This is not a sexy, glamorous post. No nudity here today. No sparkles. I want to talk about my health and the importance of talking about my health. Because it is important and we shouldn’t shy away from things like this because it’s tmi or it doesn’t fit our normal social media content or because some arrogant jackass doesn’t think it belongs in his/her news feed. As far as I’m concerned, nothing is off limits. It’s just a matter of personal preference.
First, let’s talk about my many struggles with my body. I’ve well and clearly documented over the past couple of years my battle with my brain. Trying to keep myself medicated, in therapy, and on the green side of the dirt has definitely not been easy when you have a brain that wants to work against you. Add to that a healthcare system that treats mental health patients like crap, or worse, like criminals, and it can be hard to not give up. I have also talked about my physical health over the years, just not as openly and for no other reason than I believe mental health issues need more attention because of the stigma people with mental illnesses face. But be assured, I’ve had many physical issues that I believe are important to talk about. Namely, my reproductive organs.
Six years ago I was told for the umpteenth time that I most likely had endometriosis (no way to confirm without expensive surgery), that I had cysts swarming my ovaries, and that my uterus was fubar. I’d had two pregnancies, resulting in cesarean sections that created adhesions all around my uterus. My options? Birth control to control the cysts and laproscopy to remove the endometrial lesions. I went on birth control for a year, my third attempt at bc in 12 years, but as always, because I’m bipolar and because I spent 3 weeks a month constipated, that eventually had to be abandoned. I couldn’t have the laproscopy because I didn’t have $5000. I asked about having a hysterectomy. My mother had one at 34 because of cancer. I was 35. My doctor flat out dismissed it because I was too young.
A few things I want to point out here. First, I was 35 with two children. I was offered the option of tubal ligation at 27, during the birth of my second kid, so this wasn’t about keeping my fertility. This was purely about hormones. And I get it, but my ovaries were malfunctioning and science had my back with a great thing called HRT. Second, I was high risk for cancer, but that didn’t seem to matter. “Keep up with your yearly paps.” Third, a hysterectomy deemed medically necessary, which mine was, would have been covered by my insurance. Laproscopy for endo was not because it was considered elective.
Fast forward five years – past increasing pain, digestion issues, even a burst cyst – to sudden changes in my skin. Seemingly overnight my entire face and back broke out with heavy acne. I’d had zits all my life, but never acne like this. I knew something was wrong, but when I mentioned it to my GP, she dismissed it as possibly medication related. I knew this wasn’t the case, but I let it go even though I knew something was wrong. A few months later I had a yearly exam. I complained again of the acne and some steady pain on the left side of my abdomen. She ordered an ultrasound (because of the pain, mind you, not the acne), a tumor was discovered (ah, there’s the reason for the acne), and this set me on the path toward the hysterectomy I should have had five years prior.
My current gynecologist is terrific. She didn’t even think twice about offering me a hysterectomy. This was refreshing after years of hearing my age was more important than my quality of life. However, the surgery wasn’t the smooth sailing I’d been hoping for. Turns out adhesions and my uterus being stuck to my abdomen made a laproscopy impossible. Thus, an open abdominal surgery was performed. My doctor described it as peeling away my uterus from my belly. I also had a lot of scar tissue resulting in the need for many internal sutures. A lot of bleeding meant I had to get a blood transfusion. An overnight stay became three days.
If you’ve ever had abdominal surgery, you know the good times involved post-op. Gas, constipation, and the burning, stinging sensation around the incision are a laugh a minute. If you’re like me and have no tolerance for anesthesia, you also get lovely vomiting. And again if you’re like me, pain meds make you sick, too. I was dry heaving after every dose despite also being given anti-nausea meds and one of those little patches behind the ear.
I went into the hospital at 6 AM Wednesday and was released at 6 PM Saturday. I was still having what I believed was tremendous gas pains, but moving around is the only cure for that. I spent Sunday trying to be as mobile as possible so I could have that all too important first bowel movement, but as the day went by I found myself in more and more pain. By Monday I was curled up in a ball, puking bile, and eating my pain meds every four hours on the dot. At 11 PM, I decided I’d had enough and went back to the hospital.
In the emergency room, I was given morphine for the pain and it caused me to have an anxiety attack and didn’t really even help with the pain. Because of the location of the pain, a kidney stone was suspected. I was taken for a ct scan (no thank you, contrast) and it was determined I was suffering from acute unilateral obstructive uropathy caused by an internal suture and pneumonia in my left lung. I was re-admitted to the hospital and prepped for a procedure to have a stent inserted into my left ureter (more anesthesia :/). It was successful.
From there I spent the next week in the hospital dealing with ‘is it or is it not pneumonia?,’ a possible bad gallbladder, pain, and intestines that refused to give up the ten pounds of poop they were holding hostage. Everyday around 5:45 PM, I cried for no reason for about half an hour. I spent every night (this continues) sweating for 12 hours straight. After over two weeks without a bowel movement, I was given three enemas, magnesium citrate, stool softeners, milk of magnesia, you name it. Nothing. I was very discouraged. I missed my kids. I wanted real food and my own bed. Finally, it was decided I might do better at home and I was released. And that did the trick. 🙂
So now I’m in the at home recovery phase. My belly hurts, but the pain meds put me to sleep and cause constipation. My face has cleared up, but my moods are shifty. I’m on antibiotics again because of a bladder infection and my body really hates this stent, but I’m finally able to drive on a limited basis (praise the maker!). The next step for me is hormone replacement therapy and finding a good balance with my psych meds. If all goes as hoped, I’ll finally feel like a normal human. No more daily stomach aches, constant pelvic pain, 12 day long pms, acne, cysts, tumors, migraines, wacky hormonal shifts, and unnecessary periods. So long, reproductive organs! You won’t be missed!
So here we are at the second part of this post.
A wonderful woman I know through Facebook was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She put up a great post the other day about discovering her cancer and listening to your body. Her post resonated with me me because it’s the exact thing I’d been thinking about my own medical problems this past year. What one doctor had dismissed as not important and even vain (acne), was how I knew something was wrong. I trusted what my body was saying and it’s comforting to know there is someone else out there who understands that feeling. I thank her for her willingness to be open about her journey on social media for that.
I’ve documented my own journey on my social media platforms (as much as I could from the hospital being doped up and aggravated) because I’m a big believer in awareness and open, honest dialogue. I’ve said many times that if my talking about my health helps even one person feel they aren’t alone or gives someone hope or courage to take action, then it’s worth putting my life on display. This is the stuff that everyday life for us everyday humans is made up of. These are our struggles, our uphill battles, and we should help each other get through these times, not ride them out in isolation. And we certainly shouldn’t condemn other people for sharing their life stories with us, no matter what we think about it. Just because you wouldn’t put this or that on Facebook or don’t think it belongs there doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. Maybe you think talking about my constipation issues is too much for social media, but I say it’s exactly what social media is for. I’m sharing my life stories with you, the same ones you share with me, because it’s the bloody 21st century and this is how it’s done now.
So in conclusion, trust your instincts, listen to your body, and TALK ABOUT IT. We’re all in this together and let’s do our best to lift each other up when we need it.