Menopause: Not Just for Middle Age
Megan Zander| June 03 , 2019
Writer Megan Zander was only 27 when menopause happened. Here, the surprising upshot of her diagnosis.
The first time I missed my period, I was thrilled. I was 27 and had just thrown out my birth control barely a month before, in hopes of getting pregnant. My husband and I raced to the store for a pregnancy test, convinced we had achieved success right out of the gate.
But the test was negative. So was the one I took the next morning, and the morning after that. After almost two weeks of peeing on plastic sticks with no good news and still no period, I headed to the doctor to see what was up.
Bloodwork told us what no one, not even my OB/GYN was expecting – not only was I not pregnant – I was already in menopause.
“Your mom has a better chance at a natural pregnancy than you do,” the smarmy reproductive endocrinologist told me. He was a troll masquerading as a human, doling out other pearls of wisdom such as, “You’ll look old and wrinkled early,” and, “It would have happened to you eventually.”
I quickly found a better doctor. Because while Dr. Troll was correct in that women eventually go through menopause, my condition was pretty rare. Premature menopause effects less than 1% of women under the age of 40. And as luck would have it, I’m one of them.
Those first few months after my diagnosis were rough. Off birth control for the first time in decades, my body suffered estrogen withdrawal side effects. I had constant headaches. My ladyzone was so dry, it hurt to even walk, forget about having sex. I spent my nights gazing out of the open window Rapunzel-style in an effort to cool my hot flashes. As I looked down on the front yard, I’d watch our neighborhood raccoon family play and wondered if I’d ever be able to have kids of my own.
Besides my fears that I would never become a mom, I worried hitting menopause two decades too soon would leave me looking and feeling older than I actually was. I was scared people would see me out with my husband and assume I was his mom. I’ve always loved working out, and I wondered if menopause would make my muscles soft no matter how many bicep curls I did, or if I’d run out of energy halfway through a run.
Thankfully, all of my fears and that awful doctor’s predictions were totally unfounded. Eight years after my diagnosis, I’m a mom to six-year-old twin boys (thanks to IVF and lots of modern science!) and I’m in the best shape of my life.
I’m currently training for my third half marathon, with my eye on a full marathon next year. When I’m not lifting weights, I’m dripping sweat in Zumba or envisioning that awful doctor during a kickboxing class.
I make an effort to take care of my skin, making sure I wash off my makeup every night and using sunscreen every day. I’m all about Pause’s Collagen Boosting Moisturizer to keep fine lines and breakouts at bay. My skin TLC is worth the effort. Most people assume I’m a couple of years younger than I actually am, which always makes me laugh – if only they knew the truth!
Now at 35, I manage my low estrogen with a daily birth control pill rather than hormone replacement therapy. (Now the only hot flashes I get are Jason Momoa induced.) I check in with my OB/GYN yearly, and the plan is to reconsider HRT when I’m closer to 40.
An upside of being a young person with old insides has been connecting with other women who’ve just received their own premature menopause diagnosis. When I first got my news years ago, there wasn’t much about the condition besides scary sounding medical websites, so I started writing about my experiences. Now every month I get messages from young women all over the world who’ve read my story and want to talk about their own diagnosis and what the future might look like.
My stomach hurts every time I hear my phone ping with another notification because I hate knowing that another person is going through this. But I like being honest about the road ahead, and reassuring them that they’re going to be okay.
There are things I miss about getting my period. I miss being able to blame PMS when I devour an entire box of Junior Mints in one sitting. And I always feel bad not being able to come to the rescue if a friend asked if I have an extra tampon in my bag.
But honestly, hitting menopause has been pretty awesome. I never have to check the calendar to see when my period is due when planning a vacation, and I can wear white dresses and shorts without worrying about standing up and having a tell-tale stain behind me. With the support of a great doctor and some help from a great moisturizer, I’m owning my status as a premature menopause unicorn.