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The Finish Line for the Big-M Was in Sight

After nearly a year, I had a red-letter day...but not sure it's cause for celebration (or jewelry), really

Despite being the one behind our sometimes-outrageous TMI Tuesday status updates (hotel sex, anyone?) on our Facebook page and writing the chapter in The Book about peeing, pooping, passing gas, and periods, I’m hesitant to pen this post. It’s about…menopause. My top three excuses? 1. My mom never had “The Talk” with me, so I’ve never been fully comfortable talking about, ahem, menstruation (or lack thereof). 2. There isn’t enough good slang for menopause (let’s rectify that, ladies!). 3. I am not 100% comfortable with being 45 years old…and getting dogged with early onset menopause. (There, I typed it. A first step, right?)

But I’ve decided to broach the topic because several fans have told us they wish we’d talk about it. Here goes: I’ve suspected for several years that early onset menopause might be coming my way because I had secondary infertility due to elevated FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels. My doc said the two aren’t necessarily linked but they often are. Always a glass-half-full kinda gal, I didn’t dwell or worry—until last summer, when I started bleeding like crazy. If I’d gone swimming in shark-infested waters, I would have been fish-food: Heavy bleeding for a week, then 10 days off, then another heavier-and-longer period, then an 8-day reprieve, then another bleeding session…you get the bloody (literally) picture. Never one to rush in for medical advice, I merely grumbled, contemplated buying stock in Playtex, and fared forward until a good running friend urged me to see my OB/GYN. The doc did some bloodwork and said nothing was wrong except that, well, lookie there, my hormone levels showed I was already in menopause. (Gulp!) But she said menopause was a slippery thing: The real marker was absence of a period for one year.

My rash of periods had stopped by then, late August, so, again, I just kept keeping on, this time free of cooter-plugs. (Sorry: I have to work some bawdy slang into this post, don’t I?!) I’ll admit: I was floored when the doc delivered the, “you’re in menopause” line. It made me feel so…old. While it had been great to get served in bars when I was 19, suddenly seeming older than my real age bummed me out. Moaning about my situation to my pal Molly, she made me see the bright side. At least I hadn’t had to go through years of night sweats, migraines, hot flashes, and thinning hair—I’d taken the express train to menopause without suffering any real symptoms.


I quickly rallied and absent-mindedly kept track of the passing months, waiting for the one-year anniversary of my last period. (Again, a catchy slang phrase is needed here. Bleed-iversary? Red-letter day?) This summer, as it drew nearer, the date felt like a finish line I wanted to reach—yet didn’t want to cross. It would feel so final, and I worried what the lack of estrogen might do to my body. (I’m already convinced it’s why I’ve had so many foot pains and issues this year.) Then, last week, I was like a sprinter who stumbles right before breaking the tape: Yup, you guessed it, I got my period again. (Best response? A dear 41-year-old friend, who always makes me laugh, said, “Our bodies are like old cars—they sputter.”)

Now I’ve hit the reset button. I’m somewhat relieved and, oddly, somewhat disappointed.



81 responses to “The Finish Line for the Big-M Was in Sight

  1. As a fellow 45-year old, I can relate. I’m just starting to get a bit irregular but dread the big event. Your eggs mat be “older” but you rock the younger fit body!

  2. Sarah – Seeing/talking to you as often as I do, I am not sure I can say anything more profound or supportive or ‘sisterly’ that hasn’t already been shared, but I will tell you this…I LOVE YOU for who you are and what you bring out in so many other ‘mother runners’. Like your 1st anniversary run for RLAM, these women are sharing these very personal, emotional yet supportive thoughts BECAUSE of you…What a gift that is for so many! Bravery, courage, ‘lady balls’, sentimental laughter, support and love (and more) all rolled into these posts…I MUST MUST MUST tell my mom about the ‘cooty plugs’ comment, you know how she is about those “C” words!!! Can’t wait to see you and the family for the twins birthday party! XO

