Celebrity News

Jeanette gets her groove back

Now the radio host’s on top of perimenopause, life’s back to being a Breeze

It’s often customary these days for those in the public eye to tout the joys of ageing. But if you had asked Jeanette Thomas a year ago how she intended to spend her 50th birthday, she would’ve bluntly replied, “Under a rock!”

In the throes of menopause leading up to the big milestone, the usually upbeat broadcaster reveals she wasn’t living her best life.

Plus, she had already received the only gifts she needed at the time: a hand-held fan given by her breakfast co-host on The Breeze Robert Rakete, followed up by a neck fan from her husband Dave.

“All summer long, I just sat there with my two fans to get me through my hot flushes,” she recalls with a wry smile.

But there were other “crazy symptoms” too. Jeanette barely slept for six months – not ideal when she found herself watching the clock tick until 3.30am, when she had to get up for work and then try to be funny on air.

“And I felt wrapped in anxiety that I’d never known before in my life, like feeling anxious being a passenger in a car or suddenly being unable to talk in front of a large group or MC an event, which has been my career.

“I had no idea I had been going through perimenopause [the transition to menopause] for so long,” she muses.

“When my mum died five years ago, menopause wasn’t something I thought to ask her about before I lost her. And she’d had a hysterectomy, so was thrown into it in her early forties. I assumed it would be a couple of hot flushes at some point and you’d carry on. But it’s so much more than that. I stopped functioning in every single possible way.”

What a difference a year makes, though. After discussing the debilitating symptoms with her GP, Jeanette decided to go on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has given the mum-of-two her quality of life back.

Chatting candidly to the Weekly on what happens to be World Menopause Day, she points out that while HRT may not be the answer for other women, it’s proved to be the “magic bullet” for her.

The treatment has often had a bad rap in the past, due to the misinterpretation of HRT therapy studies in the early 2000s, which has disserved menopausal women, she says.

“Thanks to my nightly progesterone pill and my estrogen patch, which I wear on my lower tummy, I can now get up off the floor and not have to swear because everything hurts.

“I feel like I have the joints of a 25-year-old again… Okay not quite!” laughs Jeanette, who had surgery for a frozen shoulder in 2020, which she was told was also a common condition for those going through perimenopause.

“My orthopedic surgeon instantly diagnosed me, and said a frozen shoulder was very much connected to hormone levels and losing estrogen, which helps every part of your body.

“I’m grateful to be feeling good now, but it was definitely a rough few months leading up to turning 50 in September.”

With plans to celebrate the occasion with policeman hubby Dave, 55, and their adult children Charlie, 20, and Mia, 18, on a family holiday in Hawaii, there was one more curveball thrown their way.

Unfortunately, due to a visa issue, Charlie was not permitted access into the US.

Two years ago, the young conservationist had jetted to remote Kure Atoll at the edge of the uninhabited Hawaiian Islands to spend nine months volunteering with three others and 100,000 seabirds.

“Covid of course hit and the boat that came to get them was delayed by a week,” tells Jeanette, picking up the story.

The proud mum with conservationist Charlie.

“We thought it meant that in terms of Charlie’s visa, he had over-stayed by four days. When it came to my birthday trip, the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation [ESTA] asked if you’ve ever been an overstayer, so we ticked yes thinking we were doing the right thing and could easily explain it wasn’t Charlie’s fault. But we got a message back saying he was denied entry into the US. So that was horrendous and threw us into a bit of a tailspin of what do we do? So I thought, ‘Right, we won’t go then,’ while doing a lot of deep breathing and rocking in corners,” she laughs.

“We’ve only ever travelled together as a family. Then six days before we were due to leave, Charlie phoned me at work and said, ‘Mum, you have to go. There’s no point all four of us being sad about this. Please just go.’

“He’s a bloody good person and he convinced me enough that I shouldn’t cancel the trip.”

So, on the morning of her 50th birthday, Jeanette found herself perched 10,000 feet above sea level at the summit of one of Hawaii’s dormant volcanoes in Haleakalā National Park, bathed in the most beautiful sunrise. Needless to say, she had a “moment”.

“Oooh, did I ever! It was the most magnificent, magical experience. We got picked up at 2am and were driven three hours to east Maui and then up Haleakalā.

“You’re literally so high, you’re looking down over the clouds at this Mars-like landscape that becomes clearer and clearer as the sun rises,” she enthuses. “And right at 6.12am, when the sun comes up, the locals started to do this beautiful Hawaiian chant. It was surreal. I’ll never forget it.”

Hawaii 5-0! Jeanette, Dave and Mia celebrated her milestone at sunrise on a dormant volcano.

Returning home, there are two more ways that the popular radio host plans to mark her special milestone.

In February, she’s heading to Auckland’s Waiheke Island with a bunch of high school mates so they can all celebrate their 50th birthdays at once.

“We’ve been friends since we were in third form at Macleans College in Bucklands Beach,” Jeanette tells. “All of us will probably be sitting around with a wine in one hand and our fans in the other!”

Jeanette’s also getting a matching tattoo of special significance with daughter Mia, who is in her first year of studying for a Bachelor of Communications degree.

“I never thought I’d be that person getting a tattoo with my child. But here I am all booked in to do it in December. I’m getting mine on the inside of my arm and Mia is getting it on her torso.

Mother and daughter are getting inked together.

“Charlie has tattoos, but Mia didn’t have any. She recently had an idea of getting my late mum’s handwriting turned into a tattoo. Then I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to do that too!’ So she’s paying for it for me as a birthday gift.”

Jeanette explains, “My mum would sign every card she gave us the same way – ‘Love always, Mum’, or, ‘Love always, Nana’. Her writing was always distinctive, so we’re going to take a card

to the tattooist so they can trace it.

“I desperately miss my mum, who was my ‘everyday’ person and my everyday phone call.”

Jeanette says she’s never been one to look too far ahead or make lofty goals, but her birthday has somewhat prompted her and Dave into thinking about the next stage of their life.

She still loves bringing laughter on the airwaves each morning, but with Charlie living away from home – he now works in predator control – and Mia busy at university, the future may include downsizing their home.

“And getting out the other side of menopause will be nice too!” exclaims Jeanette, who has spoken about her experiences on the radio to try and demystify a topic that has only recently been gaining more mainstream attention.

“I want to continue to do that and to give women a hopeful lens on menopause.

“The biggest thing is it affects more than just the woman involved going through it. It affects their family, it affects their colleagues and it affects their friends.

“I remember chatting to my co-host Rob about what I was feeling and he’s been amazing.”

(Robert comes in midway through the interview to joke that he’d like to give his perspective – “She’s been awful to work with, mean to children and animals!” before laughing and quickly being shooed away).

Co-host Robbie’s been a great support.

Her advice to others is to find whatever it is that will help.

“Because there is help and you don’t need to suffer in silence,” she asserts. “I was podcasting the heck out of anything I could find to do with menopause and trying to arm myself with all the knowledge I wish I had had 10 years ago.

“My advice to anyone in their forties is to start reading up and learning what you can before you get to the place I found myself in.”

Related stories