When we created M+ it was essential to us that the women featured in our imagery were real, women who had been through or are going through menopause. They are strong, interesting, engaging, glamorous people going through a change in life.
One of those women is Penny, who became a fan of Jennifer Young skincare products when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, just before first lockdown in 2020. After reaching her 49th birthday last year, a personal landmark day, she has hit menopause and has since begun managing the effects.
Here, Penny talks about her experience with menopause and shares the things she wants other people to know, to change the way we think, talk about and treat menopause.
What’s your experience of menopause been like?
I started HRT in after having symptoms - not remembering things - and was told I was in perimenopause when they took my blood. I went on HRT for six months but then I got breast cancer. I AM NOT saying it’s linked but I do think HRT is being given out like sweets and women think it will help everything. I can’t take it at all now.
What do you dislike about it the most?
I don’t really think of it that way because I had an early menopause due to my cancer treatment so I’m grateful for what I’ve got but it came at a price. I think the main challenge is sleep - I’ve gone from being a really good sleeper to always putting the covers on and off or needing to get up to go to the toilet, which is disruptive.
What are your top tips for other women going through menopause?
Layers! Lots of layers, and I’m a big advocate of cotton. Always carry a stylish fan and yoga is hugely helpful. It’s helped me to remember that if I get a sudden flash of heat I know it will pass and it will be ok.
Has anything good come from the experience?
It’s a bit of a double edged thing as I am not sure if my cancer diagnosis made me care less or if I care less because I’ve gone through menopause but I’m better able to accept things. I look after myself more and I think it really is a time to pause in life, to reassess, take stock and remember that it’s ok what’s happening, it will pass naturally.
What would you like other people to know about?
The memory issues because it is quite scary. I thought I had early onset dementia and I don’t think that’s talked about enough. I think people think it’s just about hot flushes but it’s more than that and the more that’s discussed the better it will be for women.
How would you say menopause affects relationships?
With my colleagues at work, it’s good they have an understanding of it because it’s not talked about in the workplace generally. I think it needs to be talked about in general because it has a big impact on how a woman feels about doing her job and how she can do her job with the tiredness and the memory impact.
Tell us about the challenges in the workplace?
I think there are things that can be done to help make the workplace more accessible to women going through menopause and to help you do your job well. For example, I’m situated near a staffroom so I can easily get a drink which is great as I drink all the time now. They’ve also limited the amount of moving from one site to another that I have to do, which is helpful. I have a bit more structure too because you’re working with a figgy memory a lot of the time so structure really helps.
What would you like to see change in the conversation around menopause?
I think it’s often seen as all doom and gloom and menopause is not really talked about properly. Yes there are some things that are different, but they’re just different. It’s a new stage in life and hopefully the more we talk about these things, the easier it makes it for people because it normalises it. You can’t stay the same throughout your whole life, so just look after yourself and be kind to yourself - I think that’s really important.