One of the long term side effects of chemotherapy is your periods stopping and basically you go through menopause - premature or not, depending on your age. It doesn't happen to everyone, but as my last period was in March shortly after my first dose of chemo, and I still had no sign of it come November I was getting rather worried. Don't get me wrong, having no period each month is great!! BUT and I think it's a BIG but, at 38 years young I am not relishing the thought of other changes my body will encounter if it's no longer producing oestrogen. If you go through the menopause early i.e. before the age of 45 you have a greater risk of developing heart problems and osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is basically having fragile bones which are porous and more likely to break easily. Obviously I try not to dwell on these things, but since having cancer treatment the list of things I am now at greater risk of getting as I age has grown a fair bit. You have to balance this information with the fact that the chemo is designed to blast all the cancer cells in your body and therefore prevent a recurrence within, hopefully, the next 5 years.
During my time as a cancer patient I have gone through all the menopause symptoms; night sweats, hot flushes, memory loss, insomnia, weight gain around my middle, fatigue, muscle & joint pain, dry skin etc.....and most of these symptoms have now subsided, so I was half hoping that I had gone through the menopause and come out the other side, and half hoping all those symptoms were purely chemo related and my body would return to normal.
Last Tuesday I even went for a blood test to find out for definite what's going on with me. Apparently they can tell by the level of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) in your blood. The results of the test take 4 or more days to come through to your GP. Anyway this was all irrelevant come Thursday of last week - when I couldn't really believe it, but my period arrived!!!! I didn't get much warning really, I mean it was fairly pain free although pretty full on. Sorry - I won't go into any more detail. But I was actually jumping for joy to have my 'old friend' back again!!! Prior to its arrival I honestly felt like I had aged 10 years in only 9 months, but now I feel MUCH better, almost back to my old self.
The effect that hormone levels have on us women is actually quite scary. The only down side of all this is that I will have to go through all the menopausal side effects again in roughly 10 years time!! But I reckon nothing can be worse than what this year has thrown at me.
If you're reading this and premature menopause is something of concern to you, please visit The Daisy Network for support and advice.