New and Improved with updates at the end! 3/28
Now with even MORE fabulous updates at the end! 4/17
Ok, so this is not about underarmpit deodorant.
This post is about my very own reproductive organs and it is full of Too Much Personal Information and it’s going to be gory. There are pictures and there is blood. If you’re uncomfortable knowing really personal stuff about me, about lady parts, about medical procedures, about the way a woman’s body functions, or about alien probes, then you should not read this post.
This is your last chance to get out. This is not a fun, lighthearted romp through my normal craziness. I am being serious. (No, really. I am honestly being serious)
You know how I got my first mammogram? I did that so I’d be ready for my annual well-woman exam (everything is fine with my breasts, by the way). It’s been three years since my last well-woman exam because I don’t understand the meaning of “annual.” Some things have changed in the doctor’s office since 2009. One of those things: there are giant Apple monitors in the examining rooms and while you wait for the doctor, you can scroll through stuff and learn about all the things you didn’t know you wanted to know at a gynecologist’s office. It’s pretty cool, really. One of the things I learned about was a new type of ablation called NovaSure. It doesn’t require burning or freezing or scraping to kill off the endometrial lining. It uses radio frequency waves so, pretty much, it really is an alien probe!
What the NovaSure-trained doctor does, according to the infomercial, is sticks a hollow tube into the vagina and then shoves a little mesh thingamajig through the tube and it pops out into the uterus where it opens like a triangular-shaped flower. Then she turns the mesh on, radio frequency waves go bzzzzzzz for about 90 seconds, she unplugs the whole thing , pulls it all back out and doneover. This is supposed to kill the lining of the uterus which falls out over the next few weeks to months, depending on how fussy your uterus is.
The point of this procedure is to reduce or even eliminate menstrual periods. This only works for women who won’t be having children and who have a definite source of birth control because it is still possible to get pregnant after this procedure and that would just be bad because without a lining, there’d be nothing for the baby to stick to and feed off of and so it would become an alien, eating the innards of the mother before bursting forth from her stomach.
That last part isn’t true, I made it up. But it sounds like a good reason not to have a pregnancy if you have no uterine lining. So to repeat: THIS IS NOT BIRTH CONTROL.
I have horrible, raging periods that are violent, bloody, and full of misery for everyone involved, which happens to be not just me. Gabe hates them because I become even meaner than usual and try to kill him for real or at least kick him out of bed and maybe out of the house simply because he’s breathing. The cats hate it because they can’t massage/stand on my boobs and I only want them around if they’re going to curl up on my abdomen, acting as furry little heat sources and since they don’t want to do that unless they can also punch me in the breast, well, there is no cuddling. For anyone.
I’ve got cysts on my ovaries and something like endometriosis and probably an alien growth around my uterus. When my period approaches, my boobs swell and become so sore, it hurts to walk. Then the small of my back begins to ache like maybe it’s broken. Then the cramps come. They’re not always bad but they’re almost always there. Every other month, or so, though, they’re horrible, so severe that I can’t stand up because being not-curled-up on my side makes me cry. I have to take muscle relaxants and they knock me out all day. I miss work, I can’t go to parties, all I do is lie there sadly and bleed. And bleed. Then I bleed some more while my guts are squished in a vice full of broken plates and knives.
The blood has become grosser than gross, just like those “What’s grosser than gross” baby jokes from childhood. What’s grosser than gross is that I bleed like a broken fire hydrant for three days but it’s no longer flowy. Now it comes in the form of clots, or slugs, as I like to call them. Giant blood blobs that are all goopy and make a mess. I go through so many tampons those first three days and I have to always wear a giant pad because there will be leaking. Then I bleed normally for the next 3, or so, days and then I spot for another 3-5 days. I average about ten days before my vagina is open for business again and you can see why Gabe would take issue with this.
So when I found out there’s a period-killing procedure, I asked the doctor about it. She said I was probably a great candidate – I have permanent birth control (Essure, also from this particular doctor), I’ve got violent periods, and it would probably relieve the pain my nasty little cysts give me every month. In addition, according to the literature, it can possibly diminish PMS so that I won’t want to cry or kill Gabe or eat entire cakes full of whipped cream when Aunt Flo(w) comes to visit. I said, “Oh, hell yes!” so right there and then, she signed me up for all the tests I needed to take to make sure this would be safe for me. They sucked out some blood, they gave me pelvic ultrasound (the one where they stick the wand that looks like a marital aid up inside and take a million pictures. My tech was super nice and chatty so it was actually fun) and before I left the office, they were able to determine that I could benefit from NovaSure and it could easily be done on me. We made the appointment for March 7th (last Thursday) and I was excited.
Because my body hates me, my period started the day before my procedure was scheduled. I called in and they said it wouldn’t be a problem, I could “come in with or without my period” I chose with because I really didn’t have another option.
