by AISHA TIMOL
Two years ago I was diagnosed with “Premature Ovarian Failure”, which put me through early menopause. I was 33 and always wanted to have a family – at some point.
I would love to be writing this story as some sort of freak case but the fact is one in a hundred women will go through menopause before the age of 40.
This little-known fact is heart-breaking for anyone who waits until their 30s to start having children and ends up being part of that one per cent.
I grew up in the 1980s and 90s – a time when girls were actively encouraged to delay starting families in their early 20s, turning away from what their mothers and grandmothers had done, to pursue education, a career and travel.
I was part of a generation where girls were told could be anything they wanted to be – and I still believe this part of the Government’s message and campaign remains true. I recall seeing posters in my classroom featuring girls working in traditionally male roles and teachers telling me that as a straight ‘A’ student I had so much potential and that the world was my oyster.
My generation were told we could have it all. And we – my friends and I – all firmly believed it. We all thought that having a family could wait til our 30s or 40s even. I remember secretly harbouring fears in my early 20s that a pregnancy would be viewed as a failing somehow. Dutifully, I went on to university to get my degree, launched my career, travelled the world, invested in property and followed a path that was both expected of me and that I’d grown to want. Menopause was never on my radar.
But the fact is, as I later discovered, I was playing a game of Russian roulette. Every year that passed my fertility was declining at a rate of knots – much faster than my peers, most of whom will hopefully go through menopause at the average age of 51.
At 29 I unexpectedly fell pregnant with my first child and now I look at my daughter and realise what a miracle she is. Just a few years later I was going through menopause, though I had no idea that’s what it was at the time. I’d skipped only one period – which I put down to stress. I felt very hot – but I thought it was a really hot spring (it was October) not hot flushes, even though the heat in my body did come over me in waves or surges.
I vividly remember the exact moment I was given the news of my menopause diagnosis – it sounds clichéd but I really do remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. It still brings tears to my eyes two years on because the pain of this diagnosis does not go away – in my case this is as much because of the appalling delivery of the news as the fact of it.
I used to work with Dr Fiona Wood, the Director of the Royal Perth Hospital Burns Unit, during the time of the 2002 Bali bombings. I was the PR Manager of Royal Perth Hospital at the time. I always remember that Fiona was determined to treat each of those patients as if they were her only patient and emphatically stating her conviction that each and every patient would receive the highest standard of care.