With just two minutes before my next patient was due, I was tempted to let the phone call go to message bank. Hoping for a quick, easy query I decided to pick up, only to be completely blindsided by the voice on the other end:
Thankfully (being a phone) she couldn’t see my convincing stranded-fish impersonation as I spluttered “errrr… actually no… can I call you back later?” That was the call that started it all. When I called her back later I was thrilled by the news that 60 Minutes were planning a feature story about menopause and perimenopause. They particularly wanted to highlight how devastating the symptoms can be for some women, and how difficult it can be to get help. Even more stunning: they wanted me to be part of it!
My role in the story was to be the “menopause expert”. As an added bonus, my menopause clinic is a unique online startup: a Telehealth menopause clinic. This would be particularly interesting to women who have trouble finding expert menopause care in their local area. I could already feel the first queasy twinges of fear and self-doubt niggling at my gut as I enthusiastically agreed to take part.
After that first call I wrestled my demons. I’d spent a large part of the previous four years supporting women with menopausal issues; a story like this could do more to promote menopause awareness in 15 minutes than I could in the next 15 years… how could I say no? Sure, I might be painting a big red target on my back (Haters, aim here!), but what about all the women who would be validated in their frustrating search for answers? In the end I stuffed my imposter syndrome back into its box and stepped up.
The next 6 weeks were a rollercoaster ride; I was strapped in and there was no getting off! The producer and I had some lengthy phone chats plotting the various scenes, interviews and key messages. In the background I was mindful of the likely surge in demand for bookings that would result, and prepared the best I could to accommodate it. Then, with only weeks until the airing date, Sydney (home of the 60 Minutes production team) went into strict COVID lockdown. Filming was pushed out several times in the hope that the lockdown might end in time, but alas: I was never destined to meet Tara Brown in the flesh.
As filming day approached I started to get a sense of just how big it would be. The gruelling schedule began with hair and makeup at the National Press Club at 7.15am, followed by an hour-long Zoom interview with Tara Brown at 8.30am. It must be acknowledged that the wonderfully well-caffeinated film crew had arrived about an hour earlier than me, judging by the enormous amount of camera equipment already in place when I arrived. As always in these situations though, there were the predictable delays to work out the Zoom bugs and get the laptop into DND mode (luckily the crew were Millenials).
From there we headed to my practice for some footage of me “GPeeing”. It’s surprising just how many times I had to walk in the front door andhave the same conversation with the receptionist to get it right. One of my regular patients even brought in her “stunt-baby” for a bit of coochie-cooing and prodding with a stethoscope for the cameras. Then we were off home for some shots of the Telehealth inner sanctum, ie. my home office (AKA my son’s bedroom after-hours). We finished up the day by strolling up to a local kangaroo-infested lookout with my son and camera crew in tow. I was looking forward to seeing those scenes- it’s such a lovely spot- but sadly it all ended up on the virtual cutting-room floor.
It didn’t end there. Two days later we backed up to film at the National Gallery of Australia. Apparently the Channel 9 Execs wanted to inject some “Culcha” by featuring the wonderful “Know My Name” exhibition, which celebrates the work of female artists. I spent a happy hour wandering about, gazing vacantly through the cameraman at the lovely artworks behind him… hilarious! Some of those shots are lovely though. My favourite is the scene we filmed as an afterthought for a bit of fun… I slowly rotated around on the spot while the lighting and cameraman chased me around in a circle to get a cool spinning effect in the background (kudos to Stu the lighting guy, whose arms must have ached for days after shoulder-pressing that light all afternoon).
Considering the hours of footage we filmed and wonderful information collected, I admit to some disappointment that so little of it made the cut. My son and several patients interviewed were completely left out, sacrificed to tight programming schedules and network agendas. Important informative content was also edited out: a missed opportunity, I think.
The show did achieve a great deal however: it raised awareness about the prevalence and significance of symptoms in perimenopause and menopause; it highlighted the overstated risks and negative bias towards hormonal therapy; it also helped thousands of women to realise that they are not going mad, that what they are feeling is common and treatable, and that they can find the help they need. I may not be ready to trade my home office for a TV studio just yet, but the positive outcomes for menopausal women definitely made it all worthwhile.
If you can’t find the professional help you need for your menopause or perimenopausal symptoms then book a Telehealth consultation with an expert WellFemme menopause doctor.
WellFemme is Australia’s first dedicated Telehealth menopause clinic, servicing locations nationwide including: Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Darwin, Perth, Hobart, Brisbane, Dubbo, Bendigo, Broken Hill, Broome, Alice Springs, Launceston, Cairns, Mildura, Lightning Ridge, Kalgoorlie, Albany, Toowoomba, Charleville, Port Headland, Katherine, Ballarat, Coober Pedy, Bourke, Albury… and your place! 🙂