I’m a writer, and therefore in the business of sharing. On social media, I don’t tend to favor those who launch deliberately vague posts which cause others to wonder about the circumstances, but remain respectfully afraid to ask followup questions. It has recently dawned on me that I might have been one of those very people over the last few months. For that I apologize.
I haven’t been intentionally opaque but as a writer, I’ve also been taught to share things that people might actually care about.
Having said that, if you really don’t want to know about my health issues (and believe me, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t!), stop reading now because I’m about to bore you. However, if you’ve been wondering about my weird Facebook posts on the subjects of surgery, back pain, and pain meds, I will solve the mystery for you.
So . . . many moons ago, I was accidentally diagnosed with a few fibroid tumors — like half of the female free world. I was having lower stomach pains and during an ultrasound intended to rule out appendicitis, a few fibroids were detected.
My doctor told me that we were coexisting nicely, my fibroids and I, and if they became a problem I should do something about them. But not until. Her only concern was that they were positioned in an area that could prevent conception should I want to have children. If you know me at all, you’ll realize that this was only an incentive to keep them. They weren’t bothering me AND they were an added bit of birth control? I had hit the medical jackpot.
She gave me a few warning signs to look for that would indicate that the fibroids were becoming a problem. Excessive bleeding was the one that stuck out, as several of my friends experienced similar issues that forced them to have surgery.
I lived my life very happily for many years, until I began noticing things about my body. Things I didn’t like. My increasing waistline was of major concern. I’ve always been the girl with the small waist. Even though I have an ass and huge thighs, at LEAST the Universe gave me a tiny waist to offset them. However, I’d noticed a little thickening over the years, which was upsetting and perplexing. The other problem was my ability to watch my food digesting. Probably more information than anyone needs, but I noticed that, whenever I ate a large enough meal, I could see the resulting lump in my stomach. Sometimes through my shirts, if they were clingy enough. Yuck. I was also starting to have random pain in my lower back — around the kidney area.
But because I thought I felt good (in the grand scheme of things), I didn’t think about any of these problems very much (until I attempted to zip my smaller sized jeans).
If I weren’t vain, I might have happily lived on with small issues cropping up randomly and my stomach expanding annually.
I was in Miami for about three months last year and while shopping on Lincoln Road, decided to slink into BCBG to try on a Herve Legere bandage dress (because whenever I’m in Miami, I like to skank it up). I zipped it, turned around and yelled “What the fuck is THAT?” Turns out, that? Was a gut! An honest to God gut? I’ve never had a gut in my life! (Again, a major butt, but never a gut!) And, I might add, a gut that looked absolutely terrible when accentuated by a purple bandage dress.
I thought about it, and realized that the fibroids were clearly out of control. I channeled my friend Jen, and went on WebMD to check symptoms, and while I didn’t have the normal associated ailments, I had others, and because my stomach was hard, not flabby, I was pretty sure that my fibroids were the problem (either that or I needed to abandon the pizza — which I should probably do anyway, but that’s hardly the point). While recalling all of the small abnormalities in my health, it was amazing that I had grown used to them and that they were the new normal.
Long story short, I eventually returned to Chicago and had an ultrasound. The technician lost count at 13 fibroid tumors. I met a doctor whom I instantly hated. She was only too happy to tell me that I needed a hysterectomy, with a big smile on her face (yeah lady, bite me!). I did research, and research and more research to find a minimally invasive way to take care of a maximally invasive problem. Everyone had suggestions, but none of those suggestions pertained to me.
I was referred to a wonderful doctor whom I instantly loved and he convinced me that, not only did I need a hysterectomy, but that I needed the kind that required the big incision. And not the cute horizontal bikini cut. The ginormous vertical cut! Because apparently I had let this scenario drag out for too long, and if I did nothing else well, I grew fibroids superbly.
If you’re in this situation, what I recommend you DON’T do? Is read too many bulletin boards and websites of women who have had similar surgeries. They will give great tips, but they will also scare you to death. They will make you think your life is over and that you’re never going to be even remotely attractive, ever again in your life. They will make you believe that you won’t be able to walk for an entire week, and that it will take 6 months to put your jeans back on — if that ever happens. You’ll read about their infections, emergencies, and their tremendous weight gain. Those websites freaked me out, and almost kept me from having surgery.
The BF, however, who had been a saint throughout my emotional and physical drama, finally told me in no uncertain terms that the surgery would happen if he had to take a kitchen utensil and perform it himself. My doctor assured me that some of those women were sedentary, in poor health otherwise, and just plain out of their minds. He roped me back in.
