Saturday, February 10, 2007

A wistful anniversary

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day that we said good-bye.
I knew it was for the best.
It was a hard thing to do, to say good-bye that day.
While our relationship was the most poignant and significant of my life, the pain you were causing me was intolerable.
Being together affected me in so many ways.
Mentally I wondered if I was going crazy.
Physically I was miserably.
Socially, I was curtailing my activities to accommodate you.
Still, I didn't want our relationship to end.
Four years ago I thought the worst of it was over.
I went to see Dr. Mary, my GYN. She asked how I was doing.
I told her things were going a little better than the last time I had seen her.
A little bit less pain.
A tiny bit less bleeding.
After that Dr. Mary "looked under the hood."
(You ladies reading know what I'm talking about here.)
Then she rolled back on her stool, and gave me a funny look.

"Well," she said "You've got a mass the size of a cantaloupe in there."

(My first thought was "Exactly how big do you mean by "a cantaloupe"?)

"I don't think it is cancer," she said. "But you'll need to go get it checked in a cat scan. Then we'll decide what to do."

Now I had been to see Dr. Mary a year earlier.
At that time I was using "Extra-super plus" everything products inside and out.

(Again, you ladies know what I am talking about here.)
Even with that, I was heading to the WC every hour to re-do the collection.

I had done some research (now there's a surprise!) before seeing her the previous year.

I told her I thought I had:

Endometriosis, andenomyosis

She ordered some tests, and said she didn't think I had these issues.

So I just shut up and suffered.
I was up every hour of the night dealing with this.
Work was almost impossible.

The pain level was so high I was hoarding vicodine pills from root canals just to use for my monthly cycle.
They barely touched the pain.
And I started getting depressed.

Suicidally depressed.
I would walk (exercise is supposed to be good for depression.)
I took St. John's Wort.
I prayed, and reasoned with myself.
My life was good.
Great even.
My husband loved me.
My kids were great.
My parents wonderful.
I had an easy well paying job, a gorgeous house, nice clothes, a few good friends, and no major financial stresses.

Each day I would be in tears, curled up in a ball, unable to function.
I wanted to kill myself.
At one moment of clarity I told my husband to hide all the ammunition that he owned for his hunting guns.
At another moment I realized I needed to see a psychiatrist.

It is really hard to get an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Even when you report that you are suicidal.

The psych I finally got to see was a trip.
She put me on the anti depressant Wellbutrin, and to get a refill, I was required to drive an hour to see her each month, during which appointment time she asked three questions:

Is the Wellbutrin helping?
Do you want a stronger dose?
Do you want to change medications?

She did not want to talk.
To see her to answer those three questions required me to pay her $60.
If I talked, I had to pay an additional $30.

Wellbutrin succeeded in making me zombie numb.
I was so blank, making a cup of tea was a struggle.
Suicide was off the table.
I never could have figured out how to do it.

The day before I saw Dr. Mary I had interviewed for a job.

If I was to get the job, I would need to go to Washington DC in a couple of weeks.
If I got the job, I would receive a week of training on how to research a governmental agency's filings from all companies listed on any stock exchange.

A subject I knew absolutely nothing about.
But it would be a pretty cool job, flying around to different cities and states to train attorneys on how to do research.
Scary, but cool. Good pay too.

So imagine how I was feeling as the cat scan showed that my ovary had bonded with my colon, and my uterus was a disaster, and there was what was known as chocolate cyst (an ovarian cyst filled with blood) filling up the rest of my abdominal space.

Additional testing showed that I had started to enter into menopause, which was why I was doing "a tiny bit better" than the previous visit in terms of tapering bleeding.

And that the amount of hormones that were being dumped (or not dumped) into my system because of this reproductive system train wreck was very likely the reason for my deep depression

Ya think??????

(The discovery of the chocolate cyst answered the nagging question as to why my abdomen looked like I was four months pregnant, while my clothes fit everywhere else. And didn't Bernie feel sorry that he had been nagging me to do sit ups and to suck my tummy in?)

I saw Dr. Mary on a Thursday, and almost walked out of the appointment, as I had had to wait an hour and a half to see her, waiting in a room full pregnant women and new mommies with screaming newborns.

I came that close to leaving.

I still shudder to think what would of happen if I did.

Anyway I got the cat scan done on Friday, and rolled into surgery the following Monday, Feb. 10, 2003.
Bernie and Nurse Laura RN were with me.

While we waited for the surgery to begin I worked on the hat I had started to create earlier in the month.

The hat I planned to wear for Valentine's Day.

A saucy little number, just perfect to wear to a romantic dinner out with my darlin' husband on Valentine's Day.

I was stitching the wire to the interior buckram while the medical paperwork was being filed.

(Laura saw the slightly curved heart shape that was to be the crown. "Are you making a St. Valentine's Day yarmulke? she asked.)

Surgery lasted over five hours.
There was a lot of work to be done in there, and two different surgeons did their thing.

