I have had headaches (which I have learned are actually migraines).
I have daily lower abdominal pain.
I have also had a few other symptoms that I will not mention here to protect the squeamish and to go beyond the TMI point.
I knew something was wrong. So did my doctor. I have had an MRI, blood work, ultrasounds. I have had a few different labels of my situation: menorrhagia is one of them. In June, I received a new diagnosis: endometriosis of the uterus.
Without getting too graphic, I will tell you that I have never had a good relationship with Aunt Flo (see how I spared you the gross parts? YOU'RE WELCOME). I just never thought that it would get to the point where I forgot what it was like to not have one day without pain.
During the early phases of my illness, I kept things to myself, choosing to try to power through at work silently. Some people noticed I was different. I told them how I felt and what I was going through. Others didn't ask and assumed I was just constantly in a bad mood. I have tried to make the conscious effort to put a smile on my face and take my tears and moments of feeling terrible to a place where no one could see me (sometimes my car, sometimes the ladies room). I have cried more this year than I probably did when I was a baby - though my mom may dispute that. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I really don't want people to ask me how I feel. I feel bad every day. Who wants to hear that? I usually just say that I'm OK. In a way, it's true. I have known that I don't have some disease that is going to kill me. What I have is temporary.
I do want to thank my family and friends who have taken WAY too much time out of their days to ask how I'm feeling and suffer through my anger, frustration and sadness about feeling miserable for so long. I appreciate each one of you for knowing that there has been no short answer (nor has there been a different answer to the question, "How do you feel?" for months). I love you all for putting up with that. Soon, I hope to not feel like an elderly person rattling through the same old ailments.
THE NEXT STEP
My doctor told me no birth control pill was going to make me better. Thankfully, she presented me with two options: an IUD or a hysterectomy. Why am I thankful for that? Because the internet told me there were eight possible treatments for my condition. When I quizzed my doctor about all of them, she patiently explained why the other six would not work for me. She said what I was thinking, "Trying all of those things will just delay the inevitable. The only thing that will permanently make you feel better is to remove your uterus. It is the source of your problems."
In April, I tried the IUD. Holy mother of ridiculous pain! I didn't know it was possible for a doctor to tug on your uterus. My uterus liked sitting where it was. My body fought back. Once I talked it off the anatomical ledge, the IUD was implanted. Instantly, I had shooting pain. By shooting, I mean I felt like my uterus was firing off a cannon inside my body. Sometimes, I feel my organs pushing inside me. It's weird. It's like my lower abdomen is a prison and the cast of Orange Is The New Black is trying to break free. After one month, I told my doctor I had more pain than before. She said that wasn't right. She suggested the hysterectomy. I wanted to give it one more month. Nothing changed. I knew what I had to do. When I went back in June, I said I wanted to schedule surgery. But I had a few more questions:
- How do you do it? Robotically. Four small incisions.
- What are the complications? Other organs could go bad, the usual surgery risks (anesthesia, blood loss). But there's less blood loss with the robotic option, so yay?
- What's being left? Most importantly, my ovaries. Since I have felt bad for so long, my doctor wants me to feel better. Taking my ovaries would immediately put me into menopause. I'M TOO YOUNG FOR THAT! So now I'll get a few years where I should feel better before my first hot flash.
- What's the recovery? It could be as quick as two weeks or as long as six. My doctor thinks that since the uterus is the problem, removing it should make me feel better. She believes my recovery will really be from the little incisions in my belly. I know how much that kicked my ass when I had my gall bladder removed a few years ago. That first night at home was a challenge. I had to get up in the middle of the night and couldn't sit up to get out of bed like I usually would. I had a great idea to swing my legs out of bed thinking I could just slide out. Instead, I realized my short legs didn't reach the floor. I slid, alright. Then once I was able to get on my knees, I couldn't figure out how to get up. I wasn't alone. My mom was in the next room. Snoring. She never heard me call her. I'm looking into getting a foghorn to sound when I need help this time.
Please keep me in your thoughts. If you pray, please say a prayer for me. If you don't believe in that, just think of me as I head into the operating room. Send positive thoughts my way to help me recover without complications. Wish me luck as move on to what I hope will be the final stretch of a shitty year with a few moments of happiness.
Please don't ask me if I'm sure about this. I am.
Please don't tell me about people you know who have had terrible things go wrong after this surgery or about some Suzanne Somers-esque treatment that made a friend of a friend feel better. I have treated my health like I would a news story. I have researched. I have asked questions. I do not want to prolong this situation. I want to wipe the suckiness out of my life. This is how my doctor and I believe we can do that.
Please don't feel sorry for me. I thought my reproductive choices had been mine all these years. Now I know they're not. I'm OK with that. You should be, too. If at some point I decide I want to be a mother to someone who does not have fur and paws, I know that I don't have to carry a baby in my belly to do that.
Please stop asking people if they want children. Frankly, this is a rude thing to ask someone - especially if you don't know their personal situation. I have never liked being asked, "Don't you want a baby?" And when I say, "No," I get a "What's wrong with you?" reaction. I like kids. But I like me. I like sleep. I like that if I want to do something, I can. This is MY choice. It's none of your business why I don't have or want what you have. We're different. Since I will not be able to get pregnant, this question is even more intrusive. Yes, I am aware that I am putting this out there for anyone to see. But this is the only time I'm going to ask you not to ask this question. My answers from here on out will be, "I don't have a uterus. So Einstein, please tell me how I can get pregnant?" or "How many barbecue plates would you help me sell to hire a nanny and pay for college for the child you'd like me to adopt?" Snarky? Yes. Don't ask questions if you're not prepared for the answer.
I am optimistic. That's not who I usually am. After nearly seven months of daily, sometimes debilitating pain, I finally feel like I will be able to start and end each day being thankful that I'm having fewer moments of pain. At some point, I won't hurt. My smile will be real, not forced. I will want to be in the sunshine because it won't make my head feel like it's going to split into a million pieces. And I will once again have control of myself and my life. I look forward to that day. I don't know what my future holds, but I am certain there is a future. It will be good. It will be happy. And everyone better watch out. I won't be the old me. I'll be the new me. I can't wait to meet her!