Jan 25, 2015

You Might Feel a Little Discomfort

Wonder Boy accompanied me to my next doctor appointment. It was his first visit to an OB-GYN and it was pretty funny. I think I take for granted how spa-like they attempt to make the place, with fancy furniture, lots of plants, pretty artwork and soft music piped through.

We were quickly sent back to an examination room and I got ready on the table. We made nervous conversation waiting for the ultrasound tech and my doctor. I tried to explain how the music was supposed to be calming. Right as I said that, jock jams started playing, a la, Everybody Dance Now. It wasn’t calming, but at least it was good for a laugh.

My doctor came in and immediately put her hands on my knees while she was talking to me. This was new. I like my doctor because she is all business. Almost a dude, but not quite. But with that simple act of touch, she made me feel more comforted. She explained that they would insert saline into me and do another ultrasound. She told me to watch on the screen. If a dark line showed up around the fibroid tumor, then they knew it was all in my uterus and pretty standalone.

They asked me if I was allergic to iodine. I remember thinking that was odd.

I watched on the screen as they did the ultrasound. No dark line appeared.

At one point my doctor said, “Okay, you’re doing to feel a little discomfort. A little cramping.” She was going to do a small biopsy. That bit about the discomfort? That was the biggest load of crap. I actually cried out. I had tears coming out. Discomfort is like being a little gassy, being squished into a too-small seat on an airplane or being stuck in a conversation with a close talker. What was happening here was just painful. After it was done, my doctor said she’d get back in touch with results. I pressed her on timing. “We have a trip coming up to Nepal. Is that okay? Can we still go?”

“Yes,” she said. “Remind me when we meet next so I can give you some back-up measures for while you’re there, but go on your trip.”

After she left I tried some awkward maneuver of getting off the table and back into clothes in front of Wonder Boy without revealing anything gross. It couldn’t be helped though. That “discomfort” left a sheet covered in blood beneath me.

We both just sort of stared at it.

At my follow-up appointment a week later, I knew it wasn’t good when my doctor’s first question to me was, “So you aren’t planning on having children. Is that correct?”

She then explained that the tumor was large, had grown quickly and was both inside and outside my uterus. The size was causing my symptoms like having trouble emptying my bladder and pain. The size and its mere presence were causing my never-ending period.

My doctor said a lot of things, but Wonder Boy and I were in shock. I had gone in thinking I was expecting the worse but still not prepared when the worst got said. He had gone in thinking I would be put on some pills and that’d be it.

We asked questions, but they were terrible because we weren’t processing information correctly. I learned that Nepal was totally fine. That I tested negative for cancer in my endometrial lining but that they didn’t know about the fibroid tumor. So few are cancerous that it wasn’t a huge concern, but my family has a terribly history with cancer. And because of that history, she was recommending that the hysterectomy include removal of my cervix and ovaries. The surgery would have a 3-6 week recovery time and my doctor recommended the full 6 weeks with three weeks of bed rest.

She asked me to make an appointment for after Nepal to walk through what I’d chosen and so we could schedule surgery.

And that’s what’s so weird. You go to a doctor. You get this horrible news. You’re given options, but you’re still reeling from the news so it’s hard to really challenge the options and understand them. And yet, that was my task.

Jan 24, 2015

The Softball In My Uterus

It started on my birthday. My body’s way of saying, “Welcome to 36 – it’s going to be a fun ride!” My period started early. Annoying, but no big deal. And then it kept going. And going. And after almost three weeks, I called my doctor.

“Maybe no big deal” she said.

The doctor tested me for a bacterial infection (negative), wrote me a prescription for new birth control and scheduled me for an ultrasound.

Trying to keep things light, I asked my ultrasound tech for a picture. Everyone else gets print-outs of their babies. I figured this was the closest I would get. If I had good news, it would be funny. If it was bad news, I’d have evidence.

Presenting the evidence:

Please note the use of the name Katie. What the heck? Who is Katie?

While the ultrasound was occurring, I could watch it live on a screen on the wall. As the tech was moving the wand around, I could maybe make out a few blobs and make guesses as to what I was seeing. One spot was significantly darker than the rest.

“What’s that?”
“That’s a fibroid.”

I asked. She answered. And I stayed so calm about it that she probably didn’t know the inner turmoil those three words started. Turmoil that wouldn’t show up on screen.

At the end of the appointment, she gave me a print out of my “fibroid baby” (poor word choice by her) and said I’d probably get called for another follow-up appointment where my uterus would be filled up with saline (“not as bad as it sounds” she promised) and the doctor would be present for the ultrasound.

There on my ultrasound picture, clear as day, was the fibroid. The tech told me it was something like  9.8 centimeters

I walked out to my car freaked out. I called my husband crying. I wanted to kill time not thinking so I went to Ikea, which is ironic because usually while I’m there all I can think is how I sort of want to kill myself. This time, though, after I stopped crying in their parking lot, I walked through the store like a person on a mission to buy dumb crap. And so I did.

A few days later, as predicted, a nurse from my doctor’s office called.

“You have a 9.8 centimeter tumor in your uterus.”

She said more things. Basically echoing what the ultrasound tech had said.  But that word. Tumor. That was new.

