Disclaimer: I don’t generally do disclaimers. I figure, people take me as I am or they don’t take me. But this post probably isn’t for people with weak stomachs and / or who don’t want to hear about my uterus and other girlie parts.
The usual default response when I tell people I’m having a hysterectomy is, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” This is the response I receive from people who either don’t know me or don’t know me as well as I thought. It’s disheartening. Why? Because I thought people knew me better.
As if that weren’t enough, I also get a lot of, “Aren’t you scared?” and “You’re awfully happy.” Both of which only further my point.
I’ve said this shy of almost two years. Don’t be sorry. Be happy. I’m not in the least bit sorry or scared, and anybody who knows me knows this and knows why. Anyone who’s been following this or who’s known me even longer should know how I feel about this, what my life has been like because of it, etc and so forth. It just astounds me that anyone could follow all of this, even talk with me about it, then still be shocked that I’m so happy about it.
I’ve said this before, but I’m saying it again. This is something I’ve needed medical help with since I was thirteen. Let’s do the math. That’s thirty years of my life. Thirty years. I’ll be forty-four in February, and this mess is something I’ve lived with since March 1982. Thirty years. That’s the last five years of my childhood and all of my adulthood.
At one point when I was fourteen or fifteen, I overheard Mommy tell our neighbor I have “really heavy periods”, and she should tell my pediatrician. She followed that up with, “But I don’t know what they could do.” (Just remember, this was the early 1980s). So I thought I was stuck with it. Stuck with the overflow, the pain, the nausea, the headaches, the vomiting, the severe bloating, the diarrhea, and everything else. Some of everything else: stained sheets, stained bedclothes, stained mattresses, stained towels, stained clothes, having to have someone pick me up from school because of the mess, and so much more. People would tell me what I was going through was normal or that I was exaggerating to get attention. I damned well knew better. I knew something in my system wasn’t right. But I couldn’t find anybody who gave a damn enough to help me.
Then, when I was twenty, I got pregnant with Thomas. People plied me with all the myths about pregnancy. You’ll feel the best you’ve ever felt. Your cramps won’t be as bad after you have a child. Your periods won’t be as bad. You won’t remember any of the pain. The happiest part of those nine months (eighteen if you count Tayler as well, when I twenty-two) was that I wasn’t pouring blood and throwing up all over myself and my environment. People lie to make themselves – and you – feel better, even when all parties know it’s all bullshit.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Thomas and Tayler both beyond the darkest depths of the core of my soul. But nothing anybody told me would happen after my boys were born ever happened. Except the loving them part. I know exactly how bad my labor and delivery pains were. Tayler was a cesarean section because he was full breech and couldn’t be delivered; I’ve lived with physical and emotional pain from that for twenty-one years. It’s a blog post all by itself, and I promise one day I’ll write it. My cramps and my periods both got exponentially worse after Thomas was born then got even worse after I had Tayler.
After my boys were born, people tried to tell me, “It gets better as you get older.” It never did. It just kept getting worse and worse.
Even with all the pain I’d been through, I’d never been one of the type who go to bed with her periods. Starting somewhere in 2004 – I’m not really sure; maybe 2003 – I started being one of that type. I just couldn’t handle it any more and admitted to myself that I had to stay in bed. So I did. And I would lay there crying I hurt so bad. My periods would last seven to tend days and would overflow an OB Ultra tampon every three hours – even overnight. I didn’t know until two years ago that women aren’t supposed to bleed like that overnight, that usually the flow slows down while we sleep. Mine never have. I’ve slept with a towel for thirty years – two towels the last two years; one between my legs and a beach towel doubled beneath me (sometimes I have one beach towel above the fitted sheet and one beneath it).
Although I thought it wouldn’t help, I started keeping track of my periods on My Monthly Cycles around this time, too. I’ve always been so random, so irregular I never thought of trying to keep a record. But something told me I needed to, so I did – until April of this year. I found out my cycle was usually ten days every twenty to twenty-five days. And everyone wondered why I was chronically anemic. Go figure. Sometimes I could go thirty, thirty-five, forty days between. Thing was, I never knew if it’d b fifteen days or forty-five. I never knew if it would last four days or fifteen. Even keeping a record, I never could tell. My cycle was just that random.
