Bye Felicia!

You know it’s really funny how I got so used to not leaving the house without a tampon or a serious stash of them in my purse. Most of the time actually having a tampon in, even though it technically wasn’t supposed to be my period because, inevitably, I’d be out in public somewhere and have “that feeling” (I don’t have to tell you other ladies what feeling I’m talking about) and be nowhere near a bathroom. Potential disaster. Especially with a toddler in tow. So frustrating. Like why didn’t I buy stock in the Tampax company? At times I’ve felt like I singlehandedly kept them in business.

I guess I just got too used to going and seeing doctors that told me my heavy bleeding was “normal for someone like you” or being told by a female practitioner “it’s just something we all deal with” or being over 40 and hearing “it’s just the age you’re at” because they don’t want to do the work to figure out what’s really wrong with me when I’m coming in with questions they can’t answer. But then I started noticing how many tampons I was buying and that I kept needing to find a box with super. Then ultra. Then super ultra. And a period that last 21 days with only a week of no bleeding. Severe bloating. Horrible cramp and pain. After enduring it for 3 years after the birth of my daughter I was finally like “Something’s gotta give.”

I was tired, REALLY tired (not figuratively) of all the bleeding and pain. I was tired of hearing doctors tell me I just needed a higher dosage of estrogen. I’m not a doctor but I know my body, and who wants all the side effects that come with a high level of estrogen not to mention the cancer risk? Then I got a new (female) doctor who, after hearing my history, said “YES” to my request to get an ablation. For those who don’t know, Endometrial ablation is a procedure that surgically destroys (ablates) the lining of your uterus. The goal of endometrial ablation is to reduce menstrual flow, or stop it completely. I was ALL IN about doing this. “Heck yeah” I thought, this will be the solution to all my problems! It’s a simple procedure with little recovery time. Even better!

Just to be safe, she mentioned that she’d like to get an ultrasound and do an endometrial biopsy. If you’ve never had an endometrial biopsy it’s pretty uncomfortable but not horrible. They do that to make sure you don’t have endometrial cancer. Unfortunately for me, the ultrasound showed a defect in my uterus that was contraindicated to an ablation.

While I was there I had my yearly mammogram. If you’re over 40, have you scheduled yours?

With a potential hole in my uterus (and me thinking “Why on early had I been seeing doctors for 3 years about this, and no one else thought to do an ultrasound?!”) my only option was a hysterectomy. With 8 weeks of down time for recovery, I wasn’t thrilled, but just ready to be done.

I scheduled my surgery for about a month out and thought about how I’d handle the situation. I decided that I wasn’t going to mourn the loss of an organ that had enabled me to become the mother of 3 precious children. With no desire to have any more children, I was ready to move on to a pain free life. So I did something that might seem unorthodox but seemed perfectly natural to me. I sent invitations to my girl friends to join me in celebrating this stage of my lifestyle at my favorite sushi restaurant with killer ambiance. Kind of a ‘Sex And The City’ style girl party, if you will. I even dressed up like my alter ego Carrie Bradshaw to celebrate the occasion.

My bestie mentioned she was bringing a cake but gave no details. Let me tell you how excited I was when I saw it! It couldn’t have been more perfect; “BYE FELICIA”!

So, with the party over and the reality of the actual surgery approaching, I wondered if it would be an easier recovery than my C-sections. The Doctor assured me it would; she was doing a robot assisted hysterectomy done laparoscopically, where I could retain my ovaries and, only if there were complications, would she potentially have to cut me open. We knew from the ultrasound that there was likely scar tissue gluing my bladder to my uterus, they wouldn’t be able to tell til they got in there if I’d have the risk of a perforated bladder.

Next, I asked all my friends and family to PRAY. 🙏 Pray for a positive outcome and to guide the hands of those performing the procedure as well as to ease my anxiety about this robot she was going to be using.

I went into surgery feeling no fear and emerged with no complications. Praises were sent up all around. I stayed the night in the hospital and went home about 24 hours after my procedure. I’m not going to lie. I took a picture of my belly as soon as I got home and thought I would never have a normal belly button again. As you can see I was extremely bloated and a bit bruised around my incisions. This was all quite painful and sore. I was very happy for my pain meds and the ability to rest.

