So, I’ve just used up a bunch of my writing time to try and figure out how to embed a gif. Now I’m going to give up and leave this fancy internet shit to the youngins, because I am obviously too old to figure it out and I kinda feel like I need a nap now.
And really, all I was doing was coming here to talk about my hysterectomy and how well I’m healing up and how I oddly can’t wait to go back to work in two weeks.
For a bit of hysterectomy history, I’ve always had pretty evil cycles. This got considerably worse after I gave birth to my daughter. That was when the doctor who delivered her said something to me that really stuck. He mentioned that the C-section was difficult, because I had significant scarring.
Mind you, I was drugged at the time, and in that post birth haze where everything is glowy and weird. “Oh, like from my C-section 5 years ago?”
And he gave me a weird look and said the scarring was from endometriosis and he was surprised I didn’t know I had it and then left. And, being stoned on Percoset and mom hormones, I didn’t think about it. I continued to not think about it in the weeks that followed, since I had a newborn and my whole family caught the death by vomiting flu one week after I got out of the hospital. And, since I breast fed my daughter for about four months before my milk decided it wasn’t needed anymore, I didn’t have periods again until sometime in mid-2008. And when they came back, they were brutal.
I remember telling my doctor at the time something was different. Wrong. That something had changed. That my body was not ok.
He said I was post-partum. That having a baby can’t change your cycles. He said I was fat, and insinuated that I was lazy. He recommended weight watchers and a nutritionist and portion control.
I found a new doctor. And I loved her. She took good care of me until she left the practice and then I found another doctor who takes fantastic care of me and I really don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two doctors are both women.
Here’s the thing, though. It took me years to mention to another doctor that my periods were weird. Because I had internalized the idea that that stupid male doctor knew, somehow, better than I did about my body. That I was always going to hurt, and go through at least one or more boxes of tampons every month. I believed that it was just my lot to hurt so badly and feel so awful every 26 days.
Social conditioning is a bitch.
My mom believes in the “curse of eve” where it is somehow one mythical woman’s fault for our “monthly discomfort” because she pissed off god 6000 years ago. Combining that with an unhealthy dose of “suck it up and deal with it” which is our family legacy, and I was set for another 20 or 30 years of misery.
Then about two or three years ago it started to reach an unbearable point. This is when I started my Cymbalta. This is when I started sorting out the difference between the pain of my mental illness and the pain of my physical maladies. The Cymbalta took away the myalgia that depression was causing. It did not take away the pain from my cycles.
Hesitantly, I brought this up to my doctor at my 2016 pap smear and STI screening. She was dismissive; to be fair though, I didn’t really try hard. I’ll spare you the gory details, but my cycles got worse. More painful, more irregular, longer, heavier, just awful. I was in pain almost all the time. So at my 2017 checkup, I brought it up again, more insistently. She ordered an ultrasound to look for fibroids. I had that test done, and everything was clear.
Then my world fell apart. My mom nearly died and her health issues eclipsed my own as I moved into survival mode. And as she healed, I felt worse. Finally, the pain in my lower back was a constant companion and I was missing work, or unable to do a good job leading my team when I was there.
When I started thinking I would rather die than have to live with it much longer, I returned to Dr Monica and begged for help. A year of fighting for my mother’s health care rights had stripped me of my reticence around doctors. When my doctor said she’d order an ultrasound, I stiffly told her we’d done one of those already and I needed another option. She said that it was out of her realm and sent me to a specialist.
The specialist was a kind older woman… I could see her from another time, Coming down off the mountain to birth babies and getting paid in chicken eggs and fresh vegetables. She examined me and heard my history and said I would likely need a hysterectomy to treat what sounded like endometriosis. The catch was she wasn’t a surgical OB/GYN. And that had to be approved by my insurance. Two months of waiting later, and bumping right up on the holidays and my trip to Tokyo, I was in Dr Tan’s office. He approved the surgery, we set a date, and I cried tears of relief on the way home.
My surgery was February 7th at one of the big Portland Hospitals. I’d been experiencing immobilizing lower back pain, recurring vaginal and urinary tract infections, as well as digestive upset and extreme fatigue for months. I had powered through all of this for my Tokyo trip, living on Advil and having stashed a spare bottle of antibiotics in my luggage, just in case. I worked right up until the day before my surgery, although I know that last week or two I was pretty useless. I’d have to stop and rest often, and I’m still not sure if was finally just feeling how badly I was doing because there was an end in sight, or if I was steadily getting worse.
And after all this lead-up, it almost feels anti-climactic. Jas drove me to the hospital in the morning and sat with my grumpy self (I was sooooo hungry) while they prepped me for surgery. A nice fellow wheeled me into the OR, put a mask over my face, and a few seconds later, I woke up in a dim room with a chubby nurse asking how I felt. I hurt pretty badly and they gave my oxy and, eventually, gabapentin. I drifted through that night at the hospital, texting with N all night since it was his daytime, and playing Bubble Witch on my tablet. The first week of recovery was both easy and awful, as my family rallied around to keep me down on the couch and resting. The drugs I was on made everything hazy and weird around the edges.
Then, N came home on an emergency basis, and I spent two weeks with him home. He got to go with me to my 3 week checkup, which is where I learned that my uterus was twice the size it should have been, and I had significant endometrial scarring. I felt triumphant and justified; there really had been something wrong. There was a reason that I hurt so badly and it was something that had been brewing inside for a long time.
The comment I hear a lot is that I look rested. Another friend has said that the pain lines are gone from my face. And it’s true. I simply don’t hurt like I used to. My back is sore as the muscles recover from years of abuse. My incisions itch and twinge and feel weird. But I’m doing much better than I have in several years. Finally.