Updated: November 19, 2008

Want to know what it's like to survive—and thrive—during menopause? Here, four women share their tips and successes dealing with their journey.

“I spent six years in perimenopause”
Margo Spellman, 53, a marketing executive in Seattle, spent years with night sweats so bad that her husband and two dogs couldnt sleep with her. She experienced bald spots, weight gain, trouble sleeping, and huge memory lapses. While her doctor checked her hormones every year, it wasnt until last year that he confirmed she was, indeed, in menopause. “It was a relief to know that at last its here,” she says. Spellman is still battling hot flashes but is skipping the hormone therapy. “For now, taking Ambien once a week helps me get one decent night of sleep. That has saved me!”

“I changed my diet and exercise habits to try to feel better”
Thanks to persistent hot flashes, Louise Lewis, a 50-year-old writer from Irvine, Calif., knew she was in perimenopause five years ago. Her periods have stopped and she still has night sweats, but she thinks her exercise regimen has helped—30 minutes of yoga and stretching a day, 30 minute walks three times a week, and daily push-ups, ab crunches, and squats. “Ive always seen menopause as a sort of rite of passage to my ‘wisdom years,” says Lewis, the author of No Experts Needed: The Meaning of Life According to You! “I didnt rely on an expert to help me through the transition. Instead, I listened to the wise women before me, like my mom. Its really helped.”

“I went into menopause in my 30s”
For Allison Gilbert, 38, waiting for menopause wasnt an option. The author from Westchester, N.Y., is a BRCA–1 carrier. She had her ovaries removed in December 2007 to reduce her risks of developing ovarian cancer. “My mother died of ovarian cancer when I was 25, and I needed to make sure, especially because I have two little children, that I wouldnt die young too,” Gilbert says. “Im thrilled that I chose to have this operation. For so long, I had this dark cloud hanging over my head, and now its completely gone. Ive been liberated!”

“I didnt know menopause would leave my bones unprotected”
When Nancy Mackel, 54, a human resources associate who lives in Sahuarita, Ariz., went through menopause three years ago, she never imagined it would take such a huge toll on her bones. But last year she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. All her adult life, she exercised and ate the right foods. She even took calcium supplements in her early 40s. “I was mad when I found out,” Mackel says. She now takes Boniva and 2,000 milligrams daily of vitamin D to strengthen her bones. Plus, she does outdoor water aerobics, which gives her a workout and 15 minutes of sun a day. “Im determined to do what I can to keep my bones as strong as possible and spread the word to other women,” she says.