At long last, here I am at the final chapter of the story of my evil uterus Augustine, who was banished to a place far, far away, almost four years ago. If you haven’t read the previous chapters, I recommend starting at the beginning.
Part One: The Back Story
Part Two: Full Revolt
Part Three: Gynecologist Fails
Part Four: The IUD (Insanely Unpleasant Disaster)
Part Five: The Road to Freedom
Part Six: Under the Knife
I didn’t really picture the story of my hysterectomy taking seven freaking installments to tell, but I really do think that my memories all the suffering and the frustration that led me to the point of surgery have fuzzed out quite a bit, like tacky old wallpaper that’s unbearably tacky at first but becomes almost quaint with age. Now, I look back on these events, horrendous as they were at the time, and view them as part of the blueprint of experiences that has made me who I am.
Since my hysterectomy, the crippling pain that impacted every aspect of my life has disappeared: I am so very grateful for the vast improvement this has brought to my life in general. Although the examination and dissection of my uterus once it was removed showed no detectable pathology, my lack of symptoms since it’s been removed confirms my belief that there was something wrong with it.
My best guess as a non-medical person is that there was an issue with the conductivity of the uterine muscle. According to my theory, the diagnostic laparoscopy is involved since it shifted my symptoms from occurring only around my periods to kicking my sorry butt at least 25 days a month. Electrocautery is used to control bleeding during laparoscopic procedures, and I think that the electrical current used during that procedure created a disruption in the way the muscle fibres of my uterus conducted impulses.
This is how I picture it: originally, my uterus’ muscle fibres featured moderately frayed wires that shorted out when aggravated by my cycle. The whole analogy is not unlike the wiring of an old house. Knob and tube lady bit wiring: that’s me! After the laparoscopy, the wiring that had been barely hanging on (but only acting up a quarter of the time) totally failed to do its job at all, causing constant shorts in the walls of my uterus that burnt the house to the ground on an almost daily basis.
I just realized I wrote a fabulous pun by referring to the “tube” wiring next to my uterus. Nice how things like that work out sometimes.
Whatever the reason for me running the gynecological gauntlet, I’m so relieved the pain part is over. People get really strange, though, when they find out I had my uterus removed. My favourite type of conversation generally takes place with a medical-type person who does not know my health history. This type of exchange takes place when I have to go to a walk-in clinic rather than to my own physician, Dr. Lovely Shoes.
MTP: So Kay, when was your last menstrual period?
Kay: Umm, I think it was in 2007.
MTP: Two thousand and seven? Like four years ago?
MTP: Are you sure that’s correct?
Kay: Oh yeah. It was right around the end of October. Went for nigh on three weeks.
Once I explain the whole shebang, the medical-type person picks his or her eyeballs off the counter and we continue with the appointment. Sometimes the MTP gets really worked up about my hysterectomy, and I can see the wheels turning in that person’s head. I’ve even had doctors who don’t know me ask “who my surgeon was, anyway,” in an indignant tone, suggesting that perhaps some medical law has been broken, and implying that I am the victim of surgical over-enthusiasm. In the minds of these physicians, I was struck down in my prime child-bearing years by a surgeon who needed to slash at something with a scalpel. Sometimes I almost feel like I need a prologue before seeing a doctor who doesn’t know me. Rather like Romeo and Juliet, I feel like a chorus-delivered Elizabethan sonnet to outline the particulars of my situation might help bring the doctor up to speed. It would also sound damn classy. I’ll write that for you sometime. You know I will.
Other people react just as oddly as the medical-type people. Often, the person who has discovered I have sent my uterus packing reacts with horror. It’s not like I advertise my non-fertile status to random strangers. I decided against having “Ask Me About My Hysterectomy” t-shirts printed due to reasons of social awkwardness and the fact that those shirt stores typically carry shoddily constructed garments. The issue often comes up when people ask me how many children I want to have, or when I’m going to make my parents some grandbabies. I don’t believe there should be stigma attached to infertility, although there all too often is, so I generally just state that my uterus was no good so I had it removed.