The major pain I had initially was wincing pain upon sitting. I was quite nauseous. So much in fact that the doctor called in a prescription for me to have Zofran. It really helped so I could get my pain meds down. Going to the bathroom was painful too. Definitely thankful someone explained to me how important it is to take Colace when you’re on opioid pain meds. Trust me, you’ll want to make sure you don’t forget!

Fast forward two weeks later, my tummy looked like this:

My belly button looked a lot better, the bloating was gone and most of the bruising. By this time I was just taking my serious pain meds at night and Motrin during the day. I got my biopsy results back from the procedure and discovered the reason I’d been having heavy 3 week a month long bleeding for 3 years. I had a condition known as adenomyosis. You can read more about it here: Adenomyosis

Basically part of the endometrial tissue inside my uterus had migrated into my abdominal wall causing extreme pain and bleeding. I’m so glad I had the hysterectomy because an ablation wouldn’t have solved that problem! I’d done my own research after I started having heavy bleeding and asked my OB/GYN if he thought I could have Adenomyosis and he quoted me statistics about how rare it was and that it was unlikely. Just goes to show that your gut feeling can be way more accurate than a statistic yielding doctor.

Something noticeable 2 weeks post hysterectomy was a lot of night sweats. We’re talking getting up in the middle of the night with so much sweat I had to change my shirt. It was probably due to the fact I stopped taking estrogen, but rather annoying, none the less.

I think that this hormonal drop off also triggered some emotions I wasn’t expecting to have. I had a day of feeling pretty sad that even though I had my 3 wonderful children and had no desire for more, that this phase of my life was over. No more pregnancies or carrying babies. I took some time to grieve that and talked about it with some close girlfriends. Then I celebrated by putting all my extra tampons and pads in a box to run by and donate to the shelter.

I actually went to two job interviews after week 2 and I didn’t feel horrible. Well, that was until I got a stomach bug. It definitely isn’t any fun having to vomit 2 weeks after surgery and boy was I glad I had that Zofran prescription!

I was feeling pretty good about 3 weeks out, but I got a little carried away around Thanksgiving and had a little scare. You aren’t supposed to lift more than 10 pounds, but I’m guessing that frozen turkey might have been a bit bigger. I hadn’t had much bleeding at all, but then suddenly I had some fairly heavy bleeding and something that looked like a little blood clot. I was almost ready to head in to the ER when I was able to talk to a post surgical nurse who eased my mind, and told me to relax and stop overdoing it. Luckily this was likely due to the superficial healing around my internal stitches, and after taking it easy for about 4 days I felt much better with no further bleeding.

At my 6 week follow up I had to endure a vaginal exam, but got the green light that I could start some light exercise like elliptical training, but still no weight over 10 pounds for another 2 weeks.

By 8 weeks, the bruising is gone, my belly button looks quite a bit better, and I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist mostly due to no more bloating! Talk about a win! I was feeling very much like my regular self, and was amazed at how awesome it was not to have to worry about having feminine products with me 24/7.

Even better, since having kids I’d literally have to go pee like every 30 minutes or so or my bladder was in serious pain. I just thought I had a small bladder. Apparently it had something to do with the uterus putting all that weight on my bladder and the scar tissue. Now I can sit through a session at work, watch a movie, or go to church without missing something important because I have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom.

Besides the 8 week recovery time being a bit inconvenient I have zero regrets about my hysterectomy. I am no longer in constant pain. I have a new level of freedom I can’t even remember having. Feel free to post a comment or question!

Old New Blue Jeans

Recently I put on a pair of jeans that I bought probably 3 years ago and had never worn. I bought them without trying them on and when I got home I discovered that even though they were the same size as the other pair I DID try on, and made by the same designer, they were a slightly different cut. So rather than return them, I said “I’m going to fit in these jeans one day so I’m not going to return them”. I think I might have tried them on another time or two, they still didn’t fit, and then life happened.

