I met Martha on a sunny day in Dublin, and I’ll be honest given her background I was somewhat daunted by her great experience and totally excited on the other hand. I often tell my boys that anxiety and excitement are two ends of the same scale and my preference is for excitement! We chatted warmly and openly about all things menopause and I was thrilled to discover we shared many similar views.
I often talk about developing your own strategy and your own personal toolkit to navigate this chapter, I was thrilled to learn Professor Hickey shared my views and reaffirmed my thought about ‘needing your own strategy’ and knowing ‘what do you need for your life’. Simple yet very powerful statements - we underestimate the power of knowing we have choices, the power of knowledge, the empowerment a woman can get from finding out about her body. What a symptom is telling you and what tools you can use to help your body through. As you often hear me say Knowledge is power.
We talked at length about aging and Prof Hickey is part of a fantastic campaign in Australia called Flesh After Fifty - now here is a campaign that could turn the advertising world on its head. Why do we always have to see the glamorous woman…Yes we all like to look at nice things and nice photos but more reality please! Martha’s opinion is ‘that fear of becoming an old woman and the imagery in society is not helpful……it should not be a battleground. Women are dis-empowered in this space’. Prof Hickey is on a mission to change this. I would like to think we share the same mission - that of empowering women with choices.
Yes, symptoms exist and medication may be required in some cases (findings indicate just 10% of women need medical treatment), and as Martha states ‘HRT is good treatment for severe symptoms, but like any medication it has potential risks’.
Her experience of working with women in Australia is that women working shift hours suffer more than the average woman and where there is no flexibility in the workplace this creates further stress. Her clinics in Australia bring together several practitioners to offer a centric service to women - a one-stop shop in all respects but with a difference. I think the key difference is the utter passion and dedication Martha brings to her work - she has empathy, she fully understands the challenges faced by women and she sits side by side them. The ‘benefits of empowerment’ she states are normal physiology. Her goal is to establish communities where patient’s needs are the driving force behind the direction her clinics will take - the women will lead the way. How empowering is this!
On discussing the most common symptoms Martha works with, these are Sleep disturbance, Mood disturbances & Sexual dysfunction. Again we talked about women doing shift work especially nurses whose working patterns can create havoc with symptoms due to irregular sleep patterns.
Prof Hickey is currently working on the No Sweat Study with the well-known Dr. Myra Hunter in the UK - this is looking at menopause in the workplace and ensuring it is viewed in a positive light as part of diversity and not disability. In order to support women working through the menopause she has worked with colleagues at Monash University to develop this new website: Menopause in the Workplace (MIPO).
Martha also highlighted the Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program (WWACP) which was developed in Australia. This is a really interesting study based on a digitized multi-modal lifestyle intervention to enhance health-related quality of life in women who had been treated for blood, breast & gynecological cancer. The program was ‘structured around four chronological steps: changing lifestyle; establishing healthy habits; maintaining health for illness prevention; and becoming independent.’ Click here to assess the full review
Martha is also working on COMMA - Core Outcomes in Menopause. This international project is consulting with women, clinicians, and researchers to determine the most important outcomes that should be measured in clinical studies of treatments for menopause. When consensus has been reached (2020) all researchers will be encouraged to include these outcomes in their studies. This will allow patients and clinicians to compare treatments across studies and ensure that trials are measuring outcomes that are important to women.
Finally Professor Hickey also wrote an excellent article for the British Medical Journal the ‘Non-hormonal treatment of menopause’ – I would encourage every woman to read this to get more information and guidance in building your own personal toolkit.
So you see why I think she is a Legend and an Oracle - how much is one woman doing for all us women when it comes to Menopause!
I have been extremely lucky to have met so many truly amazing people on my own perimenopause journey and every one has touched me in their own unique way, enhancing my knowledge in some shape or form – Martha was one of these women, she was so giving of her knowledge and her time, both of which I am truly grateful for – it's so exciting to see what she is doing not just in Australia but in Europe too and I will be watching with anticipation her continued work and sharing with you all as it progresses.
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