After my very first chemo treatment on June 9, 2016 I immediately had a menstrual cycle. It was completely out of cycle, but I figured it was the chemo messing with my body. It was horrible, chemo sickness and nausea, and then cramps to boot! But then it went away in two days. I thought it was odd, but then I chalked it up to the chemo again.
July came – nothing. August, September, still nothing. All summer I had hot flashes, I had mood swings, I gained weight even though I couldn’t eat. Finally, I brought it up to my doctor and I found out that the chemo put me in an early menopause. The only thing we weren’t certain of is: Is it permanent or is it temporary?
I was 35 years old and unmarried. Although I decided years ago that my one son is enough, I still had the option of having more children if I wanted to. This was something else that cancer and chemo took and I didn’t know if it was permanent or temporary.
To be honest, I didn’t know early menopause or temporary menopause was even a side effect of chemo. My oncology nurse gave me a huge packet full of potential side effects but it got too overwhelming to read so I just lived and fought every day and as more and more weird things happened to me, I’d research and talk to my oncologist.
Well, I am happy to report, almost a year later I finally got a menstrual cycle and found out that the menopause was temporary! It’s a small victory, but I’ll take what I can get. I never thought I’d feel so happy to have a period. And frankly, I forgot how painful cramps were.
But this experience made me think of other young women who have gone through chemo and early menopause and it ended up being a permanent condition. What about those women who always wanted children and the ability to have them was taken from them? Or young men who have had cancer and went through chemo who are now infertile?
Maybe their oncologists really explained this possible side effect to them, but no one did with me. I understand that saving my life is the most important thing, but discussing potential life altering side effects is also very important.
I know that chemo destroys your body when you’re going through it…I just didn’t realize that months (and maybe even years) after finishing chemo, it continues to wreak havoc on you. I’m six months in remission and I still have weird things that happened to my body that I’m not sure if it’s caused by the chemo, age, something else, and if it’s temporary or permanent. I continue searching for my new normal and the only thing I’m finding is that the only thing normal about me is how abnormal I actually am.