Diane Danzebrinkby Jenny Smith
Let me introduce you to Diane Danzebrink, a woman on a mission to help women understand and manage their menopause in an affordable and accessible way after suffering a terrible time with it herself.
I spent a lovely morning with Diane, chatting about her wonderful business and the Make Menopause Matter campaign, which she spearheaded, and has helped to get the menopause on the political agenda. She's an absolute powerhouse and I drove home feeling utterly inspired. When I first had the idea to do the 40 OVER 40 project, I scribbled down a few key names that I wanted to feature and Diane was of course one of them.
Whilst this project is celebrating incredible women from all walks of life who have done all kinds of wonderful things, menopause awareness is going to feature quite heavily and this is largely down to my own horrendous experience when the menopause hit. I really want to do my own bit in raising awareness so that other women don't suffer like I did (it's also the reason for starting my podcast) and in this way Diane and I share the same goal. It's just that she's managed to do it on a national scale!
As if that wasn't reason enough to love her, she also rescues dogs and currently looks after two adorable Jack Russells by the names of Kevin and Poppy. I know it's not nice to have favourites, but if there had been a way to sneak Kevin out in my bag then I would have done so.
Here Diane answers a few questions and offers up some words of wisdom. Thanks again Diane for being part of my 40 OVER 40 campaign.
What led you to setting up your community interest company Menopause Support and can you explain a bit more about the Make Menopause Matter campaign?
Surgical menopause hit me like a ton of bricks and had a significant effect on my mental health which led me to a very dark place in my life. That happened because I wasn’t given the right information about menopause before or after my surgery. I was very fortunate to have a supportive husband, who got me the help that I needed at crisis point, and the ability to seek private medical care when I needed it. Once I started to feel better, initially I was relieved, but that was replaced by anger and frustration when I realised just how many other women were suffering in silence due to a lack of menopause education and information for healthcare professionals and the public. What happened to those who didn't have support or the option to seek private care? I remember telling my husband how ridiculous the situation was and promised myself that if I ever felt like me again I would make damn sure that I did something to change it.
I set up Menopause Support to offer free support and guidance via our online community group, which now supports around 27,000 women and free information resources via our website. We offer a more affordable private 1-1 consultation option with concessions for anyone experiencing financial hardship. These can include a letter to the doctor to support the patient's choice if required. We now also offer educational presentations and webinars for the workplace too.
The #MakeMenopauseMatter campaign was started out of frustration. I was so frustrated hearing about awful experiences from women who were struggling due to a lack of information, education, care and support that I decided we needed a national campaign. The campaign has 3 very clear aims.
1. To have mandatory menopause education for all GPs and medical students.
2. To have menopause guidance and support in every workplace.
3. For menopause to be included in the RSE curriculum in schools.
I am delighted to say that we now have over 170,000 signatures on the petition and menopause is the focus of a government taskforce. We have already acheived having menopause added to the school curriculum in England but there is still so much work to do.
Diane Danzebrinkby Jenny Smith
Many women are sceptical/wary about taking HRT still, what more can be done to change perceptions?
One of the things that I have called for many times is a government funded public health campaign dedicated to menopause which would include awareness being raised via the media, on the sides of buses and on tubes and trains plus information being sent to everybody who will expereince menopause before it comes along. There would also be information booklets in GP practices and other healthcare settings. Having up to date factual, evidence based information would help to address the misinformation and myths that have grown up about menopause and HRT.
What has the menopause meant to you?
Menopause has meant a complete transformation of my life, from the pits of despair to becoming a passionate activist, campaigner, speaker and educator who will not be satisfied until good quality menopause care is available to all at the point of need without having to pay privately for it. My menopause expereince has prompted me to use my voice to call for much needed change where it is so obviously needed and to encourage others to do the same.
How do you feel about getting older?
It might sound trite but I think it's a privilege to get older as it is denied to many. Getting older has made me value my time and be more selective about what I do with it and who I spend it with. I am now the most confident that I have ever been, I could never have imagined standing up in front of a room full of people or speaking publicly on TV but I have developed new found courage of my own convictions and value the wisdom of my experiences more than I ever have. Getting older has also taught me the very valuable power of the word no, often accompanied by thankyou, as a complete sentence.
Diane Danzebrinkby Jenny Smith
What advice would you give to your teenage self?
It's ok to be you, don't compare yourself to others, we are all unique, celebrate that. You can make a difference in the world.
What menopause myths have you heard?
Probably too many to mention but the most common are;
You are too young for menopause, if under the age of about 50
It can't be menopause, you are still having periods
It can't be menopause if you are not having hot flushes
You can't have HRT until your periods have stopped
Any words of wisdom for other women our age nervous about entering their menopausal years?
Do your homework, learn as much as you can about menopause before it comes along. This will help to demystify menopause and will allow you to make informed decisions about your own menopause transition and long term health and wellbeing.
Talk about it with anyone who will listen. Educate your family, friends, colleagues etc, the more we share the more understanding we help to create.
Be kind to yourself. We often spend our lives focusing on others at the detriment of our own wellbeing, menopause is a time when your body is calling you to be kinder to yourself, don't ignore the call, it will only get louder.
Anything else you would like to say about the joys of being over 40?
Absolutely, menopause has been, and to some extent continues to be, surrounded by a negative narative. When you are struggling to get the right help and support that is completely understandable however, it can also be a time of opportunity. If somebody had used the word opportunity to me at the bottom of my menopausal pit I would probably have punched them, if I could have found the energy, but I promise that with the right education, information, guidance and support an opportunity is exactly what it is. There is an opportunity to pause and reflect, to consider how we are looking after ourselves and to consider the future and what you want it to be. It might be a time to reconnect with things you used to love to do but have not had time for or it might be a time for new passions and purpose, you might even find yourself leading a national campaign!
My podcast, Dear Hormones, shares stories from women fessing up to things they may have said or done in the name of hormones. Anything you’d like to share??
As an example of just how wildly my mood could swing I clearly remember asking my husband if he would like a slice of the birthday cake that I had proudly baked for him (I am not a regular cook) As I took the cake out of the fridge the plate slipped out of my hand and crashed to the floor smashing it and the beautiful birthday cake into many pieces. I am not proud to say that I screamed the house down. Completely out of character for me and a clear indication of just how irrational I could be at the flick of a switch. I am pleased to say that normal service has since resumed!
Thank you Diane for everything you're doing to support women in perimenopause and menopause, and for doing it all with a sense of humour. You are an inspiration, proof that being 'of a certain age' is a privilege and an opportunity. My kind of woman! Please check out her website here.
Diane Danzebrinkby Jenny Smith
I think it's fair to say that our hormones have affected us all at some time in our lives be it puberty, PMT, pregnancy or the menopause. If that's you then check out my podcast, Dear Hormones, hopefully it'll make you smile. You can listen to it here.