ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: My message of hope to women living without HRT

The HRT shortage is causing panic among women worried about missing a dose or potentially a few weeks of supply. To them, I can offer a little optimism: it might not be as bad as you fear.

Hormone replacement therapy has been a victim of its own success, helping so many more women alleviate the troublesome symptoms of the menopause that demand has outstripped supply. Undoubtedly, losing your access to the medication is no trivial matter if you’ve come to rely on it.

For some years, I too used HRT. The little packets of gel I was prescribed weren’t life changing but they did take the edge off the night sweats. However, after a breast cancer diagnosis last year I had to go cold turkey and ditch my HRT that same day.

The outlook seemed bleak. I dreaded being flung into a hotbed of sweats, fatigue, memory loss, mood swings and weight gain. And, yes, I have experienced a small amount of all of those. But in the general scheme of things, it’s survivable. It’s not a Mariupol basement.

The HRT shortage is causing panic among women worried about missing a dose or potentially a few weeks of supply. To them, I can offer a little optimism: it might not be as bad as you fear

I recognise everyone’s experience of HRT will be different – and some women might not like what I have to say next. But I believe panic breeds panic. The power of suggestion is huge, particularly when it comes to health matters. And while I am certainly no menopause-denier, it’s often the case that we are more likely to experience symptoms if we anticipate them.

For example, I could assume it’s menopausal memory loss that makes me lose my phone several times a day. But I prefer to think it’s just me being a bit hopeless. My sleep pattern is worse than when I was younger, but that’s typical for both sexes as we age.

I constantly have to scan my brain for the right word, which is frustratingly out of reach. Is that really so different from before? I don’t think so.

But if I were convinced that all this was the result of being deprived of HRT, I would feel far more helpless and desperate about the loss. Sometimes mind over matter can work.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has appointed Madelaine McTernan as HRT tsar, following Kate Bingham’s success as vaccine tsar during the pandemic (surely with the current Russia situation we need to find another term?). However, no matter how brilliant she may be, the supply chain isn’t going to transform overnight.

For women who experience utterly debilitating symptoms, the loss for even a short time of HRT can be appalling. But for those like myself, missing out for a few weeks is likely to be bearable. After all, many gynaecologists advise that it is fine – sometimes even useful – to skip doses of HRT to minimise the body’s dependency on it.

Panicking will only make it worse.

For some years, I too used HRT. The little packets of gel I was prescribed weren’t life changing but they did take the edge off the night sweats. However, after a breast cancer diagnosis last year I had to go cold turkey and ditch my HRT that same day

Now that’s real leg crossing

Gosh, what is one meant to do with one’s legs if crossing and uncrossing them is such a powerful weapon that Angela Rayner might employ it to throw Boris off his stride?

Actually, plain leg-crossing is a bit sub-fusc. Real glamour pusses employ the double leg-cross, where one foot is hooked behind the other in a kind of double helix shape. This manoeuvre manages a) to demonstrate you have legs long and slim enough to achieve the position and b) locks you stylishly into the pose so that there is no possibility of unseemly leg uncrossing. Try it sometime.

I’ve got no time to pull the plug

In the interest of taking a robust approach to soaring fuel prices I’ve tallied the amount of electrical appliances we own and they come to a staggering 28, not including lighting and heat.

Apart from the usual washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, oven and TV there is an arsenal of kit, much of which simply didn’t exist even a decade ago.

Life without laptops and mobiles is now inconceivable and at present there are four of each in this house. Then there’s the standard microwave, kettle and hairdryers. But we also have a Sonos music speaker, Sky box, useless soundbar, iPad, Airpods, electric vape, headphones… I could go on.

To avoid spiralling costs, we’re advised to turn everything off at source each night. But in this house there’s scarcely a spare socket to be found. By the time they had all been put to bed it would be nearly morning.

Bloomin’ heck, these flowers are vulgar

Why do we consider some things vulgar? I wonder this looking out of the window at the blue blossoms of the neighbour’s ceanothus.

To me they’re vulgar. The colour jars in a way that my brilliant pink rhododendron doesn’t. Nor do the scarlet and crimson geraniums that I love, but know others might consider vulgar. Is vulgarity in the eye of the beholder or is there a way of independently verifying it?

Nicky Clarke, who has closed his London salon after a glorious 30 years, was the last of a certain genre of celebrity hairdressers.

Nicky’s original Mayfair salon was glitzy and plush with brown upholstery and plenty of gilt – a far remove from today’s ubiquitous poured-concrete-and-stainless-steel look.

He was usually late for the appointment – diva-style – arriving with his scissors in a whirl of leather trousers, Versace shirts and gloriously-tinted locks. And out and about on the party circuit he was photographed as frequently as his famous clients.

Nowadays, our successful salon owners – the likes of Josh Wood, George Northwood and Daniel Hersheson – are more low-key, less showbiz. Their names are above the door but their faces remain relatively anonymous, even if their client lists are every bit as famous as Nicky’s was.

The Hunter grabs you by the neck

For anyone looking for a TV fix, I highly recommend Il Cacciotore (The Hunter) on All 4. The second series of this brilliant Italian Mafia drama has just landed and it not only has a gripping and true plot, but the most wonderful array of fabulous 1970s men’s ties.

Source: Read Full Article