Name
Lauren
Job title
Teacher
“I experienced the menopause in my early forties following treatment for breast cancer and then a hysterectomy. My menopausal symptoms are exacerbated by the tamoxifen that I take. I am unable to take HRT due to the breast cancer.

“Following the cancer treatment I also developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and it can be hard to separate menopausal and fatigue symptoms. The main symptoms that I experience are joint pain, poor memory/concentration and poor sleep. The CFS has also been partly attributed to the sudden hormonal changes that I experienced. 
“I work as a teacher and have been off work a lot over the past 5 years. I had to reduce my hours from full time to 0.4. Joint pain (especially back pain) also worsens when I am working which can then affect my sleep and make the fatigue worse. When I am in work the fatigue has a massive impact on what I can achieve.

My poor memory and concentration makes it hard to absorb new information and focus during meetings/courses. It also makes it hard to do the work at home that the job requires - especially reports and bigger tasks. Due to my last absence of a year I missed applying for progression on the upper pay scale.

I had support from my union rep and a phased return after my initial period of illness. For a number of months I was able to work in another role out of the classroom on a temporary basis. This was arranged at a case conference with my union rep, head teacher and occupational health.

The reduced hours and out of class role made working more manageable and this has worked really well for me. However unfortunately the head teacher was unable to offer the out of classroom role on a permanent basis due to financial pressures on the school and I was told I would have had to return to a classroom role. I felt this would be too difficult to manage with my condition so I have now taken voluntary redundancy.

“Women who are really struggling often feel unable to speak out as they are worried about being seen to be not coping or weak. The menopause is often viewed as a topic to be made light of. Increased understanding of the impact it can have for some women is really important. Having the right support and feeling able to talk openly about it in the workplace is vital. Workplaces should also offer greater flexibility, such as allowing someone to transfer to a role with alternative duties if needed.”