She spends most days hidden in a radio booth, but Jo Whiley has been dealing with her own struggles off air since going through the menopause.
The presenter revealed she was stripped of her confidence following the change – all while raising four children, with a busy career and being ‘relentlessly’ trolled during her time as BBC Radio 2’s drive time host.
She said, ‘You lose your sense of self, you’ve accomplished so much and you start to think, “OK, what’s next?” ‘That was definitely going on for me. I wasn’t in a terrible state, but I was feeling more anxious and I didn’t like it, because I’d never felt like that before, ever.’
Jo, 54, also explained how her battle with menopause isn’t her only health concern. In 2018, the radio DJ confessed to dealing with osteoarthritis — the most common type of arthritis. Despite not being properly diagnosed, she says her family history with the condition has made her almost certain that she’s inherited the same problem.
‘I have good days and bad days when I can’t even make a fist with my left hand,’ she said. ‘When you can’t pick up a heavy mug of tea, you start to think, “What the hell’s going on?” I’m 54 now and there’s no escaping the fact that my body hurts much more than it used to.
‘My knees are fine but my shoulders and arms ache quite a lot and my knuckles are swollen and painful.’
Now, Jo – who is married to Steve Morton and has four children, India, Jude, Cassius and Coco – has been prescribed HRT, including testosterone, in a bid to tackle her menopause, and she says she’s now feeling like her ‘old self’ again.
However, the presenter doesn’t put the change solely down to the medication, having found a new love for fitness – which she credits for helping her through some of her most difficult times.
She said, ‘I’d been a very strong woman physically and mentally and I felt I was beginning to become a little unravelled.
‘Getting back into fitness and giving myself a challenge has helped to make me feel a lot better.’
A new lease of life
Through exercise, Jo has managed to challenge herself on a daily basis and embark on some major feats in fitness – including several triathlons.
Along with Radio 2 presenters and friends Rev Kate Bottley and Richie Anderson, Jo completed three triathlons in three days for Sport Relief, and even the weather conditions did little to dampen her mood. She said, ‘I roped in a whole load of other friends to do it with me and it was life changing for all of us.’
The music host added that while she used to ‘muddle’ her way through menopause, exercise has distracted her away from her problems – and she couldn’t feel happier.
She adds, ‘I just do it all the time, whereas my life didn’t used to be like that, so now I just feel fitter and happier than I used to be and that is because I’ve started doing sport.
‘It helped so much on days when I was struggling, whether it was with stress or self worth or just wanting to feel better about life. And it has completely made me feel better about life.
‘It instantly gave me a sense of purpose and it’s something that is part of my life constantly now, going running and swimming or just getting out there and being active.’
Amazing to hear, Jo!
Jo Whiley is performing at BBC Radio 2 Live in Leeds.