When I was 13 my Dad told me, I was a Warrior. At the time I can tell you I didn’t feel like one. We were on holidays and my Dad had a daily habit of going for a bottle of coke after a stroll on the beach. Each day one of us would be invited along for the stroll and the reward at the end. On this day my day hadn’t started so great….I was as you are by the beach in my swimsuit (no it’s not a story about periods…not really), when I noticed two girls pointing at my leg. It didn’t often upset me but on this occasion it did.
Now I need to bring you back to my birth - I was lucky. I survived.
I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped 4 times around my neck and my Mum had a very tough labour. I think back then labour was a lot tougher than it is now but for my Mum it was her fifth child at the age of 44 so not easy. After my mum lost a kidney and I got a ‘dodgy’ leg. The consequence of the cord being around my neck was I somehow ended up with a huge miss match of veins on my leg, it covered most of my upper thigh. As a young child I gave it no notice, as I hit puberty it changed, and I changed. It bulged more, it got bigger, it wasn’t a pretty sight but to me it was me, it was who I was. Then my first period came along and to this day I can still remember the pain - it wasn’t the period it was my leg. My birthmark was like a bunch of grapes except its intertwined with veins and blood vessels and as luck would have it, it is on the upper part of my leg so everything to my knees looks fine.
With the onset of my periods my veins came under more pressure and my Mum used to wrap bandages on my leg when the pressure got too much. Later I moved to wearing what I can only describe as a horrendous brown compress on my leg - I hated it. I dreaded my periods - and my history here was very chequered, my close friends in school would laugh with me that I only got them on important occasions like my birthday, Christmas etc. I was in no way regular. Maybe I convinced my body not to have a period because of the pain in my leg …who knows. My first operation could only happen at the age of 16 and two more followed after that - now it looks like an old bruise and had given me no issues for many years (only in pregnancy). When I trained for the marathon last year I did have a time when it give an ache and I was really scared ( no I have to be truthful I was utterly petrified !) it was going to develop into something more BUT I was utterly determined no way was my leg getting in the way of that goal - so I dutifully pushed through the pain.
Returning to that beach in Italy at the age of 13, when people often stared at my leg or you knew they were looking I guess it was sometimes hard to take in especially as a self-conscious teenager…that day with my Dad I can remember crying hard and yes I felt very sorry for myself. My Dad however being truly unique for his age, saw this very differently. He told me it wasn’t my first challenge in life, that many more would come, and this would make me strong and resilient to what the future might bring. He told me I was a Warrior, that I fought my way into life and that was my badge of honour to carry with me. So I guess without knowing I was born resilient, like all of us, I learnt to handle challenges as they came along. No one gets a clear run in life - we all have hurdles to overcome throughout our lives. At 20 when I lost the hearing in my right ear again my Dad’s wise words came out. Life throws us challenges constantly, some easier than others and some are steep mountains that take great strength to overcome.
I think we are all Warriors, I think we all have a story or chapter (or chapters) in our lives that make us stronger. Women and Men alike. The journey of menopause is not always for the faint hearted and it’s not always plain sailing, but I strongly believe it can be the most empowering time of your life. Our main challenge is getting society to agree with this view and embrace it with us as opposed to the taboo that still exists on this subject. We should all be able to Like a Facebook Menopause page without worrying what others think, we should all be able to talk openly about the symptoms we experience, we should be able to buy tampons our ST’s without hiding them in our shopping trolley or going red when they hit the conveyor belt. If not for ourselves we need to do this for the next generation - for our daughters, daughter in laws, nieces, friends, all women.
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