Hey y'all. This post contains lots of stuff about lady parts and doctor-y lingo and descriptions of things going wrong with my body, so if those topics aren't your jam, consider yourself warned.
It's a Wednesday afternoon, and I'm laying in my bed thinking about how lucky I am. It's freezing cold outside, but I am having hot flashes, whether because of the multiple drugs I'm on or because my apartment's heaters never seem to turn off, even when I move the thermostat down to the lowest possible number, somewhere around 45.
My head is woozy, and I feel squishy and comfortable, blissfully lacking in my normal, buzzing anxiety that makes my thoughts bounce around in my brain like they're stuck in a pinball machine. In their place is a happy blankness, and so I'm able to focus on luck, luck, luck. The luck of having such a pain free life, the luck of being so unfamiliar with hospitals and thus so nervous about surgery that they had to give me extra sedatives before I got anesthesia, and the luck that now that my body has decided not to function perfectly, it is misbehaving in a way that will not kill me.
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus also grows outside the uterus (I just stole that word for word from Google). The tissue can implant on many other organs, most commonly the ones in the abdomen (although I also found a story about a woman who had endometriosis on her lungs, so thanks for that, internet), and the weirdest thing about it is that it continues to behave like the tissue inside of the uterus, which means that when the tissue in the uterus is bleeding, so is the tissue that has implanted elsewhere. This causes scarring and cysts. Endometriosis is chronic, but not deadly, and it's far more prevalent than I ever would have imagined - it affects approximately 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. It oftentimes goes undiagnosed, because although it can cause varying levels of pain, some women have no symptoms at all.
As for me, a few years ago I started experiencing random stabbing pains on the left side of my abdomen, as well as a couple of incidents that involved what are best defined as explosions in my lady bits (not the good kind). I went on birth control and the problems mostly went away, but my mom had also mentioned endometriosis as a possibility, because she knew a few people who had experienced something similar, so when the doctor told me I had an endometrial cyst in my left ovary, I wasn't completely surprised.
To alleviate the endo (which is what the cool kids call it), my doctor recommended laparoscopic surgery to remove any cysts/lesions/scar tissue that might be lurking around in my pelvis, which I agreed to as long as it could happen after my vacation in Mexico, because priorities.
His biggest concern for me is the possibility of infertility: during surgery, he found "a lot" (I believe that's the medical term) of endometrial tissue all over my reproductive organs, including scar tissue that was binding my fallopian tubes together, essentially rendering me unable to have children. He successfully removed everything with little to no damage, which means I am back to being a babymakin' machine, but if that kind of buildup happened before, it's likely to happen again, which means that now, on top of the ticking time bomb that is my aging body, I have a dysfunctional womb to take into consideration. Womanhood for the win, amirite ladies?!
So, back to luck. I am lucky that I have access to such good medical care. I am lucky that my symptoms were so mild, and that the surgery was minimally invasive and went incredibly well. And I am lucky that this was a slightly traumatizing experience for me, because that means that thus far, my life has been smooth sailing.
I'm not going to lie: when I first found out about all of this, I cried. A lot. The tears were less about fear, and more about change. I cried because I knew I had a chronic condition that was never going to go away. I cried because I knew this meant I would never be able to ditch birth control, which I had avoided taking for years in the first place. I cried because I felt like my body had betrayed me. How could such a well-functioning system go off the rails, and without me even noticing? I didn't want to deal with it.
I also cried out of frustration with myself. Why was I being so dramatic when my condition was something manageable? It wasn't a death sentence, and it wasn't something that was going to majorly alter my daily life. I am acutely aware of the fact that not everyone is as lucky. To have even a sliver of insight into how quickly life can change was eye-opening for me, after years of feeling infallible, and to be able to experience it without having to then go through anything worse than a little surgery is something I am ridiculously grateful for. Luck, luck, luck.
It's so easy to coast along, and to imagine the coasting will last forever. Along with the doc's concerns about infertility came his recommendation that I get pregnant as soon as possible. This posed a few issues for me, because A) I don't want to have kids yet; B) I am single; and C) I've been terrified of being pregnant ever since I found out what being pregnant means (tiny parasitic alien growing in my stomach? No thank you). I've made many flippant declarations about never having children. I assumed that when the time came, my body would be willing and able, and it'd just happen, no problem. Now I have to decide where my priorities lie, and as it turns out, where they lie is that I actually do want to have kids (surprise!) in the not-super-distant-future, but I have some stuff I want to get done first, including the slightly crucial task of finding a good partner to raise a child with, before I'll even consider starting down that road. But now the whole dynamic of the process has shifted, and there's no going back. (I have many more thoughts about this topic, but I'll save them for another time.)
I wasn't sure whether or not I wanted write a post about all of this. It's obviously personal, and some people are uncomfortable with the exposition of private lives. But as it turns out, I am not one of those people. I've tried to conform to that mold for a long time (I am, after all, a born-and-raised Minnesotan Lutheran), but instead of making me feel safe and protected, it makes me feel anxious and disconnected. I like to express myself, and I like to connect to and relate with other people. In order for that to happen, someone has to reach out, be vulnerable, share shit. This is my shit.
And if Lena can talk about it, why can't I?
Happy Tuesday, friends.