Thursday, March 15, 2012

Losing My Womanhood (Gentlemen, you might want to skip this one)

The surgical clearance appointments are moving forward. I met with my internist on Monday, who deemed me healthy enough for surgery, since I told him I was able to walk approximately 4 city blocks at a decent pace without getting winded (though he's concerned about how cold I always am since I'm anemic (from getting 3 periods a months for the last several months, before my D&C a couple of months ago) and still can't figure out the sugar attack phenomenon). His only issue? Trying to look in my ears without pulling on my cartilage rings. "How can you stand all that metal in your head?" he asked. I told him the rings weren't coming out for the surgery and he said that was ok and that he would dictate a note to the gynecologist.

Tuesday, I met with my gynecologist to answer some questions I had about the hysterectomy, which has been moved up to March 26th. It was more of a confrontation. I was made to feel like more of a "case" than a "person." I pushed up the surgery because everyone urged me to have it sooner than in May, when my class would've ended (I'm re-taking the class, Abnormal Psych, over the summer). I finally realized that yes, having the hysterectomy is better ultimately than having uterine cancer, so that's where I went. It would seem I get treated a bit more poorly there since I am on Public Aid....but I don't know. I told her I had a high tolerance for narcotics and a low tolerance for pain, and that I wanted to be kept comfortable. She knows of my narcotic use, and will plan accordingly. There is literally no reason for me to suffer needlessly because I have used narcotics in the past.

My gynecologist and I sparred over the body jewelry. She said it had to come out. I said it can't or it'll close up immediately (which is true, especially the new piercings). Unless she plans on giving me $150 to have everything re-pierced, I told her EVERY surgery I've EVER had with at least the one eyebrow ring in, has gone FINE having the rings gauzed and taped up. I had my c-section with it in, my gallbladder out, a LEEP, pancreatic stents put in, and an MRI, where my head at no time got magnetically sealed to the machine. It's NO BIG DEAL, but her argument was that she was using a cauterizing instrument, and there's a chance of me being burned as a result. Consequently, I have to sign a waiver excusing her and the hospital if I end up with a half burned head, which I'm more than willing to chance, since it's extremely unlikely.

I asked her if they planned to put the catheter in while I was awake or after I was asleep. She said they planned to do it while I was sedated but before I was unconscious. I said, "No way. Do it after you knock me out." To insert a catheter into a patient who's awake seems barbaric to me. Thankfully, she at least agreed to that.

I forgot to ask her about the clear liquid diet the day before the surgery and the "bowel evacuation" preparation. It's suggested that you give yourself an enema if laxatives don't work. Fuck, if I stop my anti-diarrheal for a couple of days, I will certainly evacuate my bowels fine on my own. I'll take the disgusting magnesium oxide drink to help things along, but that's as far as I'll go. I'd sooner die than use an enema.

But she had a smile on her face like this was a sunny operation, just another hysterectomy, and she hoped she could do it laproscopically, though my premonition is that she'll have to go through my c-section scar to dig around and FIND my uterus. She failed to understand that I've already had one surgery in 2001 to remove some of the scar tissue after Luke was born because I was having painful intercourse. My bladder and uterus were stuck together at the time, which was no fun. Then more scar tissue developed and closed off my tubes, which was why I couldn't have any more children. She said sometimes women who have no scar tissue have to have open hysterectomies, while women with a ton of it, they're still able to do laproscopically. I'm hoping for the latter, not the former. It's 2 weeks of not being able to do anything versus 4-6 weeks of lounging. Eek. (Not that I don't already do enough lounging! And writing! Fuck, I could write a book in 5 weeks!) I told my band I'd be unavailable to play for the duration, but whatever, really. I sit on a stool and play either a hand drum or, if we get the full band back together, at a drum kit. I'm not Lady Gaga dancing around (as if that weren't already blatantly obvious).

The rest of my pre-op testing is scheduled for Tuesday, when I'm having blood work, a urine pregnancy test (which is a joke, given I had so much scar tissue from Luke, I was unable to ever conceive again), an EKG and then heading up to Cardiology to meet with Tatus for my cardiac clearance. Essentially, he takes my pulse and pressure, listens to me wheeze, and dictates a note telling the surgeon I need to be on a heart monitor because of my POTS, that I need to be super hydrated before, during and after the operation because of how easily I dehydrate, and to call him if my pulse elevates over 120. Simple enough. (Nurses always freak out when they wake me up in the middle of the night and my blood pressure is like 70/40 and they want to page Tatus because they think I'm dying. I always tell them that's normal for me.)

On March 5th, I got what will be the last, final period I will ever have in my life. It was met with annoyance, inconvenience, but more so a bittersweet sentiment that I felt a little broken up over. It came on with vengeful fury and disappeared within 3 days. My linen closet is filled with boxes of pads I'll never need again--Always Infinity Super Overnighters, which I started buying when they came on the market a couple of years ago. They are the Cadillac of the pad world and the only thing that could absorb my blood (I was NEVER a tampon person. I avoided swimming in the summer when I had my period. I don't like period sex, either. There's something about the mess that icks me out. Always has.)

