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Thursday Connectors: Menopausal April

By Farzana Hakim

Hi, it’s Farzana, your host, with our second segment of Thursday Connectors for all things Menopause. Last month’s page was hugely popular and I’m glad so many women felt heard and seen. I advocate for women’s voices and I’m therefore glad to be back again this month with more writing from more fabulous Connectors on this very important topic.

In March, you may remember I was ranting about my perimenopause symptoms and how they have overtaken my life. I told you I needed surgery. Well, just after I had submitted the page, I got the date for my operation. Having had four major operations for other things already, the surgeon assured me this one was going to be easy-peesy…

What he didn’t know was, I’m at a stage of my life where my anxiety peaks beyond the Everest and I get scared of even a prick on my finger! The sight of blood makes me dizzy. Therefore, I wasn’t looking forward to having surgery again which could potentially mutilate a part of my body. I was terrified. But the operation was needed, as I was told there was a cancer risk if I didn’t (i.e. potential cancer could only be ruled out by the findings from the operation). You can understand how I spent weeks dreading this.

Anyway, fast forward to the day of the surgery. I’m already in the hospital gear, in the long tights and special socks. I’ve got my hair up in a special hat instead of my hijab. And just as the needles for the anaesthesia are about to be injected, I jump off the bed and start hyperventilating. Tears and all.

I’m crying about how painful it’s going to be and how I’m going to be bed-bound for weeks and how they might leave a swab inside me again like they did in my previous surgery. I told them, I’m not feeling well enough for it and I just want to go home; all while sobbing uncontrollably.

So, the operation didn’t happen. The surgeon, the nurses and the others in the room were so nice to me and totally calmed me down. The surgeon reassured me it was fine to delay the surgery and to review my symptoms again in three months. I relaxed when he told me my cytology showed only inflammation, and nothing sinister. So, delaying the operation was safe.

Nevertheless, when I got home, my family and friends were not so happy with me and felt I was silly for not going through with it (NHS waiting times are so long). In three months time, I’ll be in the same place and on the waiting list for the surgery again.

I don’t know whether to be glad or not and I’m still more anxious than I’ve ever been. I don’t feel as strong and brave as I did a few years back. Unfortunately, I know it’s because of the vulnerabilities I’m experiencing due to perimenopause.

I’m OK to hold on for three months…

When I had my two C Sections, I felt this was the most pain I’d ever have to endure. How wrong was I? It seems to me that the insides of a woman’s body are made up of mash,  forever being bashed about  and whisked around. Yet we need to carry on for the sake of humanity (and sanity), with smiles on the outside, along with perseverance and tons of resilience.

Aren’t we fighters?

And so today, our theme of menopause continues. We have Connectors from Clare Cooper, Claire Buss, Eithne Cullen and Mary Walsh and I’m also sharing the illustration from Laura Oh as the page header as its just sums up me and others in my position so perfectly.


First up, we have a fantastic piece from Clare Cooper. She reflects on her experiences, telling it as it is.

Hi, Clare. Let’s connect:

Ah, The Great Menopause!

Or “Men-o-pause”, as some wag once named it. But more on that later…

When I began my menopause journey, starting with the peri-menopause around 25 years ago, there were none of the valuable information sources around that there are today. Even the magazines I read and worked on seemed to skirt around the issue (pun not intended). Or maybe I just skipped those, thinking they wouldn’t apply to me (HA)!

I’m now wondering what my mother and grandmother’s own menopauses were like. With scant information out there, and few to share their experiences or ask for help with – including the fusty old predominantly male doctors of those times – they must have suffered hugely. People didn’t discuss such things back then. My mother tried to blame the menopause for her leaving my father. Perhaps there was some truth in this. Spare a thought, too, for the many bewildered men out there, just as my father was, who are trying to understand what the hell is going on with the women they thought they knew pretty well.

I’m not excusing the male mid-life crisis, but society generally expects women to behave better. We’re the home-makers, not the home-breakers; the ones who keep it all together for everyone else. It’s frowned upon when our behaviour doesn’t fit society’s ideals. No wonder, then, that women rebel! For myself, I don’t have children and I’m a bit beyond rebelling now, being late middle-aged and permanently knackered. Still, never say never (I’m joking)!

My periods were dreadful: heavy, painful and prolonged each month for decades. I had no idea what was ahead of me, and maybe it was just as well. (On reflection, my mother and grandmother probably didn’t want to frighten me, either.)

The symptoms of the menopause are, for many of us, more than enough to take our minds off any dalliance with a passing attractive stranger – even if we’re lucky enough to still have a shred of libido left somewhere (have a look; it’s probably down the back of the sofa).

