'I experienced reduced libido' - Lorraine Keane on why menopause shouldn't be 'some dirty little secret'
Lorraine Keane leads a charmed life. But, she tells our reporter, it's also important that she stays healthy so she can undertake arduous missions to far-flung places to publicise the plight of people hit by disasters or conflict
Though she would squirm at the mere suggestion of it, Lorraine Keane has to be the personification of what it means to be an ideal woman.
This accomplished broadcast and print journalist, presenter and panellist is emotionally generous and perceptive. She glows with good health, while being blessed with two talented daughters, and a "rock-solid" rock-star husband. She also comes from a family of six girls and one boy. Apparently, there was much love, laughter and music in their Rathfarnham home; and this continues to this day.
And while Lorraine is immensely grateful for all the wonderful gifts in her life, she also understands that she has a responsibility to help improve the lot of those who face seemingly impossible odds.
That is why she allocates a month every year to altruistic endeavours. This means she has to pack her bags, say goodbye to Emelia (14) and Romy (11), as well as her musician husband Peter Devlin, before heading off to places devastated by natural disasters or torn apart by political conflict. "I don't look forward to these trips," she says. "We go to places that are rife with poverty, disease and hardship. It is so heartbreaking."
Nonetheless, Lorraine will then do what she does best; she will don her journalism hat and swing into action. She will coax stories from the broken people who have endured them first-hand. She will listen carefully, she will empathise, and she will make sure those harrowing stories are recorded for posterity.
She will hold hands with wounded women and men; she will smile while playing with damaged children.
She will then come home and do charity events and media interviews, trying to persuade us to reach deep into our pockets so we may make the lives of those suffering people better.
"It can be absolutely harrowing," she says. "When I went to the Philippines, after the tsunami, I met people who had lost absolutely everything. I mean everything - their families, homes and businesses. It was so tragic. Fortunately, they came together as a community and started rebuilding their lives with the help of the wider world.
"But when I went to Haiti, 11 months after their devastating earthquake, it looked like it had only happened the day before. Only a small amount of the money raised internationally got through to the people who needed it. Corruption was a big problem there. That is why NGOs [non-governmental organisations] are so important on the ground after a disaster strikes. These people are really making a difference in Haiti."
Currently, Lorraine is focused on empowering women in disadvantaged countries. As she prepares for a trip to Tanzania for LIFE magazine, she is looking forward to meeting some very poor women who spied a business opportunity and took action.
"Their village was close to a major road, with no places for refreshment," explains Lorraine. "The women asked World Vision for coffee beans so they could grow their own crop. Once they had harvested it, they began selling their brew to parched travellers. They plan to expand the business by opening a beauty parlour and hairdressing salon. I can't wait to meet the members of this enterprising women's collective."
Lorraine says this is part of the Women Mean Business initiative, which encourages women in developed countries to support women in disadvantaged ones.
So, given that Lorraine leads a busy life, staying healthy is essential. And while that might have been her ideal, it wasn't always a reality for her. "Some years back, I started to suffer from sleeplessness," she explains, "and I began to feel fatigued and irritable. I thought it was because I was trying to juggle too many things.
"So, I wasn't too surprised when I experienced reduced libido - you'll hardly feel romantic when you're stressed-out and tired."
When Lorraine was asked to try a particular product aimed at mature women's hormonal issues, she balked at the idea. "I'm not in my 50s, so why would I pretend to need a product like that?" she asked. She was then called upon to consider the symptoms of a typical perimenopausal woman. And having heard the list, she realised she very definitely fell into that category.
After further research, she agreed to start taking Cleanmarine MenoMin. According to the Wicklow-based manufacturers, this product regulates hormonal activity, maintains mucous membranes and helps alleviate the symptoms of perimenopause - the stage in a woman's life just before menopause hits - and full menopause.
Lorraine is convinced Cleanmarine MenoMin does what it says on the packet. "It definitely improved my sleep patterns, my irritability and my libido," she volunteers. "It has everything in it that women whose fertility is dropping should be having - like krill oil, omega 3, and essential B vitamins. I now believe I have been perimenopausal since my 30s.
"An important factor in my life is that I don't 'do' suffering or illness. I will usually look for a remedy, and then get on with things. The fact that I didn't do anything about these hormonal symptoms until now annoys me."
So Lorraine is now an active member of the Let's Talk Menopause campaign. "Even in this day and age, women feel that menopause is some dirty little secret. Why is that the case?" she asks. "Perhaps it's because we're living much longer. In the past, when menopause struck, it heralded the final stage of life. But that is so not the case any more.
"Menopause can begin when a woman is in her early 40s, which, these days, is not even halfway through life. When you come out the other side, you should celebrate," she says. "You don't have PMT, period pains, irritability, and none of the inconveniences that all those things bring any more. So, you should be embracing menopause, not dreading it, and you certainly shouldn't be hiding from it."
With that she dons a beautiful, soft, apricot-coloured coat she bought in a sale recently. "It was reduced by a third," she says with unbridled glee.
And she heads off to yet another appointment in her action-packed, fulfilling and generous life.
Following her return from Tanzania, Lorraine (and Liam Cunningham) will host a Women Mean Business fundraising afternoon tea at the InterContinental Hotel, Simmonscourt Rd, D4, on Thursday, November 30. Tickets, €50. See worldvision.ie
Sunday Indo Life Magazine