A lot is known about menopause, like the fact that once a woman reaches 45 to 55, “the change” is around the corner. However, there are other factors that can cause women to experience menopause earlier than they typically would, which is what supermodel Beverly Johnson experienced after undergoing a hysterectomy.
Johnson was 47 years old when she began experiencing “full-blown menopause”. Although she fell in the age group of women beginning menopause, it wasn’t until after the hysterectomy that she began experiencing symptoms.
The 70-year-old, who began experiencing fibroids in her 30s, first underwent a myomectomy, which is a minimally invasive option that keeps the uterus intact. However, the fibroids grew back to the point that they were pushing on her uterus and causing her to menstruate every day for a year. As a result, Johnson became anemic.
This time around, her doctor recommended that she get a hysterectomy.
Johnson underwent the procedure in 1999 to stop the internal bleeding she was experiencing as a result of the uterine fibroids. The effect of the hysterectomy was something she wasn’t prepared for.
“It was a life-changing moment,” she says. “I went from my swinging forties to full-blown menopause and I was not prepared.”
“It was a major operation,” says Johnson. “I didn’t fully understand what the procedure entailed. The doctor didn’t explain and I thought menopause would come on gradually.”
Just two months after the procedure, she started experiencing those all too familiar symptoms.
“My body changed,” Johnson tells PEOPLE. “You start gaining weight in the middle. And I was still modeling. I felt tired. I remember talking to older women and when they’d break out in a sweat, I’d say ‘What’s wrong? Are you okay?’ And the response was always ‘You’ll know about it soon enough.’ I never connected the two. Well, I was that woman now. You’re in the middle of a conversation with an attractive guy — I was single — and all of a sudden, there’s a mustache of sweat, and he’s saying ‘Are you okay?’”
The supermodel even began to notice a shift in her sex life. “You don’t have the hormones that keep you nice and moist in the areas you want to be nice and moist in,” she shares. “Mentally, you still have a sex drive but physically, there were changes. You’re moist in all the wrong places and that was a big shocker for me. There are all these unexpected consequences.”
Because menopause is something that isn’t often talked about, Johnson turned to