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2013 has not been my best year, health wise. Because I have found myself in too many conversations about my uterus with men I have just met, I thought I’d do one update to rule them all. If you’ve been wondering what all my cryptic, or not cryptic enough tweets are about, wonder no more.
Warning: If you read past this line, you’re voluntarily entering the land of TMI and I don’t want to hear any whining about it.
Late last year, my periods started to get heavier than usual. Like, ridiculously heavy. So off I went to the Lady doctor to get my bits checked.
“You have fibroids,” Dr S. informed me.
Jess had already gone through the same thing earlier on the year and had surgery to remove them, which worked great. Luckily, though I had recently lost my job, I am fortunate enough to have insurance through Jess.
On February 14th, 2013 (V-day, what better time?), I went in for minor surgery to have the fibroids removed. My doctor used the hole that was already there 1 to go in and remove all of one fibroid and some of another one, but she couldn’t get it all. She also gave me an IUD that would administer hormones and hopefully greatly reduce or stop my period.
Since the doctor didn’t have to make any new holes in me, recovery was fairly quick, except for the OMG-ARE-YOU-KIDDING-ME cramps from the IUD that is pretty standard for the first 1-3 months.
But within a month or so, it was also apparent that the IUD, in addition to being a total pain (literally), was also not working one bit. My bleeding continued to be off the charts ridiculous, and on top of that, my periods were happening every 1.5 – 2 weeks instead of once a month.
So back to the doctor I went. Another ultrasound revealed that the second fibroid that she hadn’t been able to get at very well was sitting behind my uterus and growing.
At that point Dr S suggested doing an endometrial ablation. She was unsure if it would work, due to the size of the fibroid. But we scheduled another surgery for mid June and in the meantime, she offered to give me birth control pills which would hopefully slow the bleeding and offer me a life without diapers for the six weeks until surgery.
Dear reader, it may not surprise you to find out that this was my first birth control rodeo. I admit to a certain cavalier attitude during my pharmacy consult.
“Now if you miss a pill–”
“I don’t think my girlfriend is going to get me pregnant.” I chuckled.
“No, but you might have breakthrough bleeding, which will suck.”
She actually used the word suck. That should have been a warning.
I was fine for the first couple of days and then I missed not one, but two days of pills. Oh well, I thought, I will just get back on the birth control horse.
It turns out that ‘breakthrough bleeding’ is actually pharmacy speak for “And the sea will run red, and all your sheets and underwear will be ruined and everything you touch shall turn to BLOOD.”
Yay, just in time for our trip to Santa Fe to visit Jess’s dad.
With a much more motivated spirit, I set all kinds of alarms to remind me to take the pill on time. But the flood gates, such as they were, were open and stemming the tide wasn’t going well.
Here’s how bad it was:
- When we arrived in Sante Fe, the first thing Jess said was, “Dad, we’re gonna need a towel for Kronda to sleep on so she doesn’t ruin your bed.”
- While trying to walk around Santa Fe, I frequently had the urge to lie down on the sidewalk because I was so tired from blood loss.
- I spent most of the time scoping out the nearest bathroom for any given trip.
- We canceled our planned drive to Taos–not enough bathrooms on the way there.
- I agreed to skip a bathroom trip so we wouldn’t have to pay for another hour of parking, but ended up leaking all over the passenger seat of the rental car. 2
I called the doctor’s office after hours and got lucky. My actual doctor was on call. She rang back shortly and without preamble asked, “Are you hemorrhaging?”
She suggested I take three birth control pills for two days, then wean to two a day for three days and then back to one. And to call and make another appointment to rethink our plan.
So I started taking even more pills and by the last day of our trip, I was safe enough that we spent the day test driving cars (hoping there was no ‘you stain it, you buy it, policy).
In a few days things calmed down to the point where I could actually have a life. I even had a couple of days that didn’t involve a single feminine hygiene product!
During the next appointment, Dr S. said that if things were this bad, it was a pretty sure bet that ablation probably wouldn’t work. But in order to get this fibroid out, she would have to cut me open for real this time. I decided on robot surgery, which involves more holes, but a quicker recover time. I rescheduled it for August 20th so that I could attend all the conferences and family events I had scheduled this summer.
After the appointment, I weaned back down to to one pill a day, and things quickly got bad again. I called the doctor again and she confirmed that taking three high dose birth control pills for another 2.5 months was not a viable option. But, she could put me on a lower dose and I could take two per day and maybe that would hold things at bay.
So that’s what we did.
I’ve had a few good days, but mostly I’ve been bleeding consistently for going on two months. And when it does slow down, I can’t relax because the floodgates can literally open at any time, which means even though I haven’t used pads or tampons in 15 years, I now carry around enough of both to staunch a mortal wound at all times.
