Monday, January 23, 2012

My Uterus is Not a Clown Car

It's not a clown car, but there's enough room for all of us.

To say I'm a little bit emotional is a major understatement. To be perfectly honest, I'm a wreck. This afternoon, when I go to the doctor they will be testing me for Uterine Cancer. I'm terrified.

When I was five years old and played with my Barbie’s I envisioned a future for myself that involved a husband and babies; lots and lots of babies. I've always only wanted to be a wife and a mother. I had my future imagined and planned, when MarineBrother would be walking across the stage for his high school graduation I'd be 7 or 8 months pregnant and cheering for him in the stands-as big as a house. However, at the age of 23 after excruciatingly painful menstruation cycles that included, on a regular basis, in less than 45 minutes time bleeding through a Super-Duper sized tampon, an ultimate incontinence pad for nighttime protection, and at night a towel with a plastic backing to protect the bed sheets. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like the horror of passing a blood clot the size of a man's fist! Then, I questioned, "Oh my God, was I pregnant? Did I just have a miscarriage?" The Dr. said I had not been pregnant. However, I was diagnosed with Poly-Binomal Cysts on my right ovary.

Being twenty-three and facing the possibility of having Ovarian Cancer was daunting, I could lose my ovary but I didn't understand the severity of the situation until the nurses were wheeling me into surgery. My Dad wouldn't let go of my hand and he was crying. Nothing can make me breakdown quicker than seeing my Dad cry.

When I was awoken from surgery there was reason to celebrate. The cyst was not cancerous and my ovary was saved. The cyst wasn't even attached to my ovary. It was twisted from and around my fallopian tube; all were saved.

At a family dinner in the fall of 2008 my brother and his wife announced that they are pregnant with their first child. I was ecstatic for them! I couldn't wait to have a niece or nephew. After dinner his wife took me aside. She said she had always hoped that her and I would have and could have been pregnant together the first time around. Then she suggested that perhaps the next time. She is sincere and kind and I know she has nothing but the best intentions. I'm positive I made a rude response or a silly face and walked away. I was crying. The only thing I ever wanted to be in life was an impossibility. Sometimes, I think about that conversation and it hurts so badly in my chest.

The hurt I felt that day with my brother's wife reminds me of a professor I had at the University of Memphis. She asked me one day during a class break, "What do you want to do with your life?" I answered her honestly, "I'd like to be a stay-at-home mom who homeschools." Unguarded, this woman who has a Doctorate in English Literature responded, "That's the biggest waste of a life, Muffy! Why don't you quit school now and go do that?" I turned red in the face and tears began to burn behind my eyes. Who was she to tell me my dreams and aspirations are a worthless?

Fast forward to October of 2010, I went to the doctor because I had not had a cycle since July. He gave me a prescription for pills to jump-start my period. I question him if my cysts were back. He poo-poo'd my questions and sent me away. I became as regular as I had even been. I just assumed my body was made to be in pain and bleed heavily for prolonged amounts of time, until this past May 2011.

For Memorial Day weekend most of the ladies of my book club spent a long weekend in New Orleans. Even with the food poisoning, from the restaurant Oceania- please don't go there, that resulted in hospitalization for dehydration upon my return to Memphis the trip was stellar! Upon being admitted into the hospital doctors being doctors ordered a myriad of tests, including a CT scan. The immediate diagnosis was Intestinal Cancer. Whew! Was I relieved that after further review and three extremely boring days in the hospital I was again diagnosed with cysts on my ovary.

Armed with a new OBGYN we went after the cysts with a vengeance. This time the cysts were actually on both ovaries. I was shocked, the surgery 10 years ago was supposed to eliminate this problem. I had my fears and worry but I was confident that the results were going to be the same. With this surgery I knew exactly what to expect. I was determined that it was not going to take me six weeks to heal like it did when I was 23.

Less than two months after the diagnosis, on July 25, I went under the knife. As the nurses and doctor were wheeling me in to Operating Room 2, true to me, I was giving them instructions, "You do not have permission to remove my ovaries or my uterus. Leave them where they are! When you put the tubes down my throat don't jam them in there. That shit hurts! Oh, and I don't care if you listen to Country music while you are operating." Sleep came as a relief.

When I was brought back around to the conscious state I had a coughing fit like I was fighting for air. Then I felt the pain just inside my hip bones- the pain was reminiscent of the night prior to my bellybutton piercing.  At the age of 18 it made sense to prepare for a belly-button ring by doing over 200 sit-ups. When I awoke from my surgery I was holding my stomach only to realize that I hurt so badly inside my hip bones because those were incisions.

The nurse stopped my coughing and I immediately began questioning, "Was it Cancer? Do I still have ovaries? When can I go pee? I'm ready to go home."

You see, they won't let you go home until you go pee. It has something to do with making sure they reconnect your bladder correctly. I was given permission to go to the bathroom. This go-round I anticipated that when I stood up blood would gush from my insides down my legs because of the D&C that was performed. This was something I did not know or expect ten years ago, especially as my Dad is walking me to the bathroom and all I can manage to mutter is, "I can't stop the blood!" This time I knew.

The nurse gave me an all clear, "It's not cancer and you have your ovaries."

I felt relief. All I have to do is heal.

Two days after surgery I walked a mile. The next day I went running.  After all I was training for my first 5k.

This past October I began to feel sluggish. I was always tired. I chalked it up to a lack of sleep from spending late nights and most of my free-time in the darkroom for photography. That didn't explain why my cycle was extremely heavy and lasting two plus weeks.  But, it did explain the fatigue. The OBGYN changed my prescription for birth control again and said to give it 3 months. It takes that long to make a difference.

On January 6 of this year I had my 3 month exam. The prolonged periods lasting two or more weeks were persistent. I was bleeding more than half of my life.

I was dressed in a paper gown when the doctor walked in to my exam room; at least they had a sweet mobile hanging from the ceiling.  Little drink umbrellas are lazily dancing in the office air conditioning. Believe me, I was imagining a tropical vacation with fruity drinks rather than anticipating cold stirrups and the famous words, "Scoot your rear all the way to the end of the table."

Instead of going directly into the exam the doctor sat down.  He thumbed through my charts and made a clicking noise with his tongue against his teeth, "Well, I suggest we cauterize your uterus or give you a hysterectomy."

Instantly I began fighting back tears. My lips were quivering and all I wanted to do was calm the eff down, not show weakness, and don't cry.

He kept talking, "Still give you an exam...You may have polyps...More tests."

All I could manage to say was, "Cauterization or hysterectomy is not an option. I don't even have kids."

He said, "With all of your problems you should realize you may not be able to have children."

I had the exam and then waited, stunned, for two hours so I could have a sonogram. The sonogram shows I have polyps in my uterus.

This leads to today. In a few minutes I am going to have a sonohystogram to test for Coochie Cancer.

I know I have dropped a lot on you. I'm sorry. I'm going to sit here trying to be calm. For the next few minutes, until they call my name, I'll revel that at least for the next few minutes I don't have cancer and I can have children. Right now, my dreams are still alive.