What to do when your peak fertility years are gone in a (hot) flash? Lace-up your sneakers and run, writes Kelly McLayin this adapted excerpt from the new book Tales from the Trails: Runners’ Stories that Inspire and Transform.
Your 20s are meant to be a LITTLE crazy, right?
Filled with newfound income, parties, and cocktails—not night sweats, mammograms, and Kegel balls. After a year of gaining almost 20kg, hibernating and seeking second opinions, in search of a physician who would listen, I received the diagnosis: I had gone through menopause. That explained why I was sad, tired, happy, and snappy.
I was also just 24. To rewind, 14 years earlier, I’d been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which affects your metabolism and hormones. In this case, the problem that attacked and shut down my thyroid did the same to my ovaries. I will never forget the ultrasound tech describing them as “shrivelled raisins.”
My endocrinologist, Dr Vera Fajtova, told me ovarian failure happens to about 1 in 250 women with thyroid conditions in their 30s and 1 in 100 in their 40s. My surprise just happened to come a little earlier.
My heart broke along with my body. While friends were avoiding pregnancy at all costs, I was desperately trying to hold on to any last flicker of fertility. I felt everything was spiralling and I needed a goal. Enter the Boston Marathon. I latched on to my sister’s group of friends who were training and I felt super out-of-shape to start.
The first kms were painful. My lungs burned, my legs stung, and I felt defeated—but running was the one thing that started helping me heal. It was the distraction I needed from the loss I felt and a way to put one foot in front of the other.
I ran the race after six months of gruelling preparation. And I burst into tears when I glimpsed the finish line on Boylston. The weight of the menopause experience lifted off my shoulders. Running had inspired me to own my diagnosis. As I got more comfortable, I started to share it freely and openly, and as such, the weekend I met John—at my college roommate’s wedding four years later—he knew exactly what he was getting into.
I probably broke every rule of first dates, but I was upfront about my struggle and what it would mean for someone entering a relationship who wanted kids. My future partner would have to be accepting of donor eggs, or adoption, or simply living happily ever after, just us two. Fortunately, after our third date, we decided to take the leap and move in together. (We eventually married.)
The mother road
If the menopause roller coaster prepared me for anything, it was the ups and downs of infertility. John and I decided to do IVF using an egg donor. Nurses assumed that my infertility resulted from my active lifestyle, but that was far from the truth. Running gave me life. With the blessing of my team of docs, I kept pounding the pavement, even running a few days after our first egg transfer, which was successful. At 27 weeks pregnant, I completed my 49th marathon.
Eleven months after the birth of my daughter in 2016, I stood in sub-zero temps and crossed off another goal: to run a marathon on each of the seven continents. After the Antarctica race, there was no stopping me. I became one of 25 women in the world to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.
And thirteen years to the day after I found out about my meno, I crossed another finish line, in Dublin, carrying my absolute favourite title of all time: “mum.”
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
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