Taking this many hormones isn’t helping my personality any either. I have heard from many women that taking the pill turned them into full time Hulk monsters. For the first month or so, I honestly didn’t notice any difference. Then one day I just suddenly could not deal with anything. Not being able to find the camping stove, or the cats tracking litter around the house suddenly became the most enraging things that had ever happened. Needless to say, it’s been no fun for Jess. The mood swings are as random as they are senseless. Even if I can keep from saying something rude, the general vibe is… not pleasant. And there’s nothing I can do about it.
Jess is convinced that the IUD is causing extra problems. At my last ultrasound, the tech, who was relaxed and chatty during the procedure, came back after talking to the doctor who reviewed the images and said in a very serious tone, “Your doctor will call you about the results this morning.” This had me in a small panic so I called the doctor’s office and asked for a call back ASAP to find out what was going on.
They called back in good time. “Your IUD is sitting lower than it should.”
“Well it might not be effective against pregnancy, so you should use an alternate method.”
“That’s it? I don’t have cancer or something?”
“No, that’s it.”
Of course Jess knew that’s what it meant because she’s a nurse. And I’m sure any women who are regularly sperm-adjacent would be wise to these things. But I spent the morning freaking out that something serious was wrong. I was relieved and kinda pissed off. That tech needs a better poker face.
Jess has been after me to get the IUD out early. It was scheduled to come out during surgery and get replaced, but she’s convinced it’s making things worse, and wants to see if I improve without it. I finally made an appointment with the nurse practitioner to have it removed, since Dr S. was on vacation. After digging around for almost 20 minutes and saying uncomforting things like, “Bring me the alligator,” 3 she had to admit defeat. The strings, which are supposed to be easily accessible for removal, seem to have gone off on their own little adventure and become embedded in my cervix. Yay.
We gave up, for the moment, and I made another appointment so Dr S could give it a try. I would love to wait until surgery and sleep through it all, but since it hasn’t helped at all, before I agree to get another one, I’d kind of like to know how things go without it. If I can get rid of the root problem, and go back to life before fibroids, I’m fine with that.
Activity seems to make things worse. A bike ride to NW the other day caused some serious cramping and bleeding and I had to take the bus home. Yet I was able to carry Jess on the Big Dummy around Sunday Parkways for 3 hours with no adverse effects.
This morning I woke up at 4:30 to take some nice gentlemen from Portland Center Stage JAW Festival to the airport. There were four people and their luggage so I just grabbed my keys, wallet and, at the last minute, an extra pad.
Halfway to the airport, I started getting cramps and knew I was in trouble. I dropped them off and in a very non-panicked voice, wished them safe travels, while I frantically tried to figure out how I could find a bathroom before I ruined the seat of Jess’s car. At the last moment I remembered the Embassy Suites. My cousin just had her 50th birthday party there, so I knew right where the bathroom was located.
I made it in time to save the car seat, but sadly, not my jeans. I grabbed a bunch of paper towels to sit on on the drive home so I wouldn’t ruin the car seat.
When I got home, I showered and went back to bed.
Needless to say this summer has been pretty mellow compared to our usual summer activities. We usually spend the summer bike camping, taking long road rides, hiking, short track mountain bike racing….all off the table. And Jess has her own issues keeping off the bike almost entirely, so if we want to go somewhere by bike, I have to carry her. Which I don’t mind at all, but it would be nice if just one of us could be broken at a time.
On the bright side, not being able to travel means we’ve seen more friends this summer. I’ve read more books and we’ve made good progress on several pretty large house projects. I’ve also confirmed that the best way to get blood out of anything is plain cold water as quickly as possible and then launder with an oxygen based stain fighter.
On the down side, we’re still eating as if we’re doing 60 mile bike rides, so I’m feeling pretty stodgy compared to my usual summer self.
I’m calling 2013 a wash in the adventure department and hoping that 2014 will be the year of health.
Update: Went back to see Dr S again today to have her give the UID the old heave-ho. No joy. So now we’ve scheduled a ‘special session’ before the big surgery in which I will get knocked out again so she can go in and fish it out without torturing me. It’s a 30 minute procedure, requiring 4-5 hours in the hospital with a one day recovery time. But now I have to decide whether to try another IUD (correctly placed this time), or an ablation, which could stop the bleeding and work more quickly than the IUD. Decisions, decisions.
- That would be my vagina (Back)
- This would come to be known on Twitter as #rentalcargate. Thank goodness for stain master (Back)
- Seriously?!? The alligator? Why don’t they code name it something innocuous like, ‘the kitten?’ Everyone loves kittens. (Back)
This post is part of the thread: 2013 Battle With Fibroids – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.