NZEM National Gathering 2008

Waiwera, Queen’s Birthday Weekend (May 31 – June 2)

Hi all,

Well that was one very relaxing weekend and I feel so refreshed from it.

I had originally planned for quite a busy few days, but it seemed this was not to be and I think it worked out for the best as not everyone could make it for the whole weekend. There were 5 of us girls up at the beach house and the lack of structure meant we could just relax and tailor the weekend to our own needs. We walked on the beach, talked, ate, laughed, read books & other resources and formed a special bond that we all treasured.

The house was even bigger than I expected which was great. We shared a lot about ourselves and that can be quite draining, so I think it was very helpful that we had our own space to retreat to at the end of the evening.

So, let me give you the rundown:

Saturday started with a wonderful therapeutic massage at the Waiwera Spa. It was a beautiful sunny day and we walked back to our accommodation which was right on the beach front to have lunch in the garden. We chatted all afternoon in front of the fire in the lounge, surrounded by the beauty of the location. We stopped for a wonderful home-made lasagne for dinner and then kept on chatting until 10pm. We covered so many topics. This is a very complicated thing to live with. The term Early Menopause rally doesn’t do it justice. Here are some of the topics that came up – I’m sure you’ve felt them all yourself at different stages:

  • Frustration with doctors – lack of information &/or compassion;
  • Confusion over the health and fertility implications – hrt vs diet & exercise, bone/brain/heart health, cancer, what is really going on with my body?, one blood test sums me up?;
  • So many different experiences under the one label POF;
  • This medical situation is only one of the stresses in our lives;
  • How relationships are affected – with husbands, friends, family;
  • A condition that will be with/affect us the rest of our lives;
  • Personal identity – sexuality, femininity, youth.

There were some tears but, of course, we had many, many laughs as well!

The best part of all was being able to talk with others who understand even though we all have slightly different experiences. When my head hit the pillow I was out for a solid night’s sleep.

I got up early on Sunday for a walk on the beach and it was just magical – the water was still, the sun was just coming up over the hill and the birds were all foraging for breakfast. It was a great way to start the day!

We were a group of women so, of course, there was yet more talking during the morning but we also read magazines, and were gently easing into the day. We had some lunch and then Dr. Andrew Shelling arrived to share his knowledge with us. We picked his brain for a good three hours (but he didn’t seem to mind!) and we talked about another wide range of topics. Here are the ones I remember:

  • History of the group – Andrew started the group while doing research into a genetic cause of POF and has always maintained a keen interest in how we’re all getting on.
  • Sadly there is no money for research into fertility in this country so Andrew is unable at present to continue his ground-breaking research at Auckland University. However, research is still continuing around the world.
  • HRT – the current thinking is that it is good for women in our situation (depending on personal risk factors, of course). My knowledge in this huge area seems to fade every now and then, so it was good to be able to clarify that the chemical structure of the synthetic hormones is the same as what occurs naturally in my body, which made me feel better about popping that pill every day. We also discussed the ‘natural’ hormones on the market and how poorly researched they are. I think it’s always good to be reminded of the things to be wary of as there is so little data out there for us to rely on.
  • We had a bone anatomy lesson and learned how oestrogen acts to protect bone density. But to replace just oestrogen is currently not thought wise which is why if we’re on HRT we’re given a progestin as well.
  • There is some discussion in the UK of changing “Premature Ovarian Failure” to “Primary Ovarian Insufficiency”. But either way, they’re saying pretty much the same thing, so Andrew doesn’t think it’s going to catch on too quickly.

Then we all went out for a delicious Turkish dinner in Orewa. Andrew drove home and we went back to the beach house and continued chatting until 1.30am! It was so easy to talk with each other and I know I found it really helpful to get some things off my chest.

Monday was another easy morning and consisted of more chatting by the fire - it’s amazing we all still have voices left! Then we had some lunch, packed up our things and went home. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone but I think email contact will be even easier now that we know each other a bit better. I’d like to thank everyone for making the effort to come. Two ladies came all the way from Wellington which was a big gamble for them, but they said they got a lot out of it.

There’s really nothing like being able to come together in a group and talk freely about issues that very few people in our regular circles really understand. We can help each other understand the facts and figures and come to terms with the less tangible aspects as well. Our shared experiences add up to a lot of knowledge and I truly believe in what this group has to offer. Thank you, Andrew, for starting it and thank you to everyone still involved.

Keep talking!

Bye for now,