  3. Great post SBS!!! This last week has been a doozie of hormonal drama llama and “ice tea” (how is that for TMI) as I waited and waited for my well overdue period- late by 10 days. I had been on a 3 week cycle with heavy bleeding for the past 6 mths. I really thought I was heading into go with the flow excitement of adding to our family but as soon as I asked my husband to go fetch me a pregnancy test the “cooter plug” was needed. This getting old thing is very different and I am trying my best to navigate. I appreciate you sharing your story with us. Thank you 🙂

  4. Gee, I must have had early onset menopause from the time I was a tween until my ablation 2 years ago. I don’t miss the non-stop periods for a moment. I’m hoping it will help me transition to the big M more smoothly when my time comes. In the meantime I now have a summer run goal to come up with menopause slang. I’m thinking something with alliteration…

  5. Thanks SBS for writing about this topic. I’m 48 years old, and have noticed things have been “changing”over the past year. My periods are coming more frequently (every three weeks, ugh!), I wake up hot in the middle of the night, and can go from zero to super-bitch for no apparent reason. Thank goodness for running! Running and keeping active has helped alleviate the moodiness. At my yearly visit, I told my doc I thought I was in menopause, and asked how soon would it all be over. She just laughed and said “honey, you’ve got a long way to go!” Dang – too bad it can’t be like a faucet and just shut off when we’re done having our kids!

  6. And another thing. What a joy to raise a ‘tweener (can we say puberty!) while going through my own Big Change

    1. That’s part of my problem! I can’t tell if my mood swings/fatigue are due to pre-M or just dealing with two teenagers….ugh!

  7. At almost-age-47 I’ve (we’ve, as a family…) been on my Peri-Go-Round for a couple of years now. The ferocious moods are a bear in need of a cave. I don’t like to be around me either then. I’m looking forward to a saner, calmer me – but when? My mother died pre-menopausal at 48 so I think I have a couple of years to go.

    SBS – I wondered when this topic would come up. Thanks for opening the discussion!

    1. Thank YOU, and to all you ladies, for being so receptive and “welcoming.” I really hesitated for a long time. Heck, I’ve barely shared this news with any immediate friends. NOW look how many folks know “;>)

  8. I am now 42 and the hot flashes/crazy night sweats started 2 years ago. My younger sister (2 years younger) was told at 37 that she was peri-menopausal. She just had a partial hysterectomy (just the uterus) one month shy of her 40th birthday, after 2+ years of monsoon like periods lasting 2-3 weeks out of 4 and being sent to the emergency room for severe anemia. She wasn’t a candidate for the ablation because of the severe bleeding. My sister has taken it in stride (the last two years of hell made it easier) and her uterus, or lack there of has become a family joke. The night before her surgery we had a Goodbye Uterus party. My 6 year old nephew suggested I make a cake shaped like a uterus with a tombstone on it but we settled for pie instead (it said Goodbye UT on the top – when the cashier asked if someone was moving, I cracked up and told her it was a joke).

    Through my sister, I am learning to just embrace the changes life brings.

    1. I would have paid good money to see you bake a uterus-shaped cake!! Raspberry, strawberry, or other RED filling, of course.

  9. Just had to buy some more “cooter plugs” lol! Thought I had reached my red letter day at last, after 3 or more years of sputtering, but nooooo! I’m 51 and am really looking forward to no more periods, and I’m with Nancy and her Mom (the first comment) I feel like I’m just getting started here and that my best years are ahead of me.

  10. I’m not ready for this either, but I’m definitely in perimenopause at 41. I finally had to go on the pill because I was afraid my mood swings would end in divorce or jail. Seriously, I was ragingly angry at ovulation AND during PMS. And I had the added bonus of skin breaking out like I was 16 again. Fun.

    I finally had to go on the pill for some relief. I’m so not looking forward to the hormone ride when I decide to go off it.

