Most women would prefer not to experience the side effects of menopause even once, let alone twice. But that's what happened to Melanie Modlin, deputy director of communications and public liaison at the National Library of Medicine. And she volunteered for it!
You volunteered to take part in a clinical research trial relating to menopause. What was it about?
The National Institute of Mental Health sponsored the trial. It was meant to measure the cognitive effects—thinking, attention, memory, problem solving—of an experimental drug that created a temporary state like menopause. It was being tested to possibly treat women who had severe physical and emotional problems connected to their menstrual periods.
Why did you volunteer for the trial?
I've always been interested in public service and volunteering, and I wanted to contribute, in some small way, to science. When the opportunity came along to participate in an NIH clinical trial as a healthy volunteer, I jumped at the chance.
I feel so lucky to be healthy. I had a sister who died of cancer, so I believe it is very important for healthy people to help. We have a role to play in helping find new, more effective treatments that can save lives.
Symptoms vary for women during menopause. What were your most notable symptoms during the trial?
During the trial, I felt some fatigue from time to time, and I'd have to say that my thoughts and memory seemed occasionally slow to materialize, or scrambled. But I never had a hot flash.
One part of my trial was a series of fairly complicated mental tests, like counting backwards, adding numbers in your head as a recording of numbers was read increasingly quickly, memorizing lists of objects, etc. It wasn't all that taxing, but the nurse coordinating the study said another patient got so flustered that she unplugged the recorder and threw it across the room. I guess menopause comes in many forms!
How long did actual menopause symptoms last for you?
They came on gradually, but the fatigue and mental lapses must've lasted for about two years.
What treatments for symptoms did you have during the menopause transition?
I feel so fortunate…none. I'm not sure why my hormones let me off so easily, but I always want to share my story, so those approaching menopause know that it's not all bad news.