I was going to do another generic post, with all of the unexciting events which have occurred over the last couple of weeks. But given that even I'm bored with my life at the moment, why would I subject you guys to it as well? I have been tossing around the idea of doing this post for a few days, wasn't sure how it would go, but given the title, if you've elected to read on, then welcome and on your head be it. I promise I won't get too graphic.
I alluded to some medical problems at CBG the other day, and the PMS bat is frequently hauled out in the various Ladies Lounges to bludgeon the poor male Burgers into submission. Now, I don't actually get PMS. But before you ladies start howling in outrage allow me to explain.
A few years ago, (4th of January 2005 to be exact), I woke up in excruciating pain. And SICK! Major gastric attack but with pain that I swear was worse than labour! I phoned my Doctor's surgery, and somehow managed to drive myself over there, where the Doctor took one look at me and called an ambulance. She sent along with me a request for various tests including ultrasound, mainly to check that there were no issues with my appendix (it was removed when I was 13, but apparently the "stump" can get inflamed and cause major problems down the track). Anyway, long story short, much pain relief (morphine FFS), and absolutely no answers later, they sent me home. Okay maybe it was just a particularly nasty virus, take the week off work, see how you go. If pain persists see your Doctor.
And boy did that pain persist! Couple of nights later, Mum had to drag me back to Emergency, where the young Doctor established that I had PERIOD PAIN! For which he prescribed MORPHINE FFS. Now I've never had an easy time of it around that time of the month, and had, since I was about 17, suffered from ovarian cysts. Enough that I was eventually diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, one side effect of which is enormous difficulty achieving pregnancy, well we all know how difficult THAT turned out to be! Later tests discounted that diagnosis, but anyway, the point is having suffered from these sorts of "Women's Issues" for well over 20 years, I wasn't quite convinced that period pain at this time was a particularly accurate diagnosis. And who the hell takes Morphine for period pain anyway?
So, he gave me a referral to the Gynae clinic, and of course being a struggling single Mum, I had no health insurance, so had to wait months to see anyone there. In the meantime my pain persisted, so my Doctor sent me for more tests. I had blood tests on a weekly basis which indicated that I had inflammation somewhere, just no idea where. I had a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, glucose tolerance test, several ultrasounds (including my first internal ultrasound.. fun that...NOT), Pap Smear, even a mammogram (which OF COURSE showed up a suspicious lump which I then had to have biopsied). But the net result of all of these tests was nothing. Zip! Zilch! Nada! Nothing for it but to do the best I could getting through the day. Worked when I could, developed a permanent stoop, because by this time the pain was so constant I couldn't stand straight to save my life. We know there's a problem, we just don't know what it is. There were some indications that the problem was gynaecological in nature, by this time I was bleeding very heavily each month, at times flooding. So nothing for it but to wait for the Gynae appointment at the local hospital.
What luck! I got the head of the department YAY! NOT! She examined the ultrasounds, read the test results and reports, and established that there was definitely a problem. So far so good! She decided that the best way to find out more was to get in a have a look around. Okay, nothing else was working, that's fine. Between her and my GP, it was decided that seeing I was on the table anyway, we may as well do a D & C and insert an IUD at the same time. The IUD, in an effort to at least slow, maybe even stop the heavy bleeding. Okay, another couple of months on the waiting list I can live with that.
Game day arrives, just a day surgery, no big deal, off I go. Wake up after the surgery, Doc comes in to have a chat. Well we found some adhesions from previous surgery, but given that they've been there at least 10 years, they can't possibly be causing you any pain, so we left them alone. Now this SORT of make sense. Cutting the adhesions leads to the obvious risk of more adhesions, but given that they found no other problems maybe they should have rethought that decision? Particularly when my GP received a more thorough report which indicated that the scar tissue was affecting my bowel, and hiding parts of my bowel and other organs, so that they couldn't really see what was going on. Never mind, maybe the IUD will help.
