One of the things I love most about my job is the wide range of people I have the opportunity to meet and speak to on a day to day basis. I’m constantly blown away by the number of inspiring people I meet who are campaigning for something they believe in, and who are committing time and energy to a cause close to their heart.
Take today, for example. This morning I chatted with Jean Kittson who, as well as being a stand up comedian, a writer for TV and radio and a dedicated mother of two (one of whom spent the morning completing her University exams), also finds the time to campaign for women’s health issues.
From the very start of our conversation, it became clear that Jean is not frightened to address issues other people shy away from.
Meeting to speak about the menopause – something I, at 29 years old, have only experienced through the ups and downs of my Mum’s brief battle with HRT – it was with a tremor of embarrassment that I found myself asking Jean about her own experience of ‘the change of life.’
But it’s that embarrassment that Jean is trying to break down. “Menopause is the last taboo in women’s health,” Jean told me, once we’d covered off how proud she was of her daughter’s success. “People spend more time talking about incontinence in their 80s than they do discussing the menopause.” Indeed, her own mother hid her five year experience of the menopause (which she describes as the worst five years of her life) from her daughter, until Jean, experiencing hot flushes for the first time, felt compelled to ask her questions.
Fortunately, three years in to her own experience, Jean is far from looking back at the time as “hell on earth.” So why has her exposure to menopause been different to that of her Mother, and what advice can Jean give to those experiencing symptoms for the first time?
Firstly, Jean recommends the services of a good gynaecologist, who can talk you through the various (and there are multiple) treatment options available to you. Read as much as you can and understand the changes that are going to take place . “It’s a huge physical change. Your periods stop, so you need to understand what’s going on,” Jean advises.
Secondly, she recommends trying different options until you find something that suits you. For Jean, that was Remifemin, a natural, hormone-free supplement designed to relieve the side effects of menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings. It’s also important to acknowledge any triggers that may induce symptoms – red wine, sugar and hot drinks can all spark hot flushes.
Jean also believes women should embrace the change. “Menopause has instilled in me a strength in my convictions that I didn’t have before. I’m happy to argue for what I believe in. It’s a really important cycle in your life – a maturing. You become wiser.”
But most important to Jean is encouraging women to share their experiences. “Just talking about it is really important. There aren’t many women, and certainly not a lot of women in the media that will talk about it.”
The full interview with Jean will be available online soon.
– What advice do you have for women experiencing the menopause?
– Do you agree with Jean’s advice?