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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

TRUE BLOOD: Part 4 (of 4)

 Scroll Down To Start At Part 1!

It was peculiar.  I thought, if I had cancer I'd know it.  I'd feel it somehow...I'd feel toxic, invaded.  And I didn't feel the slightest thing different.  Except I was pissed about the cyst and the frigging fibroids, and I wanted them gone.  The surgery was set for a couple of months down the road, since my friend Elaine and I had already paid for a 6-day, 5-night all-inclusive getaway to Las Vegas, an opportunity for a bit of fun that probably wouldn't present itself again for a very long while.  This doctor appeared to think there was plenty of time to wait for surgery without jeopardizing my health further, and that meant I had time to think about things, and research them, in the meantime.

Then a few days later the hospital called to pre-register me.  "You're doing this way in advance, aren't you?" I asked.  "My surgery isn't for another couple of months."  "Umm," the lady said, "We have you in our system for surgery in two weeks."  Another computer mistake, I figured.  I gave them all my info and planned to call the surgeon the next day to get it straightened out.  But that night the phone rang again.  It was  the surgeon, who was calling from his HOUSE; he told me he'd talked to an oncology associate that day, and that this doctor had looked at my tests and said "You'd feel awfully bad if you made this girl wait two months and she has cancer, wouldn't you?"  

I'm sure everyone would feel very, very bad, me especially.  So the surgery had been moved up, an oncology team would be standing by in the operating room to "stage" any cancer they found, and I could expect a much bigger and more serious operation than originally planned.  Great.  This was becoming quite incredibly surreal.  And I was completely petrified.  I wanted everything out!  Can you blame me?  I couldn't get this over with fast enough.
So, here's the final disposition: 1)it wasn't cancer; 2)it was a huge operation and my lungs collapsed in the recovery room; 3)the pain was ridiculous; 4)the elevated CA-125 level was probably due to my severe endometriosis.  Which I didn't even know I had, which is not unusual when it's severe, and mine was among the most severe he'd ever seen.  And 5)I knew both ovaries were gone because I was getting hot flashes as I came to, and a nurse was slapping a hormone patch on my arm.  EVERYTHING was gone, in fact.  They'd gutted me like a fish, ripped everything out whether it was causing trouble or not -- one ovary didn't have a cyst, but the doctor said "You'd be back here in five years with that one, I'm pretty sure" -- though I kinda thought that would be MY decision...

What a mess.  What a landmine.  Gynecologically speaking my body had apparently gone absolutely mad.  But, no more.  As the dust settled, I could expect no further problems.   From this point on it would be smooth sailing, right?  Minus the loooooooong recovery, the Hey-wait!-where'd-this-come-from-Spare Tire (which weighs, like, 50 pounds!), and the odd hormonal shifts.  The main thing is, no more Crimson Tide.  It's gone, never to return.  And Dr. Cold-Blue-Eyes sat across the desk from me at my follow-up appointment and said (in what I guess was a sincere tone; who knows) "You know, I'll bet that when you're completely recovered, and you don't have that period every month, you're going to feel just so much better.  You haven't known for a long time what it is to feel so free.  YOU WON'T MISS IT AT ALL!" 

Something about that sounded vaguely shocking.  Something about that sounded unnatural and sterile and untrue.  Though I desperately wanted to believe that statement,  something inside me stirred and I should have said, could have said "Not so fast." 

It was not gentle, this metamorphosis.  It was brutal and hasty and it ended up making me not me in the space of a day.  It was not just a hysterectomy.  Lots of women have hysterectomies.  Lots of women cope with them perfectly well.  I think.  For that matter, I coped pretty well even though pain meds were inexplicably held back from me and it hurt too much to turn over in bed, even though the visiting nurse called the doctor twice and said "this girl's blood pressure is sky-high and she needs something stronger."  (Bear in mind I have dental work done without Novacaine on a regular basis.  So when I say I'm in pain, I'm in pain.)

All of that notwithstanding, if you asked me today what I would do if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't.  I would not.  I would not pursue this aggressively without certain knowledge that aggressive measures were called for.  I would make them do a needle biopsy of that ovarian cyst, and I would go ahead with the ablation of those goddam fibroids.  I would make this a year-long, a multi-year project if that's what it took.

Again, according to the site menstruation.com.au, "Menstruation, which can involve altered states of awareness and often the need for solitude does not fit within these [patriarchial] parameters, and therefore we are encouraged to ignore it, and suppress with tampons and vaginal deodorants what can be the most creative and spiritual time of the month for many women....Many women reach menopause and realise too late what they've missed. This can be a bitter awakening, and increase the feeling of 'barrenness' which is the accepted perception of menopausal women in our society."
It wasn't all that creative and spiritual a time for me.  But aside from that, it's true.  There is something dusty and dessicated about me now, and something mournful.  Despite the overgrowth of my body, I am fragile.  In my new life, I scrabble to be useful again, I still keep a clean, wrapped pad in my bedside table, and I don't feel sorry for my friends in their 50s who still get their periods.   Because doctor, I DO miss it.  I wish it hadn't been so dramatic and sanguine, but I miss it.  There really was something mysterious and earthy about having a period.  It was a secret between me and my body.  It was a time when my body said "Hold on a minute.  I'm in charge of you now."  

I want to go back and tell that 12-year-old girl in the yellow dress, "You'll hate it.  No lie.  You will be a 15-year-old girl trying to dodge a shower after a gym class (where you didn't exactly work up a sweat listening to a lecture on Abner Doubleday anyway).  You will be a healthy 19-year-old girl knowing there is a reason for this, knowing it is now, but knowing it will not happen.  You will be a 28-year-old woman at a professional seminar, and having had to sit through a long meeting, will rise uneasily from your beige upholstered chair.  More than once.  You will find yourself driving a rental car late at night through an unfamiliar Spanish town, frantically searching for a bodega that sold tampons so you could get into the hot tub with some people you know and some who you just met.

"You will bleed through to a hot looking pair of white jeans with ankle zippers because you are living in a straw bale and adobe house on a mountain with no electricity or washing machine; though you take the jeans out and scrub them under the sun near rattlesnake trails, they will be ruined.  You will be a 20-something, a 30-something, and a 40-something, still wondering, a thin line drawn at times, an ambiguity; a little disappointed to get it again this month, a little relieved.  You will be a 46-year-old, wistful, thoughtful, miserable at times, confined.  But I'll be with you for the next three decades, and we'll get through this together."


1 comment:

  1. Laurie-- I'm so sorry-- I didn't realize you'd written and posted these-- absolutely fabulous. It's 5 a.m. here and I'm up with my blasted insomnia but I'll be back to keep reading. Absolutely your best work! Excerpt some of it on SW with a link back...xxj