Labrador woman starts menopause group to break stigma and silence

·3 min read
Catherine Burry said she wanted to have open and fact-based conversations around menopause to help others who may be going through the life change.  (Submitted by Catherine Burry - image credit)
Catherine Burry said she wanted to have open and fact-based conversations around menopause to help others who may be going through the life change. (Submitted by Catherine Burry - image credit)

When Catherine Burry hit her 50s, she thought she was prepared for menopause.

However, the 51-year-old said it hit her like a ton of bricks and she had no idea the impact it would have on her life.

Now she's started a support group to bring people facing the onslaught of symptoms and hormonal changes across Labrador together.

"I didn't want other women to go through it the same as I did, very blindly," Burry said. "I also want to offer a safe place of support for women to be able to discuss things without embarrassment or shame."

In her late 40s, Burry was already perimenopausal — meaning transitioning toward menopause — but didn't think much of it as she was healthy, exercised and ate a good diet. However, when menopause hit in earnest, it was unexpected.

"The anxiety, irritability, loss of joy in my life. I felt like I didn't know who I was anymore," Burry said. "Lack of motivation, trouble sleeping. I was having hot flashes probably 15 times a day. I would get night sweats, waking up six or seven times a night. So I was exhausted."

After doing some research and talking to her family doctor, Burry said she learned there are more than 30 symptoms of menopause and it's not talked about enough.

"This is not something that we have to suffer in silence and go through this and just deal with it on our own," said Erika Fowler a doctor and an assistant professor with the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Memorial University. "There are certainly lots of options that are available to patients and people who are going through menopause."

Churchill Falls Library/Facebook
Churchill Falls Library/Facebook

In the past, menopause was seen as something to keep under wraps, Fowler said, but people are working to normalize talking about it.

"I think we need to speak about it more so that people feel comfortable talking about menopause and the normal things that can happen and ways that we can help manage it and feel better," Fowler said.

The phase of menopause can also be a wonderful part of your life and not something to fear, Fowler said.

Submitted by Dr. Erika Fowler
Submitted by Dr. Erika Fowler

Fowler said a common misconception is that treatments such as hormone replacement therapy is unsafe or causes cancer, but Fowler says for many people that is not true.

"A patient who takes hormone replacement therapy for five years, for example, their risk of breast cancer just does slightly increase by about two more per 1,000," Fowler said.

Burry has seen and heard a number of misinformation pieces as well, she said. One being that taking hormone replacement therapy is failing. Burry said that is untrue and a diabetic person wouldn't be critiqued for their medication, so menopausal people shouldn't be either.

As well, Burry said she's heard the misconception that menopause is natural and therefore people should be able to handle it naturally. Burry said from an evolutionary standpoint, that's not true.

"Women have only been experiencing menopause for less, 170 years or so. And before then, they didn't live long after their reproductive years," Burry said. "We're living longer … 30 to 40 years after menopause. And that's a long time to try and handle a hormone deficiency naturally."

The first meeting of Burry's support group on Nov. 14 went well, Burry said, and she only hopes it grows. The group meets monthly at the Churchill Falls Library and details can be found on the library's Facebook page.

"I want to empower women to advocate for themselves and how they choose to handle their menopause, to let them know that they're not alone and they're not broken," Burry said. "Enjoy it and do what you can to make yourself feel better."

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