Life after an oophorectomy isn't easy.
Throughout our lives, our bodies act as intricate timepieces, marking the passage of time with unwavering hands. However, for some women, removing ovaries can hasten the aging process, presenting unique challenges I have faced since my oophorectomy due to Lynch syndrome over a decade ago.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has aided me but hasn't wholly mitigated the changes I've experienced. Oophorectomy removes one or both ovaries and is often a necessary medical procedure for those with a hereditary cancer syndrome, such as Lynch syndrome or BRCA to reduce the risk of developing elusive ovarian cancer or for those with ovarian cancer.
In my case, it was a preventative measure against ovarian cancer linked to Lynch syndrome. Despite its cancer risk-reducing benefits, the method initiates significant changes akin to a clock moving faster than usual. Ovaries serve as the body's hormone hub, producing vital elements like estrogen and progesterone, crucial for maintaining youthful attributes and impacting various bodily functions.
Post-surgery, the abrupt decline in hormone production accelerates the aging process in multiple ways. The absence of estrogen leads to rapid bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures — I write this piece with a broken foot.
Similarly, the decline in estrogen can result in hair thinning, hair greying and changes in texture, a challenge I've managed with the help of hair color and collagen supplements. Estrogen also plays a crucial role in preserving skin elasticity and hydration. I've adopted a meticulous skincare routine, including moisturizers, drink gobs of water, and have found collagen supplementation beneficial. The protection estrogen provides to the cardiovascular system is also compromised post-oophorectomy, potentially accelerating the development of heart disease.
I was born with a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol known as Familial Hypercholesterolemia, or FH, but my cholesterol levels worsened following surgery. I have also developed high blood pressure within the past few years. Managing high cholesterol and blood pressure through diet, lifestyle changes and medication has become crucial. Hormonal balance greatly influences emotional and cognitive well-being, and its disruption post-oophorectomy can lead to mood swings, cognitive changes and difficulty concentrating.
I've tackled these changes through therapy, support and mental stimulation. I stay sharp by constantly challenging myself through learning new things, reading, hiking, spending time with my friends, watching foreign films, and doing various puzzles, specifically word games. Weight management can become more challenging without estrogen's regulation of metabolism. Staying physically active and maintaining a balanced diet has been vital in managing weight while also benefitting me in a multitude of other ways.
In navigating the effects of accelerated aging post-oophorectomy, HRT can be an essential tool for those who have not achieved menopause. While it can alleviate various symptoms and health risks, it is crucial to discuss its potential benefits and drawbacks with a healthcare provider. Despite the challenges, I have embraced a lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, an attentive skin care regimen and being mindful about what I consume — it has made all the difference in curtailing the aging process brought upon by the oophorectomy.
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