What does menopause and growing older mean to you? The end of monthly blues, of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome)? The end of fertility? The end of youthfulness? Women experience menopause in many different ways, both positive and negative. No matter what your take on menopause, there are concrete things you can do to work on your state of mind and the condition of your body.
What you many be feeling may be more than menopause. Too much can be blamed on hormones when what's really knocking you out are the plain facts of your life. If your breast cancer occurred close to menopause, and you've experienced the loss of a breast, and a large block of your time has been spent getting treatment, you've been threatened, if not shattered.
You've got a lot of pieces to put back together. As you move on through middle age, there are other tough challenges. You may have heard the expression "Growing old is not for sissies." And it's true. Empty nest, divorce, widowhood, the dependency of sick parents, the death of a parent, or kids in trouble are all common experiences at this stage of life. Setting aside the hormonal changes that relate to menopause, it's common to feel stress, isolation, and depression as you age.
The real question to answer is: What are you going to do about it? Your lifestyle affects how you age and how you experience growing older, too. Is your life too filled with stress—are you trying to do too much—or have you learned to roll with the punches? Are you a couch potato or a dedicated walker? Are you attentive to what you eat? Is it steak and potatoes—with ketchup as your other vegetable—or are you a confirmed vegetarian with heavy emphasis on beans and broccoli, and only an occasional ice cream binge?
Making an effort in the three following areas can help improve your experience:
- Exercise, in whatever forms you choose, eases the stress and strains of aging. Keeping your body in condition helps you stay steady, limber, and feeling good.
- A healthful diet keeps your body functioning the way it should and helps you live longer.
- Stress-reducing efforts, including meditation, relaxation, hobbies, or distraction, will ensure that you get more pleasure from each day.
Expert QuoteRunning, walking, eventually inching down that path to old age is a welcome goal for any woman, especially one who has had breast cancer.
Kutluk Oktay, M.D.