    Thanks for being so open about it. It’s so nice to hear how others are getting through this next step in life…

  11. I lost my mom too soon, and one thing I mourned was not being able to ask her about when menopause hit her, what to expect, etc. In a rare tender moment with my dad (he’s sweet – but what 70 year old man wants to talk about THAT?) I said to him “dad – I think I may be starting menopause (I was 40). By chance do you remember when Mom started going through “the change?” He got very serious, and said “yes, sweetheart, I remember it well.” I leaned in. “The day I married her. HAHAHAHAHAH!!!!” Weisenheimer. ;D But he cracks me up. God bless us all as we ride this crazy ride that is being a woman – and thank God we’re not on the rollercoaseter alone. ;D

  12. In my late forties, I went back on the pill to regulate my rather erratic periods. I took it til I was 51 and decided to stop. Thankfully so did my period. Yeah I have had some hot flashes. But I have gained a more serene attitude. Although I have been a runner since 1977, I only ran in fun runs over the years.

    At 54 I ran my first official half marathon. (Chicago Rock n Roll) This August I hope to run my third…guess I was a late bloomer!

  13. I’m 39 and recently had a doctor’s appointment where the big M was discussed. I about had a heart attack (and so did my best friend when I told her)! But, same as many above – discussed multiple options to deal with the erratic and mostly unbearable heavy periods. She suggested starting with Lo Loestrin Fe, a low dose pill that one can stay on through the “peri” phase. Trying it for 3 months to see how it works. Thanks for this post, so happy to know I’m not alone.

  14. Cooter Plugs… that is great! I can’t wait to use that in a conversation!. I love having a place we can share thoughts, experiences and feelings. What a spectacular group of women!

  15. Thanks for this post! It’s so good to hear the stories! I’m a late bloomer, as I’m pregnant w/ my 2nd child at the age of 41 (and I am having hot flashes / ‘hormone surges’ as I call them). I feel like there is so much that is not talked about among women. I felt like when I was pregnant the first time, and then postpartum, that I had ‘joined a club’ and learned so much more about my body and ‘being a woman’ than ever before. I learned things that, well, nobody talked about!

    As an aside, my sister and I used to joke that when we got our period, we were having a ‘tamper-tantrum’! And, there’s the quote: “Never mess with anything that bleeds for 5 days and doesn’t die!”

  16. wow I am really surprised at the age of the pre and current menopause ladies here…i had no idea this could come at 40 (barring other medical issues). although what i’ve been told is the earlier you get your period the later menopause can come so sadly this day appears nowhere near yet….

    1. Intriguing that the *earlier* you get your period, the later menopause hits. Sorta not fair, in a warped way…some women gets LOADS of years of estrogen, others a more narrow window.

  17. 44 here, I never had big period issues, so I’m not one to really look forward to it ending. I’ve also had migraines since I was 9, maybe they’ll go away?
    I COULD be in perimenopause, but since I only started running 5 years ago I started sweating a LOT, and can’t really tell.
    I’m not looking forward to it, but not dreading it either, it’s just another stop on the journey of life. You’re not alone!

  18. SBS, I can soooo relate. I’ll be 47 this year and had the periods from hell for so long that I finally had a Mirena put in (at age 42). Now I can leave my house without having to worry about the great floods that used to happen every time I stood up. Since having it, I sort of feel like I’ve gone through menopause as I don’t get much of a period and I have to say, I can’t wait for that real day to finally arrive. I feel strong, young (at heart), and I even got carded the other day at the grocery store….kind of like beign called *Miss* at the airport. Great topic and thanks for sharing!

    1. Exactly: I feel SO young at heart, Erica. I guess I’m just wrestling with that feeling v. what my body is telling me. (Oh, and my deep furrow in middle of my brow…)

  19. I think you can put me in this camp too. After years (including 3 post-pregnancy) of clock-like regularity in my periods, last year they suddenly started to be all over the map. My mom had an early “red letter day” too, so I was expecting it. But that doesn’t make it any more fun. I’m glad you wrote about that too. We can all rely on running (rather than estrogen) to keep us young!

    1. Well put, Terzah. I might have to occasionally steal your line that running (not estrogen) keeps me young. Maybe a tank slogan for us in a few years?? ha, ha.

  20. 1 year ago I got the honor of being present when my sister-in-law gave birth to her daughter in a room full of women. What I learned that day? That there is amazing strength in a group of women. I think we do ourselves a great dishonor when we try to be so independent and hush hush about the things our bodies were made to do. I love this amazing group of women where there is so much support and so much sharing. 🙂 Helps me know that we can get through anything.

