"I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand." - Chinese proverb

Thursday, September 30, 2010

TRUE BLOOD: Part 3 (of 4)

Scroll Down To Start At Part 1!

Of all things, I began to have to live my life around getting my period.  Road trips, parties, long meetings at work, dating -- even going shopping, since it means you're on your feet -- all had to be carefully coordinated, otherwise there would be the chance of frequent embarrassing walks to the Ladies Room with my legs squeezed together as tight as I could manage, hasty prayers that there were no stains on the back of my skirt or dress or that if they were, nobody saw them, and the need to carry so many replacement pads that I may as well have taken the whole box with me.  (I think once or twice I did.)
 Did I mention this problem to my doctors?  Of course.  Nobody seemed to think it was much to concern themselves with, though.  Just an annoyance.  All part of being a woman.  Every woman is different.  And how did I like those new "ultra-thin" pads that absorbed an incredible amount of strange blue liquid on the TV commercials?  (I liked them.  No more Modess Hospital Size.)  And the ones with wings?  (I didn't like them.  I just didn't, they were a pain.)  And the new self-adhesive strips are a great invention, aren't they?  (Yeah, but seemed it took eons for someone to come up with the tear-off-the-strip self-adhesive idea.  These I liked a lot.  Wish I had invented them.)
 In my early 30s I had a D & C -- that sometimes helps -- but if anything, things got even worse.  Can we get really icky for a moment?  Really graphic?  Skip the next sentence if you get queasy easy.  I had clots.  They slipped out as if I were giving birth to them.  I guess my body was trying like crazy to calm down down there, but it wasn't working.

The final straw came when I was standing in line at the grocery store wearing denim shorts and a man-tailored gauzy white blouse with shirttails hanging out.  There I was, putting groceries up on the belt when I glanced down; red had seeped through my shorts and the tail of the white shirt was rapidly soaking it up as I stood there.  It was mortifying.  I had better things to do, really, than lie on the sofa with my feet propped up at least 2 or 3 days every damn month. I was tired of this crap.  There had to be a way to deal with it.
 Then I needed knee surgery and a little something popped up on my pre-op blood tests; guess what?   I was seriously anemic.  That explained the pounding morning headaches, the afternoon naps, the breathlessness.  My nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood (yes, they do more than contraception and abortions) put me on iron tablets, which helped me feel better (although my body didn't have time to get all the iron that I needed before I started bleeding again).  She also referred me to a doctor she liked.  The doctor, who was pregnant, seemed nice enough.  She found a cyst on one of the ovaries.

I didn't care if there was a cyst or a Rubik's Cube on my damned ovary if that wasn't causing the heavy bleeding -- and the doctor said it wasn't that.  She said I probably had fibroids -- benign tumors -- but she was more concerned with the cyst, and I should come back in six weeks to see if it was still there.  Dutifully I did so, but was disappointed that nothing was being done about this frigging Red Sea that poured out of me every frigging month...that this cyst might be a serious problem never crossed my mind.  Lots of women get ovarian cysts that come and go.  It was a case of sigh, put in your time and pray they get to the real stuff soon.
In six weeks the cyst was still there, but my doctor wasn't.  She'd gone out on maternity leave.  She'd had high praise for her replacement, a man, who also seemed nice enough and wanted more tests: bloodwork, an ultrasound.  The cyst was growing, and it was dark, opaque rather than clear.  This, the doctor explained, could be because it's filled with blood (are you kidding? more blood?) or because it is malignant.  And ovarian cancer is a bad, bad cancer to get.  My blood tests (CA-125, a marker for ovarian cancer) had also been suspiciously high.  This drew me up rather short.  I knew Gilda Radner had died of this...and she had spunk and money.

The fibroids, by the way, were there all right, yep.  So the plan was to go in laproscopically and collapse the ovarian cyst and drag it out of there, and at the same time ablate -- seal off the blood supply to -- the fibroid tumors.  There was no guarantee either would be a permanent fix, and if the cyst was malignant they needed my permission to take more drastic measures.  "If I were you," said this doctor (who supposedly was "very much in touch with his female side," according to his predecessor), "at this point I'd just have a hysterectomy."
Well!  "After all, you're not going to start a family at 46, are you?" he asked.  No, but I kind of did like having the option.  I looked at my mom, who had come with me for moral support.  She made a brush-off motion with her hand.  "Get it over with once and for all," she said, "You've been going through this stuff way too long."  She was right about that.  "The thing is," the doctor said, watery blue eyes behind steel metal framed lenses, "You'll be going through surgical menopause if you do, and that's different from going through it naturally.  It's...rougher."  Rougher?  It was hard for me to imagine a rough menopause; my role model, Mom, had simply said with surprise one day "I think I must have stopped getting my period.  I haven't needed a pad in almost a year."  She was fifty-ish.  Apparently, the Change-of-Life Gods and Goddesses had been merciful to her.

"Well...maybe," I said.  I knew it would get rid of the fibroids forever and ever, amen.  And no more bleeding.  Just like that.  It was a logical idea, I guessed.  Not only had my grandmother on my dad's side had a hysterectomy back in the 1930s, my aunt, dad's sister, had also had to have one in the early 60s and my only female cousin on the side had to have one in the 80s.  

Yet I had a niggling sensation -- a remarkably unwelcome reception -- to the whole thing.  And I couldn't quite figure this doctor out.  Was he really trying to do his best by me or was he just knife-happy?  I mean jeez....."Or if you want, we can go the conservative route," he piped up.  "Several different procedures.  But if we find cancer we're going to have to do a bigger operation," he said.  "And we need your permission to do that."  He shoved a paper at me.  I signed it.  And we had a date.

TO BE CONTINUED...Scroll Up Again For Part 4!

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