***Please skip this if you're generally uncomfortable with talk of periods, bleeding, medical procedures involving the female reproductive system. I'm trying to make this mild and non-triggering but you just never know. So proceed with caution!***
Okay, guys, I'm nervous.
Ain't gonna lie, I'm seriously trying to swallow the lump in the back of my throat, with my new doctor's name on it. If the roles were reversed, I'd probably be the one saying, "it'll be all right, it's gonna be uncomfortable for a few minutes, but then it'll be over with...your health is more important than being nervous or scared for a little while..." But when it comes to applying these pearls of wisdom to myself, it's an entirely different ball game.
I don't want to get into extreme detail about my female woes; some of these details are just plain disgusting, so in summary - when I have a regular period, it's not pretty. Not that monthly menses ever is, but mine are absolutely ridiculous. And since having my children, they seemingly became worse. And so when my daughter was young, I consulted with a local 'vagician' (we may thank my darling daughter for this alternate, creative term for a gynecologist - it's seemingly stuck and I now refer to these doctors as 'vagicians' only) and she put me on birth control. Obviously, my reasons for being on BC is NOT to prevent pregnancy, as for the last ten years, I've had relations with only a female and I'm not worried about conceiving. My reasons for starting the pill was to regulate/control monthly periods. And for the last several years (I want to say five or six years) the pill I was taking daily was working BEAUTIFULLY. I wasn't HAVING a period. I'd take this DELIGHTFUL little white pill every day and I spent more on the prescription than I did on Tampax. And my GOD, it was the best, BEST thing, EVER...
But I ran into a birth-control snafu last year. Almost exactly a year ago, in fact, right smack in the middle of my move from New York to Pennsylvania. In the midst of the move, I forgot to take a pill. It might have happened twice. This wouldn't be the first time I've forgotten to take a pill, but it was the most unforgiving, indeed. I tried to get back on track, but since messing up once or twice, I began to experience spotting. This wasn't the once a week kind of spotting - this was more like every single fucking DAY kind of spotting. It increased with activity, too. Then, when I thought it had stopped, it would start again within a day or two. I couldn't catch a break...this went on for literally months. And to top it off, I wasn't near my regular vagician anymore. And my insurance was no longer the same, and we were in the process of changing everything over....and I didn't have a CLUE where to go in my new surroundings. I kept telling myself - it'll correct itself...just give it time...
When it continued, I stopped taking the pills, thinking that maybe my body needed a 'reset.' I had enough for the next six months, and so I threw away the "pill wheel" I was working on at the moment and planned to start again at the start of my next period two months ahead - I'd allow my body to have a normal (abnormal) cycle, then I'd start taking the BC the following month. Hopefully I'd get things 'fixed.'
My spotting stopped. EVERYTHING stopped.
I got a regular period a month later and was reminded once again, WHY I became so reliant on these BC pills. Still, knowing that I'd go back to my pill-taking regimen that I knew would eventually control it, I endured it. I loathed every minute of it, I envisioned throwing my uterus, my cervix, my fallopian tubes, everything involved in the female reproductive system, out the window - what the hell did I need 'em for, anyway???? I'm almost 40, I'm DONE with baby making. I don't need my eggs anymore. I could sell them. I'd donate them if I could. But I certainly don't need one released every month anymore, there's NO way they're going to ever be fertilized. So I grumpily went through that time of month, every single day swearing up and down every time I went to the bathroom to remove and replace a saturated tampon. The first couple days of a period (while not on BC) are usually crampy in general - days 2-4 are the heaviest and then it will taper off on the fourth or fifth day. Usually.
The following month came along. I started the pills again on day one. Of course, I had another ridiculous period but this was to be expected. It lasted the usual 4-5 days. And now because my body had to become re-acquainted with these pills, the spotting was back. But upon looking up the side effects of this medication, I knew to expect that, especially for the first few weeks.
