I’ve grown up always visiting Snowdon and really wanted to go on my 40th, but that’s when we were in lockdown. My mum is 71 and she’s always loved climbing mountains and we made a plan as soon as lockdown was over that we would go. Finally, one Sunday afternoon we decided that we were going to go – but we are going to take a group of South Asian women with us, to make it a trip to remember.
There’s been a lot of focus in the media on how South Asians are not accessing the outdoors, as they don’t feel it’s for them. I want to change this and this was my idea behind this trip. Once I got the ball rolling, in a matter of hours, I had a group of twelve willing to take part, who’d never climbed Snowdon before and had always wanted to do it, but just thought that they couldn’t.
This was the start of the adventure, and I then realised most of the women were over the age of 40, so would be perimenopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal. As I’ve discussed in my first article with QVC, in some South Asian communities menopause is still seen as a taboo, with a huge amount of stigma attached. The attitude is to ‘just get on with it’ and to to suffer in silence.
Anita Chaman, 59, has been going through menopause since lockdown and not only did she have the pandemic to deal with, she also didn’t have a job and lives with her husband and two daughters. It was hard for her to deal with the symptoms of menopause because she didn’t realise she was going through it. “The doctor doesn’t make it clear, they send you for a blood test and then you’re having to wait to see what that says, even when that’s back, it’s not clear. I was suffering from anxiety, mood swings, feeling hot and cold, it’s horrible. I felt irritated and the only thing that helped was exercise”.
Chaman explains how she has been going through this for two years and when I spoke to her about the Snowdon trip, she was really excited as she had always wanted to do this. She also said climbing a mountain will really help her to feel the confidence in herself that she can do it and it’s not impossible.
“I was really looking forward to the climb, and when we were on the mountain the conversations I had with other women about menopause and how it affects us all differently and we don’t really openly talk about it, as it’s seen as a taboo. I felt comfortable and heard because others are going through what I am.
I got myself onto HRT which has helped me in a big way, it’s definitely taken away the anxiety and feeling low. I exercise more and I feel happier and I am getting through it, but I could definitely do with being heard more because in our community menopause just isn’t seen as anything important. We need more of us to talk about our stories to help others.”
Rajeshri Sheth, 56, Harrow, Lead Activities and Lifestyle Pioneer at a nursing home in Edgware, was suffering from hot flushes and felt very tired and fatigued.
“I could be in a room with the air conditioning on and I still feel a hot sensation flood my entire body, leaving me with heavy sweating and redness all over my body. I also encounter night sweats where my body gets flushed with heat and causes my body extreme sweating while I sleeping, which also causes disruption of my sleep!”
Sheth has been dealing with her symptoms by wearing loose cotton clothing which helped her ventilate.
“I keep a fan on during the day (at work) and at night. I walk regularly in the morning which really helps keep my mood swings under control, and it keeps me healthy at the same time. I also try and get plenty of rest and meditate regularly to help me keep calm. I found while climbing Snowdon I felt connected to nature and being in a beautiful environment uplifted my mind, body and soul. when I reached the top, I felt incredible. But climbing down I felt a little tired and coming home the first thing I was craving was dosa!
It’s sad that menopause is not talked about openly in the South Asian community due to the awkwardness of talking about such an intimate topic, therefore it’s brushed under the carpet and women just go through life with very little knowledge of the changes that their bodies are going through during menopause.”
Jyoti Chana, 50, is perimenopausal and she only felt she learnt this from going to the GP recently.
“I can’t talk to anyone when going through the pain, I feel so isolated and ashamed, I just had to get on with the housework while I am suffering. It’s a lack of awareness in our community. I find it very difficult to talk to my boys and and one day I was in pain, in tears and I didn’t have the courage to talk to them, I felt ashamed. I wish there was more awareness in the community and more being said.
Going to Snowdon helped me massively because I could openly speak to other women about the symptoms I am going through and not feel judged or that I am alone. I just want more conversations around those who are going through what I am and those going through menopause. I want the South Asian community to feel they can talk about it more. This trip is something I have done before with my family but never with a group of South Asian women, and I loved it so much.”
Pam Patel, 63 had to live for a number of years with constant embarrassment, fear and loss of control due to hot flushes, night sweats, blushing and worst of all, heavy, unpredictable periods.
“I didn’t really have any experience with the SA community but my own husband was not very sympathetic or understanding. ‘Every woman goes through it, so what’s the big deal’ was his attitude. He changed his tune only when I ended up in hospital with anaemia needing four units of blood!
Snowdon was difficult for me as I had not trained. Cramps got the better of me and I had to start my descent before everyone else. However, I had pushed to my limit and found during this journey what I have found throughout my life – women understand and support women the best!”
Our next challenge is either Ben Nevis or Scaffel Pike, we all know it will involve a lot of training but we are ready for this. We know that being outdoors is a great way to help symptoms of menopause and it’s so good for us. If we can be the example to other women who like us feel they can’t get outdoors, it’s not accessible then hopefully we can be the change that the world needs.
Diversity is so important and we know that South Asian women need to be more active, so our dream is to do more mountain climbing and promote being active in the community.
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