Pay attention! In no particular order, these are the symptoms myself and my friends have experienced, and there are likely many more (sorry if I’m spoiling your day): Weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, violent shakes, panic attacks, forgetting everything, brain fog, hair thinning and loss, painful joints, erratic toilet habits, chronic insomnia, ditto depression, odd smells, drying-up everywhere (EVERYWHERE), general tiredness (see insomnia), fed-up-ness with everything and falling out with everyone, lack of patience leading to near-murderous rages (bit tricky at the checkout in Tesco), fading complexions, drooping jawlines and chin hairs that need almost-daily monitoring. The freakish ‘bearded ladies’ of olden-day fairground attractions were merely unfortunate menopausal women who had no access to a good shaver, or even just a well-sharpened pair of tweezers.

HRT worked for many of my friends, saving them years of misery and suffering, but I didn’t want to take it when offered, because of working on health and women’s magazines and hearing the horror stories that abounded at the time, and then I became too old to take it anyway. Hey ho.

My doctor, a middle-aged married man with a young family, gave me the most astonishing ‘advice’ when my periods proper had ceased, but I was still getting erratic bleeding every now and then: “You can stop taking contraception now.” Thank God, I ignored him and carried on; probably a lot longer than I really needed to, just to be absolutely sure. (Interestingly, his wife left him not long afterwards. Make of that what you will.)

Step forward such bold, outspoken and clued-up celebrities as Davina McCall, Lisa Snowdon, Meg Mathews and Mariella Frostrup to be our guides and new best friends, as we navigate this strange and awkward stage together: the ending of our youth (sob) and the beginning of the rest of our lives. Strap yourselves in.

Also worthy of a mention: the specialist (female, hooray!) doctors, journalists and other writers, books, magazine articles, social media groups and websites, and special ranges of skin creams, oils and supplements. Believe me, I’m working my way through them all as we speak.

So, three cheers for the above-mentioned superstar women. I could have done with your sisterly support 25 years ago. I can only say to future generations: Lucky you! You’re going be so much more open, sharing, well-informed and prepared than we ever were. I wish you the very best with it all!

© Clare Cooper, 2024.


Next, we connect with Eithne Cullen, where she pens down some truths in the art of poetry.

Hi, Eithne. Let’s connect:


Here’s to the women who had to stay silent
suffering symptoms they would have called weaknesses.

Here’s to the women who broke the silence
and spoke up about this stage of their lives.

Here’s to the writers of magazine pages
who tell us it’s something to talk about now.

Here’s to the doctors who wrote the prescriptions
and tell us there are ways to lighten the load.

Here’s to the TV celebs and announcers
who get to hear ‘menopause’ spoken aloud.

Here’s to the trials and annoyances we can mention and talk
of hot flushes, night sweats and brain fog.

Here’s to the women who had to stay silent
suffering symptoms they would have called weaknesses.

© Eithne Cullen, 2024


Last month, we connected with Dr Elanko, who wrote a great poem about our symptoms and how a Doctor may interpret our feelings. This month Claire Buss had penned her response and in her poetic words talks about what many of us are juggling.

Hi, Claire. Let’s connect:

It’s Fine

What do you think causes that?
It’s too much
School and after school clubs and dinner money
And competitions and rehearsals and clubs
Trousers that are suddenly too small
And where’s your shoe?
What do you mean you lost your shoe?
All the homework and the work work
And the husband working from home
When I’m trying to work from home
And the home looks less like an office
And more like a bomb hit it
So, you feel bad
Of course, you do
Dropped the ball
Forgot that, and the other thing
Get distracted
Teeth look a bit yellow
Try to avoid looking in the mirror but noticed that
God it’s hard work getting up those stairs
Power lifting, with them shopping bags, that is
Always forget something
Always forget
But you just get on, don’t you
No time to think about it
Things to do
Cos no bugger else is going to do it, are they?
So I just make notes and alarms
Reminders all over the place
Be grumpy
I’m just grumpy mum now
But it’s not my fault
I’m tired and I can’t cope
Don’t tell anyone

© Claire Buss, 2024

Connect with Claire on Instagram: @grasshopper2407 and on her website


Finally, we connect with Mary, who wrote this super poem for my page and I absolutely love it, as it’s going to sum it up for the majority of us at this stage of our lives.

Hi, Mary. Let’s connect:

Midnight Octopus

We are women of a certain age.
We suffer with menopause blight.
We lie in bed with soaking sheets.
And sweat and rage into the night.
One leg out
And one leg in
Push the covers onto him!
Get up and walk the moonlit room.
Open the window, let in the cool
The heat subsides, we make no fuss
The brain fog gets the rest of us.
As we dance the midnight octopus

© Mary Walsh, 2024


This neatly brings us to the end of our two months dedicated to all things menopause. I hope women everywhere who are struggling and juggling with this, have felt heard and know they’re not alone. It’s important to reach out and get help if you feel alone or underrepresented. Never be scared to advocate for yourselves and your health. Remember, we are important and we are going to get through this together.

All my love
Farzana x


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It seems to me that the insides of a woman’s body are made up of mash, and its forever being bashed and whisked in there and yet we need to carry on for the sake of humanity (and sanity) with smiles and perseverance and tons of resilience on the outside.