But then the weeks became months. I'd been waiting patiently for my body to 'take' to the pills again, I hadn't forgotten to take any, I'd been taking them every morning. Yet, the spotting never stopped. And, again, with increased physical activity, came increased spotting. Again, I felt that I couldn't catch a break. My uterus hated me and I didn't know why. My J had been saying for weeks already, "I think it's time to get checked out." I'd been saying, "yeah, it'll correct itself, that's what it says online!" But deep down, I knew it probably wouldn't, it would have already if it was ever going to.
So, this prompted my visit to the vagician two Mondays ago. J made me the appointment and although I didn't want to go, I begrudgingly went. Although I understand that at this point, something had to give. Prior to visiting this new doctor, I once again stopped taking the pills and discarded whatever was left in that month's supply - since I knew that stopping was likely the only way to stop the spotting. And it did. Leads me to believe that the pills simply aren't working for me anymore. Or something else is going on with me that is causing these pills to be obsolete.
The doctor gave me my (two years' overdue) pap, did the breast exam...we then discussed the pills I'd been taking and he suggested the depo shot - once every three months...won't have to remember to take any pills, I will just have to remember to go in every three months for a new shot. Which I'll gladly do if it helps manage the monthly discomfort.
"I'd also like to send you for bloodwork." He said, "Just to make sure your hormone levels are okay and if the shot is indeed the best option for you."
"Sure." (Now I'm NOT good at bloodwork in general - that's another blog for another day - but in short, needles being anywhere in my inner elbow makes me panic, my BP to spike and overall, I lose my shit...I instead direct the phlebotomist to the back of my hand where my level of anxiety over bloodwork is usually lessened - and if they can, they'll oblige.)
"And I'd also like to schedule a mammogram..." I knew this was coming. Bring on the 40's, bring on the obligatory booby-squishies every year. This isn't as invasive as having paps, though, on a scale of 1-10, ten being the most uncomfortable, I'd put annual mammos at number four and paps at a nine.
"Yep." I've got a cousin who DIED at age 41 due to breast cancer. So this is something I KNOW I'm not going to fuck around with. So the mammogram appointment wasn't as concerning as what he'd want next.
"Okay, and then I'd like a trans-vaginal ultrasound...to check for fibroids."
Hooooold the phone...what?? I must have looked at him funny because he further explained that in order to confirm that the depo shots were the best form of BC, he had to run some tests and make sure that my abnormal periods (when I had them) were not being caused by any other condition. I guess that made sense.
I left the office. Went straight to the lab, got my blood drawn from the back of my hand, as requested. Check!!!
Then the radiology building was across the way - dropped in over there, made appointments for the ultrasound and the mammogram for later on that week. Check!
I went home feeling, gee, I accomplished a lot in one day - it was a nice feeling. For a little while. I then spent the next few days dreading the ultrasound and wanting it over with. The ultrasound and mammogram were scheduled as back-to-back appointments and so they too would be dealt with in one combined visit. I agonized over the ultrasound more, naturally, mostly because of the location of this particular test, as well as it being an internal exam to boot.
Surprisingly, when the day came for the mammogram and ultrasound, I would discover that although the ultrasound is indeed a bit invasive, it was NOT as uncomfortable as the pap I'd had in the doctor's office. The technician was a female. She gave me a sheet to cover myself with and treated me with professionalism, respect and considering the nature of the test she was about to perform, her demeanor was overall calming. I needed this. I'd put the Ultrasound at a six or seven, based on this.
Went home proud of myself for having done everything asked of me at this point. All done!!!!! And I'd managed to deal with it all, process it all, as well as bring myself to these appointments without having to be dragged - may not seem as big an accomplishment to most, but for me, it's big. I've been told I need to follow up with my primary care doctor because my BP was found to be 'elevated' (gee, I wonder why) and I'm also due for a regular wellness check with a new doctor - one that I do have as appointed by insurance company, but also one I've not met yet.