A funny thing happens when people find out I can’t have children the old fashioned way. Many of the very conservative traditionalists, the ones who believe a woman’s primary purpose is to breed and raise children, respond with shock and disbelief. Those people are also the most likely to tell me that it’s God’s will I not have children, obviously. They often pat my hand and tell me I might find a man who will love me anyway.
The other camp of people who get strange are the women my own age who are already moms. These women, bless them, attempt to reassure me that I’m not missing much by missing pregnancy. I’ve heard more stories about stretch marks and hoo-haw stitches than I can count. More people have described their struggles with hemorrhoids to me than to a proctologist in a busy city practice. I’m not sure what brings it about, but the moms my age very often try to tell me all the gross, painful, and embarrassing parts of pregnancy and childbirth. For some reason, they often attempt to convince me I’m lucky to be sans uterus.
Here’s the thing. I’m lucky to have found a solution to my pain. I am not lucky that the cure for my illness took my ability to have babies to the lab with Augustine, my uterus. I feel for the women I know who are struggling to conceive or are undergoing unpleasant and crushingly expensive procedures with no guarantee of success. I have it easier in a way because I know that there is no chance of me getting pregnant, but I feel a sense of understanding for the women who wait for good news month after month. These women often feel left out while their friends joyously welcome baby after baby. When a little old lady asks them why they don’t have babies and pat their hands sorrowfully, those women smile and nod and wish they were somewhere else.
I don’t know why infertility is such a hush-hush subject in a world where women gyrate mostly naked in music videos and I see an advertisement for Viagra with maniacally grinning (and singing and dancing) middle-aged people every time I watch television. It seems that the inability to create more people in the traditional way is so humiliating and shameful that we don’t talk about it above a whisper. What a shame.
I wrote the saga of my hysterectomy as candidly as I could as my positive contribution to the current attitudes our society holds toward infertility and women’s health. As much as I crack jokes and write sarcastically, and as much as I’ve come to terms with giving up my uterus, this is an issue that has saturated my life for years. I invested my time in completing this saga because I have found a lack of positive female voices regarding these experiences.
I am sick of very significant physical and mental health concerns for women related to their reproductive systems being ignored and desperately underfunded. Try as I might, I cannot fathom why a society that has advanced on so many fronts lags so painfully in its ability to act with compassion toward women’s health issues, and perpetually fails to adequately fund research into solutions.
To all the many, many women who face reproductive health issues, I send you love.
copyright 2011: http://bluespeckledpup.com
8 Comments Add yours
Great post. Very well-written. I hope that it will bring some comfort to those who are facing issues similar to yours. I am glad that your pain is gone!
Thank you! I am so grateful for mostly decent health. I really do hope women looking for information about these issues find my little blog. I wish there had been young women willing to discuss it candidly with me during my struggles, and I hope my discussion of things could help someone else.
Ah! The final installment! A friend of mine has been waiting to read the present-day update, so I’ve just sent her the link. I am so happy that you are free of the pain.
On behalf of my dysfunctional uterus, thanks for sharing your story.
When you asked “Try as I might, I cannot fathom why a society that has advanced on so many fronts lags so painfully in its ability to act with compassion toward women’s health issues…” I thought… Hey! She’s already sort of answered her own question! Maybe I should share my theory…
I think we can safely extend the following statement to talking about MOST of all that relates to female reproductive organs (with the exception of MTV gyrations of course): “…so humiliating and shameful that we don’t talk about it above a whisper.” We have so many euphemisms for periods: aunt flo, moon cycle, the monthly curse, etc etc. Same with our ladyparts, our hoohas, our fannies. And really, it’s usually considered safest if we don’t talk about it at all. Combine that with a general societal avoidance of discussing medical issues in polite company, and you have a perfect storm of pretending.
