Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Through the valley... part 2

(note: this post is graphic in nature, due to the subject. Read at your own risk.)

In October, I made the decision to switch doctors (OBGYN). Primarily, because my previous doctor was so incredibly busy with patients, I had about 5 minutes of her time, which included the exam itself. Cattle car was a pretty accurate description. She had successfully helped me deliver my three younger children, so I was grateful, but now that my child-bearing days were behind me, I wanted someone who could help me navigate my 40s, 50s and beyond and actually take the time to listen to me. So, new doc.

I learned a long time ago (when Honey was a baby) that doctor's are not demigods. They are human, and you are the one who knows your body better than anyone else. Because you are in it day in and day out. So, if "something's up", you need to make a note about it and tell your doctor, and not just expect him/her to find/discover it on their own.

Whether genetic, hormonal, weight-related or a combination of all of the above, my female cycles have always been difficult. Over the past 30 years, I have tried all manner of natural remedies, folk remedies, prescriptions, you name it. There was a period in my life where I would have no cycle only to be followed with one overwhelming one that lasted for 4-6 weeks. For years, I would take multiple pregnancy tests, only to have it read negative and at some point later have a menstrual flow that would make my life a living nightmare.

Pregnancies were delightful times, so I am grateful that I did not follow my earlier OB's advice and have a hysterectomy at age 26, when my older children were very young. My younger children are a testimony to the faithful prayers of a godly friend, EV, and my endurance to a cycle that left me by times either bloated or drained and anemic.

So, I spoke to my new doctor about this endurance and how I did not want to face another 10 years of this misfortune if it was possible to be treated effectively. I also mentioned another issue I was having "down there". It seems that having my many children had left my muscle wall torn and it was allowing my intestines to bulge into places where it didn't belong. It seemed to be getting worse and was causing multiple issues. Because of the nature of doctor visits with their instruments, this was not something that had been noticed before, so I spoke up and asked if it was normal and if it was fixable.

The results of those conversations were a series of tests. The day before Thanksgiving was the start of those. The sonogram showed something abnormal. It required an emergency, immediate biopsy to rule out cancer, or to put it more accurately, to determine if cancer how to best proceed. So, I went through Thanksgiving with the weight of "what if" bearing heavily on my thoughts. The doctor also made it clear that she now felt that a hysterectomy was not an optional treatment, but something that needed to be done quickly and without delay. She wanted me to see another surgeon regarding the rectocele repair. Suddenly, I was in multiple rounds of multiple doctor appointments. Questions, exams, catheters, cameras and probes in odd, uncomfortable places. Finally, word came back from the biopsy that the adenoma was benign. Hyperactive uterine glands that were producing excess blood and blood vessels. Thanks be to God!  I was now scheduled for four surgeries on December 10. Spurring me on was the image of my 96 year old godmother who had undergone the same procedures that I was doing this past summer at her advanced age. How many decades had she suffered? Suffered till she had reached a critical point in her health where she would have died unless she had done what I, half her age, was now gearing up to do. I did not want to suffer for five more decades! Did not want to have my body parts sagging out of me and debilitating me if it was within my power and God's help to fix it.

There was, throughout this time a very heavy sense of my own mortality. Major surgery does that to anyone, I'm sure, if they are given the opportunity to think about it. Was I wrong not to simply endure this, like my godmother had? Was I taking my life into my own hands? Was the risk too great? Why did God not simply heal me, like he had Saint Veronica of old? There was so much to do, both with my work duties, but more importantly with my family duties. Christmas was coming and I would be in recovery and unable to drive and shop. Food for myself would need to be organized, because I could not trust the hospital to prepare food according to my needs and I would need to have sufficient back up for home, again during my recovery. Bills needed to be dealt with and settled. An unending pile of laundry. Amends made as much as my ability to do so. Confession with my priest, so as to have a clean spiritual slate, in case December 10 marked my last day on earth among the living. Letters to Hubbs and kiddos to be secreted away "just in case". I worried over what I was going to say while under anesthesia or coming out from it, or being in it or under it for too long. Would I turn into a cursing banshee? Would I say things unawares that would distress or cause others pain/hurt?

I also needed to get a temporary sponsor for my abstinence program. My beloved sponsor had never gone through surgery, was new enough to the program to not "know the ropes" on how to guide someone through this time, and so, for a few days, her sponsor became my sponsor. J has over 10 years of back-to-back abstinence. She is kind and compassionate. She helped me prepare for surgery in a manner that fit our plan: what to eat, what to drink, how to weigh and measure and how to face the surgical "day before" prep, the post op food/drink and by giving me structure and a plan, gave me peace to face my surgery with it (the surgery) in one hand and my food in the other. Again, to some, including my doctors, it was "just take a break for a few days while you are in the hospital", then you can get back on the wagon. Would you tell that to a drunk? Go ahead and drink for a few days and then you can be sober again? Would you think someone who struggles profoundly with alcohol to be able to pick it up "for a time" and then easily lay it down again?  Don't deceive yourself! As someone who has struggled with food issues for over 20 years this"how do I do this?" was a huge part of my mental ordeal. I had two primary goals: to live through this and to not end up "back in the food?"

And so, I drank my magic potion to clean out my innards. I peed out my backend, which is odd to say the least. I was squeaky clean, inside and out. Hubbs was a champ. He's continued to be a champ. Father P and Matuska came up to the hospital to pray for me and sit with me and Hubbs. Hubbs' folks came up to wait with him as my surgery went on hours longer than expected.

In the end, I lived. And yes, it is like getting a new lease on life. Hopefully, this next phase will find me a kinder, gentler, more loving person than I was before. More aware of human frailty and compassionate towards those around me. More attuned to the gift of another day of life here on earth. A blessing to all who cross my path.
Erica Robinson