Here are all the things I had to do beforehand:
My appointment was scheduled for 12:30 pm and I had chosen NOT to eat a piece of toast that morning. Unfortunately for me and my blood sugar levels, they were running behind and I didn’t actually get onto the pseudo-operating table until 2:30 pm and was in a state of delirious starvation despite the camel-like hump of extra nutrition I like to keep on my body. Most people call it a “belly” but I like to call it my anti-starvation kit. ANYway I kept notes from the time I went into the exam room until I passed out at home hours later. Because I am a journalist at heart, you see.
Apparently, this is how it went down:
-I made sure to wear comfy clothes – leggings, shapeless dress, flats. I look pregnant so fit right in in the waiting room
-I have had only tea and am starving
-Procedure is scheduled for 12:30, I’m supposed to arrive at 11:30 so I got here at 11:15 but am still waiting
-Urine sample: complete. They want to make sure I’m not pregnant. If I am, it means it’s the end of days.
-I got a tampon full of numbing goo and am supposed to sit and let it take effect. How will I know when it’s working? Is there a test to see if my cervix is numb enough?
– 2:00 pm – I got my IV with in-the-vein ibuprofen (said the professional drug-giver), some anti-nausea liquid and other stuff. Maybe Seda-gives? They said I could bring an iPod/headphones for relaxation. I wish I’d have brought my Playaway
While I understand the purpose behind the label, it is not heartening to see in the examining room. How scary is this going to be?
I’m all ready to go. I’ve got an IV port and everything. I’ve already been filled with toradol ( I think) and some other thing and…saline, but only to wash and prime the pokey hole.
-My IV hand is cold. Will probably get hypothermia.
-Signed a bunch of release forms. Am beginning to feel strange. Hard to sign things with IV port in hand.
Here is the apparatus that will go inside me. It’s just been hermetically unsealed and is ready for insertion.
That’s my leg, there. Yes, I’m taking pictures while under the influence. I think they said I could. If they don’t want people taking pictures of their own procedures, they really shouldn’t allow under-the-influence patients to smuggle cameras into the room. Only, I think they knew I was just trying to help other women who want to know more about this. Or maybe I’m helping pre-med students. I’m not sure, really.
-I’ve had a bunch of stuff put into my IV. More anti-nausea stuff. Apparently, there’s a throw-up button in my vagina and they don’t want me puking if they hit it.
-The wand thing was FREEZING COLD!
-The ceiling is moving even though my eyes are not moving. I have to look up because looking down my nose or around the room makes me too dizzy.
-Once they turned on the mesh, it hurt like hell. They said it was a contraction. If I’d have woken with cramping like that, I’d have called in sick for the day and taken my muscle relaxant. It was like SUPER BAD cramp day but it lasted 45 seconds. I guess others last up to 90. The machine starts out with a high-pitched, quick beeping but as the lining gets closer and closer to being dead, the beeping slows down and gets deeper and I guess that’s how they know when you’re done. Water spilled out. I got to watch the whole thing on a TV screen and they gave me Before and After pics.
I TOLD YOU it would be gory. This is what it looked like up inside me. She’s holding it up like that, all extended, because I asked her to, not because she’s wielding the probe in triumph. I have a very good doctor. She keeps her triumph on the inside.
The pink circles are two sides of my uterus with healthy, living, happy tissue. The white circles are the aftermath picture. There is crying and fire and stuff in there and it’s all dead tissue that can’t make menstrual blood anymore. Take THAT, body! Cramp me for 27 years, will you?
-The toradol, or whatever it was, gave me awful cotton mouth. And then the back of my throat got all raspy and dry and it started molting like a snake, or so it felt.
-They said the sedatives or whatever evil thing was in my blood, would last 20 minutes and things would be weird. Things were weird but that lasted less than ten minutes, according to the time keeper. I just felt super tired and thick tongued afterward.
-My uterus is molting
-OMG, I am so thirsty.
-Also, I am very VERY cold. I might be freezing to death.
And then, in my loopy haze, I noticed all the rest of the implements on the table. Holy hell! What were they doing down there? I don’t remember any of those things!
-They kept me there until they felt I could walk out.
-Left office at 3:30. I walked out of the office just fine, no dizziness, no acid flashbacks, nothing weird. I had very mild cramping in the car on the ride home and could barely keep my eyes open, but was starving so had to stop for soup and salad which all tasted gross, thanks to my IV fluids. Back of throat is absolutely raw.
-Have a terrible time making fingers work. Can’t spell.
And then I got home and passed out and slept until 9:30 that evening. I got up to eat, to pee, to drink some fluids and I was out again. It took another full day to wash the sedatives out of my system – and I hate feeling like that, I just hate it! – but I was otherwise fine. I rested for the 24 hours they said I had to and then I was up and around with no problems.
I read this over and over and it made sense until I stopped looking at the paper and then I forgot everything. But I double checked the next day to make sure I was aware of all this stuff and it turns out I did just fine trying to manage under the influence of liquid evil. I didn’t let them give me Vicodin because that stuff makes me hurl. I just took a lot of ibuprofen and was fine.