    1. What a moving comment, Angie. Thank you for painting a powerful picture for us, and affirming what we have going on here.

  21. Best 40th b-day present I got (7 years ago!) was a book about perimenopause from my “young aunt.” She didn’t want me to go through the same doubts and worries she had. Best thing I did got myself was get a cervical ablation which eliminated at least the messy part!

  22. I’m 43 and was having similar issues – very heavy periods coming every two to three weeks. My doc said it was normal for my age group and said he didn’t think I was in danger of having my own “red letter day” anytime soon. But I got the Mirena IUD to help with my periods and I’m so glad that I did. I still never know when my period is coming but at least when it does, it’s hardly anything at all (although I still get PMS). In a way I wish I actually got a slightly heavier period just so I know it’s really there (I’ve gone through a few pregnancy tests since getting the IUD as I am a major preggochondriac) but I’ll take this over the gushing any day.

  23. Thanks for talking about this, SBS. My periods are still regular, but I have night sweats probably 5 out of 7 nights a week.I feel like I can’t ever get a good night’s rest, and usually wake up cold and damp. I dread the idea that this could go on for years.

      1. P.S. They are spendy for jammies. I get them for Xmas gifts…or on eBay. Good bargains for them on there. New with tags. FYI

  24. Sooooo I’m relativly young, but after going through ovarian cancer at 20 I was basically putting my ‘refridgerate only’ eggs into a sauna. I was surprised and very excited to have two babies post chemo, but I am getting the symptoms of early menopause. No real surprise here. But at only 29 I worry about bone health and skin (no one ever mentioned to me the stray long hairs that appear out of no where …)

    Anyway, I have a few names for you:

    When someone asks how your are (now please note I was asked this a lot while going through treatments) you answer “Ovary well”

    My dad horrifically coined “riding the cotton pony” to my sister one time when she was moody- but it’s funny now.

    OTR – on the rag

    Being womanly

    Anyway, you’re like a superhero who fought the nightsweats and crazies and won. I wanna be SBS when I get big!

  25. I think if I put cooter plugs on the grocery list my husband would at least laugh first before refusing to buy them. lol. Good post though! I’ve resorted to 90 day pills because my period sucks ass. And I would dread it every month. Now it’s just every 3 months or so.

  26. I LOVED READING THIS! Coming from this somewhat shy Mother who still gets a little self conscience at the checkout line when buying tampons. I am 42 years young and have lived your life! I did, however, experience the heat flashes and mood swings and when I was told I was in early menopause I was less then thrilled. But, as the year anniversary approached I began to embrace the idea of never having to have my period again and I changed from sad to excited! The nightsweats were gone, the heat flashes over and all I had to do was get to May 1, 2011. The finish line was in my sight – and on April 23rd – 7 days shy of officially having a red letter day – I had to restart the clock all over again. Sigh. It is crazy but if this is the worst of my problems then I figure it’s all good. Thanks for sharing!

    1. NOOOOOO, 7 days away from red-letter day?!?! Oh, that puts my month-away in perspective. Thanks for sharing (believe it or not, I’m still embarrassed to buy tampons too…not that I have to, since I stockpiled last summer. Oy). We’ll have to keep track of each other’s progress in this coming year….

  27. My hysterectomy 5 years ago at 45 (still got ovaries and estrogen though) cured the “sputtering” part, thankfully. I can’t imagine running with the va-jay-jay issues I was having that precipitated the surgery! I agree with your call for new, fun terminology. And no, ya can’t say “cooter plugs” w/o at least cracking a smile mid-syllable! I won’t get to have a real M day though, I will just have to guess. Like maybe, when I go a year w/o a hot flash?! 🙂 Thanks SO much for a great topic, great post.

    1. Alison, how about those hysterectomies where you keep the ovaries (had one this past December)?! Upside~ no more dropping maxipads by accident on the course when I run. Downside~ not remembering to still track dates and waking up wanting to kill my husband for no apparent reason. [email protected] hormones.

  28. I love you SBS. You made me think of my all time favorite euphemism for menstruation, courtesy of the Onion:

    “It’s that time of the month when I’m not at my best because I’m bleeding from my vagina.”

