Menopause & Me: Kay Burley

Sky News presenter Kay Burley is the longest-serving newsreader on British television, with experience ranging from covering the Paris attacks in 2015 to interviewing Prime Minister Boris Johnson. She discusses her hot sweats and how exercise keeps her feeling her midlife best

When did your hot sweats start?

I’m 58 now and symptoms probably started a couple of years ago. They’ve been really bad in the last six months or so. I have massive hot sweats, when I literally drip, and I sometimes find it difficult to sleep at night.

What is the most challenging thing about hot sweats?

Because of my hot sweats, my make up girls have to come in during an ad break and fix my hair and put more make up on. They always have rollers in their bag and touch up with powder. It can be frustrating at times, and it makes me quite spotty as they have to keep caking it on.

It’s great at the weekend when I can scrape back my hair and wear loose-fitting clothes. The sculpted and structured outfits I wear during the week for work don’t help hot sweats at all. But compared to what some other people have to put up with, I’m fine.

Have there been any positive symptoms?

Nothing positive about hot sweats, but there’s a positivity in growing older. I don’t really care what other people think about me anymore.

What are the things that are getting you through?

I take a herbal remedy which is marketed for menopausal women which has St John’s Wort in it, and that can make me feel better.

What has made the biggest difference?

Exercise. I don’t run as much as I used to because my body has given up a little bit, but I climb. I was walking around the park and I thought, ‘This is boring, I might as well climb a mountain’. So I climbed Ben Nevis in January, then Scafell Pike in the Lake District and I’m planning to climb in the Alps and Kilimanjaro. 

I suppose I thought the menopause was a mountain to climb, so I might as well climb one.

I also go clubbing until the early hours. I don’t get tired – you’re a long time dead.

I lost three girlfriends last year, and I remember one of my friends saying, ‘The only exercise I get these days is walking behind the coffins of friends’ and I thought, ‘That’s tragic. I’m not going to be that person.’

I go clubbing until the early hours. I don’t get tired – you’re a long time dead.

Did you seek any advice from experts, friends or family?

I went to see my GP and a couple of herbal specialists and we talked about the options and risks of taking HRT. But because I have a high risk of breast cancer I decided, on balance, not to take HRT and be gritty and Northern about it, just accept that not everybody can do that.

What has been the impact on your daily life?

If I feel blue I tend to go for a walk with the dogs, or a run. I find that exercise lifts one’s mood.

Has there been an impact on your relationships?

I felt I needed to broach the subject of the menopause with some of the young boys at the office. When I didn’t talk about it they’d get embarrassed and think, ‘Why is she so hot and bothered? Is she ill?’ Sweat would literally be dripping off my top lip and they didn’t know where to look.

I have a son who is 26 so I just treat them like my kids. So I described it to them as a power surge. I’ll say to them, ‘Just having a power surge, nothing to worry about, it will be gone in a minute’.

Be kind to yourself, find like-minded women, exercise if you can and drink gin.

Is there anything you’d do differently?

I don’t know yet. I haven’t come out the other end but I’m pretty comfortable with where I am.

What do you say to other women about the menopause?

Be kind to yourself, find like-minded women, exercise if you can and drink gin.

What are your thoughts on this time of a woman’s life?

I’m actually quite a shy little girl from Wigan and always used to worry what people thought of me. But I have taught myself how to be confident over the years. I’m very good at leaving a party. If I go and think, ‘This is a bit boring’, I’ll just have a glass of champagne. I’ll be in one door, and out the other. I have it down to an art form – my record is two and a half minutes.

I find that men are a lot more accepting of older women than some women. It reminds me of what Madeleine Albright once said: ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.’ And I find that sometimes women don’t, because we’ve been forced to compare ourselves to other women.

But now’s our time. There is no better time in history for women of our age now.

Kay is a proud ambassador for Macmillan Cancer Support, British Heart Foundation and the RSPCA. Her novels First Ladies and Betrayal have been published by Harper Collins.

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