We speak to 80s pop star Shirlie Kemp about her experience of the menopause.
Team MM: When did you start experiencing your first symptoms?
Shirlie Kemp: Peri-menopause started in my late 40s, mainly with extreme tiredness and putting on weight around my waist and stomach. I would have to sleep for an hour or more every afternoon, especially if I had done an exercise class in the morning.
Team MM: What were the worst symptoms that you experienced?
SK: I was about 52 when the hot flushes started. When I had hot flushes in the night, it would wake me up as my muscles felt like they were having spasms. That was really horrible. I couldn’t believe how hot my skin would get and how much it disturbs your sleep.
Team MM: Did you go to your doctor and what was their response?
SK: I went to my doctor when I was feeling tired and anxious but they never once said that this can be related to the menopause. Instead, I would be offered anti-depressants that I didn’t take. I have always been a self-healer and throughout the 90s took many courses in healing and spiritual work but I wasn’t winning with the hot flushes.
Team MM: When were you formally diagnosed?
SK: I eventually went to see a private consultant, who was so sympathetic and said the first thing we have to do is get your blood test results as this is the only way you can tell exactly what your hormones are doing. I went back a week or so after the blood tests and she confirmed that my estrogen levels were very low.
Team MM: Did you feel comfortable talking about the menopause with your loved ones? What was their reaction?
SK: I was happy to tell anyone who would listen because the hot flushes would come anytime and anywhere and it kind of stops you in your tracks. I spoke with lots of girlfriends, some who had no problems to others who had to sleep on towels because their sweats were so bad.
Team MM: Before you started going the menopause, did you have much knowledge of it? Was it something that your mother ever discussed with you?
SK: My mother died when I was 43, so the menopause wasn’t something I ever asked her about. I remember her having hot flushes but she just got on with it.
Team MM: Women’s issues have been brought to the fore in recent years. Do you think this is enough or is there more that needs to be done?
SK: Women are still in the transition of empowerment and equal rights globally but yes, we still have a very long way to go and I feel my generation are maybe the first generation to be making a noise about women’s health and medication.
Team MM: As someone in the public eye, do you think the media should do more to open the discussion around the menopause?
SK: I think it’s happening. There are some wonderful, consultants, health experts and bloggers out there, just like Meg who are talking about the menopause and helping women but most importantly, giving the right information and not scaremongering. I remember the first time I heard about HRT, it was just horror stories and something I never thought I would take but in the end, after trying quite a lot of natural/alternative products, I gave up, researched HRT (elleste solo: a synthetic drug made from plants) and got my prescription. I was a bit nervous about taking it, as I really didn’t like the idea but it worked so quickly and calmed my flushes down and I just felt so much better. So, do I think we should talk about the menopause publicly? Yes, of course! It’s a natural part of a woman’s life and if I can throw any light on it, I am more than happy to be a part of that!