She was in her forties with some hormonal changes when she was chemically castrated after her doctor suggested, "let's just stop your periods." Three years later it seemed she was falling apart: arthritis and fatigue had set in, her staff went through a complete turnover (not in a good way), she was irritable, depressed, and felt 80 years old. She searched for answers for years until a well-known gynecologist helped correct her hormonal shock and she regained her sanity as well as a new mission.
Heidi Houston, the executive producer of the movie, "Hot Flash Havoc" wants you (yes, all of you) to understand menopause. She knows as well as her doctor that while menopause is not a disease, it is arguably the most poorly understood "natural" condition affecting the lives, livelihoods and relationships of half of the human population. This documentary-style movie (to be released November, 2010) features real women and legitimate experts in health care; there are no celebrities and no celebrity doctors. What's presented are actual life stories that portray some of the challenges facing women trying to make educated decisions about the best way to manage their menopause and a team of experts explaining the what, why, and what-you-can-do about symptom relief. The underlying theme is that if menopause is bringing you down, in any way, you are not alone, and you have options.
The truth is that most doctors don't really have a handle on menopause and the far-reaching effects ovarian decline have on the overall health of a woman. Dr. Alan Altman, a highly respected menopause and sexuality expert (the medical consultant for the movie) has focused his practice and energy into trying to shed light on this seemingly mysterious condition that was shoved back into the dark ages with the release of part of the WHI (Women's Health Initiative), a National Institutes of Health study condemning hormone replacement therapy in 2002. The data of the WHI is undeniably important, but with close analysis the results are not as relevant to menopausal women as they could have been, and the more negative findings have been sensationalized--to the point of hysteria. To this date women are still talking about how they flushed their hormones down the toilet in 2002, and are now looking to other sources (such as Oprah and Suzanne Sommers) to help steer them into the "right" way to handle hormonal decline. Dr. Altman is a seasoned (former Harvard clinical faculty) expert who is spot on with his and other experts' critical analysis of the WHI; you will not walk away without answers about why the world was confused about information received from the NIH.
Most of the money behind movies is not at all excited about the topic of menopause. Not only is it considered un-sexy, the hormone debate is highly controversial. Consequently, Hollywood has turned up its nose at the film, spawning a grass roots effort by the PR team to bring screenings directly to local communities. So with this movie, entertainment is joining forces with the health and policy makers to engage, entertain and enlighten women across America. The first premier screening is scheduled in Washington, DC on September 28 at the Burke Theatre. The second will be on October 2, 2010 in Aspen, CO at the Aspen Filmfest. The movie will open nationwide in November and December. Women's health groups and wellness organizations are encouraged to pull together and register with the website to bring the movie to their area.
DVDs will soon be available and the "Hot Flash Havoc" team hopes that this popular American media will help spread the message to women that they have choices with menopause, they simply need to have the knowledge to understand them. The movie is 88 minutes long and there is plenty of comic relief, making it not just entertaining and informative to women, but also a surprising hit for the men in their lives. "The most fun has been the response and interest of the men," Heidi allows, adding that there may be a sequel to speak to the issue of hormonal decline in men. It's important to note that not a penny of revenue for production of the film has come from the pharmaceutical industry. The entire team wanted an unbiased presentation, "All of the investors were women and men who have an interest in health and love women."
"Hot Flash Havoc" will give much needed clarity and understanding to a taboo subject and offer help for the suffering many women have experienced thinking that they should just "tough out" menopausal woes. As one of the many heroic women in the movie emphatically states, "Let me have my vodka, a little golf, and don't touch my hormones."