Having been a functional paraplegic and manual wheelchair user for several years, I was used to coping with the semi-regular revolt of my body parts. I’d learned to live with sporadic UTIs, slipping tendons in my thumbs and a cranky patch of skin under my left bum cheek that occasionally likes to become a wound — usually when I’m away from home with no supplies, of course. Then one day I was blindsided by a problem I couldn’t just roll through, the one that turned my life upside down — menopause.
Now, you men who read the “M” word and kept reading, know that you are awesome. No wonder the women in your life love you! Stay with us, gents, and hopefully you will learn some things to make those ladies’ lives a little easier.
And ladies — my sittin’ sisters — I know you’re still here, because you’ve either ridden “the beast” or heard dark tales of your hormonal future. Sadly, wheelers can’t always count on guidance from medical professionals regarding the “M” word, so we have to rely on each other. I talked to some menopausal wheelers who were willing to share their experiences and tips to help you get through your menopause.
First, the basics — what exactly is menopause? Technically speaking, “menopause” is the point in time when a woman’s menstrual periods have stopped for a full year. It happens because a woman’s ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, usually after age 45. Prior to menopause is a time called “perimenopause,” aka menopausal transition, when your periods become irregular and you can experience a wide array of symptoms resulting from fluctuating hormones. Together they comprise what we’ll call the “menopause experience.”
The bottom line on menopause is that it brings lots of hormone changes, usually over several years, and those changes affect everyone differently. Take the contrasting cases of Kathleen, a T2 para, and Lynn, whose dual C5-T8 incomplete and complete injuries result in functional paraplegia.
“You feel like you are on fire,” remembers Kathleen, a 59-year-old from California. “I didn’t mind it in the winter, when the additional warmth was not bad, but in the summer, it became quite uncomfortable.”
Lynn’s experience couldn’t have been more different.
“I had heard