. This is especially true when you don’t know where you’re at in the process. You don’t know exactly when it started, and you don’t know when it will end. 

Is there any message you’d like to give to someone going through or preparing for menopause — maybe someone experiencing the same symptoms as you?

Find a good provider who listens to you and is a menopause specialist. There are ways to combat the symptoms, but the first step is to have an excellent provider as your partner.

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