So, after about 15 people asked me if I was SURE I didn’t want to have children, surgery was scheduled, and on October 28th I became fibroid free. My operation was a complete freak show. If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll know that interns and residents love nothing more than having the chance to work on a patient who has a weird condition. They hovered over me in pre-op, which was nothing short of hilarity.
The surgery went perfectly, and I received a series of post-op visits from interns and doctors who were eager to discuss the amount of fibroids (17, all told) and size of my stomach, and how they’ve “never seen anything that large come out of a person of my size.” Unlike the predictions on the bulletin board/website, my stomach flattened immediately, and eventually I was pleased to have lost weight (as opposed to the weight gain that I had anticipated).
After 2-3 days, I strong-armed my doctors into releasing me from the hospital, and the BF was an incredible caretaker (despite the fact that he had bronchitis at the time). I had previously been skeptical about his nursemaid skills, as I’m the natural caretaker of the two of us, but he was attentive and did a great job. I’m not the best patient. I was supposed to limit my stair climbing (I was ALL up and down the stairs all day), I wasn’t supposed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds (I think my purse alone weighs 12 lbs), and I was supposed to focus on relaxing and healing (I think I’m allergic to relaxation). I was unable to drive for an entire month (he confiscated the keys, which forced me to comply). It was a process.
A month later, around Thanksgiving and JUST when I was feeling good after the surgery, I started to feel like I had a knot in my right shoulder blade. Like, maybe I’d slept in a funny position and needed to get it worked out. I got a series of massages from great massage therapists (not including the one guy whom I’m convinced was highly skilled in happy endings). In all cases, I felt better for about an hour, but always returned to the pain. The pain grew progressively worse, and I went to chiropractors and muscle therapists. Each had their benefits, but no real improvement.
I tried every form of painkiller that could be purchased over the counter. I learned a few valuable lesson. First OTC drugs ain’t shit! Great for headaches and slight relief, but if you REALLY want to wipe it out, you need a prescription for something heavier. Second, people who don’t know what’s wrong will take your money to experiment on you. It’s not their fault, per se, but it’s something to be mindful of as you advocate for your own health.
I discovered the wonderment of pain patches. I covered my shoulder blade in Salonpas (which I always thought was an extremely stupid name. Sounds like an animal in a spa, doesn’t it?). A few days later I realized that pain patches aggravate my skin, so I could have either continued to look like I had been laying on a Weber grill, or leave the patches alone. Again, vanity won, even though I was seriously considering trying to find a special drug dealer who sold muscle relaxers by the pallet.
This nightmare continued on for weeks, and on Christmas day I fell down the stairs in my house. And not a graceful fall, either. I took a nasty spill that included a leg flying in the air and landing directly on my back. As my luck would have it, I landed directly on the pained area, and slid aggressively down the stairs. I felt the blow of each stair on my right shoulder blade until the BF caught me at stair 13 of 15. I continued the day, and even managed to visit the home of one of my BF’s cousins (who are big affectionate huggers, which is frightening to someone with a back injury, but I made it through).
On December 26th, I woke up and decided to make a trip to the ER. I received x-rays (and a lovely dose of valium along with a coveted limited prescription), and it was determined that I hadn’t fractured anything.
On December 27th, I had a followup visit with a doctor from my primary care physician’s office. I got more x-rays, and they found a degenerative joint disease in my neck (which is essentially the normal degeneration we have when we age), and shortening of the space between a few vertabrae.
Right before the end of the year I was prescribed a mild muscle relaxer for the pain (and by “mild,” I mean “barely noticeable”).
On January 9th, after leaving me on hold for nearly an hour, my insurance company FINALLY approved my order for physical therapy (which I must complete before I’m allowed to have an MRI). On the same day, I visited my new physical therapist and received a treatment plan. I was previously irritated that I had to go to physical therapy, but I have to admit that my therapist has been the only person who has given me some sort of logical explanation as to why I have this problem. Now, let’s see if she can successfully improve it. The jury is out, but I’m optimistic (desperate).
I should note that by January 10th, I had signed up for health insurance with a different company.
So, where we stand today is that I’m still in pain (and would strangle a small child if I were promised a good comfortable night of sleep), I’m in physical therapy, still looking for the perfect painkiller, I’ve abandoned all other therapies, and it was suggested that I remain active and have a daily cardio activity. Today I also determined that spinning is a bit much for me at this juncture. Soon. I’m tired of doctors and diagnoses and ice and smelling of Ben Gay, and am looking forward to a new chapter. A new healthy chapter. And I’m planning a party to celebrate the return of my waist.
And now that I’ve shared, you still might not care. But at least my posts will make more sense going forward.