It did and it didn't. No more flooding, just constant bleeding, I mean EVERY day. Along with the usual period pain, just still magnified 10x what I had experienced before this saga started. My GP was not happy, and even though he knew that money was scarce, convinced me to see a private Gynaecologist. His referral made clear that my financial situation was precarious (particularly given that I was still having a large amount of time of work, and had long since run out of sick leave - although I had an amazing manager at the time, she just kept paying me, and I would make up the time, an hour here, an hour there whenever I had a less awful day), so the Gynae cut me a break on the fees. I chose the Doctor who had delivered The Brat, some of you who reside in QLD would probably recognise his name, as in the intervening years he had developed quite a high profile, and lucrative practice.
Well, he too examined the tests and pictures duly presented for his inspection. Start with ANOTHER Pap Smear. First diagnosis, I'm diabetic. 2nd diagnosis I desparately need to replenish my iron stores. Okay that one I'll go along with, but let me tell you, triple the usual dose of iron tablets causes ALL sorts of additional problems, including the necessity to take more drugs to counteract the effects of the iron. The diabetes diagnosis not so much. At best pre-diabetes, but even that's a stretch, and given that a repeat test the following year was normal, perhaps my GP was correct is suggesting that the Gynae was panicking just a little. Next suggestion - a hysterectomy. Why? The hospital Gynaecologist said my uterus and ovaries were perfectly healthy (what she could see of them anyway). Explain to me how removing perfectly healthy organs will improve my situation. No idea! Best guess, cutting nerves during the procedure will eliminate the pain. Not good enough. I was not yet 40 when all of this was going on, and even though I knew it was highly unlikely I would ever have another child, I didn't want the option taken away completely, especially given that there were no guarantees it would even help.
By now it's August. I have been in constant pain (some days worse than others), for EIGHT months. I have been bleeding steadliy for the last 3 of those months, and no answers still. Desperate times call for desperate measures. GP calls Gastroenterologist (they went to medical school together, along with my cousin, who was also kept apprised of events as they occurred). Given that the keyhole surgery earlier in the year suggested there may be some bowel issues, (it is stuck in places to other organs), lets do another colonoscopy. YAY!
2nd Colonoscopy just as clear as the 1st. But let's try something else. My Gastroenterologist wrote a letter to the hospital where I had continued to front up to emergency (several times by ambulance), and Gynae appointments. He STRONGLY suggested that they take another look inside, only this time have a General Surgeon participate alongside the Gynae, open me up this time, no more keyhole, and have a PROPER bloody look. Ahh the public hospital system! Not gonna happen, but yeah okay we'll have another look. While we're there we might just replace the IUD, because maybe this one's not working as well as it should.
Oh d'ya think? Of course by the time all of this toing and froing was done, it's now DECEMBER. This has gone on for ELEVEN months, and this is elective surgery, so it will have to wait until after Christmas, early February in fact, when the hospital came out of Christmas hibernation.
My body had other ideas. In mid-December, I collapsed outside the door to my Doctor's surgery. They're situated in my local shopping centre and I was on my way to buy groceries. Once again, into an ambulance, this time with a strongly worded suggestion that they FKN DO SOMETHING! My Gynae (the hospital one) attended me in emergency, and agreed to admit me. I went to a medical ward, but as they were closing beds for Christmas, soon got shunted to maternity. Then my Gynaecologist came to inform me that another Doctor would be taking over my case, as her husband had been involved in a car accident. This Doctor had agreed to do the surgery the next morning provided no emergencies occurred to bump me off the list. Fair enough. Off to a surgical ward, where I was treated pretty much as an imposition by most of the nursing staff.
Next morning with no definite word on whether or not I was going to surgery, I suggested that maybe I should prep for it just in case. Just as well, as I was still showering when they came to get me. Back under the anaesthetic, and the knife. Awoke to have the new Doc tell me that no, they hadn't opened me up, still keyhole, but this time they decided to remove the adhesions. He told me very confidently that this would make NO difference to whatever ailed me, as they were so old, they could not POSSIBLY be afecting me. Oh, and he had had a general Surgeon pop along for a quick look, and they could find no problems with my bowel or other organs. Well at least now they could see them I suppose.
