04 January 2022
Sixty-one-year-old Susanne Sauerland from Reigate wishes she had tackled her menopause symptoms sooner. But, thanks to a consultation with Dr Radhika Vohra, a private GP and menopause specialist at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, and a prescription of Hormone Replacement Therapy, her sleepless nights, hot flushes, aching joints and weight gain have started to become a thing of the past. Here, Susanne tells her story….
“It is only with hindsight that I now know some of my health issues were due to the menopause. At the time when I should have thought about the menopause I didn’t. Where I grew up in northern Germany, the attitude was `get a grip’ so I just went through it and didn’t pick up on the hidden problems which needed attention.
The first time I had a major symptom, I was in my late 40s travelling into central London to work on a sunny morning. I suddenly had a panic attack, the first one in my life. I didn’t identify this as due to the menopause at the time. It happened on a few occasions afterwards, but I just said to myself `get a grip’.
When I reached 50, my menstruation stopped which was a godsend as I had very painful periods. Then the hot flushes started, but, as I had always felt the cold, I just thought `that’s a nice thing I will live with it’.
I didn’t speak about any of these things to anyone - it was what it was. I was working hard (as a finance director for a retail company in London) and was quite active, running and going to exercise classes.
Then in 2018, when I was 57, it was like someone had taken a big “age stick” and hit me with it. In a short space of time, my body felt old and ached and I had put on weight. The eczema I’d had as a child also came back and is now unbearable. I had huge mental fatigue not helped by the fact I could no longer sleep properly. I would get up in the night to make a cup of tea and played backgammon on my phone to try and make myself go back to sleep. I survived on three to four hours a night.
I also noticed a complete drop in my libido – it had simply gone.
I got a bit worried, but again I said to myself `get a grip’ and continued to feel like that for the next one and half years until the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The company where I worked was forced to slim down its staff, so I asked them to make me redundant. I continued to work there until November 2020, partly on furlough.
In April last year (2021) I had a stroke. My blood pressure and cholesterol were high. I had stressed for the last three decades with work, plus throw in the menopause symptoms – it was the perfect storm.
I should have gone to the GP about my general health, the menopause symptoms and get my blood pressure checked much sooner.
While I recovered fully from the stroke, I realised I needed to deal with the menopause symptoms. I had heard about HRT but didn’t think that I could start it in my 60s. I felt so desperate that I started asking questions of other ladies in my exercise class and Dr Vohra was recommended.
I had a Zoom call with her while I was on holiday. She talked through a list of menopause symptoms, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as I had nearly all of them.
After seeing Dr Vohra at the Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, she recommended HRT and said I could have it even though I am in my 60s – I need non-alcoholic gel rather than patches because of my eczema. Within a week, I noticed a difference. I suddenly could sleep properly again, and the joint pain disappeared. It hasn’t helped the eczema sadly, but my libido has come back slightly, and I am starting to lose weight.
Despite those panic attacks in my 40s, I would never call myself depressed or anxious, but I also felt much calmer once I started taking HRT. My life has changed dramatically for the better. I am now working as a healthcare support worker for adults with learning disabilities and really enjoy it.
I saw my sister-in-law recently who will be 50 soon and I told her to make sure she gets help now with menopause symptoms or she would regret it.
I should not have waited for the symptoms to get so bad. HRT is not like taking medication, this is something that you have lost as you get older, and the HRT is simply putting it back.”
Dr Radhika Vohra is a Private and NHS GP with 16 years women’s health experience, member of the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, an Educator and Medical Trustee to The Menopause Charity.
On Tuesday 18 January, 7pm - 8pm, she will be the main speaker at a free online patient information evening about the menopause hosted by Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley. Her presentation will cover the following topics:
- What is the menopause, its signs and symptoms
- What self-help is helpful and advised
- What treatments, including HRT, can help and why
Plus, there will be chance to ask questions.