Thursday, February 13, 2014

Maybe You Have Endometriosis

The song and dance with birth control pills went on for years.  Seven years if we want to be a bit more specific.  Yes, I had regular periods, but I still had unbearable pain and bleeding.  Where one pill failed to eradicate the pain, another was brought in its place to try to solve the problem.  Only my doctors and I weren’t attempting to solve any problems.  We were simply trying to cover up my symptoms.  Pills for a monthly cycle, pills for a quarterly cycle, and even birth control shots could do nothing for me.

What I discovered through my mess of medication was that I was losing myself.  In high school I considered myself a truly happy and positive person.  No matter the situation I really tried to see the good.  Something as silly as the sun being in my eyes was a terrific reminder that I had the ability to see.  Sore muscles after a hard softball practice reminded me that I had passions and was able to work hard.  Even the difficulty with my parents splitting up allowed me to discover how much I enjoyed writing.  However, this bright outlook on life faded.  I began to feel sad and often.  Simple tasks became a struggle, as my body hurt physically and I was hurting mentally.  Anger took over being rational and I felt like I was losing control.

As a self-proclaimed “mama’s girl” I went straight to my mom for advice.  I know it bothered her immensely to see me in pain and not know what to do to help.  By her suggestion, I went to see a new gynecologist.  He was the director of my younger sister’s choral group and had performed in a local show with her.  Being a friend of the family, I was happy to see someone that I knew was not only respected in his profession, but also someone in whom I could put my trust.  It didn’t take long after I shared my symptoms and experiences for him to suggest a root cause: “Maybe you have endometriosis.”

Say that word again, please.  What exactly is that?  I learned that endometriosis was a condition that caused the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) to grow elsewhere in the body.  It could be found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, urinary tract, bowels, or even intestines.  Often this tissue could cause inflammation, scar tissue, and extreme pain.  When left to grow the tissue can cause organs to fuse together or adhesions to grow.  Sadly, it is one of the most common of health problems for women.  So what did that mean for me exactly?

Not much.  At least not right away.  It was August 2009 and I was getting married in October.  The only reliable way to diagnose endometriosis was through surgery, which I was unwilling to have until after my wedding.  Endometriosis is not visible on ultrasound or other external tests.  Laparoscopic surgeries were both used in the diagnosis and removal of endo.  Doctors would check for the endometrial tissue and laser off what could be seen.  What was a few more months of pain after I had been suffering for so long?  Wait I did, until December 21, 2009. 


It was a fairly benign procedure.  There were no special preparations I had to make the night before, other than to not eat or drink after midnight.  My dad was all scheduled to pick me up bright and early the next morning, about 5:00 am, to take me over to the hospital.  Of course, I would have loved for my husband to take me, but being so close to the end of the year he was out of sick days.  As a newly married couple with not much money and lots of new bills, we decided it was best that he would just go to work that day.  So I woke up early, kissed him goodbye, and told him that I would see him once he got home.

Being the caring and concerned person she always is, my younger sister had joined my dad for the ride.  We arrived at the hospital and waited for the fun to begin.  I checked in to the hospital at about 5:45 am and was taken back in to surgery around 7:30 am.  This laparoscopic surgery required that I be put under general anesthesia, so I remember none of the surgery, just waking up in post-op.  Other than feeling tired and sore, I felt relatively okay.  The anesthesia had made me nauseous, so I sat around for a little while eating crackers and sipping on ginger ale while waiting to use the bathroom.  Did you know that you are not allowed to leave the hospital until after you have gone to the bathroom?  Luckily, I had no problem going at all.  The problem was seeing the massive amount of blood in the toilet after I had finished.  Between not eating for hours, feeling nauseated and weak from the anesthesia, and then seeing the blood, I almost fainted.  Good thing my nurse had insisted she stay with me in the bathroom! 

After that embarrassing little episode I was allowed to head home.  I was able to check out my new scars and take a beautiful nap.  Two tiny incisions now graced my seldom-seen stomach.  One incision was right above my pubic bone, less than an inch in length.  The other incision was directly across my belly button.  Now I have always had a strange belly button.  It wasn’t quite an in-y and it wasn’t quite an out-y.  I knew that once this new incision healed I would be left with something entirely different.  It wasn’t something that was going to cause me to lose sleep.  I took my medication for the pain and slept for a few glorious hours.

The next two weeks were my Christmas break.  I had planned the surgery for the perfect time.  Not that it had slowed me down much at all.  My surgery was four days before Christmas, so there was plenty to be done at home.  I baked cookies, I wrapped a few last minute gifts, and I cleaned the house from top to bottom.  Even I was surprised by my own ability to move around so easily.  Although my abdomen was swollen from the air that had filled it during the surgery, I really only felt as though I had done a hard abdominal workout.  Sitting down bothered me for a few days, but nothing too severe.  And of course there was bleeding.  I bled for two weeks straight, one of which should have been my period anyway.  Again, it wasn’t severe, more like the first few days of my normal period – slightly heavy.  I couldn’t complain.  A sore stomach and bleeding for two weeks and I would be free from endometriosis?  I will take it!

Only I wasn’t free from endometriosis.  Not even close.

Stay tuned for my plan following my surgery and how I came to learn about the Creighton Model and NaProTechnology.

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