(I KID YOU NOT. iTunes Shuffle just popped on Urge Overkill's "Positive Bleeding!")

Yet having a period was routine, part of my life since I was 12 years old, and I got it the day at St. Paul school (grammar school) right after the whole school gathered to pray for a wooden sign with the school's name etched and painted into it. (Yes, literally. We prayed for a sign.) I went to the bathroom, was aghast that there was blood in my underwear and screamed for Patti to get me a pad from the machine. She didn't BELIEVE me. I was like, "You want me to SHOW it to YOU?" and somehow she either got a quarter or reached deep enough in the machine (which you could do to steal a pad) and helped me out. That's not something I'll ever forget. Apart from the course of my pregnancy, I have been on the rag for 28 years. It was routine until late last year, when I started getting 3 periods a month, a few months after my cervical surgery, with only a week's worth of reprieve a month to recuperate.

I finally went to my gynecologist, who decided to do a D&C to help with the irregular bleeding. She was surprised by the findings of the hysteroscopy and while I'd been waiting for a call from her, she had news to deliver that she wanted to tell me in person. She gave me the diagnosis and told me I needed a hysterectomy, which she wanted to do right away. But I wanted to finish my course for the semester in May, so she reluctantly agreed to wait that long. Due to other health problems from which I was recovering, I dropped my class this semester and pushed the surgery up, which my doctors and loved ones all thought was the smartest move. The thought of a hysterectomy? Boo. No more periods, I guess, a big YAY!

The period notwithstanding, I have sorrowful feelings about having the hysterectomy. To me, it's like losing a part of what makes you uniquely female. I know it's just a "case" to my doctor, but to me personally, come on. Not only was I born female, my uterus was where I carried and developed my only son, so I have a (pardon the pun) certain attachment to it. No, the female sex organs are indeed largely internal and not external like a man's, but it feels like some type of castration in a weird way. The uterus is an amazing part of the body. The way it can expand and contract large enough to carry a baby (albeit my baby, UPSIDE DOWN, or was it right side up?)and then shrink down to the size of a small fist is an amazing thing.

I realize it's routine and it's better than having cancer, but I have so many mixed emotions about it. They're planning to leave my ovaries in, so that I go through menopause in due time, instead of NOW, when I'd have to be put on estrogen therapy (no thanks). I'll leave the tricky motherfucking ovaries in, which is risky, because ovarian cancer is so sneaky, by the time they find it, you're already a goner. Considering my cervical LEEP last year, where I lost half of my cervix, I'm a tad sensitive to cancer cells growing in my girl parts, you know?

I didn't have such feelings when I had my gallbladder removed. I could've cared less (except for my anesthesia phobia). But this is an important part of being a woman. I always envisioned having periods and dealing with them well into my 40's or even early 50's, when menopause would kick in. I'm probably the only woman on earth who's anxiously awaiting hot flashes, since I'm chronically chilled to the bone (yesterday it was 81 degrees out and I was in a thermal long-sleeved shirt, jeans and a hoodie). I never looked at "going through the change" as being that big a deal, when it happens in your own time. I don't know yet if having no uterus will speed up the menopause issue, but that's another question for the gynecologist. (Which I hope I will remember in this hospital.)

My mom has to wait for me in same-day surgery waiting, though I'm being admitted, and can't come to see me until I'm up in my room. The only people I anticipate seeing in recovery are only the nurses, my gynecologist and Tatus, who promised me he'd be there when I woke up (he was the first one I remember seeing after my gallbladder surgery. Unless he's got his own emergency to contend with, he'll be there, or if we run late and it cuts into his office hours, which is unlikely).

I'll either be in the hospital overnight or 3-4 days, depending on the type of surgery, and how my heart behaves, and my level of pain control. We haven't worked out yet how long Luke will be with his Dad, because if he's home, he's going to have to be a hell of a lot more independent than he is when I'm around. My mom will be here, too, thank God. We'll muddle through.

I would only ask for prayers and good thoughts as I have my surgery and recovery.

Bye, Aunt Flo. You've packed your bags and have flown off forever. YOU I won't miss.


Anonymous said...

Miss Thang I,
The feelings of loss you describe are very, very normal.

However, I have never forgotten the "Dear Abby" letter published decades ago, in which a man reported his concern that his dag had gotten "fat and lazy" after she was spayed. Thus, he wanted Abby's opinion if the same thing would happen to his wife after her upcoming hysterectomy.

I just HAD to share this with you!

Hugs to you!
Miss Thang II

PS: Abby reasssured him "no".

Anonymous said...

"dag" = "dog.

Bah. No edit function!

Annie Miklasz, Offbeat Drumming Lunatic said...

Miss Thang II,

Thank you for your reassurance. Lazy? That I could get. Fat? Sort of biologically impossible at this point. Wish me luck!

Miss Thang I