You may want to avoid the following if you’re not a fan of the female reproductive system.
I’m going into surgery tomorrow to see if I have endometriosis. This is the thing where your uterine lining can grow in places other than where it belongs, like, say, on your kidneys. Weirder still, it can, you know, do the uterine lining process, swelling and bleeding on a regular basis, even though it’s latched on to some wholly inappropriate body part in distance regions of your abdomen. This seems very, very wrong, and I can see why it it could cause a mess of problems. Its hallmark is epic pain. I luckily don’t have that. I do, however, have epic bleeding. That’s what caused the ob/gyn to check into the possibilities, and to finally settle on this one as the most likely hypothesis.
I should add that Dr. Cheryl totally dismisses this option. She thinks this whole endometriosis quest is lame, and I don’t have that at all. I just have too much estrogen and we can treat that. So… we’ll see who wins the great diagnosis battle. [Strange thought: should we have a medical game show, sort of like Dr. Oz meets the Iron Chef, but instead of kitchen stadium it’s a doctor’s office and the two doctors have one hour to determine what is wrong with the patient...? “Okay, he’s drawing blood... what’s that Jim? Six vials!! What can he be testing for??” Seriously, I think this idea has a lot of potential.]
The only way to find out for sure whether you have this lovely thing, is to basically open the hood, take a flashlight, and have a look around. While they’re in there, if they do find something, they can then zap it or laser it or taser it, or whatever they do. I’m a little hazy on the finer points. It’s a one-hour, laparoscopic, outpatient procedure under general anesthesia. I should be done and home on the couch, where I belong, by mid-afternoon tomorrow.
And now an enumeration of my hopes and fears.
My hope, frankly, is that I have it big time. If I allowed myself to fantasize about the big reveal at the end of the procedure, my fantasy would be that the doctor comes in all exhausted and weary, wipes his brow, and says, “It was the worst case of endometriosis I’ve ever seen! How this poor woman has been somewhat conducting her life… being a good mother to her children, and even occasionally making a nice dinner or doing some decent knitting (although woefully inadequate in pretty much all other spheres of existence) well, it’s just beyond me!! She’s a goddess!!” And then the critical coda to this statement: “AND I FIXED IT.” That’s a very, very important element of this fantasy.
I know that this seemingly strange hope will make perfect sense to my POTS peeps and my other buddies in the chronic illness community. We just so long for some specific thing that can be addressed and treated, as some sort of possible doorway out of the endless illness maze.
My fears, on the other hand….
Fear number 1: Something goes wrong, it turns from laparoscopic to open, and I end up with a big incision, a couple days in the hospital, and a six-week recovery. Chances of that happening: literally 1 in 1,000.
Fear number 2: They find nothing. Psyche! That was a fun exercise for no reason, and now you get to still have stitches and anesthesia goodness for no gain whatsoever. Chances: 1 in 10, maybe? Just guessing.
Fear number 3: They do find something, but it’s just a little bit here and there, no biggie, and they fix it, big whoop, but I then spend the next three days vomiting because of the anesthesia, and being in pain, and it’s sort of for naught. Chances: 1 in 5, maybe?
I had my gall bladder out some years ago and threw up for three straight days, so this last one has a special resonance to me. I talked to the pre-op nurse about it today and she swears up and down that I will get lots and lots of anti-nausea medication this time. Why the Clinic didn’t hook me up when they did the gall bladder I’ll never know. I kept calling them and pleading for succor and they kept just saying, “Oh, it’s just from the anesthesia!” And I was all, “I know what’s causing it… Will you please make it stop?” But no. They offered me literally thin gruel. … “Just drink some chicken broth when you can keep that down.”
Speaking of nausea, I just attempted to eat way too many jelly beans. Yes, for medicinal purposes! There’s this famous nutritionist from the 1950s and 60s, Adele Davis, who says that the night before surgery you should eat one pound (!!) of jelly beans or gum drops, something full of sugar but low in fat, such that you will store glycogen in your liver and make it through the day of fasting and surgery better. Or something like that. My mom told me about it, and I looked it up on the internet. At least in the quote I found, it also said you’re supposed to have an enema the night before surgery too! Of course Ben thought this was quite funny, and made a point of saying “Oh sure… you want to follow her directions when she says to eat jelly beans, but when she says enema you just disregard her entirely!” But to his credit, he went out and bought me a pound of gourmet jelly beans. Although I’m the only one having surgery tomorrow, we all gorged on them to our heart’s content…. and all four of us still did not get through one pound.
Oh yes, in other news, I had a full day at the Clinic yesterday. It was first the Stress Echocardiogram and then the get-together with my Syncope dude, the big cardiologist who deals with POTS. Part one was pretty okay! It was a stress test combined with an ultrasound of the heart before and after exercising on a treadmill for like 7 minutes. I was all covered with electrodes and wires, and then spread with goo for the ultrasound, but the good news was that I survived pretty much unscathed. My blood pressure did not tank, and I did not get too dizzy to stand up (both of which happened in my previous stress test in September.) Better news than that, my heart itself is totally fine. It’s lovely actually. It was weird how they had the room set up, so that I was lying on my side facing away from the ultrasound man (I think he was Kenyan but I didn’t ask), but they had a mirror there, so I could see my heart beating on the reflection of his screen. I could see all the four chambers and the blue and red blood swishing in and out (they color it blue and red on the screen, which I think means the non-oxygenated and the oxygenated portions). And I actually got sort of misty eyed looking at it. I know this may sound strange, but it looked so beautiful. There it was, this incredibly strong, tireless organ, endlessly pumping, pumping, through thick and thin, night and day, to keep me alive. It was really a sweet and touching sight. Such a determined Little Engine That Could sort of organ. I’m really proud of my heart.
My thoughts about my uterus tonight are less sentimental. This thing has brought my two boys into the world, and for that I am really bottomlessly grateful. But otherwise it’s basically been a huge hassle since I was about 12 years old. It caused a huge amount of heartache and pain with all my miscarriages, and just about slew me with grief when we lost our first baby boy. It continues to be a nuisance to this day. The uterus is really quite a mixed bag for me. Extreme highs and lows of existence, and then just the monthly grind for three or four decades. I feel quite mixed about it. If it’s been trying to assimilate my other organs, and making the whole rest of me feel horrible, I will be really quite annoyed with it indeed.
I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. Stay tuned.