My grandmother had a laugh that was so shrill, it was more like joyful shrieking. Nearly obnoxious, it surprised people when it burst from her mouth. I, on the other hand, loved her shriek so much I've tried to imitate it my whole life. The feeling, that is. That joyful recklessness, the joie de vivre of being not just happy, but delighted in one's own shoes.
Black men's shoes, to be specific, worn with matronly floral dresses and opaque black stockings with the metal clips on top. An Audubon birder from Minnesota, my grandmother always smelled like roses. Rose soap and rose perfume, and a lot of it. She baked cookies, scolded us when my mother wasn't around and had a body that could best be described as round like an olive. "From menopause," I was told.
My grandmother, and even my shy mother for that matter, were largely silent about the Change of Life. They did not discuss such impolite topics as hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain or body rashes. Instead, I learned about these notorious menopausal symptoms probably like you – through whispers and secrets, public rumour and, of course, the media.
I am here to tell you these myths are all wrong. Menopause is actually pretty cool.
I would know. I happen to be an expert, thanks to being in full-blown menopause ever since undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and a subsequent ovariectomy to reduce my risk of cancer recurring. The cancer diagnosis changed my life. Now here I was, going through the Change of Life.
I was 37 years old.
Prior to that, throughout my 20s and 30s, I was rather underweight, overactive and, as a result, diagnosed with anorexia. I had a physically demanding career as a travelling performer (rock bands and carnivals and everything in between).
I hadn't even had my period for 10 years. I lived through night sweats and sleeplessness and felt huge anxiety most of the time.
In fact, night sweats were so familiar, when I started experiencing hot flashes in menopause they were a welcome phenomenon for a teeth-chattering-in-the-sunshine skinny little vegan singer like myself. I loved it!
And so should you.
Menopause saves money, for one thing. Kiss your tampons goodbye. If you used the menstrual cup or any other genius period invention, you may now repurpose it as a shot glass or a measuring cup for baking or whatever else you can think of.
And the insomnia? Fabulous!
Why fret and hand-wring over trying to drift back to sleep (when you know you won't). There is nothing better than getting up at 3 a.m. when the rest of the house is asleep, making a cup of coffee and catching up on e-mails or reading.
Yes, I said coffee, long-blamed for exacerbating menopause symptoms of breast tenderness (probably, but they do appear bigger, even with the lumpectomy scar), hot flashes (take your sweater off) and sleeplessness (see above).
You see, menopause is a chance to embrace your changing body, your femaleness, the gifts of your genetics and gender. Your body, your menopause. Your menopause, your way.
Sure, hormone replacement therapies are designed to alleviate some of the symptoms, and many women may find these helpful. But some studies point to the potential link between HRT use and breast cancer risk.
Since my breast cancer was "estrogen receptor positive" (sensitive to estrogen, which caused my tumour to get very excited and grow) I am not a great candidate for any hormone therapies. I am left to discover my own ways of dealing with menopause.
And my way is the fun way. If this is a Change of Life, I say make mine a change for the better.
Dry skin on your face? Slather on more lotion.
Weird adult acne? Lie about your age. It's making you look younger!
Hot flash? Wear a bikini wherever and whenever you can (but keep a chic sweater dress handy as you will freeze immediately upon hot flash conclusion).
Dryness in the downstairs? A fantastic opportunity to suggest your partner take more time to make things a bit dreamier and sexier. It's kind of hot to get a hot flash in the middle of a racy night with your sweetheart.
I mean, how are any of these things bad? I find it all pretty fun.
I am the girl who will always, come hell or hot flashes, find the bright side and the silver lining. In this case, I believe I have found what I had always dreamed about: that same joyful cackling, that riotous laughter and joie de vivre that my grandmother embodied, making my Change of Life one for the better.
Health Advisor contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging.
Bif Naked is an international recording artist, cancer survivor, poet and activist currently working on her first book with Harper Collins. Loving and living in Vancouver and Paris, simultaneously. You can follow her on Twitter @bifnaked.