Menopause and Pulmonary Fibrosis Mark a New Chapter in My Life
This is not easy to talk about. I don’t even want to discuss it with my husband. I already feel awkward being intimate while wearing a nasal cannula and don’t want to add another unsexy health issue.
My husband and I have always had a strong attraction to each other. I don’t want to lose that part of our relationship. I love that he still finds me sexy, even with my illness and all my attachments.
Even when I started having symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis in my late 40s, I felt like I knew my body well. I was finally diagnosed in 2019 at the age of 53. While it has been hard to adjust to, I thought I had it all figured out.
Until … menopause.
But how am I supposed to navigate living with PF and a heart condition and dealing with a different stage in my life? I’m at a point where I’m not well and my energy is gone, so what do I blame it on? My illness or menopause?
I had never discussed it with another woman until recently when I spoke to my older sister about it. I mentioned the dilemma with my health. At last, I had found another woman who understood the struggle. She, too, battles an autoimmune disease while going through menopause. We laughed and made fun of “the change in life.” In that moment, I felt a closeness to my older sister.
In the last three years, menopause has come to challenge me in a difficult way. As if it weren’t difficult enough having pulmonary fibrosis, I now must navigate the way my body and moods change.
Sometimes I struggle to accept how I look. My body isn’t a young woman’s anymore. It has taken a beating with gravity. My breasts practically hang like heavy sacks of rocks, my skin is beginning to look saggy and wrinkled, my hair has turned gray, and I have dark, aging spots where my cannula rests on my face.
Added to that, I must also work to accept how menopause has wreaked havoc on my PF. My lack of energy goes on for days, making my body feel sluggish and my lungs heavy.
Having this conversation with my pulmonologist just seems uncomfortable. “Oh, by the way, doctor, along with my PF, I think I may be fighting menopause.” I am embarrassed that she may think I’m making too big a deal about it.
I remember reading an AARP interview with Latina celebrity Salma Hayek in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. What caught my eye were the details about Hayek’s life. She mentioned dealing with aging and menopause, and how a woman’s body changes with time.
“Growing old, to me, has to do with repetition,” she told her interviewer, Ana Veciana-Suárez, who wrote that, “People of any age who approach life with a sense of wonder and openness to change defy that process.”
I love the idea of changing with the times. It means I can reinvent myself when the time arises. Although it is a challenge to navigate menopause with my illness, I have come to believe that I should not deny myself happiness. I need to find harmony with my aging. It’s time to embrace this part of my life and take the bull by the horns.
Aging is a process of life. It comes whether we want it or not. It is the addition of my illness that makes this process difficult to maneuver.
I want to make sure that I keep my independence for as long as I can. I know what my illness can do, but I am not afraid. Life is a bumpy road, and let me tell you, so is having a rare illness and going through menopause. But I can’t let that slow me down. I still have a lot of life in me.
I want to wake up every morning and ask, “What new thing do I want to accomplish today?”
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.