One of the first women to referee men’s rugby league is using her experience of the menopause to help empower and support other women.
Julia Lee, from Huddersfield, is organising an event called Menopause Exposed Conference at the John Smith’s Stadium on Thursday March 14.
Julia, a pioneering figure in rugby league, began to see changes in her body both mentally and physically in her mid-40s.
Initially, the hot flushes, anxiety and panic attacks were minimised. The real problems began to unfold in her early 50s when she was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
“I thought I was breezing through the menopause,” said Julia. “That was until I was talking to a physio friend who was concerned about my bone density and told me to ask my rheumatologist for a dexa scan.
“This made me curious about what arthritis was and what menopause symptoms were. But when I asked my rheumatology consultant he just said ‘he didn’t do menopause’ and I needed to see my GP.
“This initially floored me. However, undeterred, I went to see my GP, who sent me away from the appointment to research menopause and HRT.
“This is where my menopause symptoms, which I had just been living with but had not realised, began to unfold.
“My anxiety amplified and my brain went into a fog, my dyslexia increased and my memory took a serious nosedive.
“Driving on the motorway and at night caused me panic attacks. I was forgetting people’s names and my confidence and self-esteem were at an all-time low.
“I am just lucky that throughout my life I have developed a resilience to tackle adversity. I picked myself up and decided to train as a menopause champion, with The Menopause Expert Group.
“This alongside listening to hours of podcasts, conferences and webinars gave me the knowledge to be able to ask for the help I needed.
“I eventually received my results from the dexa scan to discover I had osteopenia, which was not a surprise with my family history. My anger began to rise because, despite my risk of osteoporosis and my family history of Alzheimer’s, I had never been offered HRT.
“It then came to me that if I didn’t realise the impact of the menopause, how many other women out there were unknowingly just living with the symptoms and the associated long-term health effects?”
Julia said while some women are not affected by menopause, a huge percentage are impacted by the reduction of key hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Research shows that the reduction in these key hormones can have a long-lasting effect on many women. A higher percentage of women in later life are diagnosed with osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and cardio problems due to the lack of one or more of these hormones.
Julia added: “It’s a myth that ‘women pass through menopause’ as the reduction in hormones are part of their life going forward.
“Coupled with the fact women are living longer, it can cause serious mental and physical health problems for the duration of their lives.
“This is when my business partner, Janie Frampton OBE, and I decided we needed to empower women, helping them take control of their health and well-being during this stage of their life offering support and education, so women can manage the changes and make informed decisions about their health.
“We wanted the information to be made available to as many women as possible in order for them to be better informed of what may be happening to them both physically and mentally.”
Janie, who runs Team You with Julia, said of the conference: “We want women to learn from the latest research.
“We have invited menopause experts to demystify menopause and guide individuals on how to help themselves.
“We want the women to go away equipped so they can get the help and support they need. Our efforts have the potential to make a positive difference and contribute to the overall happiness and fulfilment of women in their menopause years.”
The conference runs from 10am-4pm and tickets costing £25 each can be booked HERE.
For further information contact Julia Lee on email@example.com
Main image: Roth and Read Photography