After it was all over my uterus, ovaries (even the healthy one on my right side), cervix, and appendix were gone.

Having had two C-sections I knew the drill on recovering from abdominal surgery.
This one was a whole lot worse.
But I got through it.
Having my daughter there as my nurse was extraordinary.
I will NEVER have surgery without her there to care for me.

Instead of going out for dinner on Valentine's Day, I was being wheeled out of the hospital, clutching flowers and heart shaped balloons.

During the six weeks it took to recover, I got off Wellbutrin and got my sanity back.

I also slowly worked on my hat.

My Hysterectomy Hat

If you look closely, you will see the fallopian tube, with the egg follicles tumbling out.
A net of endometriosis encasing the uterus, and flaring out to tie up the surrounding area in a bow.
The velvety blood red undulates, ruched and tucked and surrounded by more pearly ovum.

In a way, it still is a Valentine's Day hat too.

It's a valentine to the uterus that held my precious children, and enabled me to become a mother.

A uterus that's gone, but not forgotten.

Additional Notes: Six weeks after surgery I did fly to Washington for training, holding my tender abdomen, and using a post-surgery brain so affected by five hours of anesthesia that I had almost zero short term memory. My ability to act like I understood what I was learning should have won me an award. It took a full year to really recover from my surgery.

The post surgery pathology report showed that I did indeed have endometriosis and andeomyosis. It was nice to hear Dr. Mary tell me "You were right!"
Anyone facing hysterectomy or menopausal hormonal issues should considered tapping into the awesome resource known as
Hystersisters. They sent me an anniversary email today, urging me to post how I am doing four years later. Seriously, I don't think I would have survived the hysterectomy experience without Hystersisters and Laura.
You are welcomed to go to Hystersisters should you need help with your female issue needs, but, sorry to say, Laura is not available unless you are having chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant work done at her particular hospital.

Millinery notes:
The hat is made using buckram, velvet, veiling, satin, and pearl beads.
The shape was created using a large heart shaped cookie cutter outline traced for a pattern.
After cutting out the buckram, it was lightly steamed to add a gentle curve.
The side pieced were french bias over wire attached. If I was to do it over again, I would curve the bottom of the side band to match the curve of my forehead. The white floral piece is modern, and acquired at a local craft store within its bridal floral trim collection.
The netting has dots. The lining is red satin, and the hat is held on to the head using a round elastic jenny. It is possible to pin the hat on using a hat pin as an alternative.
I have worn this hat on subsequent Valentine's Days, and feel perfectly comfortable wearing it with black slacks, a Valentine's Day tee shirt and a black or red jacket.
I think it would be a gorgeous design in white for a wedding too.

(And no, Laura, even though you look adorable in it, I am not hinting that you wear it in white when you get married.)


Lovella ♥ said...

Ok I'm teary even with the bad little boxes with the X's in them. I'm sure you'll sort that little problem out so we can see what it was you were trying to show us. Right now, my imagaination is running wild. Well, Jill I had endometriosis as well and my surgery was years ago, actually I was quite young. I had a depression after the fact due to the hormonal issue as well.
I can't imagine what you went through but I appreciate you telling your story. Only you could make it funny and clever. How wonderful it must have been to have your daughter there to care for you. Such a gift. I remember seeing the hat on the side bar and thinking how pretty it is. Talk about an interesting Valentines story . . you should win an award with that. I'm glad you are a healthy woman today. Really.

Becky said...

What a great story to be sharing. Thank you for being honest! You are such an encouragement!

Sometimes I wonder what's going on inside my wobbly belly, then, I enter my world of denial, and do a few more sit-ups. It takes a few calls from the Dr's office before I clue in that a year has gone by already. I think I should answer that call a bit more seriously, as I completely know what you mean by the "super-size me" saying, not refering to McDonald's!

By the way, I love the fact that you wear hats! My friend, who passed away from colon cancer, loved to wear hats. I, on the other hand, felt far too conspicuous! Maybe I never found the right hat. Love that red one!

Kate said...

Ah, yes. I have been there too. I was busy falling in love and getting married in the midst of all my pain. After my surgery (4 months after my wedding) a colleague of my husband's told me, "Congratulations! You are now a truly liberated woman." Indeed. I went thru a year of getting hormones adjustmented while getting to know my new stepchildren. I cried a lot. Well, there's more that's better left unsaid.

Anyway, there IS much life after, is there not? Don't even get me started on your shrink and her meds!!! I don't miss the pain etc. Great that your little Valentine hat celebrates your triumph over adversity. You GO, Girl!
Kate Q:-)

Becky said...

It's me again. I hope you don't mind that I added you to my links. It is so much easier finding you than having to always go to Lovella's site. Not that I don't mind popping over to her page! By the way, I enjoy your new layout - very easy on the eyes! I am afraid I should be getting some of those lovely little glasses that perch on the end of the nose.