    See the rest here:,7206/

    P.S. I had a hot flash at Target this year and thought I was dying. I literally had to squat down and put my head between my knees because I thought I was going to pass out. Next, with my body completely drenched in a cold sweat, I forged ahead to the Frozen Food aisle, where at least I would find relief reaching in for frozen pizzas.

    P.S.S. My period was getting all wackadoo and the doc put me on birth control pills last year. Best thing that could have happened to me. So far.

    1. I’m sitting w/ my mother-in-law and we are HOWLING at that Onion story, Cathy. Thanks for the laugh. I’m home sick with a UTI so things “down there” are very much on my mind.

  29. Another great app to track symptoms is the myPause app – great way to see trends, how often you have hot flashes, your period, etc.

  30. Thanks for the great post. According to my doc I’ve been in perimenopause for a few years–I’m 43. Erratic periods and an occasional hot flash. Wow. My first hot flash and I wondered how in the heck I got to be old enough to have those. No other symptoms yet, but those are enough, thank you.

    Thanks to Terri above, I now have P-Tracker lite on my phone. That’ll be one app my kids won’t play with! Hopefully there will be some rhyme and reason to when it comes. Right now I just don’t want to have it when I run my first marathon!

    1. Jo, that’s the first thing I wanted P-tracker lite for, to help project my period on race day. After putting the past year’s data in, it’s starting to be more accurate.

    2. Jo–I hear you. Dim has trouble understanding why I am so reticent to talk about this. All has to do with feeling of, “am I really OLD enough for this to be happening to me?” Maybe that’s why I was so pleased to be called, “Miss” at the airport the other evening…

      1. I was afraid to tell my friends who are the same age as me, thinking they would no longer think I was “one of them,” strange as that seems. Fortunately I have some girlfriends about a decade older than me who are willing to talk about it, once they get over the shock that I’m really there. Maybe it’s not as “early-onset” as we’ve thought, maybe this is somewhat common but people don’t talk about it!

  31. I am SO glad you wrote about this topic. I am 40 and had ablation done 2 years ago due to extremely heavy periods. I didn’t have a period for a year post-procedure, but then it started again…now I sputter and deal with night sweats, fatigue and migraines. My mom had early onset menopause, so I sort of expected it, but it has been a bit of a mental stumbling block for me. It is good to know others in the tribe deal with this, too!!

    1. I was just talking to a close friend who had ablation done a few years ago. First I’d ever heard of it…proof that this topic, and surrounding ones, need discussing (along with slang terms). To quote HS Musical 1: We’re all in this together.

  32. The old car thing…sputtering..yes, makes sense. I love that you wrote about this. I know that this will be a HUGE thing in my life and I will want to talk about it to anyone that will listen. So much that I anticipate coming with this M word…the emotions, hormones, feelings, reflections on life, sweating…:) More later. Off to get my kid out of his crib.

  33. Great post! Great timing! I’m going through, perimenopause, (pre-menopause). Oh joy! I’m 39, but experiencing erratic periods, night sweats, hot flashes and big mood swings as of late. Not my finer moments to say the least. I’d love to just be DONE once and for all with periods!

    1. I’m with you Michelle. I started with the hot flashes this winter while I was 40. The mood swings are awful (my poor kids!!). Once again, so nice to not feel alone in this crazy journey.

      1. I think same thing–my poor kids. At recent fitness evaluation, I mentioned my early menopause. The coach asked if I noticed any side effects, like shorter fuse with my kids. I replied I had no idea: Maybe I’d still be the same snappish mommy I am just by the mere fact I have three young kids. But maybe I’d have way more patience if I wasn’t on hormone rollercoaster. Times like this I need alternate universe for a definitive answer.

    2. I realized at 39 that I hadn’t had a period for 5 years. I had attributed it to pregnancies and breastfeeding, but a year after weaning my son, I had to admit that something was up. Not that I was complaining! I had two kids, why not shut it down? It was only the absent-mindedness, hot flashes and zits that made me realize something else might be going on. Now a year later I’m gleefully free of periods… but thinking this might be too soon to be free of estrogen, and a tiny bit (in the back of my head) worried about the long term effects on my body. We’ll see! I’m so glad to see there are other women out there going through the same early-onset menopause – let’s keep talking about it!

