For the past few months I’ve been recovering from a hysterectomy that came about after an IUD pierced my uterine wall and decided to float around in my abdomen.
Fun times… not.
So let’s start at the top. I could start with the decision to put in the IUD… or the ovary removal in 2012… or go even further back.
Let’s start with the day of my first period. I was 9 years old and in the 4th grade. It wasn’t too big of a deal except it was strange. The pediatrician suspected it was a result of anemia because I ate very vegetarian. But it stopped between 11 and 14 altogether with iron supplements and more sunlight.
And that’s things took a drastic turn south.
I remember sitting in biology as a freshman and passing out in class. I felt terribly nauseus and dizzy but they wouldn’t let me go to the nurse. When I did pass out, I fell off my chair and it revealed a pool of blood on my seat, dripping down on to the floor. THEN I was sent home. I was also called nasty by my classmates who took this as an indication of poor feminine hygiene.
Never mind that I was wearing a tampon AND an overnight pad at that time…
… TMI? Yes but I feel the need to be candid.
I got sick during my SATs and passed out for some of it. No excuses.
In fact, I couldn’t excuse myself out of anything during my menstrual cycle. Definitely not high school. Also not work. No boss could understand why I couldn’t deal with it or prepare better.
By God’s grace I delivered 3 children, and a few years after that I was going to the Emergency Department monthly. Abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea. They would do an ultrasound and say, “We think you had an ovarian cyst pop.” And send me home. When I ran a fever they prescribed a Zpack until I can’t even tolerate it any more without nausea. Six months went by and my performance reviews at the veterinary clinic I worked for suuuuucked. I called out too much. I wasn’t very alert or helpful. I was spacey. I didn’t have the best customer service.
In desperation my OB GYN does a laparoscopic exploration and finds that I had pelvic vein congestion and endometriosis. I had veins twisting to the thickness of my thumb. I had blood pooling in my abdominal cavity. I had a shriveled ovary removed. And all this only five years ago!
Up until the end of last year I still had gnarly periods. I still went hormonally off the reservation. I would spend $6000 worth of medications and literally bleed them out before they did anything to help the rheumatoid arthritis I was also fighting.
And the thing that drives me up the wall right now is that all this time, from age 14 to age 32, no one told me the crucial truth: THIS ISN’T NORMAL! I had never even heard of a period that lasted any LESS than 10 days. Or cramps that went away with Motrin. Because the only thing I was told was:
- It’s not that bad.
- It happens to every girl.
- Watch your diet.
- Exercise more. Your stomach is flabby.
- You need to lose weight.
- Try some herbal teas, hot packs, or ice packs.
And quite frankly, this pisses me off (excuse my language). I had severe symptoms that were dismissed all my life, as is the case with hundreds of thousands of women who struggle with PCOS, Endometriosis, or other uterine/ovarian health issues. And this is where it needs to change. We need to have this conversation and push our primary care providers and OBGYNs to look for the Zebras instead of the horses when we are explaining our painful menstrual cycles.
My primary care provider recommended an IUD when she saw the pattern of depression/RA Flare Ups/Long Periods to see if we could eliminate periods altogether. Fortunately (and in an excruciatingly painful manner) the IUD went clear through my uterine wall. I say fortunately because the pathology results of my now removed uterus proved my surgeon’s words true: Uteruses bleed, bear children, cause pain and get cancer. And it was time for mine to go. Have you ever even heard of Adenomyosis? It’s not diagnosable by ultrasound.
I’m still recovering from the hysterectomy and it’s been about 6 weeks. I’m not at 100% yet, although I’m anxious to be. I’m curious to see what 100% of me feels like in my marriage, my parenting, and my ministry. A full 100% of me that is not crippled for two weeks out of the month. I may be experiencing healthy for the first time in a long time.
Have you struggled with women’s health issues? How long did it take for you to be diagnosed? Are you still waiting for answers? Share below!