Later, though. This isn't a priority right now. It SHOULD be, yes, but it's not. A dentist visit is also on the horizon - and the same situation applies - I don't have one of those, either! I'm pretty sure I'm going to get scolded for the shape my teeth are in and the fact that I've not had a cleaning in five years. I don't do very well with the dentist, either but I'm guessing this is common among survivors and non-survivors alone. It's something I'll work on, eventually, I guess....but the best way for me to deal with these medical things is one at a time. Piece by piece. Little by little.
And apparently, the vagician is not finished with me, yet.
He called on the same day I had my ultrasound...several hours later, in fact. J spoke to him on the phone, there was a lot of 'okay, so when can she come in for that?' as well as other things that ultimately meant to me that we weren't as finished as I thought I was. J hung up and then told me that he had called to say that the results didn't show any existing conditions (which is a good thing) but he still would like to determine why I have abnormal periods and rule out endometriosis as well as a couple other things that I really didn't care enough to ask for clarification on. I'm stuck on what he said first - he now wants to do a biopsy/DNC before I get my next period as a final test prior to prescribing the depo shot, which would need to be administered on the day my next menses begins. I'd likely feel some period-like cramps and some discomfort for a few days after the procedure, but he'd be able to run some further tests...
...a biopsy. I don't even like THAT word. A sample..?? Fine. A specimen? Ehhh, that's fine too. A BIOPSY??? Are you TRYING to give me a heart attack or is that a natural reaction to the word for everyone else too??
"Oh, hell, no," was the first thing I said when J finished relaying the message to me.
J's saying she'll go with me and hold my hand through this but even so...what? Why can't you just go by what you're seeing in the bloodwork, the ultrasound and just give me the stupid shots???? I know what a DNC is and I don't want that shit, I don't want to relinquish a piece of my uterine lining, my cervix, I want it all to stay where it is and where the good Lord intended for it all to be. I did the bloodwork they asked for...that came back fine. I did the mammogram, which although uncomfortable, I knew was necessary. And then I did the trans-vaginal ultrasound which came back showing nothing concerning. Why can't we leave me alone, now????
So while I went to the first appointment on my own and to the lab on my own and finally to the mammogram and ultrasound on my own, this is increasingly becoming an appointment I have to be dragged to. And J is willing to do that, for she's more worried about this shit than I am. The appointment is currently set for next Tuesday, but we realized that J has to work on next Tuesday and likely wouldn't be able to make sure I show up at the doctor's office to have this procedure done. She knows as well as I do that I'm more likely to say, 'screw it...I'm not coming." And so she asked me last night for the doctor's phone number - she would reschedule for three days later - for Friday next week, since that's her day off. And she'd go with me and we'd go to lunch afterwards. It all sounds great but I'm stuck on what the procedure entails, I can't see past that right now.
So after I moaned and groaned about all of the above for a half-an-hour last night, J eventually said: "Sometimes we just have to put on our big-girl panties and go do what we need to do..."
Me, in the middle of my meltdown: "But how am I gonna put them on if he keeps asking me to take them OFF?"
I got the "only you" head shake, followed by the much-needed laugh.
Yeah, only me.
For now, I'm trying not to agonize over this. I seriously would like for one appointment to STAY one appointment. None of this, 'let's get some labs' or 'let's check this out' or 'let's take a look at that' shit. If it's not broken, don't fix it. That's always been my motto, and deep down, I DO know that things break for unseen reasons and they have to be 'investigated.'
Never said I liked it, though.
And if this is all a preview of what life after 40 looks like, I've got some adjustments to make when it comes to stepping out of my comfort zone when it comes to medical stuff.
Still nervous. Still more scared than I'll ever be able to verbally admit to anyone. But I'm also working on being honest with myself with what I'm feeling, as well as with others who ask me what's going through my mind at any given time, rather than shrug it off and say 'nothing.' And writing these things down is the most effective means of doing that...so thank you in advance if you've made it this far.
In closing, I hope that my American friends have a safe, happy 4th of July!!! I'll be using the holiday as a distraction from the events that will likely take place next week - it's all I can do right now.