  34. Thanks for the post! I am a nearly 47 year old runner (looking at least 10 years younger) who has been suffering through months of unrelenting periods (3 weeks on, 1 week off). I stocked up on OB and Carefree, and then, just like that, my periods stopped in the winter. We’ll see what happens next. My most pressing symptom is difficulty with word retrieval, and I also have night sweats. Vitamin B complex and Ginseng both help. It’s so important to talk about this. . .just like it’s important to talk about the reality of labor and delivery. I’m definitely embracing my inner crone!

    1. We need to start a Craigslist-type service for tampons we’ll never use again. Or maybe I just keep them for 4 or 5 years until my older daughter needs them!??

    2. Rhonda, I have trouble remembering words and had no idea it could be related to pre-menopause! I sweat like a fiend, too!

  35. SBS Happy Red Letter Day!! I couldn’t wait to get my period when I was younger and while I’m not sure I can’t wait to get rid of it…I fully believe it is a glorious coming of age that does liberate you in ways you don’t yet know. Sorry for the hot flashes and yo-yo emotions about it; blaze this trail too Sarah, you are gonna get on top of it like you do everything else!

  36. I’ve been post menopausal since I was 20, and experienced the same shark food-like symptoms for years. I did estrogen therapy twice to try to reduce the flood, though it was like trying to damn Niagara with a tampon. Finally hit 30 this year, and finally found a doc who was willing to do the essure and ablation procedures – I was functionally infertile, but with none of the fringe benefits, yet no doc would do sterilization because of my age. Since I had the ablation done, and allowed my body to BE in it’s post menopausal state, I actually feel way better, and have been running with a feeling of freedom I haven’t been able to experience until recently. Let your body do what it needs to do, and know that you’re not the only one with that experience!

    1. Thank you for the empathy, Eileen. I’m glad you found some relief. I’m just sorry it took so long to find a reasonable doctor. (argh!)

  37. Cooter plugs. A million thanks for introducing a new, classy slang to my vocabulary. I can’t wait to use it in conversation, although I don’t think I can say the whole word without breaking into a chuckle.

    1. Glad I could add a new word to your vocab, Amanda. Come hang out with my fraternity-boy husband, and you’ll go home with a suitcase FULL of new slang. Keeps life fun. And, yes, “cooter plug” is a tough one to get out w/o laughing. Try blurting it!

  38. Excellent post! Embracing Maiden/Mother/Crone makes this running tribe a whole one. I’m standing at the perimenopausal precipice myself and am using the P-tracker App to know exactly when to celebrate.

  39. Sign me up for a ticket for that express train!

    SBS – Would love to know what your doc measured to figure out you were already on your way; I’d always heard there are no accurate tests, and I would like to be able to check myself.

    Nancy – so good to hear that your athletic performance has improved, not suffered! I’ve been wondering/worrying about the effect of the big M on athletic performance, and haven’t been able to find any good info.

    I’ve found this site amusing and informative (not mine, just passing along) (the subhead is “not your mama’s menopause”)

    1. MJ–Thank you for link to Liz’s blog. Great to connect with her, and read her great posts. I’m fairly certain the blood test was for FSH (follicle stimulating hormones). Mine was like 95, which basically shows of my eggs are past their expiration date. Sorry I can’t be more helpful. I just know my straight-talking doc (whom I admire and like a lot) was just like, “yup, according to the numbers, you are already in menopause.” End of story.

  40. Sarah, from one who has reached that particular finish line, prepare to be liberated! Although I still have hot flashes, night sweats, and so on, three years after the no-red-letter day, life is better all the time. My (now 90 year old) mom told me for years that age 50 was the start to the best years of her life, and I chose to trust that she was right. I have risen out of the estrogen brain fog that ruled way too many of my choices– and I am suddenly fearless. I run faster, swim smoother, and am eager to start my days. Have a blast with it!

    1. Thank you, thank you, Nancy. I have never heard anyone give that message–I’m going to carry it with me on this journey. xo

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