Diabetes Forecast

6 Women Share Their Menopause Stories

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Health care providers are a great resource for finding tools to manage menopause symptoms. Your girlfriends are another. Here, we’ve collected some words of wisdom from women who have survived and thrived.

Pebbles Smith, 49, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2008 after an incorrect type 2 diagnosis the year before. Lately, she’s been dealing with menopausal symptoms. She says she can tell the difference between low blood glucose and a hot flash, which comes on quickly. Her diabetes care has now evolved to include an insulin pump. “The pump has helped me a lot since approaching menopause,” she says, citing improved control over menopause symptoms—which means she’s now able to spend more time with her granddaughter.

Daphene Kimball, RN, CLC, PCM, SANE, 62, of Johnston, South Carolina, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 40. Irregular periods, with heavier flow than usual, were her biggest complaints leading up to menopause. “I’d have these times where I would go five or six months without a cycle, and I would think, ‘Am I pregnant?’ ” She also had nausea and gained weight around the middle. “After about a year or so, I thought it had stopped,” she says of her period, “and then all of a sudden, it came back with a vengeance. It seemed like it went on forever.”

Nancy Kelinson, LISW, 61, a clinical social worker with type 1 diabetes, recently retired from her practice in Des Moines, Iowa. She recalls the tense emotions that swept over her as she went through the menopausal shift. “I remember a point in time where my mood was all over the place and I was so intense, I could just snap,” she says. “I’m a pretty well-controlled person but … somebody would do something or say something and I would just go off.”

Cindy Campaniello, 56, of Rochester, New York, was going through menopause when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. She found support in a group called Diabetes Sisters (diabetessisters.org), where women with diabetes meet each month to share their experiences. “Menopause is certainly a roller coaster ride, and several of my sisters locally and in other states helped me emotionally through that time,” she says. “Just venting helped bring my numbers down. We meet monthly as a group, but there were many times that I would call one of my sisters throughout the month, and still do.”

Mary Pruiett, 67, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who has type 1 diabetes, says her menstrual cycle had affected her blood glucose readings. Her control “went sort of wacko” several days before her period started, and she needed more insulin then. In perimenopause, her periods tended to be shorter in duration but with a heavier flow—just one more annoyance on top of her other menopause symptoms. “You would get these really intense cramps and everything else,” she says. “I think that’s a natural part of menopause for many women.”

Judith Jones-Ambrosini, 71, of New York City, is the author of Sisterhood of Diabetes: Facing Challenges and Living Dreams. She has lived with type 1 diabetes for 52 years. She remembers her first hot flash, particularly because she didn’t know what it was initially. “I remember waking up in the middle of the night in this pool of sweat,” she says. “I quickly grabbed my meter … thinking I was in a hypo. But my blood sugar was fine. The next night, the same thing. I called my diabetologist, and he started asking all these questions. Then he went quiet for a little bit. And then he said, ‘Menopause.’ ” 

Claire Blum, RN, MSEd, CDE, 54, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17. In 2003, an ovarian cyst prompted her to get a hysterectomy, which induced menopause. Blum, who uses hormone replacement therapy (as well as prednisone for pituitary dysfunction) knows she’s at risk for heart disease and osteoporosis, so she meets with her endocrinologist regularly to make sure her blood work and diabetes care still look good. “I’m very healthy, but at the same time, I have so many health challenges, and diabetes contributes to all kinds of things,” she says. “I don’t have the hot flashes, and I don’t have some of the other challenges with the hormonal changes, although … I have to deal with the hormones all the time.”

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