The first part of my medical saga began with what seemed to be the typical onset of perimenopause
My periods became heavier and heavier (even while I was on hormonal birth control which is supposed to keep them light) to the point that I was actually bed (or recliner) ridden two days a month.
I know some women have had bad issues from the onset of menstruation, I never did. I have run full marathons while menstruating. It never negatively impacted my life until I entered my very late 40′s.
I also had bad cramping and back aches for the first time in my life.
When I talk about bad cramping and/or being bedridden, I’m not being a wimp. I completed a full marathon with an resolved UTI that had gone into my kidneys, was up on skis teaching (that’s how I earned my living in the winter) seven weeks after fracturing my spine and pelvis. I completed the 10K portion of an Olympic Distance triathlon on a badly sprained, swollen, bloody ankle (with a chipped bone) from a bike crash in transition.
So how did such a psychotically “tough” woman end up bedridden over a simple biological function?
At perimenopause, the ovaries start kicking it into high gear, seemingly in a last ditch effort to get you to reproduce before it’s “too late”. I could almost hear the little buggars saying, “come on… you know you want to… it’s not too late…”
All of this increased and random activity creates heavy irregular bleeding and discomfort (oh, and it does wonders for one’s mood)
This is what I thought I was dealing with.
I tried diet, exercise and vitamins (in addition to being on the Nuva Ring) to see if I could get though it to no avail.
I decided to talk to my doctor about an endometrial ablation to get me through menopause. It’s an outpatient procedure in which the lining of the uterus is (burned/frozen/cauterized) so that it wont build up as heavy a lining that needs to be shed every month.
I know several women who have had this done and it has changed their lives. I also read hundreds of testimonies, both good and bad on various forums.
Of course, there was testing to be done prior to this procedure.
The pelvic ultrasound (which requires a painfully full bladder) shows an overview of the uterus and ovaries; then the trans-vaginal (they let you pee before that one starts) gets a closer view of everything from the inside.
Techs aren’t allowed to tell you anything, and the one I had was not a particularly good communicator but it was obvious from the number of pictures taken and the timing and type of questions that it wasn’t good.
I got the call the following Monday (test was on a Friday) that I had several fibroids (no biggie, while uncomfortable they are benign) and lesions on my ovaries. They did not know if the large mass on my (now extremely large) right ovary was hemorrhagic or solid. (solid is not good they are the ones that even if not cancerous, can turn into cancer later) I also had hyperplasia, unusual cell growth/thickening of the uterine lining which needed to be biopsied.
I would find out later that I had all three kinds of fibroids including the weird ones that twist on their stalks and that the largest one was pressing on my bladder (that would explain the UTIs I was getting)
So the game was changed before I even stepped on the playing field.
I was no longer just going in for a routine procedure to help my quality of life, but perhaps fighting for my life considering my bad family history.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to heal while dealing with all the stress, drama and politics at the day job so for my own well being, I left.
Life’s too short to allow oneself to be treated badly.
The last thing I needed at that time in my life was more stress. I cashed out a CD, took a bit out of retirement, paid my mortgage and utilities several months ahead and prepared to take on the task of dealing with the issue at hand.
I have other (granted smaller, less regular) income and can decide what I want to do career wise after all of this is said and done.
My doctor was kind enough to not do the biopsy the day I went in for it (having a scope and instruments jammed through your cervix is a nasty thing to have done) and rather to do it while I was under general anesthesia for a D & C.
The fibroids did not preclude ablation (a much easier procedure to recover from than a hysterectomy) but he chose a different method than the Novasure which involves a wire mesh being expanded in the uterus and radio waves being used to burn away the uterine lining. Instead, he chose the Thermachoice which is a balloon that inflates (conforms to the shape of the uterus around the fibroids better) which is then filled with liquid that burns away the lining.
First, the D & C (scraping away the lining with a surgical instrument) was done and the contents of my uterus sent off to pathology to be biopsied) was completed, and then the ablation. D & C is the treatment of choice for hyperplasia anyway, so it was a great way to avoid the painful in office biopsy.
Recovery was not bad at all, I even went to dance classes four days later (no abdominal work in jazz, no leaps in ballet) I did not have the next regularly scheduled period (just a few days later) and there was nothing much left other than a couple weeks of blood tinged discharge as is normal after such a surgery.
The biopsy came back benign which is a great relief.
This meant that if the fibroids behaved themselves and the ablation worked, I would not need any more surgery if the follow up ultrasound on my right ovary showed it was a cyst not a tumor.
No matter what it is or isn’t, I am not pleased that even while on hormonal birth control, my ovaries are firing off eggs like a machine gun. Ideally, hormonal birth control suppresses ovulation.
One month later, the ultrasound showed not only the large tumor, but a new smaller one.
The good news is, the fact that it didn’t substantially grow made the likelihood of it being cancer small, but the chance was still there, and there was a new one. Even if the tumors aren’t cancerous now, solid tumors are the ones that can turn cancerous later.
Normally, they would watch it for another cycle or two, but I really don’t have that option as my COBRA benefits will run out soon and surgery needs to be done with insurance, and my recovery needs to be over with in time for me to work.
Besides, who wants a tumor factory and what is basically a ticking time bomb in one’s body?
So on Jan 6th, I will be going back in for a more invasive surgery, this time to remove the tumors from the right ovary (and maybe the whole ovary if anything looks off)
If all goes well, this will be done laparoscopically which will still not be the full six week recovery for a hysterectomy. (if somethings too big, they could have to open me up)
In the mean time, I’m still in recovery mode with the uterus. My menstrual period begins today (according to the no NuvaRing in place for a week schedule, similar to a placebo week on the pill) so I’ll know in a day or two how well the procedure worked (although full results aren’t seen for three months) Of course, anything less than being bedridden on Wednesday and Thursday will make me happy.
Now here’s the best part…
At my last appointment my doctor asked me if I wanted to have kids.
Incredulously, I said, “Are you Crazy? At my age?”
He was required to ask because although the ablation technically makes it almost impossible for me to get pregnant, if there is enough tissue left around the fibroids for implantation to occur, a pregnancy would be life threatening (a dangerous tubal pregnancy is also possible)
So yes, at almost 50 years old, I am getting fixed (hey, go ahead and tie the tubes while you’re in there…)
How can you not laugh at that?
So now I have a break from medical, dental, oral surgery and orthodontic appointments (another post and saga all together) to enjoy the holidays and look towards early next year and my next surgery.
Heck, I could still have them take the uterus and right ovary out and be done with them. I could totally get through menopause on one ovary, I just don’t want the six week recovery time.
I can always buy a new uterus
or knit one.