I called and scheduled the next ultrasound for two weeks later. Two. Weeks. That was the soonest they could get me in. The scheduler ended her call with a cheery, “Have a great day!”

This time I didn’t have the luxury of processing information inside my car in a parking lot. I was at work. In a glass-walled huddle room. I quickly made my way up two floors to a single stall bathroom I am sure is reserved for number twos for employees on that floor. I sat on the ground crying. I called my husband again. I stayed in there in that bathroom for more than an hour, with the last 20 to 30 minutes of that just putting cold, wet paper towels on my face trying to calm down. Trying to not look liked I’d just been bawling. Wishing I had brought some eye drops up with me.

I share things on this blog, but I have a very clear line between what is mine and what I am willing to share out with the world. I have similar boundaries for in-person conversations. This whole ordeal left me too raw. I couldn’t talk to my parents about it – I made Wonder Boy make phone calls. I couldn’t talk to anyone at work about it. I made sure to always email my boss updates (to explain absences) when she was out of the office.

When I did eventually talk to family, to a few friends, I kept my voice pretty level. I tried to sound positive. I didn’t cry. I didn’t say how I’d been losing a pound or two a week because my appetite was mostly gone, replaced by nervous nausea. I didn’t say how I’d started sometimes sleeping on my stomach with a pillow underneath my pelvis because it was the only way I felt relief. I didn’t say how I was chewing through a box of Pepto-Bismol every two days to help keep my stomach calm. I alluded to discomfort, trying to make comparisons that people would understand. Alluded to fear. But not the specifics I could have shared.

Telling people did help, though. It made the nausea almost totally go away. It brought back the sensation for hunger, though the only things that have been sitting well have been carbohydrate-loaded garbage. It stopped, for a while, the message that had been playing on repeat in my head. “There is a 10 centimeter tumor in my uterus.” (I rounded up.)

Here are some other things that are about 10 centimeters:

  • Doughnut
  • A softball
  • Bagel (the grocery story kind – not those giant ones)
  • Almost the length of an iPhone 4S
  • The size of a dilated cervix before a woman gives birth
  • The height of an average coffee mug
  • The opening of an average mason jar
These things are big. That diameter does leave me with some questions. Is it the actual mass that’s making my stomach hurt or is that the seemingly never-ending period? What treatment options are available? When will they take effect? When will things be better? When will I stop feeling scared?

Wether or Not to Share

I while back I underwent some stuff that was pretty major and I've gone back and forth on whether or not I should share it here.

I think some people who know me in real life assume that if I am posting things online, then I must be willing to talk about it freely and for them to tell everyone. But I also know that my identity here is semi-protected. Not to people who know me in real life, obviously. And, sure, you could find out who I am, but you'd have to work a bit. (I don't mean that as a challenge, people.)

And I still consider what I went through to be private. My sharing here isn't an invitation for people to ask inappropriate questions. I have been asked some very inappropriate questions.

And I heistate to write about it because people feel free to pass judgement. And I'm not asking for that.

But I also know that I started blogging because I actually believe in the idea of an online community where people share about themselves. I know that I was Googling things like crazy and was supported by first-person accounts of people going through similar situations. So maybe me sharing my story will help.

Maybe. I know that writing about my situation was hugely helpful to me. My hope is that reading about it might help someone else.

Jan 17, 2015

Time By Myself - Doing Little and Being Okay With It

I recently did a stint on bed rest and spent weeks in my bed or wandering between just a few rooms in my house. Everything that put me there - pain, surgery, the fear around those things - was awful. Staying in bed and being pretty restricted in what I was allowed to do? Turns out I'm pretty good at that.

I was proud of myself for reaching out to a lot of people and letting them know I'd be down for the count and my friends and family were awesome. That's not really my style to put my vulnerability out there for others to witness. The response and support I received showed me it was the right thing to do. I got lots of notes, flowers, gifts and visits. I felt loved and am grateful for all of that contact. It helped tremendously.

The flip side to that is how happy I was doing nothing. I made up routines that were goofy and To Do lists that were nonsensical. Read 100 pages. Watch two episodes of Orphan Black. Write thank you notes. Take a shower. Doing all four of those thing would have really been a big day for me.

I'm back in good health and out in the world. I've returned to work and am doing pretty much whatever I choose. I am a much better conversationalist now when my husband comes home from work because I have actual things I did during the day of which I can speak. I have much more empathy now for people going through health situations and a greater respect for the power of friendship to make those experiences easier.

But. I sort of miss the solitude.

It's not just being back at work and having actual things to do throughout the day, although I am sure that's part of it. (The break was really nice.) I just don't have the same opportunities to hole up by myself.

Next weekend my husband will be away with friends and I am so excited. (He knows this, so it's okay to admit. He feels similarly when it happens in reverse.) I will get a weekend all by myself. I'll do very little. I'll watch the TV shows I want, read books, eat foods of my preference. Alone. All of these things I can do when he's around, mind you. But with solitude... Somehow it's better. Especially since it's an occasional treat and not my status quo.

This time around the solitude will be better than what I had on bed rest.  No pain!

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie - for the From Left to Write Book Club.

This post was inspired by the novel If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie, about a boy who's never been outside, thanks to his mother's agoraphobia, but ventures outside in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss If I Fall, If I Die. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.