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It's getting hot in here: a reflection on menopause

Greetings, relatives. My name is Leigh Anne “Cookie” Lorenzo. I am the Community Engagement DIrector for Indigenous Women Rising, and I am a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and part Maidu.

I am 56 years old, and I am going through menopause. I had the chance to ask my mother when she started her menopause (she was 45), so I had an indication of when I would experience my own, but what we didn’t talk about were the symptoms. It also just so happened I quit drinking at 41 (Editor note: happy sober quinceañera to our beloved Cookie). I thought I knew my own body - turns out I don’t know a damn thing!

A photo of the golden girls, three of them are seated except Blanche - there is a quote for Blanche that reads "Isn't it amazing how i can feel so bad, and still look so good?"  The photo has been edited to attribute the quote to IWR's very own Cookie.

In my matriarchal household, we did not really talk about “female” things. My Grandma Eva was a boarding school child from California. She never shared her story. As an adult, I regret not asking her more questions. But as a little kid, I was told I asked the wrong ones (you do not need to know, nosey!) - about periods, puberty, being sexual, and childbirth – all those deep, “dark” taboo questions.

So the way it ended up working out for me… recovery and menopause? I do not recommend doing both at the same time. I always have to do things the hard way! The beauty of my Creator has brought me to this position at Indigenous Women Rising, where I have the fortunate opportunity to be able to have access to all this new information, to have all my dark questions answered. I have been to Zoom meetings with women in Minnesota who have been very open to discussing and sharing herbal remedies (watch here: Notokwew ponkiyokewin: Indigenous Centered Menopause)!

There are three stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.

My symptoms during perimenopause: irregular periods, mood swings, being sad or having intense rage (scary!), light to heavy periods. Oh, and if I was around menstruating folk, I would immediately get my period even if it wasn’t due! Finally, my last periods were painful, so heavy and seemed like it would not end. Also, my body was getting rid of the toxins of my alcoholism, which also had an effect on my reproductive cycles. I went to Indian Health Services (IHS) for a check-up, and they wanted to give me hormones, which I did not want. IHS was not able to offer an alternative, so here I am going through menopause.

The symptoms I have now are hot flashes night and day, brain fog, insomnia. My sense of smell is so sensitive. I see muscle loss. I don’t have a cycle anymore. I never thought I would be sad about not having a period, but I am. I am also happy I don’t have to spend mad money on an overpriced necessity (that's another blog, stay tuned).

Is there a word for menopause in Keres? What did your Grandmothers and Mothers share with you, that you might share with others? What effects did the uranium mines have on our reproductive system? Do we want to talk about colonization, patriarchy, misogyny, religions and the shame that have been taught to us all? Lesbians, queer and transgender folk have periods. Men, don’t be shy - you have grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, nieces, wives and daughters. I want to have these hard conversations! I am already sweating, anyway! I want to hear from my community. Call me, ladies!


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