Well, I wasn't thrilled, but at least this time they had done something. For the 1st time in my life though I had some minor drama coming out of the anaesthetic, and it was 24 hours before I could get out of bed. After I went for a walk (yes, to the smoking area), one of the nurses who had given me a pretty hard time when I was admiited, came to see me. She apologised for the treatment I had received at the hands of the nursing staff! Appears they had taken their lead from the Doctors, who had indicated I was a hypochondriac, wasting everybody's time. She told me that until they had seen me up and around after the surgery, the nurses hadn't appreciated just how crook I was. My posture had improved, my colour was almost normal (not grey), and the only pain I was experiencing was normal post-surgical tenderness. A Win! Why TF they hadn't done this 6 months earlier though was (and still is) a source of anger.
Anywho, that was 5 years ago. For about the next 3 years, I still experienced bleeding every day of my life. Very light bleeding, more a nuisance than anything else, but heavier at times approximating an actual cycle. Stll pain most days, but nothing like that horrendous year, manageable with OTC drugs, then eventually I would go days, then even weeks without any bleeding. I remember one of my sisters complaining once that she was on about the 12th day of her period. She shut up fast when I reminded her that I was on approximately the 545th day of mine.
Then 2 years ago, things got gradually worse, still not to the extent of 2005, but getting close on some days. I chose another private Gynaecologist, and went to see him, armed once again with all of the information from that year, as well as more recent tests, including blood tests, which again showed a spike indicating that the inflammation, which had remained present at low levels, was getting worse. This time the diagnosis was a lot easier. Apart from the likelihood of new adhesions, I had a large ovarian cyst. This is a puzzle, because these things are formed during ovulation, and the IUD is supposed to stop me ovulating. Anyway, arrangements were made to remove this as it had apparently persisted long after most of the buggers burst, but a pre-surgery ultrasound, indicated that while there was still a little rubbish there, the cyst had finally burst. Yay!
Still, since then, slowly things are returning to the way they were in 2005. The pain is increasing, but still manageable with Panadol and Nurofen, most days maximum dosages of both. No need at this stage to look at more potent meds, particularly as I don't like them, and have anyway developed an allergy to the Morphine derived drug they sent me home with at one stage. This could indicate an allergy to Morphine, and anyway, I don't believe in taking heavy drugs for what is essentially a part of any woman's life. I put up with it in the main, though I am aware that I'm again developing ovarian cysts (the pain changes), and at those times it is very tempting to just curl up in bed for a couple of days.
I rarely complain any more about the pain. There's no point, it's there and I have to live with it, at least until it gets completely crippling. I have warned my GP that things are slowly getting worse, so we will hopefully both be prepared for it when or if I get back to rock bottom. Sadly the next treatment is 99% likely to be a hysterectomy. Of course that's still surgery, and the potential for more adhesions remains.
It does affect me, my attitudes, my mobility, my moods, and the way I take care of myself. I make an effort to not let the pain rule my life, but some days it just does. I am tired all of the time, but still try to just get on with it. But yeah, I just don't always do the right thing by my body, because I don't have the energy, mental or physical. Ironically, I would almost assuredly feel better in myself, and improve my overall health, as well as these particular issues, if I made more effort to look after my diet and get some exercise. So this sis my commitment to myself, not to anyone else, just to me... I'm going to start looking after myself physically. I've already started working on my attitude, I am trying to avoid a repeat of that year, and if I don't then I won't have as much to beat myself up about!
- Single Mum of teenage chef, affectionately known as The Brat. Have started a new life at the tender age of 44, embarking on a relationship with my childhood sweetheart... I know cliche central, but so far it works for us! New job, new friends, new challenges. Life's GOOD!