Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Winter is coming

Game of Thrones fans will know what I mean when I say:  winter is coming.  But when I say winter is coming the meaning is a lot more sinister than a bunch of wussy white walkers.

You see, I have Raynauds.  It is an auto immune condition that doesn’t just sound weird, it IS weird.  It was discovered by a French physician in the 1800’s so it has been with us for a very long time.  The cause is unknown, and all it means is this:  I am allergic to cold.  Yes you heard right, at the age of 47 I developed a severe reaction to cold weather.  Bummer, I guess New Zealand was the wrong country to move to… when placed in cold conditions my blood circulation comes to a stop.  My body revolts and reckons hell, who needs circulation anyway, it is over rated.

When this happens my hands and feet change colour in a spectacular way:  my fingers will be snow white, my knuckles purple, and the rest of my hand bright red.  I use it to scare the neighbour’s kids whenever they stray onto our property.  If I don’t get into warm surroundings it will spread to my toes, they go black and be so painful that I could swear they are about to fall off.

Should I still ignore these warning signs I will become nauseous.  The blood vessels to my stomach will shut down, and rolling waves of nausea are my reward.  Next step is the slowing down of my thinking, brain freeze is the real deal here, and I struggle to remember my name.  Yeah, that is my excuse anyway.  Normally a sure sign to find a warm spot somewhere.

For a long time I felt very alone with this condition:  most people I speak to have never heard of Raynauds.  Allergic to cold?  What are you, a freak?  Yet as time went by more and more people contacted me to let me know they too suffer the same discomfort.  Imagine spending most of your winter feeling nauseous, weak, and your toes and fingers in pain.  Lucky for me we have inventions like puffer jackets, heat pumps and alcohol.  They all do a great job of making me feel more comfortable.

I practice combat sports where bare feet are expected.  Not a problem, we have a solution for that as well:  my kickboxing trainer allows me to keep my shoes on in practice, and in ji-jitsu I can keep my socks on.  I wear thermal socks that are normally used in sea kayaking, and possum gloves for my fingers.  Three layers of thermal or a puffer jacket for the rest of my body, sorted.

Raynauds can be managed, and a semi-normal life lived in winter.  I may look like the abominable snowman but I’m warm and happy!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Putting the pause back into men

There are a lot of things that people don’t talk about in perceived polite company:  sex, puberty, going bald, etc.  Taboo subjects best ignored.  But did you know that the quickest way to clear a room full of men is to loudly mention the word “menopause”?

That little word makes eyes go round, faces go red, and many a man will look for the nearest exit.  Why that is I have never fully understood.  The average male will be happy to talk about sex, so what is the taboo around menopause?  Because all it is boys, it’s another hormonal phase in a woman’s life.  It will happen to your wife or girlfriend or daughter whether you like it or not.

And don’t think as a male you are exempt.  Even men are affected by this menopause.  Yeah no kidding.  Men call it their midlife crisis, we call it MANopause.  You become restless and irritable, and start longing for the good old days.  Maybe buy a Harley Davidson or sports car to prove you are not affected.

For a woman this part of her life is very important.  It signals the end of her reproductive years.  Just the thought of it can cause regret and depression in women who never managed to reproduce.  It is also the cause for hot flushes, dry skin, and yes you guessed it, weight gain.  When menopause comes to get you it will pad your hips, your bum and sometimes your stomach.  Your metabolism slows down, and suddenly losing weight is no longer as easy as it was 20 years ago.

The only thing that accelerates is hair growth.  Girls, you will grow hair in places you never even dreamt of.  And this hair grows at a pace that would put Usain Bolt to shame.  You will experience hot flushes but I find them quite nice in winter, it keeps me warm when the frost is biting.

I have been wrestling with menopause for the past 3 years.  I started a bit early, and that is ok with me.  And have found that the fitter I am, the less it affects me.  Take a break from training and hot flushes will be haunting me every night.  Stay as fit as I can possibly be and I hardly notice the difference.

I have had to change my diet.  More vegetables, less snacking, watch my alcohol consumption.  Because no matter how hard I train my body is determined I gain a bit of weight.  Short of starvation that is exactly what is going to happen, and I’ve made peace with it.

I will continue to take this world by storm, menopause or no menopause.  So boys, next time you hear this magic word stick around and listen, you might learn something!