This was never more clear to me than when I got called into my superior’s office in a corporate setting and chastised for disclosing that I had a period (as if other child-bearing women weren’t ever having it!) But the truth is, those women never mentioned it, and I couldn’t get away with explaining away my bone-crushing-pain-face gesture with ‘oh it’s that time, sorry.’ In the office, I was not a woman, I was not a body with feelings, I was a digital drone programmed to deliver. Anything else was unprofessional.
I’m all for discretion, believe me. And I’d rather not have the kind of physical ailments that require me to explain away an absence, a tortured look, or the myriad of pills that shake noisily in my purse when I enter a room. But the truth is the culture of silence is probably why the problem is under-discussed, under-funded, under-diagnosed. We know this too: the average time from onset to diagnosis for endometriosis is 10 years. In other words, from the first complaint, until the final explanation it takes a decade. If you are thirty that means you may very well toiled away a third of your life wondering what was wrong with you, why you weren’t able to cope like all the other girl’s did. Because if there was ‘nothing wrong with you’ for all the time that there was, that is the only logical conclusion you would reach.
The reality is doctors don’t even know what ‘normal’ is for a woman. There aren’t really established quantities, durations, levels of pain. No real standard to measure what’s outside the realm of the expected. They don’t really stand up and take notice until you can provide some spectacular evidence, complain loudly enough, or they finally see something in the flesh. This speaks volumes to how much we care, or don’t care, to discuss or give attention to something we’d rather pretend away.
As much as it pains me to say this, I think the cure is to just keep talking. Keep talking until it’s no longer a secret, no longer invisible, no longer a curse. If all the women stopped pretending at the same time, it would be a whole lot harder to ignore don’t you think? 😉
Maybe we should coin a phrase for a newly-recognized form of discrimination: “gynecism.” People who don’t accept women’s “female” suffering as very real and frequently very debilitating make me crazy, and the frightening thing is that many of those dismissive individuals are in the medical professions. You are very right about ten years from first issues to treatment, which means for a woman with a regular cycle, 120 periods from hell. If we assume those periods from hell are short five day periods, although no one I know with nasty periods goes for less than eight or nine days, we are talking at best about 600 days of agony. On what planet is this okay?
Maybe we should start a movement. Occupy the feminine hygiene aisles of the world? Don’t even get me started about the price of those things!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!
I concur with all points.I am 28 yrs old. When I’m out and about with friends who already have babies, or ones that are expecting and people look at me and ask “How many do you have?” and I tell them “None.”, you would think I just grew another head by the way they look at me. It can be very iritating to have people judge me for NOT using my functioning uterus. Like how dare I have the option and not use it. I am an Aunt. I LOVE being an Aunt. I am also a Fur Momma. Maybe somewhere, far far down the road, I will find a wonderful partner and have babies, but I am in no rush.
I was raised with two brothers and learned not to be shy about certain body functions long ago. If I’m experiencing a particularly wicked cramp and someone inquires as to what is wrong, I’ll tell them. I agree that we have come waaayyyy to far from the hush-hush housewives of the 50’s to not be able to openly disscuss our cyles and what-not.
You never know Kay, maybe your blog here might be the start of a much needed change! 🙂
I am happy to be an instrument of change, if someone wants me to join the band!
I am thoroughly disgusted with the societal idea that women need to have babies (and birth them personally) to be fulfilled as human beings. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the uterine zoning judgement committee. If we’ve come this far since the 50’s, as you point out, hopefully another few decades will bring about true change.
I too have been struggling with my period for 20 years. I will be 30 in two weeks and have been searching for a doctor to do a hysterectomy for 4 years. I am scheduled for my surgery in Feb 2012. I was lucky enough to have a child before I decided to put my foot down and stop being a victim to my own body. My daughter is 5 years old. But I suffered losses before I ever had her. So no matter how you look at it, none of the options that you are given are the easiest ones or the best ones. You just have to do what is right for you. People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I’m not having any more children. Oh well, that’s my and my husband’s decision. I wish I had found your blog earlier. My current OBGYN can’t find a valid medical reason for my pain either. Thank you so much for putting your story out there!