I've talked a bit about this on Twitter and Facebook, but I've hesitated writing anything on the blog because truthfully, I don't know who out there is reading this. (If my stats are to be believed,people in China seem to love me.) But as I was talking with a friend, I realized that there wasn't a lot on the internet that helped me out when I first learned I was going under the knife, so I decided that if I could help someone else looking for info, then I should just sit down and put pen to paper, so to speak.
So here it is: I'm having a hysterectomy on Monday.
Some people might assume that because Alan and I are child-free by choice that we're opting for the most aggressive form of birth control on the market: removing one's uterus. While that is going to be an added side benefit for me, for sure, that alone was not what led to this decision.
You may have noticed that elsewhere on social media I'm a pretty vocal advocate for women's reproductive rights and that I get pretty rabid when old white men in positions of power equate chemical birth control usage with being a Slutty McSlutterson. Aside from the fact that I hate when women who enjoy an active sex life are labels sluts or whores when men in similar positions are given high fives for their conquests, the thing that angers me most about this controversy is the fact that many women - myself included - have to take hormonal birth control in order to control problems with our bodies. You see, I had to start wearing a bra at nine years old and I began my period at the ripe old age of ten. To say I was an early bloomer is a bit of an understatement. I turned 37 on Saturday. For those of you not good at math, that's TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS of horrible, painful, debilitating periods. I've missed school, work, parties, events, and any host of things because I was curled up in the fetal position in bed bleeding like a wounded soldier.
Last February my problems became worse than ever, and my primary care physician at the time changed my birth control pills to one that included a higher dosage of estrogen. That worked somewhat, but not entirely. I remain incapacitated for several days of the year. Unfortunately this new pill regime wasn't a cure for my condition, and in fact, was one that I wasn't entirely comfortable with given my family history of breast cancer and the link between birth control and this particular form cancer. Still, these concerns weren't enough to lead me to a hysterectomy.
No, you see, I didn't even know that was an option for women with my history, and in fact I probably wouldn't have if I didn't start experiencing a whole slew of other problems with my internal lady parts.
Back in April, a couple of weeks before we left for Alaska, we were at Alan's mom's house. It was a regular day, nothing untoward. As we stood up to leave I felt a terrible ripping pain across the lower right side of my abdomen. The pain was unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and it left me short of breath and seeing stars. It happened again a few weeks later and I started to worry that maybe I had a hernia. I did some reading and talked to a friend that had recently gone through surgery for the same situation, but quickly ruled that out based on a lack of highly visible physical evidence. In the meantime, I hoped that I wouldn't have these pains in Alaska, and thankfully I didn't.
Alas, when we were back, I started having them again and so I visited a new doctor. (I had been planning on switching my primary care physician anyhow, so this was as good a time as any to make the change.) Unfortunately, the pains became much more frequent and at the beginning of July I was pretty much in constant pain. On July 3 I had an intra-vaginal ultrasound to determine what was wrong - my doctor suspected that I had had a burst ovarian cyst, but she was concerned that the pain hadn't gone away. The ultrasound revealed an enlarged uterus with the presence of fibroids and/or polyps. Unfortunately, the technician who performed the ultrasound was unable to get a good picture of either of my ovaries so my condition remained a mystery. Given the results, my doctor said I should see a specialist immediately.
After calling all over kingdom come to try and locate a doctor in Oakland or Berkeley that could see me immediately it became clear that was not an option. I was finally able to book an appointment with a well-regarded ob/gyn in Berkeley for late July, which means I've basically spent the last several months in constant pain: sneezing, coughing, laughing ... they all hurt. Sitting for too long in one position is also a pain. And let's not even talk about being able to sleep through the night without hurting. At this point, I pretty much feel like I'm walking around with a knife in my abdomen and any major movement just pushes it in further. It's really amazingly awful and has definitely impacted my quality of life over the last handful of months.
I met with my doctor before we went to Maine and she and I decided that instead of trying even more hormonal methods of controlling my out of control bleeding and pain that we'd try our damnedest to eliminate the problem all together. Enter the hysterectomy. The plan was to remove my uterus and fallopian tubes, but to keep my ovaries and cervix. Yesterday I had my pre-op appointment and because my pain is getting worse, my doctor believes that my endometriosis has, unfortunately, adhered to internal organs on the right side of my body which is what is causing my chronic pain in that region. Specifically, she thinks it has attached itself to my right ovary and my appendix. The thing about endometriosis is you can't know for sure without opening up the body. So, based on yesterday's appointment the plan is to now remove my uterus, both fallopian tubes, my right ovary, and possibly my appendix. She'll know for sure once she cuts me open and sees what's what. Truthfully, I am hoping that once she gets in there it's pretty obvious what the problem is because I'd really like to be done with this pain and suffering and get on with thee process of healing and feeling better.
My surgery is on Monday, and I will be off work for two months. Please wish me luck and keep me in your thoughts, because I definitely need all the warm fuzzies I can get.
While signing the informed consent procedure document yesterday, I of course had to acknowledge all of the things that could possibly go wrong. I won't lie and tell you that it didn't freak me out. IT FREAKED ME THE EFF OUT. So much so, in fact, that I had a full on panic attack right there in my doctor's office while sitting naked in a backless robe. Thankfully Alan was sitting next to me and we've been together long enough that he can tell when I'm about to lose my shit. Incidentally, this is the second time I've had a near-fainting experience due to a panic attack while sitting in this particular doctor's office. It must have something to do with talking about getting one's innards removed.