In the dynamic world of professional achievements, the silent transition of menopause often goes unnoticed, leaving many women to navigate its complexities in solitude. Lamb Brooks has taken the opportunity to delve into the inspiring journey of two remarkable women, each creating change and awareness in their professional spheres by sharing their experiences.
Meet Elizabeth Groom, a brilliant Private Client solicitor who provides legal advice to individuals and families on the administration of their estates, wills, lasting powers of attorney and so much more. Sarah Jane Nichols is a four-time European BMX Champion, and seven-time British, National, and World Champion renowned for her fearless feats on the track and skill on the ice rink. Just last year, Sarah won the Hall of Fame Award and is currently preparing for World Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina against 40+ females. These two unique women with different careers shared their experiences, challenges, and triumphs as they raise the flag for awareness of menopause.
The start of symptoms
It was not long after Elizabeth had joined Lamb Brooks Solicitors when she was diagnosed as potentially having an overactive thyroid. As she was struggling with insomnia and anxiety, she was initially prescribed antidepressants.
Elizabeth was unwilling to use antidepressants knowing that she was not depressed. After carrying out extensive research she spoke to her GP, and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treatment commenced. The treatment prescribed was not successful and led Elizabeth to continue to endure debilitating symptoms. Determined to get answers, Elizabeth consulted a private perimenopause expert. The process involved having blood tests and endless questionnaires about symptoms after which the correct dosage of oestrogen, progestogen and testosterone was prescribed. Testosterone is not presently covered by the NHS. Obtaining the right advice was a “long and expensive process”, Elizabeth explains. The endurance and patience that was required throughout this process cannot be emphasised enough to those less familiar with menopause, from countless doctors' appointments to trialling medication whilst enduring changing symptoms, Elizabeth’s journey was by no means an easy one.
Sarah Jane had just taken a break from BMX racing when she decided to play ice hockey and which she continued to do for the next 35 years for Great Britain until 2019. This was when the signs of the big ‘M’ came along and after visiting the doctor Sarah was diagnosed with adenomyosis [a condition where the inner lining of the uterus grows into the muscle wall of the uterus] which can only be stopped by a hysterectomy or the natural onset of menopause. Sarah was prescribed patches by her local GP and shared her experience of going on holiday for two weeks and realising, only once she had arrived, that she had not packed her patches and had to dash to the nearest chemist to plead with a pharmacist for a prescription. Between the brain fog, anxiety and exhaustion preparing for a holiday is not so simple when one is finding the perfect balance in your menopause treatment.
Sarah Jane described the nights as being the worst, frequently waking up and going back and forth to the bathroom. Feeling too hot, then having a wave of shivers which resulted in inescapable exhaustion on top of emotional ups and downs that were very uncharacteristic for Sarah Jane and which ultimately affected her performance on the ice. Sarah described how debilitating it was to have a hot flush when wearing a full ice hockey kit and how fellow team members thought she was joking when she said she had to take a break.
Sarah Jane sought help during the midst of the pandemic after feeling truly broken. But the menopause treatment journey is not a one-size-fits-all approach and as Elizabeth Groom accurately explains “what works for you now may not in a few months’ time.” Each woman has unique symptoms including but not limited to more painful and frequent periods (for some they are more spaced out than usual), disturbed sleep, night sweats, constant fatigue, brain fog, panic attacks that can be debilitating at times leaving one to feel overwhelmed and anxious throughout the day.
For Elizabeth it was anxiety and insomnia that was the worst, feeling like “living in the fight or flight mode permanently”. Elizabeth shared that her current treatment of 125mils of oestrogen helps to take the edge off, ease sleeping problems, reduce heart palpitations, and calm her mind from stressing about all the things that cannot be done immediately.
The future of menopause
When Elizabeth and Sarah Jane were asked what they envisioned for Menopause awareness they shared that “the world has to be a more understanding place instead of seeing us as old women. Some struggling with menopause have given up their careers and suffered broken relationships as a result”. Compared to previous generations, we are much more aware and honest about menopause today than ever before, each woman’s journey with menopause is entirely different. Some women breeze through it and for others, it is their greatest challenge.
In the end “the way we portray menopause is that it is a real struggle and really awful but when you get the treatment right, it does work. There are also benefits to the treatment for example, your skin and hair are in much better condition and long-term benefits which aid the cardiovascular system and osteoporosis. The right dosage takes the edge off the anxiety” so there is medication out there, but the right treatment and the right support determines the menopause journey.
Sarah and Elizabeth emphasise that having the right treatment and doctor [that does not make you feel like your symptoms are insignificant] makes a difference and that menopause is not a final destination but a continuous process of evaluation. Sarah Jane and Elizabeth’s experiences resonate with courage, resilience, and a powerful determination to break the silence around this natural yet often unspoken phase of life.
Here at Lamb Brook’s, we endeavour to support each and every one of our employees in their menopause journey and to continuously arm ourselves with information so that we can navigate this important part of life hand in hand.