I decided to write about having a total abdominal hysterectomy at the age of 25 to offer support and understanding to other young women who have pelvic health and fertility issues. I suggest you read part one first so you have a bit of background to work from.
I do not intend this post for the menfolk. Unless you want to read about inner workings and uterine contractions, please turn back now, male readers. Consider yourselves warned.
While I’m on the subject of uteruses, please know that I will never, ever refer to mine as a “womb.” I promise you that. A womb sounds to me like a heavy duty construction tool. “On sale this week only at the Home Depot, the new Makita commercial grade womb with reciprocating whosit and interchangable tackitatackitas. See your flyer for a valuable coupon.” Nope, sorry. Wombs also seem to specifically belong to women who believe their one and only duty in life is to produce children, wed-to-the-king-so-bear-an-heir-or-lose-your-head style. Gack.
After my diagnostic laparoscopy, things went from bad to wretched. My pain became a daily thing, and it was only somewhat related to my periods. Basically, I had moderate cramping about 22 days out of each month, and the balance was marked by cramps that tried to turn me inside out. The worst days, more than a week each month, became as intense as I imagine some labour pains are: I had to concentrate on breathing through each cramp and I couldn’t speak through the ugliest ones. The only good news is that I got out of one of those random federal telephone surveys once when my uterus started clog dancing away and the surveyor assumed I was one of those heavy breathing creepers.
On top of all that, my uterus decided to send forth the red flag whenever I became extra stressed or if I exercised, regardless of the time of the month. Excellent all around. I remember one terrible day when my bus to the university campus was off schedule and I had to sprint to my class with a very strict professor who did not tolerate lates. I huffed into the classroom a few minutes after I was supposed to be there, and was first up to give my major presentation for the term. I spoke about Thomas King and the Canadian perspective on the aborginal hero while my uterus went into full revolt. It’s really tough to do well on your biggest presentation of the year while your girly parts try to go supernova and your favorite pants are being rapidly compromised.
I vividly remember trying to get to the restroom in the Las Vegas airport, desperate to avert a menstrual crisis that would require me to throw away my cargo pants but unable to walk faster than a lurching crawl because of the pain. I don’t think there was a person in the terminal more grateful than me to reach the moving sidewalks that could carry me to my destination with little effort on my part.
I nicknamed my uterus “Augustine” at this point because she reminded me of some beefy middle-ages empress who ordered executions left and right, and generally spent her life stomping around her castle while the servants and peasant folk dreaded another of her unpredictable rages. Having a nickname for the source of my trouble also allowed me to talk cryptically about things in public or on the phone, so instead of saying, “Ugh, mom, my cramps are unbelievable. I think I’m going to fold up and die,” I could say, “Augustine is on another rampage. The villagers are terrified.”
During this time, I tried several different prescription non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs. Each one worked reasonably for a couple of months, but I soon built a tolerance to it and no longer gained enough relief to function on a safe dosage of the medication. It was also an punishing cycle because I was in too much pain to focus in university or to tolerate standing for hours at a time for my job as a grocery store cashier, so I had to take the painkillers just to get through the day.
Whenever I decided I needed to give my body a break from daily doses of prescription anti-inflammatories, the rebound pain was utterly crippling, to the point that it nauseated me. As the lighter drugs stopped working, I had to move into ugly territory so I could continue to study and work. I finally ended up taking torodol tablets, which are often prescribed for pain management after surgery. They helped a bit but certainly didn’t make my life pain-free.
My biggest concern during this time was the effects of the medications on my other internal organs: you know, the ones absolutely necessary to my continued walking, talking, breathing and eating chocolate. Because NSAID drugs are processed by the liver and kidneys, and the ones I was taking daily were supposed to be taken for short periods (no more than ten days at most, generally) I grew increasingly concerned that I could cause irreparable damage to my vital pieces in my attempts to manage my uterus. The other serious worry was the significant potential for the pain medications to cause problems in my stomach and intestinal tract. I was in my early twenties at this point and menopause was a distant, fabled dream.
I was a mess. To make matters worse, trying to get help for my situation was time-consuming, convoluted, and frustrating. I’ll discuss the ways the medical profession failed me in the next part of this series.
Thanks for reading about my (former) insides!
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