I was elated to discover as a newly remarried mom of two boys that I was pregnant again. I had a suspicion this was true when I went to a crawfish boil and the smell and idea of eating crawfish repulsed me even though normally I would have loved the opportunity. Later at my May birthday dinner, I passed on having a glass of wine but wasn’t sure why. A few days later a pregnancy test confirmed the reason and boy was I sooo sick. I was so moody and just really had zero energy which was tough because at the time I was enrolled in a Graduate degree program.

I decided not to immediately announce my pregnancy, and in the back of my mind I had a bad feeling. A few weeks later when I started spotting, I was taken back to memories I had when a similar thing happened with a pregnancy resulting in miscarriage. I went to see my OB and had an ultrasound; I was still pregnant but it was unsure if the baby was developing. I was experiencing every pregnancy symptom while facing the unbelievable possibility that this pregnancy could end. I had to keep going in for ultrasounds to check the progress. Although the gestational sac was growing the OB said it was 50/50 whether the baby would start growing. She said she’d seen the exact same thing with another mother who was now over 20 weeks along. I was so hopeful but also so anxious and scared.

At 11 weeks the doctor gave me the news I dreaded hearing, the fetus was not developing. I waited and nothing happened. The doctor described it as a missed miscarriage. I’d have to have a procedure done. It was around the Fourth of July now, a holiday that I couldn’t even begin to think about celebrating.

After the procedure I began feeling much more moody, and depression and grief set in. I felt so alone and sad. I began struggling to even want to get out of bed. I’d go to my Assessments class and couldn’t even process what the instructor was saying. The class was a tough one; I began to realize that I might not be able to pass the class and my school had a policy where you weren’t allowed to miss any classes. Finally I decided to talk to my Director and decided to drop the course so I wouldn’t fail it. I sat there in tears considering whether I even wanted to continue in the program because by now I was about 6 weeks in to a serious phase of hopelessness. All I could think about was trying to get pregnant again because of the gaping hole that loss had left.

Unfortunately I wasn’t seeking help or getting the support I needed. Since I hadn’t told anyone outside of my husband and best friend about the pregnancy, other people around me didn’t know what was going on and didn’t reach out to me or even seemed to reject me. I felt isolated and alone. Things might have continued to spiral downward until in late September I got another positive pregnancy test.

I was so scared I couldn’t even be happy about it. I feared it would end the same. The timing wasn’t the best; I had just started the internship required for my Masters degree. With the dropped class and now this, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to complete my program. If it weren’t for my best friend speaking prophecy into me that this baby would grow and develop into a strong and healthy baby girl, I don’t know what I would have done. Every day of that first trimester was an uphill battle as I was still dealing with depression and lack of support.

Around that time it occurred to me I wasn’t trusting God to help me deal with any of the intense feelings I was experiencing. I walked into Mardel Christian Books Store one day, and on the featured books table was the book “Whispers of Hope” by Beth Moore. It was a daily prayer devotional and at that moment God spoke to me and told me “Give it a try”.

As a counseling student, I knew that 10 weeks of journaling about hope could be very beneficial. So began the process of me burrowing in and this book ended up becoming my survival guide. Literally all I was doing was surviving though. I was so worried my emotions would effect my unborn child. I prayed every day for her protection. At the same time I fought a daily struggle to not drop out of my degree program. My heart and soul just felt like it was being crashed against a huge rock every single day, and I just fought to keep going, always just reaching out for hope. To be honest at the time I’m not sure how I got through. Looking back It felt like that line from the Footprints in the Sand poem; clearly God carried me!

The next year and a half from my daughter’s birth to now seemed like I was climbing a steep, steep mountain. When I came across those unworn jeans, they still had the tag on them. Since my skinny jeans had recently become loose on me, I had a suspicion they would fit and they did.

The funny thing is, I had to look back at everything that happened between then and now and ask myself if I was really happy about being able to fit in those jeans now. The person I was then would’ve used it as a measure to some sort of “success”. The person I am now just looks in the mirror and thinks “they’re just jeans, but look at the person I’ve become inside and the ridiculous amount of clarity that has been unveiled by faith that could literally move me up and down a mountain!”

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