In August 2010, things started getting incredibly stupid. Not only was my cycle that random, I also started having hot flashes, night sweats, and other menopause symptoms. My periods in August and September 2010 were normal for me. Except that I started going through an OB Ultra tampon once every two hours. In October, I had two that lasted four days each and were separated by twenty days. Twenty days later, I had another that lasted four days.
I didn’t start again until December 30, forty-five days later. I didn’t stop until January 14. I had a three day respite, then bled for two days, then had a nine day respite. I started again on the twenty-seventh and didn’t stop until the fifth. I stopped for twelve days. My record for February through June 2011 is just ridiculous. With the exception of five days, I bled all through the month of May. The entire month.
January 26 (2011), while I was doing laundry, I stood up to check a dryer, and blood went everywhere. Our laundry is about one football field minus the end zones from our apartment. I’ve had bad blowouts since I was thirteen, at school even; I’d gotten used that when I’d rise from sitting or lying, I’d flow like Niagara. This was normal. Gods forbid I sneeze. But to have this happen where I had to walk home? I was humiliated. And my son Thomas still lived with us at the time and was home, and I had to yell from the front door for him to shut his bedroom door so I could get to my bathroom. A truewalk of shame. That day and the day before, I was changing tampons every forty-five minutes.
The next afternoon is when Preston and I went to the emergency room at UK to see what was going on before I bled to death. I outlined all of this in this post. The doctor prescribed a week’s worth of Provera, which seemed to help. It slowed me down, but it didn’t stop. I still spotted and threw enormous blood clots. I saw a wonderful OB/GYN on February 23 – the soonest I could get in. She and I discussed hysterectomy, and after I left a blood clot bigger than my hand on her exam room floor and blood all over the exam table, she wouldn’t let me leave without a Mirena.
Also – and I don’t think I recorded this anywhere – I found out at least part of why I bleed like I do. My cervix stays dilated. Because of this and my heavy flow, my OB/GYN wasn’t sure the Mirena would stay in place. She expected me to be back in her exam room in a week saying the device had been lost. My cervix stays dilated about the size of my pinky finger. That’s just shy of one centimeter. This explains a hell of a whole lot, I think.
I guess the Mirena did its job in June and July, right up to August 6. I started a twelve day period. A week later, I started a thirteen day period. The blessing to this was that I was able to use Kotex regular tampons and a pantyliner. I’d neverused regular tampons in my life. Going to buy them was a whole new experience for me.
Then October was all over the map. Two days, three days, four, five. And not necessarily in that order. November was much the same, and I got really discouraged. But then I didn’t have a period from November 30 through December 27. Then I bled through almost all of January. Again. I had a thirty-three day break from January 29 to February 23. After that, everything went to hell in a hand basket. But I was depressed, in denial, and didn’t want to deal with it. I put off seeing my wonderful doctor until April. She just looked at me and said, “I think that big fat thing just wants to come out,” and sent me down the hall to talk with the woman who would become half of my surgery team.
So. That’s all of that. Again.
I went over most of this in my original post early last year. And have discussed this over and over again.
Yet people still come to me whether in person, on the phone, in texts, or online and tell me, “I’m so sorry,” because I have to have a hysterectomy!?
I just don’t get it. I mean, in a way, I do. But in that way, it’s as maddening as it is distressing. If you know me, you know what a blessing this is! You know how miserable my life has been. Thank the gods and all that’s holy I have an OB/GYN who stresses quality of life over quantity.
See, I’ve never defined who I am by what’s inside or what’s outside of my body. I know women who do. They base their self-esteem and their identity on the size of their breasts, the flatness of their stomachs, the organs between their legs, and their ability to deliver litters of children. I don’t understand them. That’s one mentality that’s never made sense to me.
We’re all so much more than the sum of our parts.
