I’m so lucky that after surgery on my uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes that no cancer was found.
I don’t want any more surgery and I want to get off the blood pressure medication (my doc thinks that stress from the former job, medical scares, as well as chronic pain from the girly bit surgeries, wisdom tooth extractions, dental, perio and ortho work was the biggest issue)
In addition to getting back on a normal workout schedule (as soon a I’m done recovering from surgery; right now, the best I can do is walking 3-4 miles a day) I am making an effort to make as many healthy (non-fanatical) dietary changes as I can that will assist with discouraging the growth of fibroid tumors and endmetriosis and get me off of the blood pressure medication.
As soon as the blood pressure issue reared its ugly head (after having a perfect blood pressure up until very recently) I immediately went off my hormonal birth control and caffeine. (yeah, cold turkey, both at once) and stopped rinsing my mouth that was being torn up by the new braces with salt water.
I also got serious about getting back to my normally very healthy eating habits which went to heck over the holidays (I was a naughty monkey); rarely eating out, no processed foods (I even make my own chicken stock) whole grains (always brown rice, and more often than not, I make my own whole wheat pasta) eating organic eggs from my backyard hens, growing my own fruit and veggies in season, being very careful about sodium (I don’t generally salt my food or add much in cooking, but I’m being aware) and of course, I can always do better about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ve read a lot (from credible sources) about the health benefits of black strap molasses, so I’ve started using a tablespoon a day in my morning lattes (healthier than vanilla and caramel syrups right?)
I decided that I also wanted to switch to almond milk for my morning lattes
Oh, no… I am not going completely diary free. You can have my cheese when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers and I do try to eat organic yogurt with live cultures several times a week.
I scored some Almond Breeze the other day, and discovered that I really like almond milk. But it’s expensive and the commercial stuff contains additives that I don’t want.
So I decided to make my own (it’s stupid easy)
First, I soaked one cup of raw almonds in water. You can do it from 8 – 24 hours; since these were older almonds, I went for the full 24.
It’s important to rinse the almonds well and discard the soaking water, as it contains tannins from the skin that will make the end product unpleasant.
I added the now well swollen almonds and four cups of filtered water (4-1 ratio) to the food processor.
If you want unsweetened almond milk, that’s all you need to add.
I opted to add six dates. The only thing I’d do differently is to soak/soften them first so that they didn’t gum up the food processor blades and a splash of vanilla extract. You can also add cocoa powder or nibs for chocolate milk or any fruit that you like..
After blending in the food processor or blender if you don’t have one for two to five minutes, it’s ready to strain.
*as it turns out, the food processor wasn’t the correct tool to use for this-virtually none of them handle this much liquid without leaking from the top or bottom-I will be using a blender next time
You can use cheesecloth or specially sold nut milk bags, but I used my jelly strainer. I’m guessing that is what they are selling as nut milk bags.
You’ll need to let it hang for some time, and to give the bag a good squeeze every once in a while. Once it’s done, you’ll have finely ground nuts which you can process into nut butter, or dry and use in granola or desert toppings
What you are left with, is some super yummy, healthy, inexpensive almond milk.
I’m calling this first attempt a “win” and now, don’t need to buy almond milk.
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.
With heated legal and political battles raging around a woman’s uterus and the current vote to de fund Planned Parenthood, many conservative (and often financially well off) people are asking, “What kind of (trashy) person would use one of those clinics anyway?”
Putting the abortion issue aside so as not to confuse the issue, let’s talk about women’s health care. Let’s talk about the fact that these clinics save lives.
There are many women who work full-time who do not have health insurance.
Women need annual exams and screenings, not only of their overall health and wellness, but specifically of their reproductive systems.
One of the important screenings that women are recommended to receive every year is a pap smear to screen for cervical cancer.
If detected and treated early, cervical cancer is virtually 100% curable.
If not caught early, it can spread to the bladder, intestines, lungs, and liver. As you can well imagine, the prognosis once that has happened is not as good.
Back in the late 80’s and early to mid 90’s, I was one of those women who worked full-time (and volunteered in my community) but did not have health insurance.
With no insurance and a very modest income, I depended on Planned Parenthood and their sliding scales for my annual exams.
There was a period of a few years when I just stopped going as I was living in SE Utah where there were no such clinics in existence. I was young, healthy and nothing was going to happen to me right?
After having some odd spotting, I drove nearly 200 miles to Glenwood Springs Colorado (which was the closest Planned Parenthood clinic at the time) for an exam. A few days later, my results came back.
I had an abnormal pap smear, a follow up test confirmed that I had a pre-cancerous condition.
I was stunned, I had suddenly transformed from being young, healthy and care free to worrying about biopsies, cryosurgery and possibly cancer.
Not only did I have to worry about the fear, pain (anyone who tells you that there are no nerve endings in the cervix obviously has never had pieces of it torn/cut out for a biopsy) and logistics. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it.
Thankfully, Planned Parenthood worked on a sliding scale and I was able to pay based on my income.
I am convinced that the detection and treatment of my condition in the early stages saved my life.
Since that time, I have fought wildland and structure fires, saved lives as a paramedic and search & rescue technician, taught others to save lives as an instructor, protected the lives and safety of visitors to public lands, taught children environmental science, raised a child not born to me as my own, and volunteered for numerous organizations that support women, children, the environment, our community and cancer research.
THAT my friends, is the “kind of person” who would use a Planned Parenthood clinic.
I would like to think that saving lives and providing basic health care to women who can not afford it anywhere else, might be more important than funding a few missiles/bombs, tax breaks for the wealthy or corporate bailouts.
One of the things I started putting into motion before the Winter Solstice was getting back into healthier eating habits.
I’ve been eating five grain hot cereal with flax seed for breakfast, am remembering to take my calcium with vitamin D. Almost everyone is vitamin D deficient up here in the winter and I have felt much more energetic this year than in winters past.
I have been better about eating salads, veggies and such, but I know that I do not get enough.
So I ordered a juicer. Yes, it’s better to eat whole fruits and veggies, but it not always possible; so fresh juice (not that sugar and salt laden crap from the store) is a good adjunct to a reasonably healthy diet. And no… I’m not giving up pizza or the occasional meatball; I’m all about moderation and a healthy attitude towards food.
I did quite a bit of research beforehand because I didn’t want to drop a huge amount of money, but didn’t want to end up with a cheap piece of junk that would leave too much waste or break.
So I decided on the Breville Juice Fountain Compact.
So far, I’m quite pleased with it.
Apple/Carrot juice is good to start with for those new to juicing or who like me haven’t tried it since the 1980s, because it’s mild, sweet and tasty. I added spinach which actually juices nicely if you push it down with the carrots.
As I get more adventurous, I’ll be adding Wheatgrass, Kale, Brussels Sprouts and tomatoes to the mix.
The pulp can be used for soups/stock and when I get my house next summer will be a great addition to the compost bin.
This machine was quite easy to clean; it took less than 5 minutes.