It’s been almost a week and I’m doing fine. Every once in a while, I feel a little twinge of not-really-pain in my uterus region, like a muscle that was stretched too far and is sore when it moves for the next several days. The only real annoyance is that I’m still bloated like a dead hippo and it’s all hard. However, because there’s no pain and there’s no blood leaking from anyplace, I’m just going to assume it’s nothing to be worried about. I’ll see what happens in the next few months; I’ve got a 6-week check-up and the literature says it takes about 3 months to heal completely. I’ll post any thoughts or findings here. Well, unless it really was an alien probe and I wind up far away in space. Or dead.
Before I sign off, I want to mention that I have the world’s best gynecologist. I adore her and wish she could be my doctor for everything because I have never met a medical professional so concerned about my well-being before. Her staff are amazing, they always take phenomenal care of me and this time was no exception. I may be one of the few women who look forward to the annual well-woman exam. Even if I don’t understand “annual.”
March 28th Update: So, it’s been, what? 3 weeks on the nose since I had my ablation. It took 2 weeks for the bloating to stop being so hard and giving me pregnancy belly. It softened up (the hard, round belly) and started receding and now, on week 3, I’m still a little gooey but it’s what it would be normally a week before my period, so I’m not too concerned. Sad, yes,. Because, though I knew it wouldn’t happen, I’d hoped my uterus would put out a message to the rest of my body saying, “Hey, we’re dead in here so don’t any of the rest of you bother.” No such luck.
I had the promised scab-colored discharge and it got really bad this past week. I was finding these…um…well….ok, pretend you wadded up some toilet paper and dunked it in coffee and then squeezed it out and tried to peel off layers but wound up with ragged clumps? I had those in my pantyliners. Some were small, some were HUGE, and I always resented not having my camera with me because I honestly would have taken a picture of the more scary ones and posted them here for all of you so everyone would know that large, jagged lumps of uterine lining are totally normal and would be able to have a visual. Because who doesn’t want to see that, right?
Other than that, there have been no complications, no problems, no oddities, no pain. I’m a week out from my next period and can’t wait to see what happens. Honestly, I’ve never been this excited to find out what’s going to happen in my undies. It’s a sad life I lead.
April 17th Update: Eight or so days ago, I had my first period since the ablation. It was like this: I broke out a bit on my face and chest, which is normal. I had sore breasts but it wasn’t excruciating so that was nice. The night of, I felt like I was gassy or had to poop and I kept going to the bathroom but nothing happened and I thought that was weird. It wasn’t enough to keep me awake in the night, though. When I got up the next day, I had two larger slug-like globs of dead uterus in my underwear and I realized the gut aches the night before had been my cramps! How cute is that? They were these tiny-little things and I didn’t even recognize them! And that was it. That was my entire period. The war that has raged between my uterus and my underwear for the past 25+ years = gone. I won. No more war. It was AWESOME.
I finally had sex. Yes, TMI, but not in this case. I was supposed to avoid any sexual activity for 2 weeks but we gave it a month+ due to the flow of dead uterus falling out of me. Gabe was still pretty leery when I said, “Let’s just try this, shall we?” I think he didn’t want to get dead tissue on him. Or he was afraid he’d puncture something and I’d die. Actually, I don’t know what he thought, I only know he was all, “Are you SUUUURE? Positive? Because we can wait. I’ll be fine. I have video games to keep me occupied” (I made that last part up; he didn’t say that)(he probably just thought it). But it was fine. I was a little tender up around the cervical area so no deep penetration and nothing rough, but normal sex worked out just fine. I felt a little bruisey afterward and could feel it for the next day, or so, but it wasn’t anything alarming. I am assuming it will be a bit tender up there for awhile so we’ll just take it easy until everything’s healed all the way.
I went in for my 6-week evaluation today. I told my doctor I had blogged about all of this and asked if I could use her name (yeah, you’d think I’d have covered that question weeks ago, but…I didn’t) and she said as long as I’m not saying anything mean about her or her staff, all’s fair. Since I would never say anything mean about my favorite doctor or her amazing clinic, I think we’re safe. So I had this all done at the Center for Women’s Health in Englewood/Denver by Dr. Russell. I think I mentioned before that she’s the best doctor I’ve ever had. In addition, I got to have the same nurse, Steph, throughout this whole thing and I cannot tell you how helpful that’s been. Seriously, I love going to this place. Anyhow, today, Dr. Russell gave me a quick pelvic exam, told me I’m healing up nicely and am an A+ patient, asked if I had any questions and we talked about my overall health for a little bit. And then I was done! It was that simple.
If it’s really going to be this easy from here on out, this procedure (along with my Essure) is going to be a life-changer. I won’t have to worry about travel, I won’t have to worry about missing work…it’s like I have a normal body all of a sudden and it is wonderful.
Thank you, inventors of NovaSure and thank you, Dr. Russell, Steph, and everyone else who has had to take care of me during my uterus-killing time! You guys have all made me so incredibly happy!
You can find the six-month update here.