Now some of you are thinking, “Weren’t you anorexic through your teens?” Yes. Yes, I was. But for me, that was less of a self-esteem/identity issue and more of a “If I stop eating and eventually just disappear into the ethers, no one will ever notice or care anyway” issue. Some won’t/don’t recognize a difference there. My therapist and I do. The people who know me do. The people who matter do.
These same people who understand my past anorexia also understand why I’ve begged and pleased for thirty years to get rid of this horrible thing that’s done nothing but wreck my life and my body and my mind; this thing has damaged both my physical and psychological health.
Yet people want to know why I’m happy to get rid of it.
The other day, I was sitting here talking to Preston about all of this. He looked at me and asked, “Are you okay? You have big fat tears in your eyes.” I giggled. I said, “I’m happy. No. I’m relieved. When I wake up later in the day on the twentieth, all of this will be over. Over. This thing in my body will be gone, and all of this pain and bleeding and bullshit will be over!” So I sat there and allowed myself to be happy and relieved and to cry all those happy tears! Preston thought I’d gone hysterical (no pun intended there). But he joined me. He’s happy and relieved for me that all of this is going away.
And he’s happy and relieved for himself that all of this is going away!
My therapist and I have discussed since April how this is going to affect my psychological health once the surgery is all healed. (I’m having a da Vinci hysterectomy. It looks cool as all hell!) I’ve sat here writing these last few paragraphs and having to stop because I can’t see to write through my tears. As rotten as this thing has made me feel for three-quarters of my life, I’m ecstatically happy and blessed and grateful for the surgery. I want to kiss my OB/GYN and both of my surgeons on the mouth for giving me this. (I’ll send them nice thank you cards later!)
I’ve bled pretty much constantly since the middle of April. No breaks. I’ve not been able to get into the pool all summer or take walks or much anything else. Over the course of July, things got bad again. I’m bleeding around the clock with no let up. I’m also overflowing again. The only difference between today and two years ago is that instead using the OB Ultra tampons and a Kotex maxi pad (and still flooding like Niagara every forty-five minutes), I’m soaking a Kotex regular tampon and a Carefree pantyliner once every four hours. I have endless gratitude for my Mirena for that. It may not have done what my OB/GYN and I hoped it would, but it gave me some relief that I hadn’t had before I got it. A blessing all its own. I hate to think what I’d be like without it.
So. I said all of that so I can say this.
Don’t feel sorry for me, people. Please. Be happy with me!
You’ve not lived inside my mind and body. I’ve had no choice. This surgery is a wonderful, blessed thing, and I want to sing my happiness from the rooftops! Be grateful along with me that I’m finally getting somereal relief and some freedom and some peace in my life after thirty years of misery. Things I’ve never had in full.
When I wake up August 20, my health, my life, is going to be a new place. To know I can sleep through the night on clean, stain-free sheets without worrying I’ll wake up in a pool of my own blood. To know I won’t have to sleep with a two beach towels beneath me and a bath towel between my legs. To know I can leave the house without needing to fill my handbag with panties, tampons, liners, and plastic storage bags. To know I can leave the house without worrying I’ll bleed all over myself while I’m gone. To know I can buy panties and know they won’t be ruined with blood stains in a couple of months. To know I’ll be able to sit down and not have to worry I’m going to bleed all over everything.
And so, so much more.
So much more.
I know most of you can’t begin to indulge the weight that’s gone from my shoulders, from my psyche already. I can’t begin to describe it. Tremendous, tremendous relief. Gratitude. Joy. I don’t have enough words, phrases, or expressions proper enough to come even somewhat close to what I already feel.
I see my family doctor August 8 for a follow-up from the last time I saw her in early January. I can’t wait to tell her about my surgery!
I see Dr Penn, the main half of my surgical team, for my pre-op August 14. Preston is going with me, my advocate, so he can be there when she tells me what ll we need to do before and after, what happens during, and while I sign all the paperwork. I carry a notebook to all of my appointments, but I know it will help Preston (and me) if he’s there with me through all of this. After I see Dr Penn, then I wait six more days.
My will, my living will, and my house are all in order.
When I wake up August 20, it will all be over.